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Ski instructor certification: questions
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Updated 6 months ago
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3 years ago

Is anyone here a PSIA certified ski instructor?  I’m trying to understand the process, and it seems like you can’t take the level 1 exam unless you are employed by a ski school already…which seems a bit counterintuitive.  Is that an absolute requirement?

3 years ago

I did it over a period of a few years…it IS a commitment. I took my exam at Bromley, VT. As I recall the test is in 3 parts: your skiing skill, teaching skill, and written. I remember staring at the ceiling in the hotel all nite going over everything! LOL All the teaching elements were throw in a helmet and each person picked one out - then had to “teach” that to the rest. So you had to be prepared for EVERYTHING. We also rode the lift with the Certifier and were to critique all the skiers we passed on how to improve their skiing.

To become a Registered member, you must be at least 16 years old, be affiliated with a PSIA-E/AASI recognized snowsports school, and have completed 25 hours of training and teaching, as confirmed by your ski/snowboard school’s director or approved trainer.


To become a Registered member of PSIA-E/AASI (Eastern Division), the requirements are:

  1. Be an active employee of a snowsports school that conducts a regular program of instructor education and training and/or be a member of a PSIA-E/AASI recognized snowsports school.
  2. Complete 25 hours of combined in-house training and actual on hill teaching, as attested to by the snowsports school director. The training should include areas of skill and knowledge addressed in the American Teaching System.
  3. Be 16 years of age or older, at time of application.
  4. Complete a new member application and pay dues to the Association.

To remain a Registered member in good standing, it is your responsibility to:

  1. Pay dues on an annual basis (July 1 through June 30).
  2. Participate in an applicable event or exam the season you join or the following season, and a minimum of every 2 seasons thereafter, once you are a Certified member.

When you choose to pursue your Level I Certification in your chosen discipline, you must meet the following requirements:

For all disciplines:

  1. You must be a Registered member.
  2. You should prepare by reading the exam guide specific to your discipline as well as the Core Concepts manual. The Core Concepts manual can be purchased in the Eastern Division Pro Shop/Bookstore.
  3. You must fill out and submit an Event Application prior to the published event deadline.

To participate in Alpine Level I Certification:

* You must complete a minimum of 50 hours of combined in-house training and actual on-hill teaching, as attested to by your snowsports school director. Your initial 25 hours which were attained to become a Registered Member can be applied to this total of 50 hours.

3 years ago

So if you have no experience instructing, you find a school willing to hire you and then fit this process in somehow?

3 years ago

Exactly. Also you have to attend their instructor training. I had to drive up to Whitetail Wed nites for that. In addition, some mountains want you to go thru their specific training. I spent a week at Killington to go thru theirs for teaching there. Except for the “British Invasion”…LOL LOL…but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

3 years ago

Ok thanks.  Any advice on where I could look to locally to get hired?

3 years ago

Pick a resort you are able to spend a lot A LOT of time at….weekend mornings, and perhaps night time classes. Just getting your hours in will take some time. ‘Course this is just for the fun of it…no $$$ worth mentioning. You need many years at one resort to have the seniority there to pick up private lessons. LOL If you can herd a bunch of cats on ice, you’ll have an idea of 7 seven-year-olds heading in 7 directions! If there is any $$$ it’s in tips and gifts. I still wear a nice Northstar sweatshirt from a couple that had me to do a full day with their kid so they could go off and …

3 years ago

It is a little chicken/egg, but the bootstrap is that hills take on non-certified folks, teach them enough to cover the kids and bus-group clinics, and expect you to keep learning and improving by working with the certified folks, taking clinics, etc.  Thus they grow their own cadre of instructors, freeing the senior people to give private lessons and dev groups.

