Choosing the right ski/snowboard instructor qualification

Nobody is going to employ you to teach people how to ski or snowboard, unless you have a professional qualification, but with no internationally recognised qualification, and so many different versions, which one should you choose. First of all, the overseeing international body is called the International Ski Instructors Association ISIA. They set the standards for each of the thirty nine member countries when it comes to national instructor training courses and exams. So while you will see acronyms like BASI and NZSIA, it is worth remembering that they are all approved by ISIA.



Great, so it doesn't matter which I take, they are all the same?
No, not quite. While every country should in theory be happy to accept the qualifications of another member country, it doesn't always work like that. Some courses are more widely recognised than others, and in some countries, they prefer you to have their own national qualification, especially if you are going to be teaching in a national skiing school. Unfortunately this makes it more difficult to choose the right training course, because you don't always know in advance in which country you are going to be teaching. You can sometimes mix and match though. Quite often it is possible to take the level one course of one country, and have that be accepted as the entry point for a level two course in a different country. You'll find the progress from one to the other less smooth, but you may end up with a more rounded qualification.

Can I stop at level one?
Well it really depends what you plan to do. Most countries make their level three meet the minimum standards to be recognised as an international qualification, but it is indeed possible to teach with the basic level one course under your belt, in some countries at least. Level two is often seen as the base standard, and with so much competition for jobs, we would advise you to seriously think about getting to level two, and further if you are really serious about making it your career.

So which courses are worth considering and why?
Let's start with our own national qualification offered by the British Association of Snowsport Instructors BASI. BASI courses cover traditional Alpine skiing, and snowboarding, plus a few others that are beyond the remit of this article. As with most countries, for Skiing, the qualifications are split into levels. Level one is the easiest and only covers you for artificial ski slopes, the course is about five days in length. Level two is really the basic minimum if you are looking to go and work a season as it gets you up to a standard where you can teach others on marked pistes. You need to have level one before you can start level two and the level two course lasts ten days. The highest level achievable is 4. Overall, BASI is a good qualification if you want to work in Europe.

The Canada version of the qualification is run by the Canadian Ski Instructors' Alliance CSIA and like the British version, comes in four levels. Level one is an introduction to ski teaching and covers basic ski technique and teaching methods. It's a pretty basic course, but unlike BASI level one, this qualification does allow you to teach on real snow. Level two is a more difficult qualification, but does allow you to teach people up to an intermediate standard. If Canada is on your list of places to teach, you should probably do this qualification.
More details: http://www.snowpro.com/en/programs/certifications

New Zealand is a country sitting on the edge of the Pacific plate, this means big mountains and lots of snow. Consequently the country has a thriving ski industry and the New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance NZSIA offers an internationally recognised qualification. Three basic levels with the lowest, level one, enabling you to teach beginners, and level two means you can teach advanced intermediate skiers.
More details: http://www.nzsia.org/ski/qualifications

The Austrian Association of Skiing Instructors OSSV have a system that includes a basic level called Anwärter, a two tier Landesskilehrer level, and finally Staatlicher. If you really want to teach in Austria then certainly consider this way into teaching. The exam does require a knowledge of German, but nothing too strenuous.

The French system is anything but straight forward and you can forget about it unless you are a very good skier. Rather than follow the rest of the world, the French have chosen a much more strict set of requirements before they will allow you to teach in their resorts. For a start you have to complete a demanding slalom course, and if you choose the BASI route, then you need their top level four qualification. It is not impossible to work in France, but it is not easy.

Others
The US system is covered by the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA)
More details: http://www.thesnowpros.org/index.php/PSIA-AASI/professional-education/the-system

And in Italy, the Association of Italian Ski Instructors AMSI
More details: http://www.amsi.it/en

How does it work if you want to teach snowboarding?
As already mentioned, you need a similar style qualification to the alpine skiers, with level one covering you for basic skiing and more advanced qualifications required to take on the lessons for more competent snowboarders. Each country has its own interpretation of the ISIA standards, but all will improve your teaching experience and your technical riding abilities.

British Association of Snowsport Instructors BASI offer snowboarding instructor qualifications on the same basis as their alpine skiing. Level one being suitable only for artificial slopes, and level two allowing you to teach people to make basic turns.

The Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors CASI starts at level one, during which you are assessed on your riding and teaching techniques. Stepping it up to level two, you have to be confident on intermediate to advanced terrain.
More details: http://www.casi-acms.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=75&Itemid=120&lang=en

Snowboard Instruction New Zealand SBINZ, as with their ski version, sets out three levels of qualification progressing from beginners to more advanced snowboarders.
More details: http://www.nzsia.org/snowboard

How can I find companies offering these qualifications?
Remember, even if you were to take the same course with two different companies, they could be quite different, both in the time they take to complete, and in what they cover. Make sure you are signing up for a course that appeals to you, read through the details and don't be afraid to ask questions. If the above has whetted your appetite to find out more about taking a professional qualification and becoming an instructor, click through to our courses page, where we list the best providers for each qualification.



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