No, it’s not as good as being a millionaire, but it is pretty cool, particularly if you love to ski. Liberty Mountain Resort is holding its fall Instructor Training Course beginning in November. Liberty needs ski and snowboard instructors and if you love to ski or ride, it is a great opportunity.
The Instructor Training Course consists of two components. One is an indoor “dry land” training session that covers some of the theories and practice of teaching skiing The indoor session is being held on November 18. The “on snow” portion, which is being held on the December 9 and 10, consists of two days on the mountain. Approximately half of the time is spent on skiing skills and tasks and the other half is spent on the basics of teaching a beginner lesson. If conditions and time permit, there will be video analysis of each skier’s form to determine strengths and weaknesses.
The course is not, for a variety of reasons, free. If you are interested, be prepared to pay a course fee of $75.00 to enroll.
Why become a ski instructor? Ski and snowboard instructors come in all shapes, sizes and ages - from retired three-star generals to college students earning a little extra money and getting a few runs in between classes. Some are super-hot skiers or riders, but more than a few are not. If they have one thing in common it is this - they love to ride or ski. At Liberty, like most smaller mountains in the east, the staff is overwhelmingly part time. So, you can teach skiing and keep your day job - most of us have to and do.
It’s not the money. Trust me. But there are plenty of benefits to being a ski instructor. The one that obviously comes to mind is that you get to ski or ride for free when you are not actively teaching. You can also qualify for discounted season passes for your immediate family members or a limited number of complimentary tickets for friends. So if you have a spouse or kids or both who like to ski, this is nothing to sneeze at.
Also, no matter how good of a skier you are now, you will get better. Along with the improvements that come with mileage, there are regular clinics for instructors and plenty of opportunities to ski with some awfully good skiers. Most of all, even though it can be hard work, teaching skiing is fun and can be very satisfying. On top of that, I have made friendships at the ski school that will last a lifetime. Astonishingly (for me anyway), I have even developed friendships with students.
If you choose to join the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) or the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) and obtain your Level 1 certification, you qualify for professional discounts on equipment. These can be substantial (which is why you often see instructors with pretty hot gear). Many resorts also offer free or discounted tickets to PSIA instructors employed on other mountains. However, PSIA membership is not just about cheap stuff. There are regular clinics, exams and other events where you can get instruction from some of the best skiers and riders in the United States. I have learned so much at these clinics and subsequently improved as a skier to a degree that I can’t put a value on this - it just may be the best thing about being an instructor.
Of course, it’s not all milk and cookies. First off, you have to be prepared to handle the time commitment. Liberty requires a minimum of two shifts per week. These are not necessarily eight hour shifts, but you have to be on the mountain at least twice a week. Many people work Saturday and Sunday, but others work an evening during the week and one weekend day. Factor in travel time to and from the mountain and this is not a small matter. On busy days, teaching takes precedence over clinics and free skiing - be prepared to work and to have a smile on your face when you are doing it.
In addition, PSIA/AASI membership requires that you pay annual dues and attend a certain number of clinics every two years. If you ski a lot and teach a lot, your equipment takes a beating (“Honey, I have to buy new skis, my old ones are just worn out!”)
You do not have to be a great skier or rider. You do have to be, at the very least, seventeen years old and a strong parallel skier or a rider who can comfortably negotiate almost all of the trails at Liberty with some style and grace (doing big icy bumps is not a requirement - actually, bumps are not a requirement). The most important skiing or riding qualification is that you have a strong foundation, the ability to adopt what you learn and be able to adapt to different terrain and conditions. You can learn the rest.
The teaching part requires enthusiasm, patience, persistence and the ability to leave your ego in the parking lot. If the thought of standing in front of a group of strangers fills you with dread, it’s not for you. If you already know it all and have nothing to learn from other instructors or your students, it’s not for you. If you really love skiing and riding want to share your enthusiasm for the sport with others - particularly those who have never skied or boarded before, you are most of the way there.
If this is something you want to do, or if you want more information, contact the director of the Liberty Mountain Ski School, Kathy Hoffman, at (717) 642-8282 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Otto Matheke is a PSIA certified Level II instructor at Ski Liberty, where he has been teaching since 1993. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, Otto also works as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Transportation.