Becoming a ski or snowboard instructor is a dream job for the avid skier or snowboarder. You spend your days doing what you love and teaching others what you know. For those that like to travel, there are opportunities abroad once you achieve the appropriate level of certification.
Being "certified" is not required to secure your first job as a ski or snowboard instructor. Larger ski schools lend career ski instructors to help teach newbie instructors the skills needed to become a better and lucrative instructor. Training takes place regularly at larger ski schools through classroom and on the snow hill. Take every opportunity to train as this will allow you to become not only a better instructor but help prepare you for your certification exam. Certifications make you a desirable asset and provide more work opportunities and higher pay benefits.
The certification process begins with becoming a Registered Member of Professional Ski Instructor of America and the American Association of Snowboarding Instructor (PSIA-AASI). While there is no examination required to become a registered member, instructors do need to be actively teaching in a PSIA authorized ski school and have the recommendation of the Ski School Director. Instructor schools are located across the US. Many locations even offer an intensive training that will earn you a Level I certification. Instructor internships may also be an option that can offer guaranteed employment following internship and assistance with reaching your first level of certification.
There are 3 levels of primary certifications from Professional Ski Instructor of America and the American Association of Snowboarding Instructor (PSIA-AASI) for various disciplines: Adaptive, Alpine, Cross Country, Snowboard and Telemark. Additional certifications are also available for Children's Specialist and Freestyle Specialist once a primary certification is earned. Adaptive instructing gives you the tools to teach those with disabilities.
Each level of certification assesses 3 areas; skiing/riding, teaching and professional knowledge. Instructors are bound to the knowledge and performance guidelines of the level at which they are testing as well as the criteria for all prior levels. Generally, a Level I certification focuses on the ability to teach beginner to novice skiers/riders on more simple terrain. Level II training involves a precise degree of teaching on moderate terrain while a Level III certification will require an expert level of teaching on advanced terrain. Level III certification also meets the International Snowsports Instructors Alliance (ISIA) standards allowing you to teach at a global level at locations across the world. Refer to the PSIA-AASI site for specific details on certification levels as each discipline demands specific expertise in each of the assessed areas.
To prepare for each certification exam, there are many resources available and methods to pursue. It's important to register with PSIA-AASI offers printed materials, prep training classes and online courses are offered to their members. Be sure to attend in person clinics in your area. It's also essential to find a mentor who has gone through the certification process that can provide tips and constructive feedback regarding your skiing or riding technique, knowledge and skills.
Within the US, pay can vary for an instructor based on geographic location, resort and qualification level. Average pay ranges from $15 per hour for a rookie level to $20 for an experienced instructor. Some locations within Colorado pay experienced instructors up to $30 per hour. It's important to note that an instructor relies heavily on tips received from their clients throughout the season. While the single $1,000 tip is rare, top instructors can usually bring in $300 in tips in a day.
If you know how to ski or ride, consider becoming a certified instructor. This could be your chance to have a career doing what you love.