19 December 2011

No doubt about it— snowboarding is cool. That’s why becoming a snowboard instructor one of the most popular career breaks out there. Often, you get a free chalet, food and ski passes with the job. You’ll get paid to snowboard with the people you’re teaching in some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Even better, most of the people you work with will also be snowboard instructors— and you’ll soon find yourself part of the ‘boarding community, wherever you work as a snowboard instructor.

Where and how do I become a snowboard instructor?

If you’ve never snowboarded before in your life—don’t panic! If you need to learn to snowboard or just improve your skills, many courses are out there: either at home at dry ski slopes, or on the pistes at resorts abroad. Once you’re boarding down red runs without problems and black runs safely, then you’ll be ready to take on a snowboard instructor course. That short holiday in Val D’Isère you’ve just booked is essential career break training!

You need to obtain a snowboard instructor’s qualification to get work as a snowboard instructor. Many companies offer courses in snowboard instruction. You can start with some short (4-5 day) preparatory courses, or full snowboard instructor training courses that usually last around 3 weeks. The shorter courses will be intensive; longer courses might also cover other more advanced aspects of snowboard instruction such as riding the half-pipe or boarding with a switch or "goofy" stance.

Snowboard instructor qualifications can be obtained from many places, from UK snowsport organisations or from companies that run these courses all over the world. Most snowboard instructor courses are run during the ski/snowboarding season—but you can learn to be a snowboard instructor at almost any time of the year. The European and North American snowboard season lasts from late November to early April; the snowboard season in the southern hemisphere lasts from April to October. Your summer holiday could be spent learning to be a snowboard instructor in Argentina in July. Where will your mates be? Ibiza?

Make sure you obtain an International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA)-recognised qualification if you want to work outside of the country where you obtained your qualification. This might be more advanced than the national qualification, but with an ISIA-accredited qualification, you can work in 37 countries— covering most of Europe, North America, Canada, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand. And yes, despite the name, the ISIA cover snowboarding as well as skiing!

Who can I work for as a snowboard instructor?

You can work for many companies as a snowboard instructor. You could work as a snowboard instructor with an independent snowboarding school or one that is part of a resort or hotel, with a tour operator. You could even use your snowboard instructor qualification to work at a dry ski slope closer to home!

Where can I work as a snowboard instructor?

Achieving ISIA-recognised snowboard instructor qualification means that you can work as a snowboard instructor in almost every country in the world with a snowboard industry. If you want to travel during your career break in this job, you can, and you can travel right across the globe, as a snowboard instructor. Even better, you can work as a snowboard instructor all year round— remember that the southern hemisphere’s slopes beckon from April to October.

Top Tips for being a snowboard instructor

  • If you’ve never touched a snowboard before in your life, try to learn and board to reasonably standard. You’ll never pass your instructors course otherwise.
  • Working as a snowboard instructor can pay well, but you’ll be paying to learn before you earn. Try to budget for a decent snowboard and clothing too—these aren’t cheap.
  • Always, always, always check if you need professional indemnity insurance! Your employer will usually have you covered, but it’s always best to check.
  • Travel insurance. Most standard travel insurance policies won’t cover you for snowboarding injuries—get a policy that does. Also, alcohol consumption before with a sports injury may invalidate your insurance.

Where next?

This post was written by Mark Hillen for The Career Break Site.