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Instructors: How did you break into the biz?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
So far I've just been a recreational skiier, but I like teaching and tutoring, and my family tells me I am a good teacher and a good skiier. I think I would enjoy teaching others to ski, and I get more fanatical about skiing every year. I'm also questioning exactly what I do for a living anyway.

So my question is, how did you start? Was/Is it your career or your hobbie? What would someone need to do these days to get a job as an instructor? I'd like to hear your story.

Edit: I guess I should also say that looking at ski patrol has been a tempting idea as well. Actually, I live in Tucson, AZ and am thinking about calling Mt. Lemmon ski valley tomorrow and see if there's anything I can do up there on skis.
post #2 of 21
Hi Big Jim,

Teaching is a hobbie for me. I got started by attending an Instructor Training Clinic just for fun. Two years later I took another one at a different resort in order to get hired. After two days of indoor training and two days of on snow training, they offered me a job. I did a few more days of training and "shadowing" real classes before I taught my first lesson.

Most resorts have a similar program. Our resort's indoor program starts on 11/18, so if you're interested in teaching locally you'd better call your resort's ski school office QUICK!
post #3 of 21
As TheRusty said, NOW is the time! Put down what you're doing & get a hold of Mt. Lemon right away!

As an apprentice instructor do not plan on making much money. Most areas have openings for both full & part-time instructors. If you are truly fanatical about skiing & learning, the rewards are great.

Good Luck!
JF
post #4 of 21
there are a couple things you should understand. Almost all new instructors will be teaching little kids, think 3, 4 or 5 years old. The other thing is, you will generally only be paid for the time you are actually teaching. That is, the resort will probably expect you to be there from 9am or so until 4pm or so, but if you only teach for 3 hours during that time period, you will only be paid for 3 hours.
post #5 of 21
you mentioned family....don't quit your day job.
post #6 of 21
As the others have said, you should regard it as a hobby when you start, although your employers will expect you to regard it as serious fulltime job (see ICanSkiForMiles' post). If you want to be hard-headed about it, and build clientele, and sell request privates (and run your own little booking service) you can do pretty well.

As the others have said, you start by getting in at this time of year, as a trainee instructor. That said, I know the big hills run supplementary training near xmas or Presidents to train up extra new instructors for the busy time, so you might have a second chance there too.
post #7 of 21
Many years ago, back when I was a field sales manager for a automotive manufacturer, I was visiting one of my assigned dealerships and wound up talking skiing with the dealer's son. The next thing I know he is on the phone with the Director at at little area in Pennsylvania (Liberty) where he taught part time and two days later I have all the materials to take their hiring clinic. What a mistake-after 18 years part time (Liberty, HUNTAH, Copper and Mt Holly in MI) and the last 9 full time (Copper) after I bailed on the auto world I'm still in this gig!!!

As others have suggested, if you are really interested, get in touch with your local area and inquire about their hiring clinics. And remember it is a job with a lot of responsibility.

Not all areas necessarily start you with kids-all areas operate differently.
post #8 of 21
Quote:
all areas operate differently
Well, not all of them--some are different!



Be careful what you wish for--it can be habit-forming. I started teaching very part-time when I was in school, then took "a year off" to teach full-time in Breckenridge. In 1979. With the exception of one more part-time season as I finished school, I've been at it full-time ever since.

Best regards,
Bob
post #9 of 21
"the resort will probably expect you to be there from 9am or so until 4pm or so, but if you only teach for 3 hours during that time period, you will only be paid for 3 hours."

Yeah, & you will have to ski the rest of the time...
post #10 of 21
It was in February when I decided to take up teaching. I asked to meet with the ski school director, gave him my resume, and told him I'd like to learn how to teach skiing. (I had absolutely zip experience teaching skiing and had just started skiing after 25 years.) To my amazement, he said sure, lets go out and ski. We did and he hired me. (They were looking at the upcomming flood of students and needed bodies to teach.)


They taught me how to teach and what to teach. I haven't stopped since. Its a lot of fun.
post #11 of 21
Our resort is hiring, but what I think they look formost of all is a good communicator and reliable employee. Ski area use, like transportation, cannot be stored, so an employee who doesn't meet his commitments is a real problem for the resort. You can learn how to ski better and how to teach if you have the fundamental communication skill.

