Ski instructor: a job that allows you to share your love of skiing, the mountains and the great outdoors

13th January 2023

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If you are dreaming of a seasonal job unlike any other, you’re passionate about snow sports and sharing wonderful wintery experiences with all kinds of different people, as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the mountains and nature – ski instructor could be the job for you! But how does one go about becoming an instructor? We’ll tell you.…

In the 1890’s, a Frenchman named Henri Duhamel from Grenoble created 1.85m skis with a unique binding system. Then he founded the Ski Club des Alpes. In the early 1900’s, alpine game hunters used skis to get around as fast as the animals and 1903 the first ski school was opened in Briançon by the French war minister. Skiing became increasingly popular with the locals and the first official competitions were held in Chamonix 1908.
The tourism industry in the mountains started in the oldest of the high altitude villages which were only accessible by train. The mountains became known as a place for sport and relaxation with the popularisation of thermal treatments and health spas. Skiing as we know it today came into its own in the short calm between the two world wars.
In the 30s, resorts started building the very first ski lifts and the Fédération Française de ski took charge of training the instructors and created the first national ski school (which later became the l’ENSA (National School of Skiing and Mountaineering).
Between 1950 and 1970 the economy was booming and the towns invested in ‘plan snow cover’ the initiative that started transforming untouched parts of the mountain into the ski resorts we know today. The excitement and hype about skiing peaked in 1968 when the Olympic games were held in Grenoble.

Alpine skiing became the new craze and hoards of tourists flocked to the mountains for high class holidays. Being a ski instructor was suddenly a very desirable position as they were in such high demand. At first it was only the locals who could train intensely enough to achieve the high technical level needed to be an instructor but soon people from further down the valley began taking an interest and today there are instructors from all over Europe.

The main objective is, of course, to teach skiing and snowboarding to children and adults alike. To be able to take them from beginners to advanced levels either in private lessons or as part of a group.

You’ll need to meet a few criteria:
– To be a good teacher
– To be able to adapt to all types of student
– To be attentive to the needs of the student
– To be patient, empathetic, encouraging and a good motivator
– To be able to juge the abilities of your student and adapt your lesson accordingly
– To inspire trust and be reassuring
– To be able to handle a group and make quick decisions
– To know your surroundings by heart
– To help your students create fantastic memories

Some instructors go even further with specialised qualifications :
You can specialise in teaching students with physical or mental disabilities
You can also train to be able to take groups off-piste, ski touring and cross-country skiing
To find out more about the different offers for instructors, click here.

Yann Johnson, one of our best Arc Aventures by Evolution 2 instructors, shares his thoughts about his experience:
«I was born in the mountains and probably learned to ski before I could walk, becoming an instructor was the obvious choice. I am 40 now and have been an instructor for 17 years. Whether I’m teaching individuals or groups, beginners or advanced skiers, adults or children, everyone is looking for a personal and unique experience. They trust us to be able to give them those unforgettable moments. Skiing combines so many elements; fun, adrénaline, respect, skill and freedom – it allows us to experience intense emotions in a vast winter playground that is constantly changing. I love this job because it demands that you constantly adapt to the needs of your students and share in their moments of triumph and failure alike. In return, I get to experience their cries of joy and their pride when they achieve their personal goals.
Snowboarding, telemark skiing and ski touring, all the alternatives to alpine skiing and brings their share of surprises and fun. Doing something you love in a breathtaking setting, what could be better?»

Today the instructors have to adapt to an ever changing landscape of winter seasons. Their equipment is constantly being updated, the resorts are always growing and looking for innovative ways to become more eco friendly and climate change means no two winters are the same. Winter seasons are 5 or 6 months long depending on the resort so instructors can’t hold year-round positions, most of them live locally and have a completely different job for the summer. Lots are artisans, and others switch to summer mountain sports as guides for hiking, rafting, downhill mountain biking and paragliding. You have to have a diverse field of interest to keep busy all year round in the mountains!

First you must join the ENSA (National School of Skiing and Mountaineering) in Chamonix and follow their unique training course. All the instructors in France have to get this qualification, regardless of their choice to join a ski school or stay independent. It is one of the most vigorous and demanding courses in the world and is the only one that strictly focuses on skiing and snowboarding. The course covers a wide and varied range of technical evaluations of your personal skill level (you’ve got to be fast down the slalom slope!) and teacher training. Trainee instructors can chose to alternate course terms and internships in a ski school to get some real-life experience. The whole training process takes between 4 and 8 years and the trainee has to organise their own enrollment and test schedule.
Once you have got the ‘État national de moniteur de ski alpin’ (National Diploma of Alpine Ski Instructor) you’ll be assigned your personal medal. Each medal is comes with a unique number e.g. Instructor n° 1 in 1937 was Emile Allais.

A few of the newly qualified instructors decide to work independently. This means that they have to organise everything from booking customers, to running their schedule and insuring themselves in case of accidents and injuries. Most chose to join a ski school where a team deals with all the admin of scheduling, booking and payment for them.
A ski school is a group of self-employed workers who pool their means together for a better quality of teaching and organisation.
There are many other pros to working as a team:
– Working with instructors from all over France and the rest of Europe
– Working with a team in a friendly, fun atmosphere
– Each instructor upholding the values of their ski school
– Being part of a larger ‘ski resort’ community of instructors
– Being able to follow the longterm progress of students for example watching a 3 year old start off in the snow garden and seeing them every year until they are in the competition level
– Sharing the joy of skiing as a team in this magical setting.

Now you know everything about this wonderful job!

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