My understanding, from friends who instruct at Liberty (I too am considering starating the path):

3-day in-house course (1 x class in early Nov, 2 x snow once they open). If you complete that and demonstrate some level of competence (a little subjective) in skiing and teaching, they will usually offer you a position.  Then you start working on your hours as you teach the kid clinics and bus groups- usually in concert with a certified instructor, and take clinics & in-house classroom training from the other instructors, sometimes during the week.  If you don’t get L1 by end of the 2nd season, you probably aren’t going to get invited back for a 3rd.  I think they expect a minimum of 8 weekends working each season, working at least 3-4 clinics/lessons per day.

They almost prefer you to NOT be that advanced of a skier, to make it easier to teach you the “orthodox” methods; i.e. you have fewer bad habits to break and re-train you :)  

3 years ago

True. Even being PSIA certified, Killington still had it’s own “method”.

@skinavy offers some insight into the quality of instruction you encounter when you sign up for group lessons. But then…never-evers don’t really require a Level 3 instructor !

3 years ago

I think that early October is the time you can start calling contacting resorts in your area to ask about their new instructor training programs.  Like others said, you will probably have to attend weekend and weeknight classes and clinics for several weeks before the snow even starts to blow.  When I did it we had to PAY for this training in advance and only the people actually hired out of the pool got reimbursed for the funds we paid up front for the training.  When I did it fifty people started the training program and about ten of us got hired.  Your odds are better the farther from a major metro area that you go and try out.

3 years ago

PA’s 7 Springs and probably Hidden Valley  begin hiring clinics as soon as they get snow down and a lift running. This will take place all day on weekends at the end of which you should be able to teach a first time ever ski lesson probably the week before Christmas during the Asian invasion. All of this training will count to your PSIA L1. You’ve got to be really awful to not get hired. You will not stay hired long if you don’t show up for work on scheduled days minimum 3 days and an evening. You will earn enough clinic teaching hours by the end of your first season to take the L1 exam. Seven Springs hosts a lot of PSIA exams and clinic. When you get your pin, you get a modest raise. You will make enough money to pay for dues and the exam.

3 years ago

Seems the big benefit is that as one gains time with a mountain, they get more family season passes and comps (beyond your own).  Which is the real reason behind a lot of parents teaching- family skis free?!

3 years ago

Does anyone have any particular information on time requirements for each mountain?  I tried to kind of ask around on Facebook but didn’t get specific info.

3 years ago

I’ve instructed at both Snowshoe and Timberline and am a level II cert. The process requires you to be a employed as an instructor since your ski school director must sign the registration form.  You must have taught a certain number of lessons/hours and to do that you have to be hired and go through the mountain’s protocal/training before teaching which is mostly for liability purposes.  Most new instructors generally teach a year before going through the level I exam process.  I’m a trainer at T-line and work with numerous candidates to attain their level I.  We train them in demos to properly teach level 1 through 3 skiers.  A level I certification also means the candidate skis parallel  on blue terrain.  We also train candidates in personal skiing to make sure they ski at the level required before checking them off for the exam.  It sounds difficult but isn’t if you are on snow frequently and can communicate to the student or in the exam process, the examiner.  Level I Cert takes a two day exam on snow.  Level II takes a lot more training and has three parts;  on line exam, skiing and teaching.  You must pass the skiing before taking the teaching exam.  It also requires passing a children’s component which is a prerequisite to beginning the exam process. The final level is Full Certification at level III and is even more involved and requires expert skiing ability on all surfaces in all conditions.  

Probably too much info but I enjoyed the process and recommend anyone who has the desire to do it.  

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
3 years ago

hoyadrew wrote:

Does anyone have any particular information on time requirements for each mountain?  I tried to kind of ask around on Facebook but didn’t get specific info.

It varies by ski school.  During the first season when you are training, need to be able to commit a pretty big chunk of time in Dec, including during the holidays.  Need to be available on the holiday weekends as well.

In general, what a ski school is looking for is someone with good people skills, an interest in teaching beginners and advanced intermediates, and a commitment for the season.  Training is going to get off to a slow start because of the warm weather.  You might as well make some phone calls to find out details for the places that are of interest.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
3 years ago

skinavy wrote:

Seems the big benefit is that as one gains time with a mountain, they get more family season passes and comps (beyond your own).  Which is the real reason behind a lot of parents teaching- family skis free?!

