These days, there are so many job opportunities that can give you the time, freedom and finances to travel the world. Working in the snowsports industry is not always the first option that springs to mind. However, if you are a keen skier or snowboarder, then becoming an instructor could be the best way to fulfil your travel ambitions while enjoying your passion. In this article, guest writer, James King, explains what makes being a ski instructor one of the best travel jobs around.
You Will Be Doing Something You Love
When it comes to being a ski instructor, the old saying rings true; ‘If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life’. Spending every day on the slopes (at least during the winter!) is a dream for many and a reality for some. If you love snowsports, then being an instructor gives you the chance to turn your hobby into a career. Not many people get the opportunity to make a living from something they call a passion. If you’re lucky enough to find a path in the ski industry, then you’re on your way to living and working a life doing something you love.
Choose Your Next Job Location
When you’re a ski instructor, the world is your oyster. Skiing is a sport that is expanding across the globe, with new ski resorts regularly opening up as countries look to invest in winter tourism. There are currently ski resorts in 97 countries, spread across 6 continents. This means a wealth of potential work opportunities for you to explore. Adding to this, countries that were previously unworkable for instructors are now building artificial ski alternatives. Dry ski slopes, indoor skiing and ski simulators are all bringing even more locations onto the ski map. The amount of countries looking for instructors gives you the opportunity to decide which country you would like to explore each and every winter.
Summer Travel Time
Working in the snowsports industry is a seasonal job. This means you can expect to work exceptionally hard in the winter, but get as much time off as you want during the summer. As an instructor, you should expect to be working during the winter season of November-April. Outside of these months, you will have more than half the year to plan your travel as you see fit. Southern hemisphere instructor jobs are also a popular summer season choice – providing the opportunity to make skiing a year-round career by travelling across the globe. However, if you have a good enough winter employer, it’s certainly possible to earn enough during the winter to finance your summer travel plans.
Earn And Save
Ski instructor salariesvary greatly. Factors such as location, qualifications and experience all contribute to deciding your earning potential. In general, jobs for newly qualified instructors pay a low salary. Many positions for first time instructors offer wages starting at around $10 per hour. However, many of these jobs offer a host of benefits; such as accommodation, transport, food and more. This means that even with a low salary, it’s still possible to save some money and fund your summer travel plans. Once you are more experienced and hold higher levels of qualification, you can expect to see your salary increase dramatically. Average salaries for highly qualified instructors can reach more than $50 per hour, plus tips! This is a great winter wage and is enough to sustain many seasonal workers throughout the summer months.
Meet New People
Meet new friends. Photo by James King
When you are working as an instructor, you will be making new friends and contacts almost every day you are on the mountain. Many of your new colleagues will become friends for life and many of your clients will become valuable and interesting acquaintances. Ski resorts are a meeting point for snow lovers from across the globe. This means that you can expect to meet people from all walks of life and all corners of the world. Having friends and contacts in many countries across the world becomes a great advantage when you are on your travels. They can prove to be great tour guides and may even provide a place to stay when you come into town! Adding to this, ski resort networking can lead to a host of life opportunities you never would have previously imagined. Once you are in the swing of ski season life, the amount of job opportunities continue to grow as your industry reputation improves…both on and off the slopes!
Immerse Yourself In The Local Culture
When you are working as an instructor, you get to spend multiple months living in a country. This means that you not only get to see the country as a tourist, but also as a local. Working and living in your country of choice, even if it’s just for a few months, gives you the chance to experience ‘normal life’ in places you would otherwise just be visiting. Learning the local customs, picking up some language skills and completing every day tasks all help you to feel integrated into society – rather than being an outsider.
Opportunity To Build A Career As A Ski Instructor
Many people look at being a ski instructor as a temporary job or ‘a way to travel for a couple of years while you’re young’. However, if you choose to progress, being a ski instructor can become more than just a job. Within the ski and snowboard industry, there are multiple different qualification types and levels to achieve – each one increasing your skillset and earning potential. Furthermore, ski schools have jobs of increasing authority on offer – with managerial and director roles available to instructors with more experience. Adding to this, it’s also possible to work in a multitude of ‘off-snow’ ski industry roles. You could even open your own ski school! Career progression is a realistic target for anyone who would like to stay in the ski industry long term. Additionally, with the ski industry continuing to grow, the amount of opportunities both on and off the snow is ever increasing. Skiing doesn’t just have to be a job for winter; it can also be a job for life.
How To Become A Ski Instructor
Becoming a ski instructor is not an easy task. It requires dedication, time, money and (of course!) ski ability. The most common path to becoming an instructor involves taking a ‘gap course’. A gap course is a training program that aims to take you from holiday skier to ski instructor in the space of one winter season. Typically, gap courses will run between the months of December and March (Northern Hemisphere) or June and September (Southern Hemisphere). The sole focus will be to gain your Level 2 ski instructor qualification, which is a world-renowned qualification that allows you to work in every major skiing nation. Your winter training will spent acquiring the skills required to pass your Level 2 instructor exam. This is a 2-week exam that you will take at the end of the season, which is based around ski technique and teaching ability. Gap courses are run in a whole host of countries, with the most popular choices being Europe, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Usually, your level 2 qualification will be certified by a governing body within the country in which you will take your exam, all of which are recognised globally. Within skiing, there are four recognised levels of instructor. This means that if you want to progress your ski-teaching career, you can look to take additional courses and exams in the future. Becoming a ski instructor isn’t cheap, with gap courses averaging around $6000. Accommodation, ski pass, training, exam fees and food are all usually included in this price – so once you’ve paid for the course all you need to worry about is après ski spending.
Getting A Visa
Once you’re qualified, it’s time to find a job. Having your level 2 qualification allows you to work in any country across the world…visa permitting! In general, there are two types of working visa for ski instructors; working holiday visa and sponsored work visa. The type of visa you require will depend on the country you plan to work in and your own nationality. Working holiday visas are available for many of the biggest ski destinations, including Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia. In order to obtain a working holiday visa for these countries, you’re usually required to be under the age of 30 and from their list of approved countries. If you do not meet the working holiday requirements of your chosen country, your employer will need to sponsor you for a work visa. This is a challenging and costly process for ski schools, so they will usually only sponsor instructors with high levels of experience and advanced qualifications. There are also many skiing nations that don’t have working holiday programs, meaning your ski school will need to sponsor your visa. Countries such as China, Europe and the USA fall into this category (along with many others!). You should generally expect to start your instructing career in countries with an ‘easy-to-obtain’ visa policy. Employers are always willing to sponsor visas for their most valuable staff, so you can expect more job opportunities to open up as you gain experience, knowledge and education.
Skiing is not a sport for everyone. However, if you love being in the mountain environment, it can provide a path to work and travel the world, that’s beyond your wildest dreams. If you are hoping to become a ski instructor, this could be the start of an amazing journey. If you are already an instructor, then you are most likely already living the dream.
Guest Author: James King is a ski instructor, world traveller, writer and founder of ski website SnowSunSee. James became a ski instructor 9 years ago and has been working and travelling across Europe and Asia ever since.