I finally pulled the plug and qualified as a Ski Instructor. This was an amazing course, one that I can heartily recommend.
When I announced my new certification to my friends, the feedback was “I thought you were an instructor already???” To which I replied, “No, I am just an insufferable know-it-all.” While you can’t downhill, back-country, and cross-country ski without picking up a few tips along the way, having a teaching course to go along with that knowledge is invaluable.
The next question I got was – “Will you teach?” The short answer is no. At least not professionally. In order to teach adults and be really good at it, I would most likely need my Level 2 Ski Instructor. This means I would probably have to teach young kids for a year or two at the local bunny hill. Not my idea of fun. However, I have already used a few tips and tricks to help friends fine-tune their technique.
So, if I’m not going to teach, why did I bother to become a ski instructor? And more to the point, why should you do it?
Reasons to Become a Ski Instructor
- Improve your skiing
This was my main objective. The chance to spend two and half days with a Level Three ski instructor is worth it’s weight in gold. Due to the length of the course, we focused on breaking down our skiing to the very basics, and then built it back up again.
When I was eight years old, I learned how to ski by going to the top of the lift, and then being pushed down. My parents thought that no instruction was necessary when gravity works just fine. I still remember my first day when me and a woman in her 30s were both scared stiff to ski down. We each wanted the other to go first! Needless to say, I picked up a lot of bad habits over the years. This course forced me to find all those bad habits, and then gave me the skills and knowledge to fix them.
- Pro Deal Discounts
Once you are a ski instructor, you have access to the ski equipment deals. This includes everything from skis, boots and bindings to gloves, goggles and clothing. Being able to save up to 50% on ski items is amazing.
I am part of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance, and as long as I pay my yearly dues, I get access to these savings. Other countries will have their own Ski Instructor alliances with similar pro deal discounts.
- Ski Clinics with Level 4 Instructors
Level Four instructors are from another world. They have the ability to look at your skiing and make instant recommendations that will rock your world. Well, your skiing world.
I had a lesson with Level Four Ski Instructor Kyle Armstrong at Lake Louise a few years ago. He made huge improvements in my skiing in just one hour. Imagine what spending an entire day with a Level Four instructor could do. I can’t wait to find out.
- Confidence Booster
Even though I ski double-black diamond terrain at the resorts, and do some crazy scary stuff in the back-country, I am not an overly confident skier. I always felt that I was missing some crucial component, especially skiing in tricky conditions or on super challenging terrain. Having some core basics to always revert to will no doubt save me in the future.
- Improve my Trip Leadership Skills
When I’m leading trips in both summer and winter, I always offer tips on how to navigate an area safely. Whether you know it or not, I’m always evaluating your skills and formulating a plan to help you improve. This is NOT a judgement on you as a person, only on your technique. A big part of the Ski Instructor Course was doing just this – I had to evaluate my partner’s skiing, figure out what they were doing wrong, and then suggest a course of action to fix the problem.
This was NOT easy as the other skiers were already pretty darn good. However, the course provided a focused way to evaluate, formulate a plan, and then teach a skill. This alone is invaluable knowledge for any trip leader.
- Professional Development
Any type of professional development is time and money well spent. As I spend so much time in the outdoors and mountain environment, any and all certifications are valuable. As my husband teases me, I am now a “Professional Know-It-All”.
You might be asking yourself – isn’t this a course for young people? And you’d be right! We were a group of six. The youngest was 15 (!!!) and oldest was maybe 22 years old. Even the instructor was a bit younger than me. So yeah, I was feeling old when I realized my own kids were older than some of these kids.
BUT I did just as well as them physically. Yes, I was tired, but so were they. The 22 year old guy was complaining about his legs being sore, and mine were not. I also probably did a bit better on the instructor side, due to my life experience and confidence. I spent half my time building up the other group members, telling them they were doing great. Don’t let age get in the way.
Where to take your Course?
In every country, there will be a variety of places to take your Level One Ski Instructor course. I had my choice of several large ski resorts in the Canadian Rockies, but I instead chose my local Calgary ski hill called Canada Olympic Park (WinSport). This is where the 1988 Olympics were held for ski jumping and bob sled. It’s like any local bunny hill, jammed pack with kids with no adults in sight, and beginner skiers of all ages.
This was ideal terrain for the Level One course, because the lift tickets were cheap. We only skied green and blue runs, and I didn’t need to spend $120 per day to do that. The hill was littered with poor skiers, which allowed us to see the same mistakes over and over again, and find solutions.
Finally, Level One focuses on teaching beginners and children, which meant we spent several hours on the magic carpet, pretending to be beginners. Being at the bunny hill also meant we had lots of children to observe. It was interesting to see the difference in abilities between a five year old and an eight year old.
I am so thankful I took the Level One Ski Instructor course. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their skiing, or who may actually want to teach. The instructors are top notch, and it is money and time well spent.