The ski instructing market is a fantastic one to work in and there are many providers out there to help you qualify, but once you have, where do you go from there?
Qualifying with a BASI Level 2 qualification puts you in good stead and allows you to teach in many resorts around the world including Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
Different resorts will offer different pay depending on whether they are a budget resort or an exclusive and prestigious resort. Every school will use a different system to allocate work, but generally, the higher qualified instructors and those with their own clients will be given priority for work over newly qualified and inexperienced instructors.
During your first season, I would look for a job in a variety of resorts to give yourself the best possible chances but when applying, be open to part time as well as full time. You may find it easier to find work in the busy holiday times such as Christmas, half term and Easter but if you get your foot in the door, it’s a great start. You can then prove yourself and you never know, you may be promoted to full time within the season.
In Verbier, a newly qualified instructor with no experience can earn around CHF20 (about £13) per hour. Once ISIA qualified (BASI Level 3) wages increase to around CHF30 (£20). With an ISTD (BASI Level 4) or Swiss Patente qualification, you can potentially earn in excess of CHF50 (£33) per hour. Most schools will also reward you with a bonus per hour if you turn lessons around.
If you are willing to put in the training and effort, you can easily progress through the BASI system and reach a higher qualification. Everyone is different, however on average it takes 2 seasons to complete all the Level 3 (ISIA) modules.
When it comes to training, there are many different options nowadays. You can train whilst working full time and develop your skills with friends or you can decide to work part time and train part-time with professionals. On the market these days, there are many ISIA and ISTD training courses. Some offer just the training and some offer a part-time job and part-time training. This is an ideal way to progress as you gain the teaching experience but also develop your own skills. These courses also give you that starting block for you to prove yourself but hopefully give you the opportunity to show how great you are and why you should be employed again in future seasons.
Pre-season training is also a great way to prepare as you have a solid block of pure training without having to break it up with work.
Ski instructing isn't the cheapest of professions to go into; however, what other job means once you are qualified, you can work in the mountains, ski all day and get paid?
Many choose a gap course to gain the first two levels of qualification, however if you wanted a cheaper option, it is now possible to take your Level 1 on an indoor slope in the UK. You can also complete your required 70 shadowing hours in the UK and then head to the Alps to take your Level 2.
It costs around £400 for the Level 1 and £550 for the Level 2. Gap courses are in excess of £7,000.
When progressing higher, there are many more modules within the Level 3 and 4 and therefore you have many more exams to pay for. You also have to remember that you will need accommodation, travel to the course and for most courses a lift pass. You may also require professional training to get you to the required level for Level 3 and 4 exams.
If you start from Level 1 and want to get the top, you are probably looking at spending £15,000 - £20,000 if you go through the gap course option.
If you look to progress and take ISIA or ISTD training courses it is beneficial to work in a resort and train in a resort where exams take place. The great thing about ISIA training in Verbier is the fact that you can train, work and also book on to exams whilst using the same accommodation and lift pass, a big cost!
When working for the season, one of the things you need to sort before your arrival is your accommodation. The cheapest way to find accommodation is to get 4/6 of you to share a 2/3 bedroom place. It means sharing a room but is a fun way to live and means it is slightly cheaper than when looking on your own.
Some resorts, particularly in the States, will provide the accommodation for you; however for Europe you need to find your own.
Get searching for accommodation early (perhaps July/August time) as after that it can get tricky to find somewhere nice but at a good value.
The client base you will teach depends on your experience and qualification and where you are working. Most Level 2 qualified will be teaching clients up to intermediate level.
As you progress, you will find you gradually teach higher levels and perhaps even help lower qualified instructors to develop.
The social aspect of ski instructing is probably what attracted most in the industry to start with! Work finishes at 4 and you head to Après Ski! There are also often promo nights during the week for seasonnaire’s and also fancy dress nights throughout the season. A common favourite is Mardi Gras! This is hugely celebrated in the Alps and involves dressing up and lots of alcohol!
So.....here is the insight to the life of a ski instructor! Remember: a bad day on the piste is still better than a good day in the office!
This guest post was written by Laura Turner, BASI, ISIA, and Sales Manager at Altitude in Verbier, Switzerland. Altitude is a Career Break Site approved ski instructor course provider. See www.altitude-futures.com for more details.