There are many benefits.  On my son’s approximately five year journey from never instructing to PSIA Level III during his teen years and early 20s he claims he gained a lot of people skills that transferred well to his off-slope career.  But the big one for him was a tremendous improvement in his personal skiing from all the “free” training and clinics he did, and just getting in tons of slope time.  Like they say, you never learn something as well as when you have to teach it to others. 

3 years ago

hoyadrew wrote:

Does anyone have any particular information on time requirements for each mountain?  I tried to kind of ask around on Facebook but didn’t get specific info.

Are you thinking about this for next season? I teach at Timberline and it will take on average four or five days working off and on snow to complete our New Instructor Training program. Their are 20ish modules you must be signed off on before you go on payroll and are allowed to lead a lesson solo. Once you are on the payroll 14 days attendance is the minimum time committment to keep the Director happy, well sometimes he is happy ;), sometimes he is just Bobby and that is just as good as happy :=) 

3 years ago

I am a PSIA level 1 at Whitetail.. I will echo what the other instructors say on here that it is as much about the time commitment as the skiing ability.  Whitetail asks for at least 19 days or evenings, which in a normal year is very easy to get.  If you are open to learning and fairly solid intermidate skier already that is about all it will take to get on at most of the mountains around here.  

I know they have already had the Fall ITC but I am fairly certain if you emailed the ski school they might work with you.  There is also a Spring ITC if you were interested in instructing next year.  

3 years ago

Yeah, I do need to just call some of the mountains.  Basically, I’m just not sure about my ability to get to some of the further mountains (which are more appealing to me) from DC without completely exhausting myself (I work for the federal government here in DC full time).  I don’t suppose they have lodging for instructors staying overnight eh?  My ultimate goal is to get certified and be able to take a year off in a few years and teach overseas in the Alps or NZ or somewhere.

3 years ago

I’m pretty sure Snowshoe has not begun their instructor training so far this year. If you want to find out more about it (specific to this mountain obviously) the person to talk to would be: Jen Shannon, Director of Ski and Ride Schools. 304-572-5402. JShannon@snowwshoemountain.com. 

3 years ago

Don’t quote me on this but I believe it helps your chances a lot if you are full cert (PSIA level 3) to be considered at many of the resorts in the Alps. There was an instructor at Whitetail who achieved level 3 status in 2 or 3 years so they could go teach in Europe.  From my understanding the pathway to becoming an instructor over there is much more difficult even at the lower levels.  

3 years ago

Well I guess I’ve got time eh?  I have lived in DC for 12 years and am reaching my limit for continuing to want to stay here but I have a decent job so trying to stretch it out a bit and save some money and then hopefully be able to take some time.  We will see.

3 years ago

I have a season pass at Snowshoe this year so am debating if I’d want to teach there.  The being able to stay overnight would basically be a requirement for Snowshoe given the distance.  But if I had to instruct somewhere else, I doubt I’d have much time to actually ski at Snowshoe.  The pass already paid for itself last March though, so getting the most out of it isn’t really a consideration I guess.

3 years ago
Hoya just to add a little reality to the conversation if it is true that you need to be a level 3 to get hired in Europe it is almost impossible to reach that level in 3-4 years unless you are a top expert skier to begin with. That would be a necessary but not sufficient condition. PS - Bobby’s always happy.
3 years ago

Just to add some more reality on top of TomH’s: IF you are retired (more time then money), Own a place at Snowshoe (7 years), AND they pick YOU for a job over any Locals … maybe. One advantage over SS locals would be, as Owner/Occupant = walk to work! Not encumbered by weather (that drive THAT DRIVE up & down the mtn.). Though they hire Guest Workers from Abroad and house them. I doubt you’ll be able to “stay overnite” at SS … may run in to 3-nite minimums.

And for a Euro job…compete against every European skier that wants that same job.

You can dream-the-dream…but re reality - I moved to Orlando! LOL

3 years ago

Timberline does a pretty good job finding lodging for instructors who need it.  

