For those of you who have qualified with a Level 1 or Level 2 instructor qualification and would like to go on and work for a few seasons or make a career out of this...what’s next?
This article is here to tell you where to go and what to do after you have qualified!
Is my qualification recognised internationally?
SnowSkool runs courses in Canada, France & New Zealand and the qualifications you can gain from each of these courses (CASI, CSIA, BASI, SBINZ, NZSIA) are all from national bodies responsible for governing snow-sports instruction in their respective countries.
Membership to these bodies represents professionalism and rewarding personal achievement. All of these associations are also members of the International Ski Instructors' Association (ISIA).
The qualifications gained through any of these associations are recognized around the world and will enable you (along with a good CV and winning smile/ personality) to work all over the world in countries such as Australia, Canada, China, Japan, New Zealand, USA...as well as most countries in Europe.
Is there any real difference between these qualifications?
The simple answer is no, they are all centrally governed by the ISIA (International Ski Instructor Association) and they all have similar recognition worldwide.
There are very few countries that will judge you on which body your qualification is from. France can be picky, but I will come on to that later in this article!
Where should I apply for a ski or snowboard instructor job first?
The biggest bit of advice I can give you is, do not be picky, and what I mean by that is everyone will have a resort they have always dreamed of working in, or a resort that has come highly recommended by friends or another reason.
That’s great, apply to that resort (you may get that dream job there) but do not limit yourself to just that resort.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, at least not to begin with.
Apply to as many resorts as you can in as many countries as you can. Do not just apply at one resort and count on that job happening, the industry is getting more competitive every year so get your CV into as many hands as possible.
As an instructor with no experience you have to be prepared to go where the work is. That will not always be where the deepest power is, the best apres or the biggest & best ski terrain. Once you have that first all-important instructor position, the rest will open up and become far easier because after that first season you will have some very important factors ticked off, 1) a season of real paid work experience 2) a reference (hopefully an outstanding one) and 3) contacts…these go a long way.
So, in short, once you’ve got some decent experience under your belt, you’ll stand a better chance of getting a job at your dream resort next time round.
Standing out from the crowd. What do resorts/employers look for?
Having a ski or snowboard instructor qualification and the right attitude will only get you so far, and while most Level 1 and 2 qualifications are recognised internationally, there are many people who will have more than just a L1 or L2 qualification.
Most resorts will have a huge influx of job applicants ever hopeful of securing a job over the winter and with varying qualifications, higher levels and experience.
Now while you may not have much in the way of experience, and although your personality stands out from the crowd, you will want to ensure where possible that you positively stick out as much as possible, and there are two main ways to do this.
1. Additional Qualifications
You have a Level 1 and/or Level 2 qualification, great, but so do hundreds of other newly qualified instructors every winter looking for their first job.
Now while it may seem too big a stretch to aim for your Level 3 straight away, plus it may take you an additional season or more to get there, there are other qualifications you can get.
Becoming dual-qualified is one worthwhile route.
Gain your Level 1 or more in ski (if you are a snowboarder and vice versa if you are a skier) and that will make you a valuable and versatile employee. Having the ability to teach skiers and snowboarders is something resorts are always open and favourable to - as that removes the need to hire a surplus of additional instructors that may not get a full season of work.
You can also look at tele-mark or cross country ski instructor qualifications as additional disciplines.
There are other useful qualifications to also help you stand out: First Aid, Avalanche Safety Training (AST), Snow Park Certificate (freestyle instructor), Race Coach and Adaptive Coaching Qualifications among others.
While the key levels of instructing are the most important (Levels 1-4), additional courses such as those mentioned can really help to bolster your knowledge, expertise and responsibility around the resort – all areas that Ski & Board Schools look for.
2. Foreign Language Knowledge
While English may be the international language of the world, many take that for granted and just assume they will be ok. A large percentage of the world’s resorts will hire English speaking instructors but having an additional language under your belt will really set you apart, and could be the difference between you and someone else getting the job.
Take working in China or Japan as an example; resorts actively advertise for English speaking instructors, so you do not need to know the local lingo. However, if you can brush up on basic language skills at the very least, that will bring you more work from those customers that cannot speak English and gain you an advantage over applicants with no language skills.
This can also mean tips! Making an effort to welcome, say thank you, tell a joke, even these little things will go a long way towards a customer’s experience and the feedback they give to your employer. And ultimately the money in your pocket.
There are also some regions in various countries around the world where a second language is a necessity and not just a desirable skill...for example, France. Best to get in early with some classes or apps if you want to work in a region where this is the case.
How do I apply for ski or snowboard instructor jobs at a ski resort?
