For today’s post, we thought we’d look at what it takes to be a ski instructor. Now, we know what you’re thinking — it’s July, and ski season is pretty far away. Unfortunately, though, if you want a job as a ski instructor, you should probably start now. But, first things first - are you any good at skiing or snowboarding? Because you better be really, really good. You better be able to go down the mountain faster than pretty much anyone you see, never fall, and be able to handle any conditions. Oh, and if you’re just starting out, you also better like kids, because it’s pretty likely that you’re going to be teaching five-year-olds attached to leashes rather than the hot housewife you saw in Aspen Extreme.
Assuming you know what you’re doing, contact the ski resorts that you’d like to work at. Being a ski or snowboard instructor is a bit like being in a medieval guild - you can only get in if you are sponsored, and you’ve got to track down someone who wants to sponsor you. It’s generally easier to find a job as a ski or snowboard instructor at a smaller, local mountain than at a mega-resort where many of the instructors have been doing this for twenty or more years and use instruction as a facet of their career (with the other portion usually involving real estate in our experience). The ski area will let you know if they have any openings, and when and how they do try-outs. The reason you’re calling this time of year is that this is when they’ll actually have time to pick up the phone and get to know you — other than talking to you, they’re generally repairing equipment and running summer festivals.
Once you’ve found a ski area that’s looking for you, ask if they can help you join PSIA-AASI, the organization that does all certification for ski and snowboard instructors. Note that paying your dues doesn’t certify you — you actually have to take a whole bunch of master classes, and it starts to get pretty pricey the higher up in classes you get (it can run to a few thousand dollars including travel), and dues can get expensive (although they start at $100 per year).
Finally, then you show up on testing day (or days), and you see if you have what it takes! Much of the testing is fairly subjective, but if you’re good, you’ll pass. And then, it’s time to get paid! Well, sort of. Ski and snowboard instructors tend to make between $8 and $15 per hour, depending on the size of the resort and your level of certification, and are only paid when there’s a lesson (you’ll show up and get sent home quickly if there’s no work for you). You’re really living off of tips, which can run as high as $50 per day for private lessons, but will tend to be a lot lower in groups (maybe $10 - $20 per head). So this isn’t something that you do for the money — you do it for the love, and the free ski pass, and you take a real estate or bar job to cover the bills. But, hey, it’s still nice to be outside on skis or a snowboard every day!