How To Become A Snowboard Instructor
If you’re a keen and avid snowboarder and love excelling in the sport, then you have probably considered training to be a qualified snowboard instructor.
For those who are passionate about the snowsport and love to be out on the mountain all day regardless of whether you are on green slopes or exploring the backcountry, then taking that next step to becoming an instructor would be ideal for you.
Although, if you are also the type of person who is impatient, doesn’t enjoy sticking by the book and inconvenienced by beginners, then perhaps just to continue as you are…
We are here for those who want to swap their desk for a board, their dowdy suit for a slick and vibrant snowboard jacket and their office for the mountains, and we’re going to tell you how. Without even trying, we will make you become one of the most recognised, respected and coolest people in the ski resort, with a guarantee of free drinks and a swarm of romantic attention- thank us later.
What You Need to Become a Snowboard Instructor
Before just jumping in and applying for any old instructor course, there are a few things to take into consideration. First and foremost you need to actually be able to snowboard and be pretty confident in your ability. When training, they will break down your boarding and piece it back together again to mould you into the most technically perfect rider. In order to do this, you need to have a certain level of boarding skills before, however, you do not need to be an expert boarder. When actually taking the exam, the teaching element is the most important, but there is a technical ability test you must pass.
Once you are pretty confident your boarding is up to scratch, then you also need to consider where you would like to teach, i.e. is it an English speaking company or will you require a second language. In the Alps, there are English speaking schools where most of the guests are British, so a second language may not be necessary. Most schools are open to all nationalities, so for you to be a desired candidate for a job, then you must be able to speak a second language so you are not limited on who you can teach. This may not be essential if you are just going for a lower level qualification, but for higher levels, then there are second language modules.
It may seem obvious, but you will need half a winter season to get your qualification, around 11- 13 weeks would be needed to dedicate to training full time out in resort. If you are lucky enough to have this time on your hands, then get packing and get yourself out there!
Types of Courses/ Qualifications to Become a Snowboard Instructor
This is the confusing part, which takes a little thought before applying for courses. There are quite a few different types of qualifications and depending on where you are teaching and what level you are aiming to get to, will depend on what course you take. There is the CSIA (Canadian Ski Instructors’ Alliance), BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors), NZSIA (New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance) and PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America). Not to mention the various grades in Sweden, Norway, France, Switzerland, Austria or Italy.
The best qualification for those wanting to teach in the alps, is BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instruction), which has 4 levels. Level 1, you can get within a matter of weeks but you can only teach on dry slopes or indoor slopes. Once you have BASI 1 and 35 hours of snowsports school experience, you can go onto to do BASI 2 once, where you can teach as part of a snowsports school.
You can then go on to become BASI level 3 and level 4 ISTD, which require hundreds of logged hours actually teaching, language tests, written projects, mountain safety courses and competitions. Although, getting to these higher levels can take up to 4 years and are intense (and expensive), once you are at this level you can teach anywhere around the world (except France)and command a higher salary. By the end of it all, you will be multi-lingual, a ski instructor and of course one of the best boarders in the resort- that makes you pretty cool, we think.
We thought it would be helpful to mention, that to teach in France there are extra requirements to be fully qualified. If you are wanting to teach there, then you may want to take this into consideration and it may take longer than working elsewhere. In France, they only accept European qualifications and you must have done levels 1, 2 and 3 before they consider taking you on to do level 4. Only once you have qualified as a ski and snowboard instructor at level 4 ISTD, can you actually teach in France.
What Actually Happens on the Snowboard Instructor Course
Once you have got yourself on a course, met your new buddies and ready to jump on the board, this is what you can expect from most BASI 1 and 2 courses. As mentioned it will take around 11 weeks, with 190 hours of coaching, and 70 hours for the exams and shadowing in a school. You will be training for around 20 hours a week with constant guidance from level 4 ISTD qualified instructors.
Once you have done your training, you will take the exams which are usually included as part of your course fees. You will take the level 1 exam and if you pass you go straight onto training for level 2, so there is no rest for the wicked! There is no guarantee you will pass though, and if you don’t pass you will have to retake the course again (and yes that means pay for it again).
The best part is, as with most courses you will get your accommodation, season lift pass and sometimes even food and social budgets, so you can make the most of your time in the mountains. You will be surrounded by like-minded boarders, all out there to have fun and learn, so it doesn’t have to be all work work work. The true meaning of work hard- play hard.
Once you have qualified as a Snowboard Instructor
Once you have qualified to level 2 and actually passed your exams, then you are ready to get yourself out there to work and earn some dollar bills. Depending on what level course you have done, will depend on how long the course takes and therefore how much of the season you actually have left to teach.
Most courses will support and help you get a job at a ski school, but unfortunately, that doesn’t secure a position. Its a dog eat dog world out there, and highly competitive so that’s why we suggest having multiple languages tucked away and be able to ski instruct as well.
The competitive nature of the work means you may need to apply for jobs in other resorts and relocate there mid-season. Apply for them like you would any other job, with a solid CV, a charismatic personality and a winning smile.
If you are working in France and have their highest qualification, you can expect to get around 65 euros per hour, which is a great rate to fund your apres ski and expensive goggle lifestyle. It is, however, the most you can expect and as salaries average around 20 to 30 euros an hour in other countries. As said before, the more experience, skills and how flexible you are to teach any sort of guests, the more work you will get. It can be a tough life for instructors because you aren’t guaranteed work every day, and can work on 0 hours contract, so you only get paid when you teach. Be prepared to work a hell of a lot in peak season to then enjoy and make the most of the downtime, in low season.
It may seem like a lot of hard work to become a snowboard instructor and a lot of time, money, effort with no guarantee you will pass or get a job, but it is so worth it! You will develop skills that will last you a lifetime and force you to drive your snowboarding to the next level! You will also have the joy of being able to impart your knowledge and passion on to others and see the pride on their faces when they achieve their goals. This is all whilst you get to spend your working day out in the mountains, strapped to your board and doing something you love!
There are so many snowboard schools, courses and opportunities out there for snowboard instructors, it makes no sense to waste precious time sat behind your desk writing emails to angry bosses. Get out there and start your career as an instructor and see how your life will change!