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How to start as a ski instructor

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Hi all fellow skiers & boarders, I'm 41 years old & looking for a career change from a fulltime plumber here in Australia to becoming a ski instructor. I've been skiing since I was 16 years old & want/need a career change. I've been looking at instructor coarses in BC for level 1&2 for 11 weeks. What sort of job prospects would this course give me ? Should I look at level 3 as well ? Or should I look elsewhere for a different course ?
All comments would be very appreciative.
Ardy
post #2 of 19
If you're looking for a "career change" that will include a wage that will pay your rent and keep food on the table, you probably won't find it on the ski slopes at age 41.
post #3 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post

If you're looking for a "career change" that will include a wage that will pay your rent and keep food on the table, you probably won't find it on the ski slopes at age 41.


Is the pay structure for ski instructors in Australia like the U.S., Canada, Japan, or France?

post #4 of 19

Pay structure in France seems to be just fine.  Problem is the barriers to entry - full ISTD and Eurotest.

 

Generally though I'd stick to plumbing and buy the time on the slopes that way.

post #5 of 19

Way to squash those dreams, guys.

 

 

Unfortunately, they are correct, Ardy.  Not impossible, just a crowded field.  Do you have any natural advantages?  Best skier on the hill?  Are you the handsomest plumber in Oz?

post #6 of 19

G'day Ardy and welcome to EpicSki!

 

Many Aussies take an extended walkabout in Canada skiing. As stated above, it's hard to make a career teaching the sport. It's especially hard taking up the career at 41 as a primary source of income. But it is doable. In Canada, most new instructors get started by getting their level 1 cert before they get a job (that's their "system"). A course to do just that should take as little as a week and get you an entry level minimum wage job. 11 weeks sounds like a course to get you to level 2. A level 2 cert will make it easier to get a job in a preferred location but generally is not worth the extra money spent vs getting a job and getting free certification training at the resort you work for. Plus it is easier to pass a level 2 exam if you have actual experience teaching. That said, many instructors in Canada go this route because it makes them much more confident on day 1. Level 3 cert is something that people rarely pass without extensive teaching experience (and they usually have something equivalent like racing experience if they don't have teaching experience). Advanced certification generally is not worth the extra expense unless you are working full time and at a resort with a pay scale that significantly rewards certification. You just don't earn enough extra money to cover the cost of the exams and the travel costs and the time off costs. Most of the instructors with advanced certs got them to help them teach better, That can pay off in more private requests, but you can also become a better instructor without going the certification route. Most just find it easier to get better through the cert route (and work through the ski school job assignment politics).

 

In the US, it's harder for immigrants to get permits to work (especially so without certification), but it's easier to get a job teaching because resorts will train you for basically for free. For a small fee, most resorts will let you attend what is called an "Instructor Training Clinic". This is usually a few days of indoor training pre season and a couple of days of on snow training to teach you how to teach. US resorts are generally looking for intermediate to advanced skiing skills, an ability to teach, some decent people skills and a willingness to work. The bar is relatively low to get hired. After you get hired, there is typically more training to get you ready to teach. After you have a job teaching in the US, then you can start taking certification exams based on how much experience you have. PSIA wants you to have on the job experience before you go for certification.

 

Getting certified by the instructor organization in the country you want to work in is generally best. There are CSIA (Canada) and BASI (Britain) courses taught in other countries. New Zealand has some CSIA training. Having any certification is better than having none.

 

My recommendation would be to head to Vancouver and find work as a plumber first. Take a CSIA level 1 course at Whistler, then look for a part time job at Whistler or one of the local Vancouver resorts. With a season of teaching under your belt (and a full belly) you could then decide on whether to go for teaching full time somewhere on the coast (or in the interior) and plumb during the off season/ teach part time and plumb year round/ plumb year round, get a pass and ski your ass off in the winter. BC is a great choice for skiers!

post #7 of 19

Starting at 41 the difficulty will be visas, you won't be eligible for a working holiday visa in Canada (or anywhere) so you'll have to be sponsored, how possible that is seems to change on a yearly basis, at the moment I think it's quite hard . Canada also has notoriously bad wages for instructors so I wouldn't bother there. That said, maybe with plumbing experience you could get some sort of visa, really not sure on that. 

 

Why not try the APSI route in Aus? Or NZSIA in NZ? Aus mountains aren't great, but the pay for instructors there is actually pretty decent. NZ it's trickier to make money, but the skiing is generally better.

 

In the Northern Hemi your options for work will be limited to US resorts that offer the H2B visa, there aren't many at the moment, as a level 1 or 2 it'll be tricky. Do you have a Euro passport? That would significantly improve your work options. 

 

I would say your best option would be to start off in Aus or NZ, build some experience and contacts in the industry over a few seasons and see how you go, investing a lot of money in quals in a country you possibly can't work in is a risky move. 