3 years ago

Adding more reality.

Most instructors will never reach level 3. Even with a lot of trying.

I don’t know if it is needed to teach in Europe, but I have also heard that the European requirements are much, much more stringent for instructors, guides, etc.

3 years ago

And having done maybe more Euro-sking then American resorts…I have the impression…unless you are fluent in German and French…they may be more likely to hire a local then an American. The Engilsh-speaking there…come HERE! LOL LOL LOL Ask anyone about Killingtons’ “British Invasion”! I think maybe the “dream” of being a certified ski instructor in Europe may be met by the alarm clock going off! LOL LOL

And yes… Level-3…seems to be more for the Head of the resort ski school…not a weekend instructor.

3 years ago

Just give it a try for a year.  Pick a mountain and hook up with a couple of instructors and pick their brains for the best course of action.  One thing for certain, you will need to go the PSIA route to get the necessary training at mountain clinics or at training sessions that cost you out of pocket. I’ve been a property owner at Timberline for over 20 years and woudn’t trade my time there for anything.  Meet great folks on DC Ski and attend their annual gathering.  Network with folks and observe and ask questions.  One thing for sure, pick a mountain you like to ski before commiting to a ski school there. You have a couple close in at Whitetail, Liberty and Bryce but would you want to work there? Use this season (if it ever starts) as an exploratory opportunity. 

Good luck. 

3 years ago

Mostly just a lurker here, but I know a little about this topic, so just giving my 2 cents.

Essentially, to teach in Europe or any country outside of the USA you have to be a part of ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association), and in order to be a member of ISIA you must be a Level 3 or higher from any of the participating associations. If you are a PSIA level 2 and want to teach in Canada, they will probably acknowledge you have some experience and training behind you (and will want to hire you), but they are not obliged to give you the same pay grade as a CSIA level 2 and may treat you like a brand new instructor.

As far as particular information to teaching this season, you are going to want to get on it quick! If you are thinking of a snowtime resort (Liberty, Whitetail, and Roundtop) here is a short comparison. Liberty has the most training available, on both Sat & Sun you get 2 hours in the morning to train (8 - 10) if you want it and lots of training in the evenings during the week. Whitetail has the most vertical and has a nice highspeed lift, so the skiing is more enjoyable there (unless it’s crazy packed). Roundtop is the smallest and has the closest niche instructors as a result, so you get to know every well. The nice thing about working for one is that you get free lift passes to all three of them. However, that being said I never visited Whitetail or Roundtop in the 2 years I taught for Liberty (too busy).

Here is a link to Liberty’s new instructor info, you are past the deadline, but you could always call and see if they will take you: http://www.libertymountainresort.com/winter-sports-liberty/tickets-packages/lessons-packages/become-instructor

As far as your end goal of teaching overseas, you will almost certainly need the full cert, especially in Europe, and you need the full cert and connections to get a job in Chile or New Zealand (tons of full time instructors compete for those summer jobs). But don’t loose hope, it is possible to get there in only a few years, its just a lot of work! I started the journey back in 2011 as a children’s instructor. That year I got my Level 1 in March of 2011 and just last year in March of 2015 I got my Level 3. Essentially, I would equate the full cert to getting a bachelors degree. It’s not impossible to do, but if you are going to take it one class at a time, it will take you 15 years or more to get there (if you ever get there). It just requires lots and lots of time training, skiing, and teaching. I was always a part time guy myself; however, I spent a good 10 hours a week training or working on technique/studying material, let alone teaching. Getting a level 3 requires you taking 9 exams (7 on snow and 2 written exams), and thats if you pass them all on the first try.

I don’t want to say it’s not doable, and I can attest I was able to do it in a relativity short time frame, but it’s a lot of work. However, you won’t regret it as it will make you a much better skier.

Hopefully some of this was helpful.

-Vince

3 years ago

Vince wrote:

Mostly just a lurker here, but I know a little about this topic, so just giving my 2 cents.

