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Hoping you ski pros can give me some advice/guidance.

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hello ski pros:


I am hoping that you can give me some specific advice about becoming an entry level/PSIA 1 instructor at a Catskill area resort. Here are some about me's: I have been a dedicated skier all my life; I am very focused on technique; I regularly seek out the best pros around (examiners and so on) to continue to train get better. Its hard for me to rate my skiing--but I can work the ski, know how to carve and have skied a tremendous amount of very serious terrain over the past 40 years.


I am early 50's/pretty good shape ( i work at it); a very good communicator; excellent people skills ( i have been in sales my entire career).


My goals are not high--no expectations that I'll ever be a top instructor --i'd just like to be part of the team and progress. This is about doing something i love. I would plan to teach part time (weekends/holiday) over the next 3 to 4 year and then actually try to go to full time. (yes--I will be older)


I have a home ski area in the catskills, as mentioned, --so I don't have any flexibility in terms of where i start out.


So my questions are--does it sound realistic, what can i/should i expect in my fist year or two? I understand that the first step is probably to reach out to the ski school director and show up for the employment day in fall. I also understand that my first year is focused on getting certified But i am hoping that you  can provide some deeper  background information and advice for my first steps. 


Thank you.



post #2 of 6

If your ski school works like the ones I've applied to in NH, it will go like this.


First step, ask the ski school director to hire you (iffy for summer contact; walk into the ski school office once the director comes back to work in the fall) and/or show up at the hiring fair (don't miss it).  With your experience, you'll get hired.  Ski schools in New England are always looking for lots of new-hire instructors.  It may be the same where you are.  


Find out what new instructor training is like.  Your mountain may offer it for free, or they may want you to pay for it.  Just do what they say.  Don't skip it.


Do you want to teach adults at line-up, and maybe have some time off to ski and take clinics during your weekend work days?  Then tell the person hiring you that you want to do adult line-up.  You may not earn much money (ha!).


If you want to earn as much money as possible (not much - don't get hopeful) you'll want to start out teaching kids.  Ask if you can start working with a seasonal kids' program (good for your psyche); if not ask to teach kids groups (good if you love to teach little ones, different kids in your groups each day).  They'll say yes to that.  Kids' ski instructors are always needed.


Ask about the training clinics offered to the instructors, and tell them you are interested in working your way up in PSIA.  If the training offered by your mountain overlaps with the timing for teaching kids, take that into account when you identify whether you want to do line-up or kids' groups.  Find out during this conversation if the ski school director cares about PSIA certification or not, and how many trainers (Level III and up) are resident.  The training is dramatically different at different mountains.  You just want to know this, so you understand up front how dedicated this ski school is to PSIA.


Have fun. 

post #3 of 6

^^^That sounds promising.  I guess it depends on how close the resort is to a major metroplex and how may new people are interested in joining.  The procedure where I worked was that everyone that didn't hold a current certification or didn't work there the previous season had to sign up for the new instructor training program, a 6-8 week series of clinics starting on dry land.  Candidates were required to pay a sizable fee in advance for this out of their own pockets, but got reimbursed in their first paycheck if they were lucky and good enough to be chosen from the pool of candidates.  I went in with three other friends from high school.   IIRC, about 30 people signed up for the clinics and about 10 got hired at the end.  A really good friend of ours didn't make it, to this day I'm kind of bummed that she didn't get hired, but she was the weakest skier out of all of us. 


Edit, looks like Buck Hill is still 6 weeks, one night a week.  Thought it was 2 nights a week when I did it.  However, everyone else's look to be more condensed to weekends, longer sessions fewer days/weeks.


Twin Cities ski areas looking for ski and snowboard instructors


edit, adding relevant info for anyone in the Twin Cities area looking for answer to same question.

Edited by crgildart - 6/30/13 at 11:58am
post #4 of 6

If you're talking about Hunter they have a four day (two weekends) hiring clinic in December. If they like you they ask you back for the second weekend. http://www.huntermtn.com/huntermtn/the-learning-center/instructor-training-course.aspx


First year you will be teaching beginners to start.


Good luck!

Edited by BillA - 6/30/13 at 11:33am
post #5 of 6

What LF said. icon14.gif


I would add a couple comments.  Since it sounds like you've been taking lessons through your skiing career, you should be up on current gear and current skiing techniques.  Many times folks that have been skiing so long, ski the same way they did when they were wee little ones and have a tough time transitioning.  They aren't prepared to accept there might be some things they need to relearn either.  You might be a fantastic skier, but if you do things like lift the inside leg to turn, they'll want you to stop that.  It won't prevent them from hiring you.  Again, it doesn't sound like this is the case with you and if you've been skiing that long and continuing with lessons, they will probably be quite happy to hire you.


