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Becoming a ski instructor

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 
This forum may be the planet's most fertile ground for asking this!

Especially, given the offered help since I posted my description in another thread about my wife's ski school experiences. And I must applaud the many Bears who posted and PM'd me with apologies and accepting responsibility for the industry and offers to help rectify any wrong. Let me announce to all, very humbly, my sincerest appreciation for the avalanche of offers and support; but, YOU GUYS DIDN'T DO IT! And what's more, its over and my wife is now Ok with it and let me know yesterday (upon telling her about my exchanges with y'all) with a shrug of her shoulders that she might very well take lessons again. She even seemed open to (hot damn!) considering a week-long ski camp! So thanks, Bears!

Now to my question.

Those discussions led me to think about what is involved in becoming a ski instructor. So, what's involved?

I found the PSIA website and called them. Not much help there. A rather dry fellow who answered the phone (he seemed bored with my call; he must get a lot of similar inquiries) said the best thing to do is to contact a particular ski area and ask them.

So I called a couple of them and learned that there is normally a "job fair" of sorts in the fall each year and that's where you get started.

Ok.

But what skills are required? And what's this business about Level 1, 2, 3, etc., of instructor? And (as I have seen herein) if a Level 3 is the level to seek out for instruction, why even have levels 1 and 2?

If you are an instructor, do you typically work for a resort? Or can you (Lito what's-his-name comes to mind here) bring students to a particular mountain and teach classes?

It's an interesting vocation. I love to teach (have taught skydiving, SCUBA, rowing, etc.) and nothing beats the fun and aesthetics of skiing. Any thoughts or advice is most appreciated.
post #2 of 9
You sound like the perfect candidate to be a skiing instructor, having taught other outdoor activites and possessing such a passion for the sport. The first step toward becoming an instructor would be to respond to the ads that resorts list in local publications and signs around the resort looking for ski instructors. These are usually found in October and November, so you may be a bit late starting this year. Once you contact a resort, they'll inform you of clinic dates and times. At the clinics, you'll be introduced to everything from teaching models and customer service to the actual teaching progressions. You'll probably also receive an instructing manual, which is a great resource which usually includes all sorts of games and activites for teaching. Once the skiing season actually begins, you'll have several on-snow clinics where you teach mock lessons with the ski school trainers. Once they are satisfied that you know your stuff, you'll be paired with a more experienced instructor for an apprenticeship. Thes last nywhere from a week to several months to an entire season, depending where you are. Once you've got 10 hours of actual teaching experience under your belt, you are eligible to take your level 1 certification. The first day of the certification you'll go through the lessons with the guidance of the examiner and he'll do a bit of personal skiing critique. The second day, you'll teach a lesson while he watches and be scored on your teaching skills, demo skills, and personal skiing. Should you pass, and most people do, you'll be certified to teach up to level 5-6 skiers and you'll have a start towards the concepts and skills necessary to teach higher levels. The next levels are continuations with focus much less on the actual learn-to-ski progression and more on the skills and movements necessary to analyze students and give them excercises and activites which will help correct bad habits or movements.

Most instructors do choose to work for a resort, although another option is a traveling ski school. One of the schools I work for uses this method. On weekend mornings, we round kids onto a bus and take them to one of two local mountains the ski school has developed a relationship with over the years. Most (all) resorts will frown upon instructors simply showing up and offering lessons for a fee.
post #3 of 9
Tiger,

If you've successfully taught skydiving, SCUBA, rowing, and other activities you already have many of the prerequisites for becoming a ski instructor covered. That is to say you already have the necessary people skills and some teaching ability. Its easier for a ski school to develop your skiing skills than it is for them to develop those other skills. You need to be able to ski competently, but that is not to say that you need to be ready to pass a Level 1 certification exam on day one.

A good place to start is at a smaller ski area rather than a destination resort. Destination resorts often require prior experience and some level of certification in order to be hired.

Ski areas hold instructor hiring clinics where candidates are evaluated and given some basic training in instruction methods and personal skiing improvement. One of the things that the trainers watch for is how coachable applicants are. You don't need to be a great skier, but you do need to be willing to make changes based on the feedback and coaching that they provide. They also look for people who are responsible, will show up on time, and realize that this is a job and that the ski area is a business.

New hires are frequently assigned to beginners and childrens classes where the upper level skiing technical skills are less critical. Some people discover that this is harder work than they expected it to be and they drop out after a short time. Because of this, you may find that the local ski area will be looking for some more new instructors after the holidays.

Teaching skiing is a fun and rewarding experience, and it is a great opportunity to develop your own skills as they relate to teaching and skiing, and maybe even to your real job.

