Becoming a dual certified ski and snowboard instructor can make you a very valuable member of a snow school. You'll get more work, earn more money, and command serious bragging rights.
As a dual-cert instructor in Lake Louise, Craig explains how to recover from setbacks. get yourself qualified and land the best jobs.
Course: 3 week snowboard instructor course
Location: Banff, Canada
Qualifications: CASI level 2 / CSIA level 2
Worked in: Lake Louise, Banff
I’m going to be a snowboard instructor
I was sitting in a call centre, bored out my mind looking through pictures of epic mountains in Canada and New Zealand. Completely mesmerised, I started looking at how I could get out there and work. I needed a trade or skill that would allow me to get paid and live in the mountains.
On the list of immediate skills required to emigrate to NZ was ‘Snowsport Instructor’, as well as other jobs like Accountant and Nurse. Given the choice between three years at uni or three weeks on a snowboarding course, you can guess which won.
Given the choice between three years at uni or three weeks on a snowboarding course, you can guess which won.
I contacted a few snowsports companies, and Nonstop immediately stood out with their courses and the different lifestyles in each mountain resort. Canada looked amazing, and that sealed the deal: "Mum, Dad: I'm going to be a snowboard instructor!"
Recovering from a setback
I opted for Nonstop’s 3 week course in Banff, mainly due to money and getting time off work. It was a great decision, and the course was awesome. There were a few days that really stood out where our instructors took us to explore the mountain and really push our riding, hucking off drops and any anything else we could find.
All the training was going so well until, a couple of days before my CASI level 1 snowboard exam, I connected with a tree in Sunshine Village and fractured my wrist. With my arm in a cast for ten weeks, my exam was called off.
With my arm in a cast for ten weeks, my exam was called off.
Three months of physio later, I booked another CASI exam, headed back to Banff, and passed my level 1 at Lake Louise. Injuries are common in the ski industry, so if you get a setback like this you just need to pick yourself up and crack on. I knew that Canada was the place for me, so now all I needed was a job and a work visa for next season.
Applying for instructor jobs while you’re in the UK can be tough, so you may need to persevere. Once I’d got my visa approved, I emailed what felt like the whole of Canada for a snowboard instructor job. Many snow schools didn't get back to me, but I kept track of when I sent my emails, and followed up with each resort 2-3 weeks later. Eventually, Lake Louise gave me an interview over the phone. Shortly after, I was offered a job for the upcoming season.
Rookie season tips
As a snowboard instructor, I soon found out that I would be able to get far more work if I could instruct skiing as well as snowboarding. There is just less demand for us snowboarders than skiers, at least until you reach a higher level.
I could already ski, so I did a bit of training and took my CSIA level 1 at the start of the season and passed. Not even a month into my first season and I was a 1-1 dual cert. If you have the skills, it’s definitely worth being certified in both disciplines, even if it’s just at level 1.
For your first season of teaching, you’ll most likely be given the kids groups. But don’t go thinking that’s an easy ride – when you're standing there with six little people all around you wanting to play and not listening, it can be tough.
I’ll never forget the first lesson I taught. I had all of this knowledge that I just wanted to share, but little kids aren’t always interested. So instead, I took them for a quick ride up the magic carpet for some 'free ski'. I watched them as they followed me before deciding what we should work on. Lots of kids learn by copying, and choosing the right terrain can work wonders. When their parents came to collect them, all the little shredders were smiling and saying how much fun they had. Plus I didn't break any of them so that's always a good way to end a lesson.
Two seasons in
When you're not teaching, you should make the most of the training sessions run by senior instructors. Sessions focus either on a specific goal, general riding, or sometimes just mountain exploration so that you've got extra ideas about where to take guests.
As a dual-certified instructor my days can be manic, sometimes going back-to-back from board to skis to board.
The path to progression is clear as an instructor – works towards higher qualifications. I wanted to get my level 2 in both sports and, with a bit of hard work, landed both my CASI and CSIA level 2s during my second season.
As a dual-certified instructor my days can be manic, sometimes going back-to-back from board to skis to board. A typical day involves changing my boots at least once. I try to arrive at the ski school early each day to check my schedule. I'll then either have a lesson at 8:30 or get to chill until more lessons go out. I then teach until lunchtime, before carrying on until 3pm.
Advantages of being a dual-cert instructor
Being able to teach both snowboarding and skiing puts you in a great position, and makes it easier to get work and earn more money. Instructors with dual certification are often the first people to get interviewed for new jobs, and they help ski schools out by lowering their overheads.
Depending on your ability, you could do an intensive dual-cert course with Nonstop, so long as you’re fully committed, competent in both disciplines, and ready to put in the work.
The pay increases as you gain more experience and higher qualifications. And once I became certified as both a CASI level 2 snowboard instructor and CSIA level 2 ski instructor, I started earning around $15 an hour. It’s not the best pay in the world, but it goes further than you might think when you add in the perks – like a free lift pass for the season and discounts in bars and restaurants.
The tips can be good too – my best was $100 for a beginner ski lesson. And it goes without saying how important good client relationships are. This can lead to repeat bookings year after year, as well as little perks like free meals and drinks. One client I taught even lent me her flat in Calgary.
You won’t regret it
If you’re debating whether or not to do your instructor training, my advice is to just go for it. Even if you don’t want to work in the industry, the time spent on the Nonstop course will improve your skiing and riding more than you can imagine. It'll be the best time of your life, you'll get that snow bug, and life will never be the same again.
We look forward to speaking with you.