Have you ever dreamed of spending a winter season in the mountains? Ever observed an instructor working on the slopes and wondered how they got to spend their time doing something that they love? Circumstances usually dictate that most of us are limited to one or two brief, but amazing, weeks in the snow each year. However, all that may be about to change, with a new ski travel trend shaking up the status quo. Read on to find out how to turn your travel and work dreams into reality.
WHAT IS A SKI INSTRUCTOR INTERNSHIP?
In a nutshell, a ski instructor internship is a ski instructor training course with the addition of a guaranteed job offer once qualified. It’s a winter season travel opportunity that includes all of the necessary components required to train, qualify and then work as a ski instructor.
In the past, instructor training courses came to an end when a participant achieved their instructor certification, regardless of how much of the winter season remained. Now, with increased demand for instructors, snowsports schools around the world are using certain types of courses as a means for recruitment. Hence, the ski instructor internship was born, and now qualified personnel can remain in a resort for the entire season.
Training is usually facilitated by the recruiting school’s senior instructors (certified level 3 and/or 4). The number of available spaces on each internship varies depending on the location and size of the school. Training groups are usually a minimum of six and capped at a maximum of eight.
Aside from the training and the instructor job offer, the internship programme will usually include accommodation, resort transfers, a resort lift pass, uniform, examination arrangements (including fees), social events and more.
WHERE CAN YOU DO A SKI INSTRUCTOR INTERNSHIP?
Ski instructor internships are available at resorts across the world, but it’s safe to say that Canada, Japan, New Zealand and areas of Europe are the most common destinations. In recent years, Japan and Canada have become the major hotspots, with the larger ski schools taking on dozens of interns each winter.
Japan, which is famous for its light powder snow, unique culture and culinary delights, has benefitted from large numbers of international tourists. This has been the catalyst for huge growth in the snowsports industry. Generally speaking, the instructor wages in Japan are very good, as is the amount of work you can expect. This tends to make it a great destination for training and working as an instructor.
Canada is a more laid-back destination with large resorts, quality snow and friendly locals. It’s become an internship hotspot due to the number of resorts, the quality of training and the seasonal experience on offer.
Depending on where you choose to become an instructor, you will work towards slightly different instructor qualifications. In Canada, skiers train for Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance (CSIA) certification, whereas in Japan your qualification is likely to come from either the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA), the Australian Professional Snowsport Instructors (APSI) or the British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI). It’s important to check your instructor qualifications are provided by an International Snowsports Instructors Association (ISIA)-governed organisation, as this will enable you to travel and use your qualifications in other destinations around the world.
Initially you’ll work towards obtaining a level 1 certification before moving into the employment phase of the course. If you wish to follow a career in snowsports, you’ll need to consider an advanced internship package with the goal of obtaining level 2. This will improve your chances of gaining future employment.
WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING AS AN INSTRUCTOR?
The phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ has never been more relevant. During peak season, the demand for lessons will be high. The days will be long and it’s usually all hands to the pump. It’s likely you’ll deliver a range of different lesson types, including private 1-2-1s, kids groups, adult groups and even night lessons.
Outside of peak periods, there’ll be greater time to freeride, as well as completing extra training sessions that the ski school is likely to arrange. Due to the amount of training and teaching, your skiing ability is likely to significantly improve over the course of the season.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t look towards becoming an instructor to get rich. While instructors are able to earn one of the better wages in resorts, it’s the work/life balance that makes the job so desirable.
CAN I DO A SNOWBOARD INSTRUCTOR INTERNSHIP INSTEAD?
Yes, there are also snowboard instructor internships at a selection of resorts around the world. The structure of a snowboard internship is identical to that of the ski internship, but the qualifications and work levels differ, as skiers will typically get more work opportunities.
WHAT ARE THE CRITERIA?
The criteria will vary from course to course, but these are some of the top things to consider:
You will need a work permit to participate in an internship. Most commonly, this is a working holiday visa. Check that the country you’re interested in going to offers a visa of this type and that you meet the criteria (age, nationality and so on).
A minimum of 3–4 weeks of skiing experience is required to participate. If you have less than this, you’ll need to practice a bit more before applying.
Courses usually run from November to April each winter. You’ll need to be available for the full duration.
HOW MUCH DOES AN INTERNSHIP COST?
Internships usually start from around £5,000 and go as high as £9,000. While this may seem expensive initially, it’s important to view it as an investment in education, much like going to university.
As a qualified ski instructor with a season of work experience under your belt, the chances of finding future employment are relatively high. In fact, many interns decide to complete back-to-back winters, jumping between Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Australia and Europe. That’s one surefire way to leave that desk job behind you forever!