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How to make skiing a career...

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
Hi all, I'm 21 and have just decided to leave University to pursue my passion for skiing. At the moment I only have a very basic qualification so the first thing I need to do is get on the professional coaching ladder. I am planning on going through the BASI system and (as is the case with all ski quals it would seem) it's very expensive. I would love to hear how anyone who has managed to get to the top of the instructing world did it. was it a case of working the winter instructing, gaining on snow experience and then holding down some kind of 9-5 to get the money to pay for the next quali or are there any scholarship type orgrammes out there etc etc...any replies would be much appreciated!
post #2 of 7
I'd ask where you intend to live and ski. That would determine what course I would pursue.

If you want to live and work in Europe, I'd suggest seeking certification in Austria. It's a very expensive process there, but it's recognized most anywhere as excellent.

Be aware there are very few instructors making a year-around living teaching skiing. Those who do teach in Australia/New Zealand or South America during the rest of the world's summers and either Europe or North America in the winter times there. Lots of travel. Lots of living basically our of a suitcase. A generally short career that won't make you rich.

You also need to be aware that most nations with ski properties are becoming more and more difficult to get work visas from.
post #3 of 7
Yo Sparky,

I would not recommend leaving university. The odds are that you are going to need a degree. You don't necessarily need one for ski coaching (although there are several that will help you become a better coach). You will quickly discover how much assistance a degree is for helping to find a decent 9-5 job and to help build the learning skills that you will need to become a top ski pro.

The career path for European based pros can be quite different than for pros based in other locations. Rumor has it that the French, Swiss and Austrian schools still "grow" ski instructors on a career path (i.e. it is possible to get in at an entry level and grow into a top pro and make enough money to live somewhat decently through the whole experience). However, the "investment cost" (for training) required to do so is significantly greater than in other locations. There may also be more competition to get to the top (e.g. racing is a required element). It's my perception that the Austrian program is equivalent to a college degree in ski teaching. Should you choose to go that route, it may make sense to leave your current univeristy studies.

Your idea about the 9-5 job in the off season is how many US based pros support their ski teaching career. Many also work a second job during the season too, at least to get started. Some of the top pros I've met have worked their way to the top by teaching year round, but this is a rough life to lead. There are some scholarship opportunities, but if there are any "full ride" scholarships for a ski teaching career, I am unaware of them.

Most "top pros" have a primary career outside of skiing until they have gained enough experience to command enough compensation to make full time teaching more financially rewarding. Most of these careers are seasonal (e.g. construction, landscaping, farming, summer sports coaching). Some pros start teaching part time until they have enough experience and regular private customers to support themselves teaching full time in the winter. I know that the business works a little differently in Europe, but in the US, having a high percentage of request privates can mean the difference between eating and starving. It can take many years before you are good enough and have had enough exposure to get to this point.

For the record, I have a job in the computer business. I teach part time as a hobby. I rarely make more than the cost of commuting when I'm teaching. My day job affords me the opportunity to get training from some of the top instructors in the US for 1-2 weeks per season. I am considering semi retiring from the day job and teaching full time at some point, but there is no way that ski teaching can financially compete with Information Technology as a career path. After teaching part time for 14 seasons, I'm just now reaching the stage where I'm ready to join the top 15% of instructors skill wise. Your mileage (vertical feet) may vary.
post #4 of 7
you could consider finishing studies focusing on skiing. I went to U-Maine Farmington where there is one of the best ski specific programs on the planet. I earned 53 credits all while on snow. All classes deal directly with skiing not hotel management. there is actually a 4 year degree program in Ski Coaching there. You should check it out. Can not recommend it highly enough.
post #5 of 7
I would stay in school and have a back up plan just in case teaching skiing doesn't work out for you. Full time in a destination resort will earn you top dollar but then again you will spend that much more because the cost of living there is so high.
An alternate that many choose is to teach full time for a few years while you finish your degree.
post #6 of 7
All the advice above is really accurate. It's a job about passion rather than making a good living. The better the education you have, the more easily you can turn it into a living--even if that means being able to hold your own in a conversation with a well-healed client who can connect you to more lucrative stuff later. One of my students sent me a directive to read up on Schopenhauer for more interesting lift rides. He was tired of talking about carving! Lucky I can read!

It's hard to imagine now, but you actually may want to support a family at some point. This was very hard for me when it came around. (although having triplets didn't help!)

An old German ski instructor friend once told me that the life of the wife of a ski instructor is very hard: No husband in winter. No money in summer.

However, in the end, I have zero regrets. This has been a wonderful life, and I'm very grateful that I was so good at robbing convenience stores in the summer in order to support it!
post #7 of 7
jhcooley just reminded me of the the old farmer's maxim applied to ski teaching: Win the lottery. Then teach skiing until it's gone.
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