The group of instructors is like a club, and we have social contacts all year long, even though we are spread out quite a bit geographically. Most of our instructors commute within a two hour driving radius, but we have a few from North Carolina, and at least one from Florida (the resort is in PA, near Gettysburg). I am constantly amazed at the caliber of people I meet who are doing ski instruction. For example, we have several retired generals, the Chairman of an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Depratment at a major university, Several Dentists, Physicians, and Attorneys, and many others who continue to be bright lights in their other careers. If you are young, this is an excellent place to make connnections, as well. Those who have managed to make a career of skiing are no less remarkable. I guarantee that if you do enough PSIA events you will meet Olympic medalists like Deb Armstrong and Dianne Roffe. Sometimes the most remarkable instructors are those of whom you might never have heard, nor be terribly impressed at their non-skiing careers, but who are great in other ways. The company of instructors is more valuable than the teaching and learning experiences, which in and of themselves are terrific.
post #12 of 21
At our resort, you try out as your first step. It's a two day on snow try out where they look at not only your skiing ability, but your ability to control a group, speak loudly & clearly, be friendly and teach them something related to a level 1 class (ie. putting on boots, stepping into a ski, something very basic). If you can ski well and they feel you can be trained to teach, they hire you. You would then spend the next few weeks clinicing on your personal skiing, how to teach L1 and L2 lessons, terrain selection, safety, etc. You will also shadow many, many veteran instructors in their lessons before being turned loose on your first L1 lesson. As of this year, all training is paid for on our ski school.

As a first year (part time) instructor here, you would be required to buy your pass for $125.00. Each day you work over the Xmas to NY holiday mayhem, they give you back $25.00 of that fee. You also would put a $150.00 deposit on your uniform, which is returned at the end of the season when you return the uniform. As a returning instructor from there on out, everything is free and no deposits required. Full time applicants don't pay anything.

You wouldn't be teaching 3-5 year olds here, that's a totally seperate ski school that you would try out for if interested in doing it. You would be teaching level 1 groups 99% of the time your first year unless they see that you can handle private L1 classes after watching you for awhile. For your second year, you would see L2 classes after much training and clinic time. Beyond that depends on your experience and your certification in PSIA.

Check with your local hill and see what they do for hiring, regardless of how they do it, I'd bet they are doing real soon. Our try outs are the first weekend we are open...which is about 3 weeks away.
post #13 of 21
I joined PSIA in 1969 and took an exam precourse as a way to improve my skiing. It was a three-day clinic on skiing and teaching skiing. Others in my group were preparing to take the certification exam the following three days, but I had no teaching experience so I couldn't take the exam. I wouldn't have passed anyway, but the fact I had that experience helped me get a teaching job the next season. I was one of three selected out of a couple dozen applicants for full-time teaching positions at a hiring clinic held in November at the resort. I've been teaching more or less full time every winter since then.

Today, every PSIA division has some version of what Central Division calls its Fundamentals of Instruction event. It's an introduction to ski teaching and the only requirement is paying a relatively small divisional membership fee plus the charge for the event. For folks who don't get a chance to clinic or experience teaching otherwise, it's a great opener. Most resorts still will require participation in a hiring clinic of some sort if you are not certified, but you'll have a big leg up on others.
post #14 of 21

I must have fooled them

I broke in because the gentleman who taught the adult program I enrolled in 14 years ago, was now running the program that I enrolled my sons in. Incidentally, I had worked with him on occasion outside of skiing. So, we knew each other.

My youngest was pretty nervous, so I asked to shadow his group. I ended up tagging along for much of the season. I asked them how I could get in on this gig and they invited me to the hiring clinic.

I think if I brought anything to the table, it was my enthusiasm. I have experience coaching youth sports. I know to be excited about it, focus on the player/student and keep it moving. Odds are, through repetition, they will learn something.

What I found was a remarkable community of instructors that devoted an incredible amount of effort into helping me become a better teacher. I still marvel about it and how much they are able to give of themselves.