 

Being an instructor fulltime is definitely a possibility, I have taught 18 seasons over 5 continents and haven't had to do another job for quite a few years now, however I started at 21 when I could get working holiday visas everywhere and when the US was easier to get into as well. 

post #8 of 19
Ardy, Expect a much lower starting wage. Mostly because the minimum wage in Australia is around sixteen dph and 8-10 dph here. So like TR suggested don't quit your day job, teach part time.
post #9 of 19

Sadly, the Canadian government has recently made it incredibly difficult for resorts to sponsor instructors for working visas... and at age 41, you are unfortunately not even eligible for a working holiday to get your foot in the door. That's not to say it's impossible but it has now become much more difficult. I know plenty of strong level 3+ instructors with many years experience at resorts in Canada who are unable to get visas anymore.

 

On the bright side, there is an election coming up so things may turn around at some point in the near future;)... Also getting certified in in Canada (or any other ISIA Nation) doesn't limit you to just teaching in that country. The majority of CSIA folks I know who are having visa troubles in Canada are now flocking to Japan (where they've just loosend their visa policies to attract more overseas instructors). They usually include room and board there which is a nice perk!

 

As far making a career out of being a ski instructor... it's true the wage isn't usually great starting out (not in North America anyways, I hear Switzerland is the best), but most folks aren't teaching skiing because they're trying to get rich. It's a lifestyle choice. In fact, I would argue that plenty of Doctors and Lawyers I know of seem to work really hard all year just so they can escape and come live my life for one week each year... You can make a satisfying living at it as long as you're willing to do some time in the trenches (at least that's what I keep telling myself;).

 

The above mentioned stategy of working your way into the country as a tradesman and working part time as an instructor may also be a decent option until you decide whether it truly is your passion.

 

And finally with regards to previous comments... wages for ski instructors are much better in Australia than in North America, however, from my experience the cost of living in a ski resort in Australia is also significantly higher.

 

I wish you luck on your mission Ardy...

post #10 of 19
I'd try to get in at Perisher. Vail Resorts is having difficulty recruiting instructors in the US and may work with their folks in Australia to provide ways to use those instructors in their US resorts.
post #11 of 19
The Canadian government charges the resort owners 1000$ per application if they want to hire a ski instructor
from abroad (and also for all the other positions available in the resort) and only a very small percentage of the applications (around 25-30%) are being approved.Provided that there are thousands of applications each year this thing has turned into a very good business for the government.The resort owners (losing thousands of dollars for applications) however still don't get the message : increase the salaries and make the jobs attractive enough for the locals to apply instead of looking for a cheap work force from all over the world.
post #12 of 19

I don't think anyone has of yet warned this poor guy about the worst part of being a new instructor at most resorts. You will be saddled all weekend giving lessons to snot-nosed kids that couldn't care less about what their instructor would have to say about ski technique and that keeping a full inventory of bribe candy in your pocket may be your best tool (not to mention a few nips for yourself). All that really matters is that you end the lesson with the same amount of students you start with. Luckily for me, my SS Director noticed that I couldn't teach kids without a few or three drinks in me and recommended marijuana as a ski-friendly replacement for alcohol. A bit of a hitch, though, was when I would completely forget about an entire class of students coming off the lift behind me. Or, who here has shown up to line up on mushrooms not expecting a class due to rain and then being sacked with a class ... as if skiing in the rain on mushrooms while everything melted around you wasn't enough to deal with. Rather than giving a lesson, I thought I was being chased around a giant melting vanilla ice cream cone by a bunch of thug midgets with high pitched giggles. Truly frightening!

post #13 of 19
666, this may explain many of your posts on the instruction and coaching forum. PTSD? Or residual effect of your "treatments?"
post #14 of 19

Yes SE, Definitely PTSD ... those thug midgets ... and yes to a high attraction to any such type of residual effect. Oh, I and never fight the mountain, especially if it is melting.

post #15 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bogatyr View Post

The Canadian government charges the resort owners 1000$ per application if they want to hire a ski instructor
from abroad (and also for all the other positions available in the resort) and only a very small percentage of the applications (around 25-30%) are being approved.Provided that there are thousands of applications each year this thing has turned into a very good business for the government.The resort owners (losing thousands of dollars for applications) however still don't get the message : increase the salaries and make the jobs attractive enough for the locals to apply instead of looking for a cheap work force from all over the world.

Apparently resorts will have to start paying for flights as well this year for anyone they sponsor from overseas.

post #16 of 19
Yes , I agree , given the cost of an airticket from Europe, Australia or elswhere in the world...
post #17 of 19
post #18 of 19
Yes , this article pretty much tells the story. Thanks for posting the link.
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bogatyr View Post

Yes , this article pretty much tells the story. Thanks for posting the link.


Tough luv, hard to get international flavor which sure is cool factor on them mountains, bad idea right here from a government

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