The Independent Parent: Where can our son learn to be a ski instructor?

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Q. Our son, who is a good skier and will be 18 in November, wants to do an intensive residential ski-instructor course either in Europe, Canada or the US this winter during his gap year.

Q. Our son, who is a good skier and will be 18 in November, wants to do an intensive residential ski-instructor course either in Europe, Canada or the US this winter during his gap year. Can you suggest reputable organisations? We know some expensive ones, but have heard that others might be able to offer both work placement and instructor training.
V Pettit, via e-mail

A. Alas, you're right - intensive residential courses for ski-instructors do tend to be very dear. To answer your second query, the chance of combining a work placement with instructor training is rare, if not almost impossible.

Training to become a ski instructor is fun, but intense. Students are immersed in all aspects of snow sports and must be highly motivated to achieve the final qualification. Due to the expense and dedication required, it's not something to opt for on a whim.If your son is hoping for a less pressurised break between A-levels and university, he might consider working a ski season as a financially viable alternative. Though, inevitably, this still requires hard work, it is less goal-focused.

Plenty of courses that lead to a ski-instructor qualification in one season are available. But ski certification is a tricky business. For example, some resorts in France demand extra skills, while the Professional Ski Instructors of America - PSIA Level One (of four) and the Canadian Ski Instructors Association - CSIA Level One (of four) are not considered advanced enough to find a teaching job in France, Switzerland or New Zealand. Your son should look only at courses that lead to quailifications recognised by the International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA; 00 41 31 810 4111; www.isiaski.org), the umbrella organisation for snowsport instructors.

The basic qualification of the British Association of Snowsport Instructors or BASI (01479 861717; www.basi.org.uk) is the minimum UK qualification needed to teach on snow. It is widely accepted in Europe, but may not be acceptable in parts of the US and Canada. BASI offers 10-week, specifically targeted "gap-year" courses starting from £6,000. These take place in various locations in Europe and the US, including Courchevel, Tignes, Val D'Isere, Soldeu, Zermatt, Pila and Vail. Prices include flights, accommodation with evening meals, and a ski pass giving unlimited use of the slopes.

If your son reaches the required standard, he will become an official "BASI Ski Instructor". An initial pre-selection process comprises a two-hour session at one of several dry-ski slopes in the UK. These sessions take place from now until the end of October.

Several private companies offer training. The International Academy (02920 672500; www.international-academy.com/skiboard/index.htm) has courses in North America, Chile and New Zealand. Prices from £5,250 to £6,950. Or try the Base Camp Group (01403 820899; www.basecampgroup.com) which has courses in Europe and Canada from £5,545 to £6,495.

The book Working in Ski Resorts: Europe and North America by Victoria Pybus (Vacation Work, £11.95), is an excellent source of information for winter-sports work, from chalet cook to ski or snowboard instructor.

Send your family travel questions to The Independent Parent, Travel Desk, The Independent, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS or e-mail crusoe@-independent.co.uk

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