How To Become a Ski Instructor

How To Become a Ski Instructor

The answer to the question “what is the best way to become a ski instructor” isn’t the same for everyone. Your reasons for doing it, your choice of location, your age and your current skill set all play a part in coming up with the answer to this age old question.

So where should we start?

Well, let’s first consider what you will need… time, dedication and a serious love of all things skiing (or snowboarding) – some cash would be handy too! If you are up for the challenge and possess these things, then you won’t regret your decision to become an instructor.

How long does it take? 

There is a difference between ‘what is possible’ and ‘what is best practice’, and it is enormous! Becoming an instructor shouldn’t be rushed. Once qualified you will be a mountain leader responsible for the lives of people in your care – someone’s son, daughter, mum or dad, something not to be taken lightly. A wise man (well, Spider-man’s Uncle Ben) once said “With great power, comes great responsibility” 

Rushing through a quick route may gain you a ticket, but it doesn’t provide you with any technical knowledge, experience, ski development or an understanding of transferring learning to others. You may technically be an instructor, but you won’t be a good one. Take the time to do it right, whether that is a specialised ski instructor course or by volunteering at a ski school and learning your trade over a longer period to gain an understanding of the industry and the job. A level 1 ski instructor course should take around 4 weeks, whilst a level 1&2 course between 6-12 weeks.

This brings us nicely to the next question. 

What qualification do I need to become a ski instructor?

Ok, this one is easier. You don’t need any formal training or qualifications to commence ski instructor training. Generally, ski schools work on a staged system of employment and responsibility and this is mirrored within most national governing bodies. You must hold a valid licence to work as an instructor, for example ÖSSV (Austrian), CSIA (Canadian), BASI (British) or NZSIA (NZ), a second language is also a great bonus to ski schools, though not essential.

Level 1 – is a basic licence and is seen an entry level qualification which enables you to teach in controlled environments, ie. Dry Slopes or Indoor Snow slopes and in rare cases on snow when supervised by a senior instructor, such as in a snow crèche / kinderland area. You can not operate independently with a group on the piste. The WBSSU Whistler Ski Instructor Internship Program in Canada is a great example of a structured level 1 course.

Level 2 – is a licence reserved for instructors intending to work in the mountains with a Snowsports School. Once you reach level 2 you can teach beginner to intermediate adults and children on the piste in groups lessons or private lessons. A level 2 qualification is the minimum level that most ski instructor courses will qualify you to to allow you to work on the mountain on marked piste. An example of level 2 courses would be the Austrian Level 2 Anwärter Ski Instructor Course or BASI Level 1 & 2 Ski Instructor Course.

Level 3 – is a high qualification and allows you to teach high intermediate to advanced skiers. As a level 3 instructor you will benefit from increased wages, volume of lessons and calibre of ski lessons. You will normally have completed a number of seasons teaching, gaining valuable knowledge and experience prior to taking on a level 3 course. Some, such as in Austria, split the level 3 into modules or phases such as the L3 Landeslehrer which is sectioned into Landes 1 (part 1), Landes 2 (part 2) and Alpinkurs (mountain safety course) which makes it a more manageable step which can be achieved gradually.

Level 4 – is the dream for many aspiring instructors, especially those wanting to make a career in snowsports. As a level 4 instructor you can teach all lessons on all terrain anywhere, the cream of the crop, the best of the best. You will find many of these instructors managing or owning ski schools, training new instructors or generally just being awesome online and influencing on social media.

An important point to note is that whilst a lot of qualifications are accepted internationally, if you have a desire or plan to work in a certain area, then remember that licences from that area will generally hold more value than licences from elsewhere and would perhaps give you a little edge when competing for jobs.

How good do I need to be to become a ski instructor?

Contrary to what many believe, you don’t need to be an expert skier to become an instructor, it’s a progressive learning experience. As a minimum level to join a Level 1 course we would suggest being able to ski blue runs comfortably and parallel turn. For Level 2 courses, red runs with good speed control with parallel turns. If you have less experience than this or are a complete beginner then you can still join a course by adding a Beginner Ski Course or Improver Ski Course immediately prior to your instructor program.

When Should I do an instructor course?

The ideal situation would be for you to be trained and qualified in time for the start of a season to give you the best opportunity of securing a job for the season, whether that be a Northern or Southern Hemisphere season. If you’re looking at Europe, Canada or Japan then a pre season course between October and December is best. You can also complete your course during the summer months in Argentina or New Zealand with a southern hemisphere course such as this Level 1&2 Ski Instructor Course in Argentina. If you wish to work the southern season, then getting qualified during the northern winter would set you up nicely and could give you time to gain some teaching experience too, which is a bonus when going after much coveted jobs in NZ and Australia.

How to get a job as a Ski Instructor

There are a number of ways to secure employment as a ski instructor. The easiest and most popular way is to opt for a training program that comes with a job attached, whether that be a job guarantee or an internship such as the 22 Week Zell am See-Kaprun Ski Instructor Internship.

Another way is to simply apply to ski schools in countries and resorts where you’d like to work. Competition is strong, with often more than 20 applications per position so having the right qualification and experience or training is key to standing out from the rest. As with many things in the world, often it’s about “who you know, not what you know” so if you have any contacts within a ski school then try and use them to your advantage to get your foot through the door.

Should you have any questions or need any advice on how to become a ski instructor then get in touch with us at Ski Instructor Academy.