Imagine going from unqualified skier to full-time level 2 ski instructor and level 1 snowboard instructor, all in one winter. Sound like a dream?
For former Nonstopper Oscar, it became a reality. When we asked him to talk us through the steps that got him there, he made it sound all too easy.
Name: Oscar Lawrence
Course: ski instructor internship
Location: Banff, Canada
Qualifications: CSIA level 2 / CASI level 1
Worked in: Lake Louise, Canada
Too much to ask?
Ready to enjoy the great outdoors in the best way possible – up to your eyes in pow? Prior to committing to my dream, I had this constant feeling that I needed to spend more time in the snow.
I had just graduated from university as an architect and had lived in London's big smoke for the majority of my life. Only after such a ravenous onslaught of many years of education did I feel worthy enough to take an extended career break. For me, becoming a ski instructor was something I had to do.
Only after such a ravenous onslaught of many years of education did I feel worthy enough to take an extended career break.
But there were a few hurdles in the way. I wasn’t rich at the time and I wanted to achieve my instructor qualifications, further my training and start earning a living as an instructor, all in one season. Was I asking too much? It was starting to feel like it but I ploughed on anyway.
Less than one year later, I'd trained through Nonstop, had my CSIA level 2, was CASI level 1 snowboard certified, and was looking towards my level 3 course, having completed a full season of teaching at Lake Louise in Canada. Here’s my advice on how you can do the same.
Tip 1: ski history helps
Before Nonstop I had already tasted the delights of alpine winters in Europe. I wasn’t a pro, but I knew how to ski. I loved the sport and yearned for more – I wanted to push my level and experience the fabled mountains of Canada.
Having some ski experience under your belt is extremely valuable if you’re looking to fast-track to qualification. If you are a relative novice, then accelerating your way through a season is going to be infinitely harder, although nothing is impossible with the right attitude.
You'll need a working holiday visa for your desired destination if you plan to qualify and teach in the same season. It's not normally too much of a hurdle to obtain one, however you do need to plan ahead. So don't get caught out by leaving it too late.
TIp 2: get formal training
If you want to get a full season of instructing in, you need to get your qualifications early. The instructing season doesn’t usually kick off until around mid December, so there’s some time prior to that to achieve your goals and take steps to setup your winter.
You could just go for it, train yourself, and enter the level 1 exam on your own. But even if you’re good enough to go for trails for the next Winter Olympics, ski schools know how important proper training is. They’re fully aware of the training infrastructure in place, and they know good training when they see it.
Most rookie instructors nowadays have been through a training program like Nonstop and, plugging aside, employers genuinely rate the Nonstop instructor programs as the best.
Most rookie instructors nowadays have been through a training program like Nonstop and, plugging aside, employers genuinely rate the Nonstop instructor programs as the best. The employment rate speaks for itself, as the ski schools know the benefits of recruiting instructors who have been through a rigorous and rounded training program. Besides the obvious coaching benefits, the experiences you’ll enjoy on a Nonstop course are priceless.
Tip 3: apply for an instructor internship
The best route to qualifying and working in the same winter is to apply for a ski instructor internship. Tons of ski schools take on new level 1 instructors each year to replenish their staff numbers, and internship programs often feed these requirements.
You’ll receive awesome training to set you up for qualification success, and have a job to walk into immediately after, without having to worry about too much else.
Don’t skimp on your CV when applying. Keep it succinct but don’t undersell your skills and attributes. You’ll be teaching in a customer-facing role, so you can apply yourself in a variety of ways. Being passionate, personable, perceptive and professional will go a long way.
Tip 4: make the most of training sessions
Once you’re qualified and working in a snow school, start taking advantage of the fantastic development opportunities your employer offers. Training sessions are one of the biggest perks of being an instructor, as they offer the opportunity to ride alongside some exceptional instructors and continually improve throughout the season.
At Lake Louise they have one of the most comprehensive frameworks in place, with training offered up to twice a day. It’s nothing short of invaluable and, through this incredible coaching support and a bit of hard graft, I was able to add to my level 1 I achieved with Nonstop: by the end of the season, I had my CSIA level 2, and landed my CASI snowboard level 1 for dual certification.
Tip 5: be a great employee
Turning up on time, being a positive force, and taking advantage of everything a ski school offers you – like the training sessions – will help to fast-track your career and get the most from your first season and every single one after that.
Build relationships with other instructors, respect their expertise, go out of your way to show your clients a great time, and you’ll go far in this industry.
We look forward to speaking with you.