How to give up your desk job and start a new career as a ski instructor

Telegraph Ski
The Warren Smith Ski Academy runs summer ski instructor courses in Italy as well as winter ones in Switzerland

Whether you’re leaving university and looking to follow your dream of working in the mountains, or yearning for a career change or life challenge, training to become a ski or snowboard instructor is a great chance to improve technique while experiencing life in a ski resort.

The qualifications on offer vary, so check they cover the country in which you would like to teach - the most common are those of the British Association of Snowsports Instructors (BASI) and the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) or Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors (CASI). Also bear in mind that ski or snowboard equipment rental, flights and insurance are not usually included in the price of the course.

Here’s our round-up of the best courses on offer from a variety of schools and academies in resorts from France to Canada. Courses usually take place in the winter season, but those on European glaciers in summer include the Warren Smith Ski Academy's nine-week course starting in Cervinia, Italy, in July, and a two-week course with Snoworks in Tignes, France. If prepared to travel further afield, there are Peak Leaders or Ski Instructor Academy summer courses in Argentina, and a SnowSkool course in New Zealand.

These can potentially give an earlier start to a career as an instructor, and there are also courses starting in autumn, from schools including Snoworks and New Generation, which allow for getting a job at the end of the same season.

All Tracks Academy

Where: Whistler, Canada

All Tracks Academy operates varied ski and snowboard instructor courses lasting from four to 15 weeks from its base in Whistler, making the most of the resort’s extensive terrain - it's the biggest in Canada. Courses cover CSIA or CASI levels 1, 2 and 3, and run from November until April, with the earlier courses giving graduates the chance to find a job for the rest of the season.

Whistler is North America's most popular resort Credit: Brad Kasselman - coastphoto.com/Brad Kasselman

The seven-week intensive ski or snowboard course starts November 23 2019 and takes participants to level 2. There is an split between on-piste (60 per cent) and off-piste (40 per cent) training, and the Canadian Avalanche Association's Avalanche Skills Training level 1 course is also included over a weekend. The package costs from £5,850 depending on accommodation choice (there are both shared and private catered and self-catered options) and includes season lift pass, airport transfers, level 1 exam fee, social events and job recruitment service.

Basecamp

Where: Les Deux Alpes, France, Banff, Canada and Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand

Basecamp runs two- to 14-week ski and snowboard instructor courses in France, Canada and New Zealand, offering level 1 and 2 BASI, CSIA/CASI or NZSIA (New Zealand Snowsports Instructors' Alliance) qualifications.  

The 11-week ski or snowboard courses starting January 12 2020 in Les Deux Alpes, France, which is at the centre of the huge Trois Vallées ski area, include tasters in ski touring or split-boarding and an introduction to BASI Level 3. The glacier in Les Deux Alpes acts as a snow-sure classroom for the course, which includes coaching in on piste performance, moguls and freestyle.

From £8,195, including 20 hours of coaching a week, half-board accommodation, airport transfers, season lift pass, two ski away days to nearby resorts by coach, a Basecamp jacket and BASI level 1 and 2 exam fees.

New Generation has been running instructor courses for over 15 years Credit: © Andrew Lloyd/ANDREW LLOYD

New Generation

Where: Méribel and Courchevel, France, Stubai, Austria and Verbier, Switzerland

The 11-week New Generation BASI 1 and 2 ski instructor courses are offered in Méribel and Courchevel in France, with an eight-week option available on the glacier at Stubai and a 10-week course in Verbier also available. The British ski school has been running its instructor courses for over 15 years and has helped more than 500 individuals earn their qualifications. Its popular courses in  Méribel and Courchevel combine piste performance training, freeride and freestyle sessions. A first aid course and French lessons are also included, as well as guided off-piste days.

The majority of the training is delivered by New Generation staff and three weeks by trainers supplied by BASI. The 11-week courses in Méribel and Courchevel, at different points of the massive Trois Vallées ski area, start January 4 2020, and cost £8,550, including full-board (five days) accommodation in a shared chalet, season lift pass, off-piste safety equipment, level 1 and 2 BASI exam fees and career support.

Nonstop Snow

Where: Fernie and Banff, Canada, Treble Cone, New Zealand, and Val d'Isère and Serre Chevalier, France

Nonstop offers a wide range of skiing and snowboarding instructor courses, lasting from three to 20 weeks, in France, Canada and New Zealand. As well as the BASI, Canadian and New Zealand training systems, Nonstop's 20-week course gives the chance to go through the French system in Serre Chevalier.

Canada has been Nonstop's HQ since 2002 and it offers its 11-week CSIA/CASI level 1 and 2 ski and snowboard courses in Fernie and Banff. All students complete their level 1 qualification and are then given the option to carry on to level 2 or to complete Nonstop’s All Mountain programme, a recreational course to improve slope skills without having to worry about teaching the techniques. As part of the package students gain access to over 25 extra training courses and weekend activities including heli-skiing, snow mobiling, cat skiing and ski touring, available at an extra cost.

The 11-week courses based in Fernie, famed for its adventurous terrain, is its most popular and start January 18 2020 and cost from £7,650. The price includes accommodation in a four-bed room, five breakfasts and four dinners a week, season lift pass, level 1 and 2 exam fees, work experience, career support, in-resort transport and airport transfers.

NothinButSnow

Where: Big White, Canada

NothinButSnow runs CSIA instructor training including internships, up to level 3, in Big White, Canada, in partnership with the local ski school. The different courses run between January and April each season.

While there are four- and eight-week courses available, its 12-week level 1 and 2 ski instructor course is NothinButSnow’s most popular course, which covers instruction for every level of skier from beginners up to advanced level. The course involves training five days a week, from Monday to Friday, and includes a season pass, gym access, course manuals, level 1 exam fee, career advice and placement support, chance to shadow another instructor and video analysis.

Big White is a lesser-known resort in Canada

Students qualify with the CSIA level 1 and 2 certificates as well as CSIA membership and costs from £6,595. The standard course fee includes luxury ski-in/ski-out accommodation, based on two people sharing a twin room in a fully kitted out condo, in Big White. There is opportunity to upgrade to a number of other packages. NothinButSnow’s green run package offering flights, meals, transfers, the level 2 exam fee and a guaranteed job interview, for an additional £1,595. Other upgrades include tubing passes, custom fitted boots and skis.

NothinButSnow also offers ski instructor internships for people on a Canadian working visa, either over one or two winters. These offer the chance to gain hands-on work experience, certified training and a full-time paid placement in Big White.

Peak Leaders

Where: Verbier and Saas Fee, Switzerland, and Bariloche, Argentina

Peak Leaders offers eight to 11-week BASI ski instructor courses in summer, autumn and winter in Switzerland and Argentina. The summer course is in Bariloche, the autumn course takes place in Saas Fee, and the winter course in Verbier.

The popular 10-week BASI levels 1 and 2 ski course based in Peak Leaders' home resort of Verbier, part of Switzerland's largest ski area, is run in partnership with Element Ski School. It runs from November 30 2019, leaving time to find work for the end of the season, and covers everything from off-piste, racing gates and avalanche training to freestyle sessions and first aid. Coaching takes place Monday to Friday, from 9:30am until 3:30pm, followed by either fitness sessions, video analysis, French lessons or evening activities. Peak Leaders also offer mentoring from experienced instructors and discounts on equipment to its students.

The package costs £8,800 and includes chalet-hotel accommodation just above the main lifts with breakfast and dinner five nights a week, Verbier 4-Valleys lift pass, level 1 and 2 BASI exam fees, French lessons and personal fitness training every week – there’s also a guaranteed job interview at the end of the course, subject to interview.

Powder Byrne

Where: Laax/Flims, Switzerland

Branching out from its luxury holiday offering, the tour operator Powder Byrne hosts an 18-week ski instructor course, Piste2Profession, from early December until April in the Swiss resort of Laax/Flims, which has a large ski area and extensive terrain park facilities. It also hosts the Brits. Unlike many other courses the 18-week course is designed to last the entire season to provide gap year students with a longer-term option and chance to spend the entire winter in the mountains.

Instructor training to BASI level 1 is provided in partnership with the Flims/Laax ski school (progression to level 2 available at additional cost), and participants also complete BASI's child-specific ski instructor module, as well as the local ski instructor course that is required before teaching in the Laax/Flims ski area.

Unusually, the course combines instructor training with more general Powder Byrne work experience, including customer service shadowing the ski patrol, ski technician work and event organisation. The cost of £10,850 includes flights, work permit, CRB check, specialist winter medical insurance, ski instructor insurance, ski uniform, ski and boot rental and discounts on food and drink in some restaurants, as well as ski instructor training, BASI level 1 exam fees, resort transfers, self-catering accommodation in Flims, season lift pass, avalanche awareness course and career support.

Ski Instructor Academy

Where: Kaprun-Zell am See, St Anton and Kitzbuhel, Austria, Bariloche, Argentina, Whistler Canada, Pamporovo, Bulgaria and Niseko, Japan.

The Ski Instructor Academy's comprehensive range of ski and snowboard instructor courses mainly qualify students through the Austrian instructor training system - an Anwärter qualification is for teaching in snow-sports schools; the Landes system can lead to a higher level of qualification. The exception to the Austrian rule is Whistler, where students are in the Canadian CASI/CSIA system.

Zell am See is in the Austrian Tirol

Courses last from four to 21 weeks, and there are opportunities to dual qualify as a ski and snowboard instructor - even for those starting their second discipline from scratch if they add an improver course. The 21-week Ultimate Snowsports Instructor course in the company's home resort of Kaprun/Zell am See starts November 2 2019, gives the chance to complete the ski and snowboard Anwärter and the Landes 1 ski qualifications in one season, with a guaranteed job in a Austrian ski school at the end.

The price of €9,480 includes lift pass, exam fees, airport transfers, self-catered accommodation, German lessons, gym classes, avalanche awareness training and an SIA jacket. There are options to upgrade to half board accommodation.

SnowSkool

Where: Banff and Big White, Canada, Méribel, France, and Cardrona, New Zealand

SnowSkool offers two- to 13-week instructor courses in Canada, France and New Zealand. Participants qualify into the Canadian or New Zealand instructor systems, or into the BASI system in France.

The 11-week CASI/CSIA level 1 and 2 courses in the relaxed and low-key Canadian resort of Big White, famed for its powder snow, start January 8 2020. The package costs £7,550 and includes flights to Canada, transfers, spacious and well-equipped ski-in/ski-out self-catering accommodation, five evening meals a week, lift pass, level 1 exam fees and career support. All its packages are ATOL protected.

As well as the chance to take level 2 exams, there are terrain park instructor and ski race trainer options, plus first aid and avalanche awareness courses at extra cost.

Snoworks

Where: Tignes, France

The main Snoworks GAP BASI 1 and 2 ski instructor course is eight weeks and runs in autumn on the Tignes glacier, starting October 19 2019and ending mid December, enabling graduates to qualify by Christmas and potentially work the rest of the winter season. There is also a two-week level 1 course in summer, starting June 23 2019.

The eight-week programme includes avalanche safety training, ski servicing skills, fitness training, and a week dedicated to giant slalom race training, covering the physical and psychological side as well as carving and tactics such as picking a line. Snoworks also offers bespoke courses during the same period, so it's possible to reach level 1 on a two-week course for example.

Towards the end of the eight-week course, students teach mock lessons, which the company's usual ski clients volunteer to take part in, and at the end have the chance of a job in Japan, subject to interview. The course costs £7,750, including lift pass, level 1 and 2 exam fees, first aid course, child protection module, Salomon ski jacket, half-board chalet accommodation (breakfast every day, dinner with wine six nights a week) and resort transfers.

Tignes is one of the most snow-sure resorts in Europe Credit: ©andyparant.com

For the first time next winter Snoworks will be awarding a scholarship for four free weeks of BASI Level 3 ISIA training to the student who shows the most potential to progress through the system and the top level of qualification.

The Winter Sports Company

Where: Sun Peaks and Panorama, Canada, Queenstown, New Zealand, and Tignes, France

The Winter Sports Company offers a range of ski and snowboard instructor training, from three- to five-week entry-level courses for level 1 qualification, to 18-week Zero to Hero courses that take participants up to level 3. With bases in France, Canada and New Zealand, there are options to qualify under the BASI, CSIA/CASI or NZSIA systems.

The most comprehensive is its 18-week CSIA level 1, 2 and 3 course, which take place in Sun Peaks, Canada, and start November 28 2019, or November 26 2020 and allows students chance to spent the entire winter in the mountains. It includes include extras such as spending time with ski patrol, mountain safety and emergency response training. As well as training to level 3, students will gain dual qualifications in skiing and snowboarding, and get an adaptive sports and terrain park qualification.

After a ski area expansion in 2014/15 Sun Peaks is now Canada's second largest ski area after Whistler, and its slopes are much quieter. Further development of new lifts and accommodation last winter has further broadened its appeal. The 18-week course costs £10,545 without flights, £10,995 with, and the price includes lift pass, level 1 exam fees, ski-in/ski-out hotel accommodation with kitchen, and breakfast and evening meals five days a week.

Warren Smith Ski Academy

Where: Cervinia, Italy and Verbier, Switzerland

Run in association with IASI (the Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors), the Warren Smith Ski Academy's nine-week ski instructor courses train students for their level 1 and 2 qualifications, while also teaching about ski biomechanics and sport psychology. Over the past 10 years The Academy has helped more than 500 ski instructors qualify, many of whom have gone on the teach in resorts around the world using Smith’s groundbreaking biometric technique.

Also included is core and ski-specific physical training, avalanche and mountain awareness courses, ski servicing and maintenance training, sports psychology sessions, first aid training and a three-day level 1 freestyle coaching award.

There are two dates for the nine-week course. The first one is in summer, starting June 29 2018 on the glacier in Cervinia, Italy, meaning students will be ready to work the following season. The Academy has also launched a new seven-week fast track programme, starting July 13, to fit better with school and university term times, but still delivering the same results. The third course is in winter, starting January 4 2020, and is hosted in Verbier, Switzerland.

The summer Cervinia course costs £3,999 per person, accommodation and food not included; b&b accommodation is available at the hotel Mon Reve in Cervinia from €3,150. The seven-week summer courses costs £3,299. The winter Verbier course costs £7,999, including half-board accommodation. Both include a season lift pass and IASI 1 and 2 exam fees.

Yes Tours

Where: Whistler, Canada

Yes Tours runs CSIA and CASI instructor training courses in the Canadian resort of Whistler, with courses ranging from four to 11 weeks long, and starting on various dates between November and April.

Trade your desk job for a life in the mountains Credit: Mike Crane info@mikecranephotography.com/Mike Crane

Both catered and self-catered accommodation options are available, and all packages, no matter how long, include a Whistler Blackcomb season lift pass, and all exam costs, plus weekly après events, back country training and in-resort services.

The 11-week course is known as the ‘The Full Enchilada’ and costs from $11,250 in a quad-shared room in a self-catering chalet, with start dates in November, January and February available. It includes AST avalanche safety level 1 backcountry training, Canadian Association for Disabled skiers (CADS) level 1 training and terrain park training. The February courses include BASI level 2 certification – Yes is the only operator in Canada to offer this option.