How to become a ski instructor: Where to start
If you want to become a ski instructor getting started can seem daunting. There is a mass of different course providers who all offer a mass different courses in so many different qualification systems. To cap it all off everyone will probably tell you something different. This is where we would start though if we had to do it all again.
The first thing you need to do is choose a qualification system.
Every Alpine nation and some not so Alpine nations will have their own Ski Instructors Association. While there are subtle differences between them, for all intents and purposes they operate in the same way. Their role is to train and examine ski instructors and then ensure that each instructors qualification stays valid and meets all the various international requirements.
Are all systems created equal?
Each nations’ organisation will feel that they are the best and that there system is the hardest to pass and creates the best instructors. The reality is there are a lot of similarities between most systems. The big differences and the thing you need to seriously consider is where each qualification is recognised.
Due to various local and international rules not every qualification system is recognised everywhere. If you overall aim is to work in France then you have to make sure the system you embark in is recognised there. If you are not yet sure where you want to work make sure you pick a system that will not limit where you work in the future.
When choosing which system you are going to train in make sure you are really clued up on where you can use that system. Spending months of your life training in a system just to find out that you can not use it or have to re-train sucks.
Are any of the systems easier than others?
In a word no. Some systems have tricky starts others start gently and ramp up towards the end. In order to fully qualify in any system that allows you to work any here in the world you are going to have to ski really well no matter which system you choose.
Which qualification system do you use?
We use BASI the British Association of Snowsports Instructors. This is for a few reasons. One of the main reasons is that through out the qualification system it is fairly well recognised across the globe.
At BASI 2 and 3 the only major omission from the list is France and upon completion of the BASI 4 or ISTD it is recognised everywhere in the world.
Another advantage of the BASI system is that it is slightly easier to get started. Some systems require very tough entrance exams that mean many aspiring instructors are lost straight away. BASI however while having a very high standard of final level that matches any system, does allow trainees to spend a little more time preparing for this while simultaneously working.
How do the BASI levels work and what do they mean?
BASI have divided their qualifications into 4 levels. The BASI 1 and 2 which are aimed at those starting to make a career in snow sports. The BASI level 3 which qualifies the candidate for the ISIA stamp and finally the BASI level 4 which qualifies the individual for the ISTD award and is among the highest recognised qualifications in snowsports instruction.
If you are thinking of becoming a ski instructor understanding what you can do with each level and where you can work is key to making sensible future plans.
The BASI level 1 qualifies you to work on dry ski slopes and at indoor centres in the UK. In some countries across the globe where there is no legal requirement for ski instructors to hold a formal qualification then you may find that you are able to get employment there too.
With your BASI level 2 qualification you are able to teach in a mountain environment on marked runs. This qualification is very well recognised and the only country you can not legally work in is France.
Your BASI level 3 qualification also does not qualify you to work in France. It does however earn you your ISIA stamp. With your BASI 3 you are able to teach on and off piste with in the resort boundaries.
Your BASI level 4 qualification is the final part of the puzzle. With your BASI 4 you are able to work in France and teach on and off piste regardless of the resort boundaries. The only limitation is you can not guide people off piste on glaciated terrain. This privilege is reserved for high mountain guides only.
What do you need to get started?
To start to get a foothold in the competitive world of ski instruction you really need your BASI 2 at least. With your BASI 2 you will easily be able to find work during the peak weeks of the season and support yourself as you continue through the season. However in order to make a career out of ski instruction you really need to be thinking about achieving your ISIA.