Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Do you REALLY want to be a ski instructor

The ski season has just finished and so I have a little more time to write on my blog. I have been asked many times how to go about becoming a ski instructor, and I have gone into detail about the 'hows' over several previous posts and a little bit about the 'whys' as well. See previous posts about a career as a ski instructor.

Big snowplough, looking back to count the kids and a tasteful uniform - all part of the job
If you are thinking of qualifying as a ski instructor then I would be the first to say go for it. It will improve your skiing and open the door to many opportunities. There are great part time jobs available ranging from evenings at a dry slope or snowdome to weeks in the Swiss or Italian Alps. If you want to work full time there are amazing experiences to be had all over the world, from Australia to Japan, Chile to Canada, New Zealand to Norway.

However, if have plans to make a long term career out of teaching skiing then it is worth thinking long and hard before you start. If you want to get qualified to the top level in Europe and you are not already a very competent ski racer then be prepared to spend several years and many thousands of Euros getting there. You may well find yourself putting every penny (or cent) you can get your hands on into your ski career. There is always equipment to buy, exams to take, training to pay for etc. Unfortunately there is no allowance for age either, so it can be even more difficult if you start later in life.

If you don't reach the top European level then it is still possible to make a living as an instructor, but it can be harder to make ends meet. When considering where to work there is always a balance between wages, hours and cost of living. In some countries (particularly in North America) making a viable career means building up a base of regular clients, and this takes time. In others, instructors move up the priority list with years of service, languages spoken or qualifications. There is almost always a priority list in a ski school, and those at the top will make money whilst those at the bottom may struggle in lean years. In other words, to do well in a ski school often means being there for several years.

If you have a well paid job you can do in the summer months, or another source of income then things will be easier. If your current or previous employment is something that is hard to do on a six monthly basis then it will be a good idea to look for an alternative summer career. Doing back to back seasons (i.e. Northern hemisphere winter then Southern hemisphere winter) sounds like a great way to spend the whole year teaching but until you get well established as an instructor it can be hard to break even every season. Especially when you include the cost of flights and the inevitable time not working as you find your feet in a new place.

I don't want to sound to negative, as I have had so many good times and met so many fantastic people over the last few years. I love teaching skiing and plan to do it for the rest of my life. On the other hand I have spent around 30 000 Euros on ski exams, training and equipment, and I still haven't finished. At the moment I have just one exam left to pass to reach Level 4. When I finished my Level 3 I had no idea just how far away Level 4 was, nor just how tough the Eurotest would prove.

My favourite author, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, was asked what piece of advice he would give to aspiring writers. His reply: "I'd tell them that you should only become a writer if the possibility of not becoming one would kill you. Otherwise, you'd be better off doing something else." This is pretty close to how I feel about ski teaching. Getting to the top level in this profession has been a rollercoaster ride with great rewards but also big sacrifices. With one exam to go, I hope that the ride is nearly over.

If teaching skiing is your dream then don't let me put you off. Good luck and enjoy the ride.

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