Essentially, to teach in Europe or any country outside of the USA you have to be a part of ISIA (International Ski Instructors Association), and in order to be a member of ISIA you must be a Level 3 or higher from any of the participating associations. If you are a PSIA level 2 and want to teach in Canada, they will probably acknowledge you have some experience and training behind you (and will want to hire you), but they are not obliged to give you the same pay grade as a CSIA level 2 and may treat you like a brand new instructor.

As far as particular information to teaching this season, you are going to want to get on it quick! If you are thinking of a snowtime resort (Liberty, Whitetail, and Roundtop) here is a short comparison. Liberty has the most training available, on both Sat & Sun you get 2 hours in the morning to train (8 - 10) if you want it and lots of training in the evenings during the week. Whitetail has the most vertical and has a nice highspeed lift, so the skiing is more enjoyable there (unless it’s crazy packed). Roundtop is the smallest and has the closest niche instructors as a result, so you get to know every well. The nice thing about working for one is that you get free lift passes to all three of them. However, that being said I never visited Whitetail or Roundtop in the 2 years I taught for Liberty (too busy).

Here is a link to Liberty’s new instructor info, you are past the deadline, but you could always call and see if they will take you: http://www.libertymountainresort.com/winter-sports-liberty/tickets-packages/lessons-packages/become-instructor

As far as your end goal of teaching overseas, you will almost certainly need the full cert, especially in Europe, and you need the full cert and connections to get a job in Chile or New Zealand (tons of full time instructors compete for those summer jobs). But don’t loose hope, it is possible to get there in only a few years, its just a lot of work! I started the journey back in 2011 as a children’s instructor. That year I got my Level 1 in March of 2011 and just last year in March of 2015 I got my Level 3. Essentially, I would equate the full cert to getting a bachelors degree. It’s not impossible to do, but if you are going to take it one class at a time, it will take you 15 years or more to get there (if you ever get there). It just requires lots and lots of time training, skiing, and teaching. I was always a part time guy myself; however, I spent a good 10 hours a week training or working on technique/studying material, let alone teaching. Getting a level 3 requires you taking 9 exams (7 on snow and 2 written exams), and thats if you pass them all on the first try.

I don’t want to say it’s not doable, and I can attest I was able to do it in a relativity short time frame, but it’s a lot of work. However, you won’t regret it as it will make you a much better skier.

Hopefully some of this was helpful.

-Vince

What he said.  He started the process at the same time I did and he completd level III when I completed level II.  Vince is an exception to the rule in that he is young, bright, and had the support of family to pursue his dream.  He has stated it as it is and he would be a terrific resource for the PSIA journey.  He’s been there, done that and owns the t-shirt.  

3 years ago

To the OP, give it a try, but set expectations accordingly. There is tons of excellent advice on this thread.

I’ve skied with Vince, KWill, Jimmy, TomH, JimK, CG, Marz, LHC.

Vince is the exception to the rule. He got real good real quick. Maybe 1 in 100 can do that.

3 years ago

snow.buck wrote:

And yes… Level-3…seems to be more for the Head of the resort ski school…not a weekend instructor.

FWIW - I made level 3 working as a weekend instructor. It’s doable. I know have a full time job teaching at a Park Cty resort (the other one), with a little bit of extra pay and better lesson assignments. I have to say that PSIA certification is generally not worth the expense unless you are teaching full time at a destinaton resort. If you are teaching more for the love of the sport than the compensation, the main benefit of certification is that it provides a road map for becoming a more skilled teacher as well as improving the technical aspects of your skiing. You can most certainly do these things on your own at a far lower expense. In my experience teaching as hobby that I could afford, PSIA certification helped me “get there” much faster than trying to do it on my own.

