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Is ski instruction the right choice for me?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Greetings! New member, been reading for a year, but this is my first post. I recently became a ski instructor at my local mountain and now I'm second guessing my decision. I love to ski, love talking about it, love thinking about it, etc. My original motivation for becoming a ski instructor was to improve my own skiing and to "talk shop" with other instructors. The reason I'm second guessing the decision is I'm always teaching beginners (I guess this is expected, but man the same old stuff over and over ). I never get to ski anything challenging in any lesson, and I rarely have time to free ski. I know that a lot of good can come from skiing the bunny hill and my technique will improve, but I don't know how much longer I can take the flat pitch. Have any instructors had similar feelings? Any advice?

Thanks in Advance.
post #2 of 11
Maybe and maybe not. It strongly depends on your attitude and what you want out of life as to whether you should be a ski instructor or not.

Early season for most instructors is busy with little time to free ski. Terrain is limited with all but the top skiers as far as teaching. Forget skiing great terrain as an instructor unless you are in half day or all day lessons with upper level students.

Your real challenge should be in "What am I actually teaching these beginners and am I getting results". If your results are mixed your deliver or your demonstrations may no be up to par. That is your challenge, not terrain. Believe me by the end of the first season you will not feel as competent as you do now. By that time you will start to pick up on deficiencies in your teaching and skiing.
post #3 of 11
Pierre gave good advice.

Have you begun the cert process or given it any consideration? At most resorts lessons are assigned based upon some sort of priority system based upon full time vs. part time, cert level, etc.

I'll also present a different scenario. At Winter Park we have a lot of folks who come to the resort to ski the Mary Jane bumps. During busy periods full time/full cert instructors are looking at the supervisor and pleading to do a nice easy intermediate lesson or beginner lesson to give their legs a break.

Do you have early morning or late afternoon clinics? Go out early in the morning and ski hard for an hour under the watchful eye of a trainer.

I suppose the bottom line is teaching skiing is not for everyone and not always as enjoyable as one might assume. There are good days and bad. Consider having an all day private with a small group of people you just don't like. I just came off a multi day private with a wonderful family that all got along. It just as easily could have been siblings fighting all the time and that would have made xmas week miserable. Sometimes a "request private" is a deal one would just as soon unrequest.
post #4 of 11
I spent my entire first season teaching children’s beginner lessons. My break was morning clinics. Are their training opportunities you can get involved in?

It will get you the challenge you want and is generally the faster track towards teaching more upper level lessons. By the way we all teach beginners at my mountain, even the tech director sometimes.

If you’re bored teaching the lesson, imagine what it must be like for your students. Have fun with the lesson, mix it up, and try new games and activities. You will never see more growth or joy from a student than in a beginner lesson. You get to open the world of skiing to them and that’s a pretty cool thing.
post #5 of 11
Yeah, that first year can be tough. If you don't enjoy teaching and the results of getting people to be able to ski, then maybe you should look into someother on-hill job.


You can also look at it as Mr Miagi (sp?) in the Karate Kid... wax on... wax off. You'll learn from all the repition, and after you put in some time, you'll work with higher levels (level 3-4), getting you to the paint on.. paint off part. You'll make lots of friends who love to talk skiing, and you'll find time to make some runs by yourself and to attend training clinics.

When I started teaching, it was simply because I couldn't afford to ski as a high school kid with parents who don't ski. I taught nothing but little kids my whole first year. But I loved being on the hill all the time and 20+ years later, love it (even if I did take last year and this year off. I'll go back just as soon as family obligations will allow).

It's all about what you want. Your decision.
post #6 of 11
Mances00, welcome to the gang. I clearly hear your frustration on what must feel like confinement to the never-ever hill. As has been pointed out, you will at some point be begiven a more balanced diet of learners as you improve your own skiing and teaching and as you progress in your cert level. So you should not worry about being permanently assigned to beginners and novices--that "problem," if that's the right word, will solve itself as you progress.

But let's focus on your question about whether ski teaching is the right activity for you. I could not help noticing that the reasons you gave for getting into ski teaching (improve my own skiing and to "talk shop" with other instructors) have a conspicuous and critical omission: a love of teaching.

To take up this work, you must of course love skiing, being around a ski area, talking technique, equipment, ski areas, favorite trails, etc, etc. But, IMO, you must also love teaching--teaching for its own sake. If you love teaching, you will be very glad about this work, as a love of teaching will get you through the bad days as mentioned by Rusty Guy, in a lot better shape than the other stuff.

Yes, you will get a steady diet of people who may not even have seen snow. In fact, at our little area outside Boston, I find myself teaching people who may never learn how to ski. But the satisfaction of getting them into simple wedge maneuvers after an hour and a half is, to me, indelible and addictive. I have a habit of pronouncing, as a person makes their first reasonably stable wedge turn on command, "Hey, now you're a skier!" The look on their faces says Wow!

Again, think it over: "do I really like teaching?" Therein you will find the answer to your question.

post #7 of 11
Take a good hard look at the "pecking order" at your hill. Additionally, take a good hard look at the "niches" that may exist.

In the areas that I have worked at, there was a group that had been there a long time that comprised something like 10% of the ski school. Some were pretty good skiers who did the clinics and provided some structure, others were pretty poor skiers (instructors), who had just been there a long time. Who do you think got the level three and above lessons?

Now do the math! If 90% of the lessons that come out of the SS are first timers, what are your chances of moving up?

Some areas just "churn" the lower ranks. There is always a bunch of "wannabees" who will take your place and they don't give a hoot if you leave. For that matter if you do leave, the profit line goes up. That fifty cents an hour raise you got at the start of your second year ..... actually my second year, it was TEN CENTS and it was mandated by the minimum wage law changes .... goes toward a higher profit line for the SSD.

But .... look at some of the areas of "need" where you may get higher level groups. When the Middle and High School busses come rolling in for their "ski club" Tuesday (or whatever) night trip that includes a "mandatory" lesson, the area is often strapped for instructors since most of the kids are going to be level 4 to 6 ..... Often the instructors working the "night shift" are a totally different group and you are not under the same .... let's just say it's different.
post #8 of 11
Yuki brings up a good strategic point. If you work at an area with night skiing, and can be there on nights and other times when the supply of instructors is low (even weekend nights), it would be in your best interest to do that. You have a much better liklihood of picking up something other than never-evers. You also have a better chance of being able to just make a couple of runs or ski with other instructors or take a clinic.

I found that Saturday evenings at our 5:30 and 7:30pm lessons, the newer and lower ranking instructors usually were able to get non-beginner lessons. There aren't a lot of 1st timers taking lessons that late in the evening, and most of the instructors have gone home. But there are still advanced skiers who may have been skiing all day who want lessons or who wait until the crowds let up to show up and take a lesson.

On the busiest days at our mid atlantic ski area (fed by DC and Baltimore), we might only have 5-7 instructors show up for Sat evening line-ups, but have lots of higher level students. I regularly had 5-7 people ranging from level 5-8 in a single lesson simply due to lack of instructors.
post #9 of 11

Teaching/ Question

ManceOO, I agree with JohnH and Joe- if you don't love teaching you are probably going to continue to not like what you're doing. I teach a lot of never evers and intermediates and get a real kick out of seeing a person change from fearfullly unconvinced on this snow stuff to "I.m a skier" in 2 hours. Yes some of them will never ski again but others have just found a new sport they really love. The smiles on their faces is usually my tip. I teach at a NON Destination resort and the $ is scarce but the people, lack of crowds etc. are great. There are a lot of otherthings you can do in the ski field to "talk skiing, improve etc." Unless you are a really fantastic expert skier and have all the PSIA stuff down really well-you aren't going to advance to level III quickly. With some exceptions you get your level I and then need some experience (4-5) years before youre making level II (this is generally true-if you are the fast learner exception only you know that). I don't know where you teach and then I don't know the size etc but most ski instructors don't make any real money. They do it because they love to teach and can afford it. If you look at the entire years work I lose money teaching. Good luck hard decision.
post #10 of 11
I too looked at teaching as a pathway to improving my skiing, but I also gain from sharing my enjoyment of the activity. Yesterday I had a lady in a lesson who had skied three days a year ago and was fearful she'd forgotten everything. Once we got going comfortably on an easy run her mouth opened into a big smile and she was laughing with happiness.

Today I spent two hours with a six-year-old I've been teaching for the last week. We were zooming on the fastest greens and easiest blues, laughing and joking about "big toe and little toe" doing their jobs, and when we finished up, her mother told me her daughter's been raving each evening about her fun times with me and her father handed me a $50 bill. I've been doing this kind of thing and having this kind of pleasant moments mostly full time since 1970, and along the way I've become Level III certified, watched my hair turn white, gotten pretty decent at skiing and decided I made a good life choice.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 


Thanks for the replies. I decided to give up my job as a ski instructor. I stll had my season pass, so everything worked out.
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