Getting hired is pretty easy.  I started skiing (again) at 47 after a 30 year hiatus.  Even then it was only a handful of times in HS so doesn't really count.  I was hired the season I turned 50 and got PSIA L1 the same season.  You have to show you're interested and enthused, willing to get in front and teach, and know how to teach, but as far as skill set, passing the skiing part of L1 is easy peasy.  I'm sure PSIA has there reasons, but it should be harder.  I don't think I should have passed.  I could ski, and even race but most times when folks were watching me from the lift they DIDN'T say "Wow! Look at him rip!" it was more like "Wow!  How did he not fall?"  You wont have any problem there.


Knowledge wise you'll need to know how to teach beginners.  This is probably the most challenging part of being an instructor for folks that have been skiing for as long as you.  You do things without even thinking about it and might not even know you do it.  I was fortunate that I was still learning so it was easy for me to bring out.  My other saving grace was though I couldn't ski worth a crap, I knew what was supposed to be happening and could talk about it.


Being willing to teach kids is almost a "must" as this is the ski schools biggest demographic (I think it is something like 60 or 70%).   It can also be the most exhausting.  Especially when you get the under 6 crowd.  It might be 20* out but you'll come in sweating and exhausted dealing with one 3 y/o.  Where I work there is the equivalent to a skiing day care (we call it Radical Kids); give us your kids for 3 hours and we'll spend at least two hours on the snow and will do our best to make sure they have fun.  We use a lot of teenage instructors for this as they have the endurance and back for it.  We have instructors that aren't the best of skiers but they are absolutely wonderful with the kids.  Kids love them and parents love them.  Nothing says repeat business like returning a kid to their parents with a smile on their face and they're sound asleep before they get out of the parking lot.


I'll be honest.  At first I couldn't stand teaching kids.  I have a bad back and at the time, a bad shoulder.  It hurt a bit and I was struggling with teaching them as I lacked some basic understanding when dealing with kids and ski instruction in general.  At the start of this past season I took the PSIA Child Specialist 1 course (requires a boat load of self study) ONLY because it is a prerequisite for getting PSIA L2 (remember; I didn't like teaching kids so why get better at it).  Anyway, I learned a ton, returned to the mountain and now almost exclusively teach kids.  I help out with the Radical Kids program here and there (still not my preference but I don't mind) and coach a seasonal kids program.  I taught very few adults last season; probably less than a dozen and I had my best season ever.  My teaching and movement analysis improved quite a bit and my own skiing really improved.  CS1 was one of the best things I could have done.  Whoddathunk?!


All that to say "embrace teaching kids".


New instructors and instructor candidates get lots of training prior to getting their first class and have to be shadowed too.  There are personal skiing development clinics for the school staff pretty much continuously and there will also be instructor development classes whether it be for teaching or demoing.


It will be a blast and I love it.



Edited by L&AirC - 6/30/13 at 12:25pm
post #6 of 6


So my questions are--does it sound realistic, what can i/should i expect in my fist year or two? I understand that the first step is probably to reach out to the ski school director and show up for the employment day in fall. I also understand that my first year is focused on getting certified But i am hoping that you  can provide some deeper  background information and advice for my first steps. 




You have a good plan. Well, except for that work full time part unless you are retired from your day job by then (what's the difference between a ski instructor and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of 4!).


Call the ski school now to start the process of getting on the list for new hire training. Most resorts call it an ITC (instructor training clinic). There will probably be indoor and on snow. If you already know someone on staff/have a favorite, make sure to mention their name because they may get credit for the referral. The joke for new hire training is that the requirement is the ability to fog a mirror. The reality is that they are looking for people skills, the ability to listen and do what you're told and the ability to learn. You should do fine.


Your first year focus should be learning how to teach skiing and deciding whether or not you like it. Loving the sport makes this a lot easier, but teaching is a hard job and can at times seem like a thankless one. One thing that helps rookies grow to love the job is to progress from knowing what to do in the lesson to doing things simultaneously. It's one thing to do demonstrations, give students practice time and feedback. It's another to be also doing time management and safety management and monitoring everyone for boredom/tiredness/equipment issues/etc/etc and watching the weather and ... and ...  It's not unusual for > 1/2 of new instructors to not last 3 seasons. Three tricks for success are to show up more than promised, happily volunteer for as much as you can and SMILE!


Certification is not required by most resorts and unless you are trying to get hired full time at a resort that has few staff openings (e.g. Alta) is not required to get hired. But it will probably bump up your pay a little. Level 1 certification is relatively easy, but you will need to spend some time preparing. After level 1 cert, plan on going to Pro Jam in December (season 2). Where certification starts to really payoff in terms of improving your skills is level 2 prep.

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