Ski instructors teach skiing and snowboarding to people who want to learn
the sport. They teach all levels of students, from beginners who can't stay
upright to experts who want to improve their technique.
Ski instructors may teach one student at a time in private lessons. Or
they may teach a group of people as part of a class.
In recent years, snowboarding has become quite popular. Many people have
been given up their skis for snowboards! For this reason, ski instructors
need to be able to teach people how to snowboard as well as ski.
Ski instructors are responsible for teaching students how to ski. This
involves explaining safety rules and helping students with their ski equipment.
Instructors must be able to ski and guide their students down the hill.
Yet instructors say the most important part of the job is to teach students
to have fun.
"We're in the business of creating lifelong skiers," says California ski
instructor Martin Davies.
Ski instructors spend most of their time outdoors. When they're not teaching
students how to ski, they're practicing their own skiing skills.
"It's important to go over the runs on your own a few times a week, because
a lot of time you're teaching beginning classes on the bunny hill and you
don't challenge yourself that way," says Vermont ski instructor Deborah Ehrenreich.
"Taking on the difficult runs a few times a week keeps you from getting
rusty and, well, it's a lot of fun!"
While skiing skills are important, good communications skills are what
make a successful ski instructor.
"When you're teaching a variety of lessons from beginner to advanced, you
have to be capable of imparting that information to a wide range of people
who have different learning styles," says Arden Thompson, a ski instructor
"The way I explain certain things to my very young students is quite different
from my seniors' classes."
Working with people is always a challenge. Instructors say most of their
students are pleasant and easy to deal with, but a ski instructor still must
be prepared to deal with a disruptive and rude student.
"This is when it's really important to have good communication skills,
to be a good people person. Ski instructors can teach people to ski and board,
but we can't teach them to be nice people," says Davies.
The working conditions are pleasant, says longtime skier and instructor
Martin Olson. "You are always among people on holiday or doing recreation,
so it is usually a clean, friendly atmosphere to work in."
Most ski instructors work during the day. Yet the popularity of night skiing
at many ski resorts has some instructors working in the evenings.
Ski instructors work for ski schools, which are located at the ski hill
or resort. The schools charge students for each lesson and then pay the instructors
for every lesson they teach. The instructors get paid a percentage of what
each student pays for lessons.
Ski hills are lucky to be open for six months of the year, so even the
busiest ski instructor has to find another form of employment for half a year.
Being a ski instructor is a "lifestyle" job.