There is no real difference between applying for a job in the winter industry and any other industry; choose where you would like to work, find a contact and apply.
That sounds really simple, but the more work and research the better. Do some internet research and contact as many resorts as you can; big ones and the small ones. Send a CV and cover letter to the human resource department - or even better, the Director of the Ski & Board School - and get in touch with them personally and directly.
Having a great-looking CV isn't be be-all and end-all but it can help present your experience in the best light and help you stand out. There are some good tools to help you achieve this rather than putting everything together in Microsoft Word. Visual CV is a good option.
But don't forget that picking up the phone and speaking to someone rather than emailing can also be a great thing to do to help you stand out.
Contacts are important too. On any of our instructor courses you will make contacts that will help to point you in the right direction, give you references and offer guidance and advice. Listen to your instructors, they know what they are talking about, after all many of them were once in your shoes.
As well as that there are some resources out there that will make your life easier, online job notice boards, two popular ones are:
Lastly, anyone who joins any of our long instructor courses will be given access to our SnowSkool Ski School database. This is a list of over 100 ski resort contacts around the world; resort websites, ski schools, contact names, phone numbers and email addresses. This is available to view on your own person course MySkool account, post course.
Do I need to apply for a work visa?
For the most part yes, you will always need to apply for a work visa/permit unless you have the right to work in the country of your choice without needing a visa. For example, Americans (or those with an American passport) can work in America but also in Canada without a work visa.
This is similar to the arrangement between New Zealand and Australia, as well as between countries within the EU.
When you do need a visa, some countries are more difficult that others to get visas, and for certain nationalities it can be even harder. For example: Canada grants the UK a limit of 5,000 visas per year, and when you apply you get put into a lottery, so it is luck that determines whether or not you get a visa.
More information on getting a Canadian visa here.
For the UK contingent asking: ‘what about the UK when it leaves the EU, will we need a visa to work in EU countries?’, we can only speculate. For the time being, no visa is needed for any EU citizen wishing to work in another EU country.
When the change officially happens and the UK breaks from the EU, we will hopefully know more but, even then, there is still the chance of free movement remaining between the UK and the EU. Time will tell.
I'm over 30, can I still get a work visa?
The simple answer is it depends but usually no. For many countries, the cut-off to be eligible for a working-holiday-style visa is 30.
In some cases, like in Australia from July 2017, this rises to 35. But generally, if you’re under 30 then it’s a lot easier than if you’re over 30.
So, what can I do then?
Do not fret, you can still gain work visas – but by sponsorship!
You normally need higher qualifications and years of experience to get sponsorship. And if you have level 2 certification, dual certification, multiple seasons' experience or a higher Level qualification (L3 or L4) you should easily be able to find a resort to sponsor you for a visa.
Each resort generally has the ability to sponsor a few people each season but different resorts will have different specifications.
Visa Sponsorship costs the resort and government money, so the sponsored person has to be right. A resort may specify they will only sponsor Level 3 instructors and above, some may sponsor based on Level 2 and a certain number of seasons experience, it changes and differs per resort. This is why gaining additional qualifications and attributes can really go in your favor.
What countries can I not work in?
There are very few countries out there that will not allow one of the 39 qualifications that are registered with the ISIA to be recognised in their country. This means that instructors really do have a huge array of opportunities to work around the world.
There will however always be some exceptions or grey areas, and the most common country where that is true is in France.
While French ski schools do accept most qualifications around the world (contrary to popular belief), the qualifications and requirements needed to instruct are higher than other regions. We’ve created two blogs, one for skiers and one for snowboarders, to go into detail on this subject.
Snowboarders head here - https://www.snowskool.com/blog/how-to-become-a-snowboard-instructor-in-france-2016-2017
Skiers take a look here - https://www.snowskool.com/blog/how-to-become-a-ski-instructor-in-france-2016-2017
What salary can I expect from my first season?
This is a common question, and a difficult one to put a singular answer on because it really does vary so much depending on location and other factors; level, experience & additional qualifications.
For a detailed look at how salaries vary around the world, we have compiled an ever-expanding and updating list, based on figures from ex-SnowSkoolers currently working as instructors in these countries (or with experience working in those countries).
This is always being updated. So while we do not have every country where you can work as an instructor, we've included the major regions and we're working to make this the most up to date chart available.
Stay tuned for more countries to be added! Let us know if there is a specific country you are interested in and cannot see here, and we can attempt to source information for you.
Past students’ experiences
Want to hear how other SnowSkoolers have gotten on since qualifying as an instructor on one of our courses? Check out the links below and find out how other newly qualified instructors have found getting jobs in the industry.
Life as an instructor in: