Ever thought about becoming a ski or snowboard instructor? Not too sure how to go about it or what to do to get there?
Our Cypress Intern Mark Dickson has written a blog about his winter season with EA. Read his personal experience here. If Mark's blog inspires you to take a career break or gap year to become a ski instructor, then download our snow careers pack here to learn more.
Winter season blog: Mark Dickson
I too was in a similar position to yourself. Maybe I’m a little older than you, maybe a little younger. I began my ski season in 2022/23 at the age of 28 and, I’ll be truthful, I questioned whether this was the correct move (society’s pressure and all that) for me. Was I too old? Should I be focusing my attention elsewhere? What if I am wasting my time? But, there was only one way of finding out.
Where to start
Whilst going through a company isn’t the cheapest option, it can definitely help with the logistics and my personal opinion, helps with a very successful winter season. I went through EA Ski andSnowboard. I started my whole process in February / March 2022.
I visited the EA Ski and Snowboard website with only the intention of sending a quick email asking for further information. Instead, the only way to discuss all of this was through a phone call with one of the representatives. I was hesitant but, this was, for sure, the better decision. I didn’t realise just how many questions I had until I started the conversation. The phone calls were organised perfectly to suit my schedule and not once did I feel pressure to make a decision. All the information was discussed over the phone was then emailed to me with further options and suggestions for me to consider. A massive shout out to my representative Ray for all of this! Although, once arrived in Vancouver and chatting with other EA members, everyone had a positive comment about all of the reps so huge thanks to all.
I had my heart set on Canada before I stared this process but EA help organise ski seasons in a number of other amazing resorts and countries as well including New Zealand, Japan, and America (to name a few). So look around, take your pick.
There are 4 levels to being a ski instructor. Each one harder than the last and all requiring training for even the best skiers out there. I had skied for 22 years prior to my season and didn’t think there was much to learn (within reason) but damn was I wrong! By going through EA you can decide whether you want to only sit your level 1 or you want to pay the costs before you head out and do your level 2. Spoiler, there are some resorts that require you to pre-purchase the level 2 such as Big White and Lake Louise.
Even though this was going to be a potential career move for me, I wasn’t overly keen on spending the extra amount straight away and opted for a place which required level 1. In hindsight this, for sure, was the better move for me. As a result, I was able to pay for my level 2 over in Canada (which was approx.. $1000 CAD) and I could do it when I felt ready (which was earlier than some other resorts).
I opted for a resort called Cypress Mountain, Vancouver. I want to side track the conversation here quickly to introduce the place. I had only ever heard amazing things about Canada and especially Vancouver. As a city lad, this seemed to be a better option out of the places available to me at the time of committing to the ski season. Cypress is located approx. 40 minutes from North Vancouver (where our accommodation was situated)and, due to being so close to the city, allowed for a very unique experience.
So, at this point, it was mid-March when I decided that I would commit to a ski season and confirmed my place at Cypress Mountain, Vancouver with a $1000 USD deposit. I opted for full time (Recommended) although this is also decided by your performance and willingness whilst at Cypress. I then organised a payment plan over the course of March – August to make this affordable.
EA will send you a ‘to do' list. Below are some of the important things you need to do.
- CV and references
- ACRO police check
- Canadian working holiday visa
- Biometrics (you will be notified once you have your initial approval from the Canadian visa office)
- Send over payments bi-monthly
- Get your gear sorted
- Book your flights
What’s included in the costs?
At the time of me writing this I paid a total of approx. $7000 USD. I appreciate that this is a significant amount of money, but I want to reassure you that if you love skiing and you love interacting with people, enjoy being outdoors and active then the chances are, you are going to love this experience. With this payment you are paying for:
- Accommodation for the first month whilst on training
- Level 1 teaching course
- Level 1 teach and ski exam
- Season pass (once you have passed your exams)
- Hotel for first 2 nights
- A meal on the first night (great time to chat to people)
- Airport and bus transfer to the hotel and your living accommodation
Additional costs prior to your trip
- Working holiday visa
- Travel insurance
- Accommodation for a further 2 months
Trying to decide where to go?
I can speak only from personal experience of this so please do your own research into the destination that suits your wants/needs. Personally, I want this to be my career so I wanted to be working as much as possible to expose myself to the various lessons we may have to teach (e.g. adults, scooters, school groups, teenagers etc).
As a city guy, Vancouver was the perfect place for me as I had access to a normal city but 40 minute coach journey to the slopes to ski all day.
If this sounds like you, then Cypress is definitely an incredible place to work. You will get a variety of work teaching all levels 1-5 (even as a level 1 instructor), teaching children 3-6, 7-12, teenagers 13-16 and group adult lessons (plus various camps).
The current rate at Cypress for the 2022/23 season was $18 CAD an hour as a level 1 and $20 CAD an hour as a level 2. From a personal experience, during the quieter times, people would be cancelled either later on the day (before 6pm) or even on the day when we were already on the slope. Sometimes we would be spare in case of drop in lessons. This meant we wouldn’t get paid for those hours. However, Cypress managed this well by giving you the opportunity to ski in your jacket with a trainer and have ski improvement training with a qualified Level 3 instructor at these times. These were some of my best lessons.
So, at this point you have:
- Got your working holiday visa
- In the process/paid in full for the snow season with EA
- Provided a date for arrival
- Booked flights
- In the process of getting your gear
- Had contact with your EA representative at your chosen resort
- Paid for your accommodation (first month free, second to months paid for – at the time of writing this the cost was $850 a month)
- You are in the EA Ski and Snowboard Facebook Group
Now you may be wondering, what will actually happen when I arrive then? Well, here is a small itinerary of what happened when I first arrived although this may be subject to change depending on timings and feedback:
- Arrived 16.11.22 (Thursday) – First night stayed in a hotel and food in a local place.
- Friday– short walk around Vancouver downtown. Organised SIM, mobile number and bank account. Evening spent having a meal and a drink (drinks not included)
- Saturday– Bus transfer to accommodation and a short walk around the area to get bearings. Had a few drinks in the evening and got to know people.
- Sunday– Day off – Myself and a friend went and sorted our boot fittings and picked up skis + got general prices for other pieces of equipment. Definitely recommend this to save on queues and to make sure you get the first pick of boots.
- Monday– Boot fitting day for everyone else and trying to sort out rest of equipment +a drink in the evening
- Tuesday– First day on the slopes and meeting our instructors. From this point, until mid-December, it is ski development and teaching practice.
And that is that.
The rest of this experience is up to you! Go and have the most amazing time.
To see a taste of Marks ski season in Cypress, check out this short reel and get frothing!
If Marks blog inspires you to take a career break or gap year to become a ski instructor, then download our snow careers pack below to learn more.