Imagine waking up in the Canadian Rockies each day, clicking on your skis and heading out to work with some of the friendliest people on the planet. During your lunch break, you could hit the park or bound through chest-deep powder in legendary terrain. Hold on a sec. You’re getting paid to do this! Welcome to working as a ski instructor in Canada.
The holy grail for many ski instructors, Canada has more than 250 resorts that range from powder meccas and local ski hills, to some of the world’s biggest resorts. This gives you a variety of places to work, and the potential for career progression is huge. Fancy a slice of this dream for yourself? Here’s how to become a ski instructor in Canada.
1. Get yourself qualified
The first hurdle is an obvious one: you need to get qualified. Before you sign-up to any old course, make sure you’re getting the right qualifications for Canada. You’ll need one that is recognised by the International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) – the body that oversees professional ski instructing.
A CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance) qualification is the best option. You’ll need a minimum of CSIA Level 1 but CSIA Level 2 will stand you in better stead for landing that first job. CSIA Level 2 also qualifies you to work in other countries worldwide, including New Zealand, Japan and Europe. With Nonstop, you could train for your CSIA 1 and 2 back-to-back on a combined course in Fernie or Banff.
Alternatively, you could qualify through BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) or NZSIA (New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance). In both cases, you’ll need a minimum of your Level 2 certificate before you apply for a job in Canada.
How long does it take to get qualified?
It takes 11 weeks to complete both Level 1 and Level 2 CSIA with Nonstop. To achieve Level 1 only, you’ll need 3-5 weeks – confident skiers could sign-up for our 3 week Level 1 course in Fernie, or if you need to boost your skiing skills first, choose our five week Level 1 course in Fernie or Banff.
How much does it cost to reach Level 2?
Our 11 week CSIA instructor course in Fernie starts at £7,650. This includes 11 weeks of coaching, your Level 1 and 2 exams, access to extra activities, socials, a season pass, accommodation and most of your meals. Our 3 week Level 1 course starts at £3,155.
Give yourself the edge
Experience counts, so grab every opportunity you can to build your instructing experience, gain new skills and make yourself stand out from other instructors. If you can snowboard as well as ski, then get yourself dual certified. Additional certifications are another plus, so sign-up for specialist training in freestyle, racing or avalanche safety – all of which are offered on Nonstop instructor courses.
Train at a resort that will get you noticed. It’s easier to make yourself known at smaller resorts like Fernie, rather than vanishing into the crowd in a mega resort like Whistler.
2. Sort out your work visa
To work as a ski instructor in Canada you need an IEC (International Experience Canada) working holiday visa. This allows you to live and work in Canada for up to two years. Most employers won’t consider your application until you have your visa in place.
The first step is to create a profile. This lets the Canadian authorities know that you’re keen to get a work permit for the coming year. If successful, you’ll be invited to complete your application. For the latest info on visa requirements, or to start creating your profile, head to the IEC webpage.
When should I apply?
You can apply for your visa at any point in the year but it’s best to get started early. There are a limited number of visas available each season, so be proactive and prepare your profile as soon as possible.
Can I apply from abroad?
If your application is successful, you’ll need to visit a visa application centre in your country of citizenship to submit your biometrics. If you’re living abroad, this means you’ll need to factor in a trip home.
Is there an age restriction?
Yes. The age limit for IEC working holiday visas is 30 or 35, depending which country you’re from. If you’re over the age limit, you’ll need to think about company sponsorship instead.
Do your research and have all your documents prepared, so you’ll be ready to go when your invitation comes through.
For more info, read our full guide on how to get a Canadian working holiday visa.
3. Apply for instructing jobs in Canada
With your qualifications and visa sorted, it’s time to start applying for jobs. If you trained through Nonstop, you’ll be armed with expert advice on how to boost your chances of getting employed. We provide regular career workshops and we have a bank of contacts within the snow world, so we can put in a good word and introduce you to the right people.
Which resorts should I apply to?
As a rookie instructor, don’t be too picky when selecting a resort. With limited experience, it can be tough to land a job in a big-name resort, as they tend to get flooded with applications. Instead, look at some of the smaller and lesser-known resorts. The important thing is to get that first job, start teaching, and gain some experience. With a season of instructing under your belt, doors will start to open and you can be more selective.
What if I don’t score a job in Canada?
If you weren’t successful this time, then grit your teeth and apply to other countries. Once you’ve built some experience, whether it’s in Austria, Japan or New Zealand, you’ll find it’s much easier to score a job in Canada next season.
Cast your net wide and be open-minded when applying to different resorts. Smaller snow schools are a good bet and can often offer you more work and lots of experience to fast track your career.
4. Smash the interview
The interview process varies between different resorts and snow schools. Some will offer a phone interview, others will invite you to interview days. If you’re already in Canada, then always go along the interview day, meet your potential new employer face-to-face and make a great first impression.
Should I prepare anything?
Definitely. It always pays to do some prep before your interview. There are several common questions that you’re likely to get asked, so prepare some answers, and think of practical examples that demonstrate things like your great communication skills, initiative and teamwork.
Typical questions include things like:
Read the job spec and tie some of your answers into the points it raises. For example, if the job spec says you’ll mostly be teaching young kids, try to relate to this in your interview.
5. Start your dream job
You've done it! You’ve got your visa, you impressed them in the interview and you’ve landed the job of your dreams. Get ready to jet off to Canada and spend a whole winter getting paid to wear your skis.
Build your career
See yourself building a long-term career as a ski instructor? Seize every opportunity you can to give your professional development a turbo boost. Free training sessions with high-level instructors will elevate your teaching and on-snow skills to the next level. You’ll be working with a team of true mountain masters, so grab this chance to glean as much of their expertise as you can. This is also your chance to network with those in the know and line up your job for next winter.
Making the most of it
Even if you only plan on instructing for one season, being part of a snow school comes with a heap of perks to make this the best winter ever. Seek out every opportunity to ski with the experts, hit them up for tips, and ask them for the inside track on the best powder stashes.
Take every opportunity you can to gain more experience and push your skiing to the max.
We look forward to speaking with you.