Ski and Snowboard Instructor Employment
Becoming a ski or snowboard instructor is one of the best ways to enjoy the mountains and develop your skiing and teaching abilities while giving something back to the sport by helping others develop their skills. When considering a ski career, imagine yourself nattily attired in a spiffy uniform with a certification pin, weaving fluidly through a mogul field or kicking up plumes of snow as you blast through three feet of new powder; your sun-bronzed face sporting a pair of mirrored sunglasses while envious amateurs admire your style from the lift overhead. Pretty cool, huh? Now, imagine yourself hefting a pudgy kid, who is standing on your new skis, onto the beginner chair before it clobbers him; your rain-soaked ski pants sticking clammily to your butt. As a ski instructor you get to do it all – smiling the whole time.
Learning a new sport is an experience. There is no feeling in the world like being a beginner. That first day can be a painful, frustrating day. It can also be a life-altering event that creates a passion for the snow, the mountains, and the sport. Millions of people around the world turn skiing and snowboarding into a lifelong form of winter recreation. Others choose to perfect their skills and make skiing or snowboarding into a career…
Every winter, almost 30,000 full-time and part-time professionally certified ski instructors make their paychecks working at over 450 ski resorts in North America. These ski instructors spend their days in the mountains teaching people how to ski and snowboard. They work with beginners, intermediates, and experts. They give drills, tips, and pointers that help to challenge and improve their clients. Their job is to instruct, play, and explore the snowy mountains.
A Day In The Life
Ski and snowboard instructors do the same cool thing each day – teach skiing or snowboarding. At the same time, every day is totally different. It all depends on the client, the ability level, the weather, and ski school product. Guests come in all shapes and sizes and from all over the world. Some have never seen snow and others live in mansions where they can ski to the lifts. More people ski when the sky is bluebird and the views are exquisite than do when the light is flat and visibility is low.
There are lots of variables in the instructing world. The key to being a successful instructor is to enjoy every day, smile, and be versatile. Remember that this job is all about what the guest wants, so when you see those fresh tracks down your favorite run, you still need to cater to the cruising client.
Related: Ski Instructor Video
Most ski instructors start their careers teaching beginner group lessons. Many start teaching children before adults. Many days are spent on the bunny hill, the easiest terrain on the mountain, playing games and doing drills to teach fearless children or hesitant adults how to stop, turn, get up, and control speed. It can be a comical experience when you have 8 kids who speak 3 languages all trying to slide around on the snow.
After clients learn the basics, ski instructors get to them out on the hill to cruise the groomers and explore the blues. Moving around the mountain can be exhilarating for guests and instructors – dramatic views, different learning opportunities, and more excitement.
The best instructors teach the expert skiers and riders. It takes some time, and usually higher certifications, to be allowed to teach these clients. Often these lessons are private lessons, a superior product to group lessons. Building a private lesson clientele is a wise career move. Skiing with experts is a lot like free skiing – carving turns, throwing rooster tails down the bowls, slicing through the trees, ripping moguls, or playing in the terrain park. These are the days where people gawk at you from chairlifts and envy your style and grace.
Regardless of the way you spend your day, instructing is not a bad way to get paid. Instructors make around $10 per hour and certified veterans can bring in around $35 per hour – plus tips.
For most instructors, teaching snowboarding or skiing is a nice change from college classes, a way to escape the big city, or an opportunity to work and play in the mountains. Plus, it’s an excellent way to earn a season’s ski pass or a little extra income on the weekends. For many others, it’s a professional calling that lasts a lifetime.
If you think instructing is the life for you, read about the outlook for ski instructor gigs next…