So you have made up your mind, you know what you want to do for your gap year. You have whittled it down from trekking across South America and finding yourself in Nepal to doing a ski instructor course. What next though? You probably googled ski instructor courses which was sort of useful, you now know they run and that there are lots to choose from. Which course is best though and at what time of year, which provider and where?
We think this is the most important part of your decision. Different providers all have slightly different unique selling points and they all have a slightly different culture too. When it comes to the unique selling points just be clear on what it is you want from the course and find the provider that best fits your needs. If your main goal is to ski and explore then make sure your provider offers small training groups and full area passes and so on. As for the culture of the provider just spend some time talking to them and asking questions. If you can try and meet up with some of their coaches or talk to past students. How past students found the course is always a great indicator.
Price is not everything
Regardless of where you sit your ski instructor course every provider has pretty similar costs and overheads. If a course seems ridiculously cheap it may be to good to be true. Make sure you double check what is included, it may be that exam costs are not included, it is self catered or you are on a triple bunk. They are real.
Where you go for your gap year ski instructor course can have a big impact on your season. One of the common questions we are asked is I can not choose between the Americas or Europe, which is better? There is no definitive answer to this it is very much personal opinion and luck. When asked this question we normally look at the qualification you will earn and give advice based on that.
If you are looking at courses in Europe there is a reasonably good chance it will be a BASI qualification you are working towards where as in the Americas it will most likely be PSIA, APSI or CSIA. APSI and CSIA qualifications are of a very high standard and will put you in a good position to find work in Canada or America, unfortunately they are not well recognised in Europe and will never allow you to teach in several European countries. BASI however is recognised in Europe and in Canada/America so gives you greater scope to use your qualification.
What time of year?
The ranges of course available now mean it is pretty much possible to do a ski instructor course at any time of year some where in the world. Given that this is for a gap year though we are going to focus on courses that run in the Northern Hemisphere winter as these generally fit better with exam retakes, uni applications and results day!
There are 3 broad course periods that you will be able to choose from.
Autumn/Preseason – These courses are often run on the high glaciers like Tignes and Sass Fee and are a good way to get you qualification done before the start of the season although the terrain you are skiing may be limited. Beware though because this does not mean you will be able to work consistently for the remainder of the winter and you may even find you need to head home before peak weeks. Ski instructor jobs are sought after things and most people who are qualified will be looking for work as the previous season ends. Even then it can be tough. So when you start looking for work in December it is slim pickings. You will always find work for the peak weeks Christmas, Half term and Easter but make sure you have a plan for the rest of the season. Ski resorts are expensive places to live.
Early Season – These courses more often than not start in the first week of December and continue through to mid feb. Yes you are away over and Christmas but your family can come and visit and a white Christmas makes a nice change. These courses are designed to make the most of the season and lead perfectly into the busy half term weeks where finding work is easier than not. It is after the half term period when your course has finished though when you may run into the same problems as above. Make sure you have a plan for the period between half term and easter. You accommodation will most likely only be available for the duration of the course. So you will need some where to live and enough money to get by.
High Season – This is the classic programme and runs from just after New Year through to mid March. With this set up you do miss the start of the season however you are also safe in the knowledge that you will be out for the 3 best snow months of the year. These courses often lead up to the busy Easter holidays at which point provided all has gone to plan you should again be able to find work and spend the remainder of the winter in the snow.