As the ski resorts ramp up for the upcoming season you’re still on the fence if you want to earn your coveted season pass. Here are 8 tips & truths about being an instructor at a resort this winter:
- You get paid to ski, get a free pass, and get hooked up with sweet exchange passes to other resorts. Ski instructing can make skiing somewhat affordable. However, you will most likely make minimum wage during your instruction time. Ski instruct for the experience and the passes, not the money.
- Ski instructing builds connections. If you are just moving into a resort town, instructing is a great way to meet ‘mountain people’. You will meet a huge community of good and passionate skiers right off the bat. But keep in mind, to be a ski instructor you do need to have an interest in teaching people and the ability to encourage them. You are responsible for getting new skiers excited about the sport of skiing by sharing something you already love. If you’re not a people person, this may not be the winter job for you.
- Ski instructing is about teaching, not free skiing. You need to be ready to move slowly, lap the green runs, and communicate clearly. Rarely will you teach an advanced lesson to an impossibly good-looking Norwegian while skiing powder glades (yes, I know what you were hoping). Mostly you will ski with the nuggets, the rug rats, and the little rippers. Remember, this is a “customer service” job. Realize this now.
- Ski instructors log a lot of vert, spend a lot of time on the mountain, and have the opportunity to become ripping skiers. If you work at a mountain, you meet a community of skiers, and can take advantage of trainings in your ski school, as snow sports schools have clinics offered for their instructors the range from improving your skiing to learning how to teach better. Furthermore, teaching the fundamentals of skiing daily makes you more aware of your own body movements, in turn making you a better skier.
- Learn to play the PSIA/AASI game. This is an organization that provides trainings and certifications to instructors all over the world. If you have any interest in teaching advanced lessons, getting more lessons, or teaching oversees, you have to get certified. There are three levels of certification, based on skiing and teaching ability. Through the exam process you can learn a lot about the fundamentals. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it’s worth it. Most ski schools have a ranking system for lessons and becoming certified will really help you. Take your level one exam as soon as you can to improve your wages and lessons (e.g.: impossibly good-looking Norwegian while skiing powder glades).
- The busiest lesson times are when you don’t really want to ski anyways. When it’s smack dab in the middle of Christmas break and everyone and their grandma is skiing, you probably aren’t going to get in the best turns. But when lines are seemingly endless you can don your instructor uniform and cut the line with your little crew of shredder bandits. You’re a local and wouldn’t want to be free skiing in this zoo anyways!
- Ski instructing is not a 9 to 5 job. Know this going in. Some days it’s pouring rain and winds are blowing at 70mph and you teach all day. It’s miserable and cold, but you manage to find a new appreciation for Gore-Tex ratings and soggy windlips. Other days you really want work and the veterans beat you out, leaving you free skiing and broke. However, if you are reliable and good with clients it will be noticed, you will build experience, and you will gain lessons.
- You work outdoors…in the mountains…on snow…on skis. Enough said.
So what should you do? Try it out. Pass your love of skiing on to the upcoming nuggets, snag a pass, learn a killer switch wedge, and develop a hard-to-kick hot chocolate habit. Welcome to being a ski instructor.