Jim
post #4 of 9
or you could just...
a) live overseas
b) be a student & so eligible for a j1 visa
c) be prepared to work for zip wages while on your overseas holiday

no experience skills or real interest in the sport required...
post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by HarvardTiger
And what's more, its over and my wife is now Ok with it and let me know yesterday (upon telling her about my exchanges with y'all) with a shrug of her shoulders that she might very well take lessons again. She even seemed open to (hot damn!) considering a week-long ski camp! So thanks, Bears!

.
Ok week long ski camp - check out the Epicski academy....
post #6 of 9
Sounds like you have the fundamentals nailed for teaching if you've successfully convinced someone to jump out of a perfectly good airplane! I used to be one of the clinicians responsible for hiring at Sugarloaf USA a loooong time ago. One year we had to do our 'hiring clinic' sans snow. The instructors we hired that year, while not the best skiers, were some of the best instructors we ever hired...many went on to high levels of certification and are still teaching some 15 years later. The point is, they were great communicators of information and they were open to input. Future hiring clinics at the Loaf always had a strong indoor focus after that!

Oh yeah...and a willingness to show up in all sorts of weather helps too! We had one guy one year who called to say he couldn't make it that day...too much snow! Doh!
post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Takecontrol618
You sound like the perfect candidate to be a skiing instructor, having taught other outdoor activites and possessing such a passion for the sport. The first step toward becoming an instructor would be to respond to the ads that resorts list in local publications and signs around the resort looking for ski instructors. These are usually found in October and November, so you may be a bit late starting this year. Once you contact a resort, they'll inform you of clinic dates and times. At the clinics, you'll be introduced to everything from teaching models and customer service to the actual teaching progressions. You'll probably also receive an instructing manual, which is a great resource which usually includes all sorts of games and activites for teaching. Once the skiing season actually begins, you'll have several on-snow clinics where you teach mock lessons with the ski school trainers. Once they are satisfied that you know your stuff, you'll be paired with a more experienced instructor for an apprenticeship. Thes last nywhere from a week to several months to an entire season, depending where you are. Once you've got 10 hours of actual teaching experience under your belt, you are eligible to take your level 1 certification. The first day of the certification you'll go through the lessons with the guidance of the examiner and he'll do a bit of personal skiing critique. The second day, you'll teach a lesson while he watches and be scored on your teaching skills, demo skills, and personal skiing. Should you pass, and most people do, you'll be certified to teach up to level 5-6 skiers and you'll have a start towards the concepts and skills necessary to teach higher levels. The next levels are continuations with focus much less on the actual learn-to-ski progression and more on the skills and movements necessary to analyze students and give them excercises and activites which will help correct bad habits or movements.

Most instructors do choose to work for a resort, although another option is a traveling ski school. One of the schools I work for uses this method. On weekend mornings, we round kids onto a bus and take them to one of two local mountains the ski school has developed a relationship with over the years. Most (all) resorts will frown upon instructors simply showing up and offering lessons for a fee.
There is some information here that differs from the Rocky Mountain Division.

1. There is no ten hour requirement. If you are employed you can begin the level I cert process. In fact you can take and pass the process and await certification upon employment. This does not certify you to teach "up to level 5-6 skiers". Level I is designed to train folks to teach levls 1-3 students in our division.

2. In the Rocky Mountain division one must work for a ski school. Resorts operate on Forest Service property. The resort obtains a permit to operate.
Do people "poach" or work "under the table"? Yes. Is it legal? No

Many of the larger resorts want some level of certification and some experience before hiring. Some will hire non-certs. To a great degree it depends upon the job market and our visa policy. More than likely you will spend the first few years teaching kids.
post #8 of 9
Many major areas in the US offer a five day "hiring clinic" in (usually) early December. These areas do not turn away those who just want to participate without a serious interest in actually working at the area. You can spend a week with one of the top instructors or supervisors---have a lot of fun----learn something --and ski (with one great big class lesson) for a week for less than lift tickets would normally cost you.....Not all from these clinics get hired anyway.

You may (or may not) get a job offer. "People Skills" are, in most cases, what they look for first---and a professional attitude. You should be at least a reasonably strong Intermediate skier. Worry about certification later !
post #9 of 9
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the insight, guys. I appreciate it.

Teaching skydiving was quite something. So many of the instructors with whom I was working at the time took such a bland and, well, military approach to it. I took the tack that people were coming out to do it for fun and started building my instruction around that. It worked out very, very well. Never had a student not jump...only had one student experience a malfunction (and I had them pack their own 'chutes)...and that student performed perfectly and landed safely to jump again that day. Never had a "one and done" student--they all came back for at least a few more jumps; many are still jumping today (years afterwards their instructor hung up the ol' ripcord!).

It was quite a bit different than I imagine teching skiing to be. But I would think that the "let's approach this with unbounded enthusiasm" part would hold true. And I am sure that, from reading herein, the Bears are an enthusiastic bunch!

Thanks again -- y'all have given me a lot to think about!

Best,

- Jim
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