The reason PSIA asks that you have a job as an instructor before getting certified is the belief that having expreience is an essential component for claiming a mastery of ski teaching (my own interpretation). Another big reason is that the main reason people fail the entry level certification is lack of experience, but the pass rate for Level 1 is over 90% so this is not a big deal. The Canadian instructor organization (CSIA) does it the opposite way. In Canada, you get certified by CSIA before you get a job teaching (unless you’ve taught before). There are 9 divisions of PSIA that act as separate organizations and have slightly different membership and certification processes. When you join PSIA you are actually joining 2 organizations: a divisional organization (e.g. PSIA-Eastern) and the national PSIA organization. Some divisions allow unaffiliated people (i.e. not having a job with a school) to join as registered members. This allows you to take the training and get discounts, but these perks are so small and level 1 cert is so easy that most people just get level 1 cert.  Level 1 cert is basically just entry into the club. It’s a sign that you are committed to the sport and have started the path toward being a higly skilled instructor. Getting to the point where you have certification that proves you are a highly skilled instructor can be quick (I got my level 2 cert in my second year of teaching) or take many years (I did not get my level until after 15 years of teaching). 

Teaching skiing as a career requires a big life commitment. There are many who have found ways to pull it off, but they are rare in the industry here in the US. Teaching skiing as a hobby interferes a lot with your life outside of your day job. Most people who try teaching don’t last more than a few years. It’s a lot harder than it looks and unless you really love the sport and love helping people, it is just too much work for too little pay. When you join a ski school at a resort you also join a family. When you join PSIA you gain a second, wider family. Teaching is not for everyone, but we’re always looking to add new members to our family. Go for it! We’ll be here to help.

3 years ago

Hey THE RUSTY check this Whitetail Card out. Signed Rusty from 1996. Maybe it was you who taught me. I had a one on one been skiing 30 days a year since. the pic is in my blog. “Nose to Knees”  12/25/1996  just wondering  Now have 570 days on snow. 

Denis - DCSki Supporter
3 years ago

I am teaching this season at Sierra at Tahoe.  Look me up if you get out here.

3 years ago

Denis, What are you teaching?

The colonel

Denis - DCSki Supporter
3 years ago

I’ll be teaching alpine skiing to adults, since I have PSIA level 2 certification.  I’m also level 2 telemark and level 1 cross country.  I’d love to get some tele students but suspect the demand is pretty low.  It will be part time.  Its kind of an experiment for this season.  Full time would tax my ever declining stamina to the point where the students would not be getting their money’s worth.  Friends have occasionally told me they’d like an instructor who is as old as they are.  I believe that I can do a good job with that demographic, if the demand is there.  

3 years ago

Thanks a lot everyone for all the advice.  There is clearly a wealth of knowledge in this forum.  I do enjoy teaching a lot; I have no problem teaching first timers at a small mountain.  I got certified as a small boat sailing instructor last summer and am thinking in the longer term of switching careers to teaching (a foreign language most likely).  I speak French actually, which would be helpful in Europe, but I do think that certain parts of the Alps are overrun by Brits (in my experience anyhow).  But I like said, that is well off in the future.

3 years ago

While the OP was understandably interested in teaching and instructing (all the best in that endeavor!)…the wish to be on the snow more often and in a worthwhile manner is what drives many of us to go through the training and ongoing certifications to wear the red coat and the white cross.

…we just start earlier in the day; end later at night; and are on the hill regardless, including those rainy Sunday evenings. Not many ski school jackets those times. ;-) Morning openings with fresh snow balance it all out. As primarily volunteers, we often do get much more generous benefits in family passes, food vouchers, overnight lodging and other home resort discounts. Most hills have a companion Safety team as well, less the Outdoor Emergency Care training and responsibilities.

If curious, here’s the link on more info for our patrol at Whitetail:

http://whitetail-skipatrol.com/index.php?categoryid=9

3 years ago

Fresh Pow,

Thanks for your service!

 

marzNC - DCSki Supporter
6 months ago

BUMP - completely forgot I made a note of this thread, amazing what turns up when looking at old stuff.

Some very good comments for anyone thinking about spending some time as a ski instructor in the Mid-Atlantic.  I know Massanutten is always looking for people who are interested and can put in the training time during the first season.  After that, working fewer hours becomes a possible scenario.

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