Section 10: Jobs

The following information is courtesy of jason ehrhart (

You asked about being a ski instructor. I can't give you the exact details of what it takes to be an Instructor in Europe, but I do have experience in the US. Perhaps it will give you a perspective.

10.01) "Do i need any qualifications to instruct?"

Well, (remember all answers are relative to the US) yes, you ought to be a decent skier (you don't have to be an expert, but if you want to teach more than just children or beginners, you'll need to learn how to be a better skier. It helps to be a very very patient person. Often you'll be dealing with people who are on a holiday and are not always in great physical shape, patience with these folks helps out alot. While you ought to be a good skier, you are also a person who should be able to lead a group of people and teach them, strong leadership traits are helpful. First aid and CPR are good things to know before you begin to teach, because remember, skiing is a dangerous sport, unpredictable things can and do happen.

The PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) has a certification process in which you may be in one of seven different levels of instructor, ranging from apprentice instructor, through ski school supervisor. To find out abotu the current requirements needed to get to a particular level ask your local chapter of the PSIA, or at your local ski school.

10.02) "How do I get started?"

Well, there are a number of ways you can get started. If you've never skied before, it would be a good idea to get some miles under your belt before you try to take on teaching others to ski. :)

I've seen people show up to teach with only one year of skiing, but often it is tough to help folks until you've had about 3-4 years of skiing. Many ski schools will only take instructors with prior experience. This often involves having a letter of recommendation from your old ski school. There are also a _few_ ski schools who will take first year instructors. I know of a few in the the Intermountain West which do this, they include, Park City, Park West, Brighton, Elk Meadows. I'm sure there are more and instructors who read this can perhaps add to the list.

US Ski instructors can read the Professional Ski Instructors of America's ATM (American Teaching Method) which is put out by the PSIA. The book goes over the basic "approved" technique surrounding a ski school lesson as prescribed by the PSIA. It include the teaching progression, teach philosophy, training, and the certification process.

10.03) "Do you teach all the year, and if not, what do you do for the rest of the year?"

Well, I taught from 8am to 5pm then I drove to a real job as a computer consultant. During the summer I did contruction during the days. Teaching skiing takes a few years to develop clients, until then the pay is awful. Be prepared to have another job during the first few years. I also know instructors who travel to the "other" hemisphere to teach during the off-season. Boy, talk about a die hard life style.

10.04) "How much could I expect to get paid?"

In the US a starting instructor without a PSIA certification can expect to get about 45% of what they take in, figure a single lesson at about $15. Once you are certified you can get up to 60% of what you take in (depending on your current level of certification). We had 140 instructors on our ski school, if everybody takes ten people we'd need to have 1400 lessons a day for us all to make money. We are all sub-contractors which means that you don't get paid unless you teach. Our ski school had about 350 lessons a day on good days, so lots of us had weeks where we only taught once or twice. Like I said up earlier, be prepared for a second job for survival money.

10.05) "Can I teach all my life, or is it a job which you do for only a few years?"

If you stay healthy, all your life. I have a friend who is 85 and he still teaches!

10.06) "How old must I be to start teaching?"

Old enough to have the patience, strength, and knowledge. Our youngest was 17 years old. But, I don't see why a mature person couldn't start earlier if they had the drive and the desire. It does require inter- personal interaction, so often younger people can lack the people skills needed to be an effective instructor. You also have to remember, many ski instructors are expected to do more around the mountains than just teach skiing, if you witness an accident, you should know enough first aid to be able to help in a responsible manner.

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