How To Become a Ski Instructor in 7 Easy-to-Follow Steps
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published November 30, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
A job as a ski instructor can be a great way to share a sport you love with others, develop your own skills and spend time in nature. If you're interested in pursuing a career as an instructor, it's important to understand the job's requirements and criteria. Learning more about the position can help you decide if a future as a ski instructor makes sense for your unique career goals.
In this article, we explain what a ski instructor is, list some of their typical duties, offer steps for getting a job as an instructor and provide additional helpful information like how much instructors make and what skills they need.
What is a ski instructor?
A ski instructor is someone who professionally instructs others on how to ski. They often work for ski resorts where they teach clients of many ages and skill levels important techniques and safety information about the sport. Ski instructors might work with private clients or with groups and some work for ski schools with other instructors. Most ski instructors are confident skiers who are passionate about the sport and eager to share their knowledge with others.
What does a ski instructor do?
The exact duties of a ski instructor can depend on their specialty, where they work and the types of clients they take on. Here are some common ski instructor duties:
Teach students about ski gear and accessories
Talk about ski etiquette and basic principles, like staying aware or surroundings and using chair lifts
Provide support to beginner skiers
Show beginner students the mountain and take them down easy terrain
Teach foundational skiing principles like turning, stopping and adjusting speed
Provide examples of techniques and skills
Report any injuries or incidents
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How to become a ski instructor
If you're interested in becoming a ski instructor, here are some steps you can take to pursue the career:
1. Develop your skills
One of the top job requirements for ski instructors is physical ability. To teach others to ski, you need to be confident in your abilities and able to communicate important safety and instructional information. Try to gain experience on multiple types of terrain. You might explore different mountains to ensure you can handle a variety of conditions and environments. While developing your skills, it's also important to invest in quality gear. Some ski instructor jobs provide apparel like coats, but other equipment like skis, helmets, goggles, pants, boots and warm layers you may have to supply yourself.
Likely, in your position as a ski instructor, you might have to answer questions about gear, techniques and best practices. Becoming an expert on these topics can make you a more valuable resource to those you instruct. It can also help to develop your teaching skills. If you have friends who are new to the sport, casually offer them advice and support to develop your teaching abilities and confidence.
2. Acquire reliable transportation
Most ski instructors work at ski resorts, which are often located up steep mountain passes. Winter conditions usually require resort visitors to have vehicles that can perform well in the snow. Depending on where you plan to work, this could mean having a four-wheel-drive vehicle, chains for your tires or some other form of consistent transportation so you can get to work safely and on time. When interviewing for positions, your interviewer might ask you questions about your vehicle to ensure you're able to get to work.
3. Get a job on the mountain
While not always necessary, working at a ski resort can teach you valuable skills about the mountain's layout and the resort's processes. If you're still working on your ski skills or pursuing a certification, you can find other employment opportunities operating lifts, working as a member of the ski patrol team or working in a gear rental shop. Some employers might require you to have experience at their mountain before offering you an opportunity at the resort.
4. Pursue a certification
Some ski instructor jobs won't require certifications, but many of the more of advanced positions might. One of the most well-known certifications you can get is from the Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association for Snowboard Instruction (PSIA-AASI). They offer three levels of certification in multiple disciplines. You can specialize in areas like alpine, cross-country or telemark skiing, depending on your existing experience and interests. They also offer further options for certification holders if you want to get certified in children's or freestyle instruction.
Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
5. Gain experience
Some employers offer opportunities for instructors without existing experience. These jobs can offer you an opportunity to develop your skills as an instructor and to gain the experience needed for more advanced positions. Some positions might even offer help pursuing your certification, which can help you qualify for other opportunities.
6. Update your resume
When you're confident in your experience, knowledge and abilities, you can start applying for positions. Applying at multiple locations can increase your chances of getting hired. You might also need to commit to living near the mountain where you want to work. Update your resume to include information about your experience. If you have relevant certifications, include those in your resume. Instructor certifications aren't the only valuable certifications for employers. You can also include any first aid training you have, avalanche training or special courses you've taken for backcountry skiing.
Your ski instructor resume might look different from a traditional resume, and you can use it to express your enthusiasm and qualifications for the role. If you've skied competitively or completed a challenging trip or run, include it in your resume in its own section. Interesting details can help attract the attention of employers and make your resume more appealing.
7. Apply for positions
Use your updated resume to apply for positions. If you have experience at a mountain, you can use your existing connections to learn about job openings and opportunities. Otherwise, look for local mountains where you like the terrain.
How much do ski instructors make?
Ski instructor salaries can depend on how much they work, where they work and the amount of experience they have. The national average salary for ski instructors is $34,783 per year. It's important to note that ski instructors can typically only work during the winter months, if they're working exclusively in the United States. Most ski instructors pursue other forms of employment during the off season.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the job outlook for recreation workers is higher than the average for other industries. While they don't list a projection for ski instructors specifically, recreation workers' job outlook is projected to grow by 16% between 2020 and 2030.
Ski instructor skills
Here are some skills that can help you succeed in your role as a ski instructor:
Communication skills are critical for ski instructors because they often need to relay essential information about the sport clearly so their students can understand. Instructors usually have to explain complicated concepts like body positioning, mountain features and safety protocols. Communication skills can help them ensure they relay all information their students need to know to ski safely. Communication skills are also important for listening. Instructors might have to adjust their instructional style or practices to match the individual needs of the skier or skiers they're working with.
Perhaps obviously, ski skills are also very essential for instructors. Confidence navigating the mountain, adjusting their gear and skiing many types of terrain safely can be indispensable. It's important to have at least a few seasons of experience before becoming an instructor, so you can ensure the information you're giving is accurate and helpful.
If you're used to skiing in a specific location, but want to instruct in another, be sure to gain experience in the new area first. For example, east coast skiers often learn to ski in different conditions than skiers who are acclimated to conditions on western mountains. Snow quality, slope steepness and skier behavior can all change depending on where in the country you plan to ski. Familiarizing yourself with a new place can make you a more confident instructor and valuable resource.
Patience is another important skill for ski instructors. Often, beginner skiers need extra help and assurance to learn the skills necessary to ski well. Most beginner skiers spend a lot of their instructional time on low-grade slopes learning basics like stopping, balancing and using their poles. For experienced skiers, learning to be patient with first-time or new skiers can take time to develop. However, being patient with students can improve their experience and make it easier for them to learn the skills they need to ski well.
Leadership skills are also crucial. Building others' confidence in your instruction and ability can make a sizable difference in their experience. Some instructors work with groups, and they can use their leadership skills to cater to different learning styles and comfort levels. Many ski instructors teach basic principles by showing their students how to perform an action or skill. Leadership abilities can help them execute these functions well and ensure the best possible instruction for their students.
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