Love snow? Being a snowboard or ski instructor is a great way to learn more about your favorite sliding sport as well as gain some experience that will benefit you off the snow as well.
Typically, a ski area, at least in the Twin Cities, will have a training session (or sessions) for new instructors. A current member of the snowsports staff will review several lessons on the snow with students, and then have the students “teach back” the lesson to the group. Don’t be surprised if it’s harder than it sounds. It’s one thing to know how to do something, and another thing to explain and demonstrate it.
Expect some dryland training as well, whether in the classroom, at home in front of a web-based tutorial, or both. New instructors must, of course, be competent skiers or snowboarders, but they don’t have to be experts. The ability to execute the perfect turn is not as important as being able to communicate with customers. If a snowsports school has to pick between an expert snowboarder without social skills and a competent one with social skills, it will take the latter person, every time. At the end of the training period, however long, you’ll find out whether you made the cut.
If you do become an instructor, you’ll get a season pass and an hourly wage. Don’t expect to get rich. For one thing, you’ll have to buy an instructor jacket, probably before you get your first (modest) paycheck. The main benefits of teaching can’t be measured in dollars.
For one thing, you’ll become a better snowboarder or skier. Snowsports schools offer a variety of continuing education classes to their instructors. Some of these will be in how to be a better skier or rider. Other classes will cover how to handle classes of differing abilities, assess student progress, and other topics.
Since they help students learn a sport, instructors gain leadership and other people skills. Being a good instructor means learning how to read people, interact with them, and lead them into new challenges. As you take part of continuing-ed workshops, and gain experience in teaching, you’ll improve on those skills. As you progress, you can seek certification from PSIA/AASI, the industry leaders in instruction.
You’ll end up feeling good about yourself, too. Helping someone learn a lifelong sport is an emotional reward in its own right. Consider it part of your mission to make the world a better place, one person at a time, as you share something that you’re passionate about.
Teachers in a snowsports school often develop a camaraderie with each other. Skiing and riding don’t have to be social sports, but even the most introverted person could use a few more friends.
Here’s the bottom line: If you’re a reasonably good rider or skier who is open to the benefits of teaching, seek out a snowsports school. Even if you don’t stick it out, you’ll learn some things about your favorite sport, and yourself.