Get your kicks from powder days, endless mountain views and helping people break through personal boundaries? Qualify as a ski instructor and you could land yourself one of the best gigs going.
We caught up with a few Nonstop graduates to get the lowdown on the perks of the profession.
1. 100+ days on snow a season
If clocking up ride-time is on your agenda, you won’t find a better way to max it out. Once you’re employed as an instructor, it is literally your job to be on snow. You’ll be teaching lessons, training on session, scoring first tracks and charging through powder bowls daily.
“I spend 120+ days on snow a season. Lots of that is my own free time to ski where and how I want,” says Jack Higgins, who completed our ski instructor course in Banff and has since notched up seasons teaching at Lake Louise.
And if you’re toing and froing between the northern and southern hemispheres, expect to double that figure.
2. Insane office views
Fresh air. Panoramic views. Frozen peaks. As offices go, snowsports instructors are spoilt. You’ll wake up to epic scenery, commute via chairlift, then spend your day surrounded by mountaintops. Beats staring at a screen any day.
“I’d rather have a tough day on the mountain than a good day in the office,” says Ryan Clark, a former Nonstoper with seasons in Australia and Canada under his belt. “Being outside in the mountains is awesome. It’s such a great work environment.”
3. You get paid (to ski)
Becoming a ski instructor isn’t a road to riches, but as mountain jobs go, you’ll be rewarded handsomely, and get more slope-time than just about anyone. You’ll start at the bottom but your earning potential will quickly rise as you gain experience and certifications.
“It's a joke that this is actually a job. I'd do this for free – if someone paid my rent and fed me,” says Ryan. “You can get all kinds of lessons but sometimes you just hit the jackpot. I’ve had so many epic days with guests, but I’ll always remember charging around with two young snowboarders – they were solid riders and all they wanted was to be guided around the mountain and shown the secret stashes. I was more than happy to oblige. It’d be a push to call that work.”
You can also expect to receive occasional tips or gifts, from hard cash and hip flasks, to posh dinners and free digs. “I taught a 1.5 hour lesson to a school group for 5 days, and at the end of their trip they gave me a $200 tip,” recounts George Long-Howell, who’s worked in Canada, Japan, China and Italy since completing his Nonstop course in Fernie.
4. It’s a real career option
Instructor life isn’t all about powder laps and hard-core après. Ski instructing is a genuine career option. “To me, a ‘proper job’ is something that can pay your bills and sustain your life,” says George. “Instructing allows you to do this. Sure, it might be tight at the start, but the longer you do it, the easier it becomes, and most importantly, you’ll love what you do.”
You’ve certification levels to conquer and endless opportunities for career development within the industry. “Like any good career option, there is a clear pathway for your own personal growth,” Jack reveals. “There are ladders to climb and clear goals to work toward, be that marching through the CSIA levels, or moving through your snow school’s ranks. Ski instructor careers can often lead towards management or directorship roles within a ski resort.”
5. PRO DEALS, FREEBIES AND LIFT PASSES
Who doesn’t love freebies and discounts? Once you’re employed as an instructor, you’ll be hooked up with a season pass, receive discounted lift tickets at other resorts, and can expect to land yourself a heap of cash-saving steals, from pro deals on skis and boards, to discounts in local shops.
“Pro deals are a God send,” says George. “These are industry deals you get through your instructor association on a huge range of brands, which saves a small fortune on gear. You can also score discounts with local stores for anything from outerwear to ski socks.”
6. DAILY TRAINING
Progression is addictive. And as an instructor you’re in the perfect place to keep pushing your level. “Being part of a snow school, you’ll have access to daily training led by seasoned vets of the industry,” says Jack.
“Sessions are perhaps one of best parts about working as an instructor,” says James Harper-Lewis, a former Banff Nonstoper who stayed around to teach at Sunshine Village. “They’re an opportunity to continually improve throughout the season, and they pick up where Nonstop left off – only now you get the added benefit of being paid for it. Sessions introduce some of the most advanced riding and teaching theory around, while giving huge scope for individual feedback and improvement strategies.”
7. Sky-high job satisfaction
Teaching others to ski or snowboard, and helping people progress and make breakthroughs on the slopes, can bring immense job satisfaction and create a real feel-good vibe.
“The most satisfying part of my job is helping people enjoy the sport you love. When a guest sees progression in their riding, you can literally feel their energy and that pumps you up,” says Ryan.
Getting to work with your students over several seasons can add to the relationships you build too. “I once taught a 5-year-old boy with Autism,” says George. “After two days of private lessons he finally clicked and just started turning. This progressed into him wakeboarding and making friends through that. I continued to teach him for the next two years and saw the development in his social skills as well as his shredding skills. Four years on I am still good friends with the family.”
8. EPIC TRAVEL OPPORTUNITIES
Picture this. Blasting down backcountry bowls in Canada. Followed by upping your park moves in New Zealand. Then floating through bottomless powder in Japan. Get yourself an international qualification with a system like the CSIA or BASI, and you can literally move all over the world from mountain to mountain. The options are boundless.
“I’ve worked on four different continents,” says George. “Fernie in Canada. Courmayeur in Italy. Hakuba in Japan. Thaiwoo and Secret Garden in China. Plus Mount Hotham in Australia.” How about that for getting about? “Every place is unique but what makes a great mountain is the town vibe, the people and having varied terrain from beginner slopes to bumps to steeps.”
And when the snow melts and the lifts stop turning, you’ve the perfect chance to explore further. “Shoulder seasons are great for getting out there,” says George. “After the winter wraps up I’ll usually explore the country I’ve just worked in with friends. Ideal for spring road trips. I once travelled around Thailand for a month with a few other instructors. I’m looking to do even more travel between seasons now I’ve got my Level 3.”
We look forward to speaking with you.