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Teaching Ski Lessons


Kevin Mitchell Interview Continued

For anyone who's never taught skiing before, the best way to get hired is to attend one of the many training events sponsored by the Professional Ski Instructors of America or the North American Ski Training Center in Truckee, prior to applying for ski school. Another great way to get noticed is to stop by and chat with either myself or one of our other ski school managers - either the winter before you want to start work or in the late fall. And, if you happen to be in the area during September or October, it's always a good idea to stop by one of our resort's Job Fairs - either at the resort itself, at selected colleges or in Bay area ski shops.

The demand for fully certified ski instructors is always greater than for new instructors, but we always need both - people leave the business, move to other areas, etc.

Another way that candidates can enhance their chances of getting hired is to earn specialized certifications. Having a Children's Accreditation will send someone right to the top of the list.

For a lot of visitors at our resort, life as a professional ski instructor looks pretty glamorous - the tanned athlete, cruising to the head of the lift line with their gorgeous blonde client. But, like any other job, there's a certain amount of give and take involved. Fortunately, there's more take than give.

Many of our ski instructors begin the day by helping beginning skiers to get outfitted with their equipment in the rental shop. This not only helps the guest, but also gives the instructor a chance to get to know their students and determine how they're going to approach the day's lesson. Instructors can be assigned to either private or group ski school lessons.

The lessons usually begin around 9:30 in the morning and unless they have purchased a half-day private lesson, the instructor will stay with the same students all day. If the instructor bonds well with the student and they're impressed with his or her teaching ability, they can return the next day and request the same instructor - which means extra money for them.

At the end of the day, the instructor will go over what they learned during their lesson and recommend things for the student to work on during the rest of their stay at the resort. If they've done a good job, they've made a friend and a future client for life.

Over the past five years, ski and snowboard technology has changed the way we teach skiing and riding. Because the newer equipment has made learning how to ski and ride so much easier, students want more "go" and less "talk" in their lessons. So, we try to reserve the discussions for the rides up the chairlift and keep the students moving the rest of the time.

Another recent innovation that's changed how people learn is the "magic carpet". Magic carpets are like people movers in airports - they're essentially conveyor belts that students stand on to ride to the top of the beginner's hill. Magic carpets have made it easier for skiing novices to learn by allowing them to rest on the way up, more time practicing their sport and less time side-stepping uphill.

Like any other occupation, there are fun aspects of the job and parts that are just hard work. One of my favorite things about teaching skiing and managing a ski school is being in a position to make a positive contribution to our guests' vacation experience. If I see something that needs to be changed to improve their lesson, I can make the change. Not every business allows you to do that. I can assist the instructors who teach in our ski school with how to make the proper equipment and terrain choices so that their students leave our resort happy.

If I had to choose one negative aspect about running a ski school, I would have to say that I don't get to ski nearly as much as I used to. Even though my days are often consumed by meetings and long conference calls, I do try to get out every day for at least a few runs.

The one piece of advice that I'll offer to new instructors is this - make sure that you have a strong work ethic and you're willing to put up with a lot of hardships in the beginning. Go for all of the certifications and training that you can fit into your schedule and volunteer for EVERYTHING. Show your managers that you can be counted on for any type of assignment. Eventually, you'll be the seasoned instructor getting all of the plum assignments.

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