My training/work experience is quite typical of most of the other posts.

I would add that because I work as an employee, I am entitled to claim employee business expenses even though I only work part-time.
post #15 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by FOG View Post
Our resort is hiring, but what I think they look formost of all is a good communicator and reliable employee. Ski area use, like transportation, cannot be stored, so an employee who doesn't meet his commitments is a real problem for the resort. You can learn how to ski better and how to teach if you have the fundamental communication skill.

The group of instructors is like a club, and we have social contacts all year long, even though we are spread out quite a bit geographically. Most of our instructors commute within a two hour driving radius, but we have a few from North Carolina, and at least one from Florida (the resort is in PA, near Gettysburg). I am constantly amazed at the caliber of people I meet who are doing ski instruction. For example, we have several retired generals, the Chairman of an Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Depratment at a major university, Several Dentists, Physicians, and Attorneys, and many others who continue to be bright lights in their other careers. If you are young, this is an excellent place to make connnections, as well. Those who have managed to make a career of skiing are no less remarkable. I guarantee that if you do enough PSIA events you will meet Olympic medalists like Deb Armstrong and Dianne Roffe. Sometimes the most remarkable instructors are those of whom you might never have heard, nor be terribly impressed at their non-skiing careers, but who are great in other ways. The company of instructors is more valuable than the teaching and learning experiences, which in and of themselves are terrific.

Well said FOG. This is a huge dividend we get by being apart of a ski/ride school. I have been able to meet people from all walks of life and quite an age range than I would not normally encounter in my profession as an electrical contractor. I have learned a lot from all these folks over the years and will continue to do so.
One of the nice things about a seasonal activity is that you don't spend so much time around people that you get on their nerves and vice versa, and the start up of a new season brings reaquaintances and new people to meet.
post #16 of 21

Becoming and instructor...

Well said, Fog. You should be a writer not a ski instructor.

If you're trying to decide whether to become an instructor you are in luck. The industry desperately needs more instructors. There is a real shortage.

I started in the late 60s at a small local area here in the Boston area, Blue Hills. I was lucky enough to get my certification (at that point there was no Level 1, 2, or 3; just "Certified") in 1971 in a grueling three days of ice and wind at Cannon.

But, in 1973 I decided to move "up north" and try to teach at, what I thought at the time was a major mountain", Waterville Valley. Despite being certified I had to try out and they only took about five of a group of 30 who tried out. I was one of the lucky ones. I tell you this not to toot my own horn, but to indicate how much things have changed.

Today, we really need more instructors, so if you are a proficient skier and can ski in the "Advanced Zone", i.e. smooth turns on groomed black terrain, then you should probably have no problem getting a job as an instructor.

So, given this, you are in a position of strength. Try to choose a mountain where the SSD treats people with respect and is concerned with the instructor's well-being. Not one who will work you into the ground for $7/hr and then never say thanks.

How do you figure it out? Talk to the instructors. Ask about turnover, ask what they like about teaching there, ask what would they change if they were running the ski school. It is definitely like a club so you have to figure out if it's the kind of club you want to join.

Hope this helps.

Bob
post #17 of 21
After College, I skiied at the local mountain where I learned to ski as a kid. I work in the comstruction trades and have some time off in the winter. I got to know some of the full time instructors and they told me there was an immediate opening for an instructor. I accepted and after some training and shadowing some lessons, I was doing a ski week class. That was 1978. After a few years, I joined the PSIA and was associate certified (lev. II) in 1984. I taught at that area until it closed in 1999. Now I teach at another mountain full time and have my L III. I am a staff trainer there as well as a line-up instructor.

My goal is to keep on teaching until I run out of money.

WVSkier, say hi to Mick O. at waterville valley for me. He was one of the people that helped me get started teaching. Thanks.

