How To Become A Ski or Snowboard Instructor
Yep, this could be you in the white room in Hirafu, Japan. All winter. As an intern with 'We Are Sno' the powder fields of Niseko would be your winter office where you qualify to become a ski or snowboard instructor - and maybe change you lifeWould you rather be an intern making tea in a city office or an intern skiing or snowboarding in Niseko, Japan? We ask the team at We Are Sno what it takes to train to become a ski or snowboard instructor. And, for one thing, it's youth. If you're between 18 and 30 this is your chance for an epic gap year that's not just working in a bar and making beds - or to carve a career living the dream in the mountains. (Warning: Reading this could seriously affect your sanity if you're over 30 and stuck in the rat race)...
Q. How good a skier / snowboarder do you have to be to become an instructor?
A. To be eligible for a ski instructor internship (or snowboard internship) you need to be at a strong intermediate level of competency and be comfortable linking turns (under control) down a moderately pitched slope. We usually say from 3-4 weeks on-snow as an absolute minimum.
Q How long is the training and what does it involve?
A. Depending on which level you work towards, the training time can differ. For the basic level 1 qualification the initial training period is 3.5 weeks. If you choose to work towards the higher level 2 qualification then there would be an additional 3.5 week training program to complete later in the season.
The training will focus firstly on mileage and becoming comfortable on the snow again. Our trainers will then look towards movements on stance and an introduction to the teaching model. We will then focus on improving the overall understanding and skills with work on progression building. The training will culminate in practise teaching and how to apply the information in a 'real life' lesson scenario. Throughout the instructor internship our trainers will record and feedback lessons using the latest video analysis techniques.
Q. Is there a test at the end?
A. Yes, there is an internationally recognised 'on-snow' exam to sit. This can vary in length depending on the country you are in and which discipline you choose. Typically it is between 3-5 days for level 1 and between 4-7 days for level 2.
Q. What qualifications do you receive? Do qualifications differ depending on which country you work in?
A. Our qualifications vary depending on the country you train in. However, they are all internationally recognised and governed by the International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA). The ISIA is the world body for professional snowsports instructors (including snowboarders) and membership of an ISIA governed National Association will allow the freedom to work on snow in some of the coolest destinations in the world, including: Australia, Canada, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, South America & USA.
Q. How easy is it to get a permit to work as an instructor in different countries?
A. When starting out as an instructor you are required to obtain a working holiday visa in order to gain winter season work. This is relatively easy to obtain, once accepted and enrolled onto our instructor internship we provide you with step-by-step guidelines outlining exactly how to apply for and receive your visa.
Q. What is the age limit?
A. The instructor internship is available to anyone eligible to apply for a working holiday visa. This usually means that you need to be between the ages of 18-30, although you can apply for the visa up until the day before you turn 31.
Another hard day at the office for We Are Sno instructors. Image above (and main image): Propeak
Q. What if you don't speak the language? Japanese for instance?
Our instructor internships run in the largest and most popular ski area in Japan, Niseko. Here you’ll find a Western feel with the majority of people in the town, shops, restaurants and bars English-speaking. The snowsports schools we work with are all international meaning the lessons are delivered in English to English speaking clients from around the world. We certainly encourage learning some basic Japanese, but it’s not a requirement and many of the ski jobs in Japan don’t require it.
Q. What is included in the internships? Accommodation? Food?
A. Our internships come packed with a host of inclusions, such as;
Pre Course - Course prep and advice. Visa planning and support. Welcome pack and schedule. Company merchandise. Airport meet and greet. Airport transfer.
Training - Resort Induction. Ski area orientation. Shared accommodation. Breakfast. Expert tuition. Level 1 exam fees and associated costs. Training manual.
Rest of Season - Paid job offer. Full season lift pass. Full-time resort manager. Regular social events. Additional qualifications and exams (optional add-on).
Q. What is the social side like?
A. One of the greatest aspects of our courses are the bonds and close friendships that are forged over time spent living and riding together each day. It's awesome to see. There are plenty of social times to be enjoyed and we get together as much as possible. We meet up for evening meals in restaurants and cook together. We go on resort trips to other mountains, night skiing and bowling, sing karaoke, pool competitions and generally enjoy what the resort has to offer..
Q. How easy will it be to get an instructor job at the end?
A. All of our instructor internships come with a guaranteed job offer post qualification. Winter season work is important for our clients and there is no better reward than being able to teach skiing or snowboarding to real life clients and earn money whilst doing it.
Q. What sort of money can you earn as an instructor?
A. If working a season in Japan as a rookie instructor you can expect to earn ¥1,800 p/h (£11.50). This is a really solid starting wage which can even be increased for night lessons and private requests. Out of the variety of ski jobs available in Japan, being an instructor is highly competitive in terms of earning.
Q. So, deep breath, how much does it cost to train?
A. Our season long instructor internships start from £4,499, but for this fee accommodation, a season lift pass, full instructor training and the guarantee of a job is included. We find this really helps our instructors budget for the season and allows them to stay much longer through winter with a source of income.
If you’d like to learn more about WE ARE SNO Instructor Internships or to see if you’re eligible, visit their website here.
Making tea or making turns? No brainer for We Are Sno interns in front of Mt Yotei, Niseko. Image: Propeak