If you want to know what a snowboard instructor course is like – just re-read this article and replace ‘ski’ with ‘snowboard’!
To become a ski instructor (or snowboard instructor), you’ll need to pass qualification exams and find a job. This seems simple but, before that, there’s a fair amount of planning involved. To pass the exams, and achieve qualifications, you’ll want to train with professional trainers and examiners. To do this, you’ll probably need to spend an extended period of time in a ski resort. While you’re there, you’ll have to take care of yourself by sorting accommodation, transport, food, a season lift pass, training schedule and book the exams.
However, luckily, organised instructor courses like SnowSkool do all the leg-work for you!
Some people join ski instructor courses as a way to enjoy the mountains on a gap year or career break; and some people do the courses to kick-start an actual career as an instructor. Here’s a bit more about what you can expect:
Where can I do an instructor course?
Amazingly, you can gain ski instructor qualifications in nearly every ski resort in the world – from Argentina to Australia! However, you should look for a course in a high-quality resort, to make the most of your season. We think Canada, France and New Zealand are great places to qualify, as the terrain is varied and the snow is reliable.
What qualifications are best?
Ski instructor qualifications are generally awarded in Levels. To teach in different countries, you sometimes need different Level qualifications, so make sure you research if you have a specific country in mind (for example, France requires Level 4). That said, most only require Level 2 and qualifications are mostly transferrable. For example, if you have a Level 2 CASI from Canada, you could still teach in Aspen, USA or in St Anton, Austria.
Picking a resort for an instructor course
As previously mentioned, you want to pick a course in a resort that has reliable snow and varied terrain. The more types of slope and snow you ski, the more proficient of an all-rounder you will become. Choose a large resort where you won’t end up training on the same slopes all the time; and so that you can explore other areas when you’re not training. It’s great to have options for social activities and off-snow things to do, to unwind from intense days on the hill. Aim for resorts/towns are busy and social enough that you’ll enjoy your time off-snow too. If you plan to apply for teaching jobs straight away, a top-tip is to choose a resort with lots of beginner and intermediate slopes – here, there tends to be lots more ski schools and therefore lots more job opportunities.
What will the accommodation be like?
The accommodation for an instructor course will vary depending on the location. For example, in Europe you may get homely, chalet-style accommodation; in New Zealand your accommodation may be a drive from the ski hill, in a cool town like Wanaka; or in Canada, you might stay in lodges with fun, communal areas and bars. Speak to course providers about your preferences for accommodation, and they will advise you on how to find a course that suits.
What is the food and catering like?
Again, this will vary from course to course, but what is consistent between all courses is just how convenient it is not having to think about cooking! You’ll be training for hours of the day so not having to think about shopping, cooking and cleaning up is a delight! You’ll probably have your week-day dinners cooked by a host or accommodation staff and have your breakfast laid out for you too. Alternatively, you may get tokens or vouchers for local restaurants. Generally, you’ll have to pack/buy your own lunches.
Staff, reps and organisation
One of the biggest perks of an instructor course is that the organisation is all taken care of. Everything is usually run by a team at HQ and then a rep or two in resort. They will liaise between your accommodation, trainers and transport; they will book exams for you, organise your schedule and sometimes even sort social events and extra activities. You’ll rely on these guys and will be communicating with them a lot – so speak to a few and choose a company who seem authentic, have good values, and are generally nice to talk to!
Travelling to the resort
Some courses will include flights and transfers to the resort. Don’t be put off if they’re not included – it could work in your favour as you will be able to book transport at times that suit you. Getting from the airport to a ski resort, with big bags, can be daunting. If your course doesn’t provide a specific transfer, ask them to help you book your own and if they recommend any companies. You could even try to buddy-up with others arriving at the airport at a similar time.
The actual training
In general, you’ll be training on the hill five days a week. Most courses last between 10 and 12 weeks. Depending on which qualification you are going for, the training course will be laid out slightly differently but will have a combination of on and off-piste skills, work-experience/shadowing, logging your work and extra units like child protection, avalanche safety, and park skills. An important thing to remember: these aren’t ‘ski school’ lessons and you won’t be treated like a client on a jolly holiday! You’ll be treated like a committed trainee instructor (by people who could be your future colleagues!). Trainers will expect you to give it your all on a ski instructor course.
What’s the downtime like?
It’s not all intense training! You’ll get plenty of time to ski outside of the course, time to go out in the evenings, and weekends are generally completely free for your leisure. Some people even get a weekend job helping with ‘changeover’ days or do bar work. Wherever you choose to do your course, you could find fun stuff like ice hockey, snowtubing, husky-sledding, snowshoeing, backcountry tours, hot springs… and of course night life, gyms, spas and indoor sports.
Doing an all-inclusive course like this is pretty much the ultimate combo of acquiring life-changing skills and feeling like you’re on a 10+ week holiday! You’ll meet, train and live with like-minded people, who will end up being friends for life. Choosing a hassle-free, catered course leaves only the fun bits for you, and you’ll (hopefully!) finish the season with an internationally-recognised qualification on top.