RW
post #18 of 21

The start was interesting

In the beginning, while attending college, I worked for guest services @ Bear Mountain in Big Bear, CA. Skied all I could, then the 3rd year applied for ski school. Communication skills and resort experience helped. The pay was poor... $5.50/r. I was paid 6 hrs if I taught kids, and 1.5 hrs per class for adults (3 classes possible a day)
We alternated weeks between adults and children. And every single morning @ 7:30-8:30 we would herringbone up 3 towers and do hop turns down. Then clinic from 8:30-9:30. EVERYDAY. Clinic if we didn't get a class, and ski until 4:45pm (lifts closed @ 4:30). Then go to the bar and talk about skiing for 2 hrs. Everybody would study for exams a group.
Out of the 35 FT instructors that year . 17 are now advanced educators (Trainers/examiners) and 1 is a former National Team Member. All of us were Level 2 or below at that time.

You start where you start, and have fun as you go.

to your success,
Jon L.
www.mysnowpro.com/jonathanlawson
post #19 of 21
Well I feel like a bit of an outcast in this thread but I'll give this a shot. I'm young, 17 years old. This is my third year ski instructing and I have to say that I don't think I will ever give it up.

My start began at the young age of 15 after my family moved from Ontario to just west of Montreal, QC in the summer of 2004. I had been racing in Ontario but currently lived to far from a decent race program at the time, instead I found out more about my local hill of Mont Rigaud ( http://www.skimontrigaud.com/ ). The hill being only 15 minutes from my house it was an amazingly easy trip, the only down side being that Quebec is french and the only language I had at the time was from an Ontario based french-immersion program. However, I decided to take a shot at my first "real" job and register for the Canadian Ski Instructors Association (CSIA) Level 1 course being offered at the hill. That had been my second time to the hill and I had been a bit nervous but anxious to prove myself none the less to the nearly entire Francophone team of instructors. At the end of the 3 day course I had passed at the top of my class and was given the chance of employment. I had been so happy and completely determined to learn and teach with the utmost of my ability.

At the end of my ski year I had greatly inproved my french and had even been given a few francophone lessons, and more importantly received the recognition i deserved by instructors sometimes three times my age. I was awarded the "Rookie" of the Year 2004/2005 award by an employee vote with nearly 25 new instructors to choose from of which 80% were french speaking. This was a great acheivement for me and I knew from that point on that ski instructing was for me. Finally to conclude this is my third year and I've prompted many of my english friends to join me on the team of nearly 200 instructors.

I'd just like to thank everyone for an oppurtunity to tell my story and I strongly encourage the young generation to embrace the prospect and love for teaching skiing. Plus it pays well .
post #20 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
there are a couple things you should understand. Almost all new instructors will be teaching little kids, think 3, 4 or 5 years old. The other thing is, you will generally only be paid for the time you are actually teaching. That is, the resort will probably expect you to be there from 9am or so until 4pm or so, but if you only teach for 3 hours during that time period, you will only be paid for 3 hours.
Yep. I 100% agree. That's almost my experience EXACTLY. But then again, I was really there to ski more than anything. And I did - 4 days/week! I was there from 8:00am until 9:00 or 10:00pm though. Good times! I usually taught just enough to de-fray most of the food & gas costs for the weekend - I was dating another instructor, so I had a place to stay and...uhn, er, well... I had a great time, and taught for 3 years. I just went to a hiring clinic, took the course, got hired, and that was it. I wasn't the world's best/technically perfect skier, but I could teach others to do what I did,and that's what they want. Success brings people back, and it's CRITICAL when teaching beginners.

The real downside to it is teaching all the beginner lessons constantly - it gets old. If I had to teach all day, I would have lost it, but generally, I taught right away in the morning, and then maybe 1-3 more times during the day. Left me a ton of time to ski! Being there for the holidays really sucked too - it was pure madness!!

The other bad part is when it's REALLY COLD out, and some people don't have the common sense to just stay home. I taught a 2 hour private lessonone night, and it was -10 F WITHOUT figuring in the windchill. We were on the hill 15 minutes, off 15 minutes and so on. The kid wasn't dressed for it,and didn't want to be there either.

Good times though. I miss it and wish I had timeto do it again. I only certifed to PSIA Level 1. I often wonder how much the teaching game has changed since I was doing it in the mid-late 90's...
post #21 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post
....
My goal is to keep on teaching until I run out of money.
....

RW
Ron, you never cease to amaze me with your wisdom and delivery.
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