I was extremely fortunate to spend my 20’s as a Ski Instructor. I spent a decade travelling back and forth between Buller and the USA, with 200+ days on snow per year, 4 months off work in between seasons. I found myself skiing all over the mountain with some of Buller’s hottest young rippers, and Captains of Wall Street on Deer Valley’s manicured freeways. Time off meant chest-deep Utah powder and access to the best teachers in the land to work on my skiing.
It was an experience that I found particularly rewarding, and learned many priceless life skills along the way.
As we head into June the thought of the Endless Winter is no doubt occupying the minds of disaffected corporate workers, recent graduates & early retirees across the country. The thought of packing it all in and heading up to the snow is too much temptation for some!
So, where to start?
Historically there were 2 paths to entry – either sign up for the Instructor Training Clinic at the Ski School of your choice, or obtain a certification overseas. Until recently the Australian APSI certification was only available to instructors that were already employed at an Australian Ski School, with the only other choice being a program like the now defunct Mike Dempsey, YES, Canadian Ski Quest or SLAP.. These programs would assist you in obtaining the entry level Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) or Austrian certification without being employed at a Ski School, however the downside was usually the cost as they require an airfare and a lengthy overseas stay. However the positive was fantastic training and skiing at some of the best overseas locations.
The resorts still run their Instructor Training Clinics as per previous:
However in recent years the APSI structure has changed to allow anyone to participate in a preparation course and obtain their Level 1 Certification. Perisher and Thredbo are 2 such resorts that are hosting programs that allow this, with successful candidates being offered access to potential employment. In addition to the minimum 3 day APSI Level 1 Curriculum and 1 day Exam, these programs include preparatory training to work on your skills and maximise your chances.
I contacted Matt Smith, one of my former colleagues who is a Senior APSI Examiner and in charge of the Elite Ski Instructor program at Thredbo and asked him to give some advice for potential candidates:
What we are looking for on the SAD:(Skier Assessment Day)
- Can they ski to a good level?
- Can they interact with the other candidates and managers
- Do they take direction well?
- Are they punctual?
- Are they well groomed and don’t look like a fishing lure with 18000 piercings?
- Can they wear a uniform or is it a one man fashion statement?
- Leave the head phones at home!
Certification is the key to a career teaching skiing. It is the only means of getting off the beginner slopes and into the powder, away from the toddlers and with the rippers. Most International certifications are recognised in Australia but the domestic system is the best suited to locals. I recognised from very early in my career that it was something to focus my energies on, and was rewarded with my Level 3 (Now called Level 4) Certification and subsequently became an APSI Trainer & Examiner. It was not a simple process but it allowed me the freedom to enjoy the very best the profession has to offer.
It is also these certifications that allow you to apply for overseas employment so you can pursue your career year round. APSI Certifications are of a particularly high standard and highly recognised world wide.
I spoke to my old Boss, Andrew Rae, who is the National Training Co-Ordinator with APSI and he offered the following advice:
There are some great courses around and one of the options is to do a four day course with the Australian Professional Snow Sport Instructors (APSI). The APSI has been the official training and certifying body for snow sports instructors for over 35 years in Australia and is an internationally recognised and respected organisation.
Two years ago the APSI opened up their courses to the general public to provide a “foot in” to the snow industry. If you can cruise around a blue slope and have a passion for people – then this could be the job for you.
The APSI runs Level One qualification courses in alpine, snowboard and nordic several times throughout the season in both NSW and Victoria. You get to ski or ride with the best trainers in Australia for four days and get assessed on the last day.
Your Level One will be recognised by any snow sport school in Australia or overseas and means that you can start work, enjoy the season and even prepare to move up the ladder with other exams in your first year.
Level One ski courses are now also available in Japan each year. Go to www.apsi.net.au or call (02) 64561255
My own advice is that you don’t need to be the hottest skier on the mountain, what is regarded as most important is a friendly demeanour, patience and good communication skills. In fact when I conducted Instructor Training Clinics over the years it was not at all unusual for the best skiers to be overlooked if their personalities were not up to scratch.
So now all you need to do is pick up the phone, book in to a course or register with a Ski School, turn up with a smile and a positive attitude, and you could find yourself embarking on a great career and a wonderful lifestyle.