How Much Does It REALLY Cost To Become A Ski Instructor? (USA)
Working as a ski instructor is one of the best ways to carve out a life in the mountains. Not only do you get to ski all the time, but you also have a rewarding career. However, like all things in skiing, there is a financial barrier to entry.
Becoming a Ski Instructor can be expensive. Some costs are upfront, like gear. Others are more abstract, like health insurance and risk of injury. Ultimately, it will typically cost thousands of dollars upfront without a course, and over ten thousand if you opt for a course.
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Some Aspects Will Be Free
Fortunately, Ski Instructing comes with many perks. You can expect some things to be absolutely free.
You will never pay for your ski pass as a ski instructor. This is true at any mountain - if there’s a resort out there that makes their instructors pay for passes, may it never snow again at that resort. In Telluride, Colorado, a season pass is about $1500, so you’re getting a solid deal.
Colorado also has a program where resort employees can ski for free at most other mountains in the state. With lift tickets at least $100/day throughout the state, that’s nothing to scoff at. Most mountains in different states have similar programs.
You will most likely receive a free uniform (jacket and pants) that you will be required to wear during work. However, you will (probably) be forbidden from wearing it for free skiing, so you’ll still have to purchase a jacket and pants if you want to free ski on your days off.
At most large ski resorts in the U.S., you will get certified for free with PSIA as part of your job. The ski school will have some instructors who are actually certified by the PSIA to certify other instructors into the PSIA. Welcome to the expansive universe of certifications.
It is not uncommon to have your clients take you out for lunch on the mountain. You may also get offered a beer at the end of the day. These perks are definitely noteworthy, although they are usually reserved for instructors who have graduated to private lessons with adult clients.
Key Takeaway: There are two different roads to take depending on how you want to start your career as a Ski Instructor. The first is the path that I outlined above; getting certified with your ski school as part of your employment. Usually, you do an L1 your first year, then an L2 your second year.
There is a big jump to Level 3 - a level of certification reserved for those who are truly serious about a career as a Ski Instructor.
The second, fancier way to break into this line of work is to take a course. There are many options in all different parts of the world, but they all share one feature: they’re expensive. Depending on the amenities your course offers, and whether you are going for just L1 or L1 + 2, a course will cost you $5 - 12K.
I have spoken with people who had a great experience taking a course. I do not doubt that a course will help you get started as an instructor. But you don’t need to take one.
Tip: The advantage of taking a course is easily getting hired and immediately jumping into intermediate-level lessons, and maybe even some private lessons if there is enough demand.
For a retired professional from a different industry, this can be a great option: they can afford the course, and they don’t have to deal with the hassle of being on bunny slope duty for their first year. Making the initial investment in a course can pay off quickly because you start getting private clients and more tips sooner than you would otherwise.
Ski gear is expensive. As an Instructor, you need to make sure your gear is extra dialed in because you rely on it every day for work.
First of all, you will get deals on gear as a Ski Instructor. They are usually called pro deals. Brands offer these deals because they want to be represented by influencers.
As a professional on the mountain, people look up to you and pay attention to what gear you’re using. Take advantage of your pro deals to get the best price you can on all your gear.
There are certain types of gear an Instructor should have that other people don’t necessarily need.
- Custom boot fit. You need your boots to be perfect when you’re wearing them day in and day out. That means hitting up your local boot fitter, finding the right shell, making any necessary adjustments to the shell, getting fitted into a custom liner, and getting a custom footbed for your specific arch.
- Electric boot warmer. When you are instructing, your feet will get much colder than when you are freeskiing. You expend less energy skiing with your less skilled clients. Having cold feet can affect the quality of your work and ruin your day.
- Quiver of skis. For example, nobody wants to be on the bunny slope with their powder skis (or vice versa).
The custom boot kit with electric warmers could cost upwards of $1500 alone. I skied without a custom kit for 15 or 16 years. It was right around the age of 25, after several consecutive 100-day seasons, my feet just exploded in protest. You can try putting it off, but I guarantee your feet will have the final say.
Luckily you probably already have most of the other gear you need. Presumably, you have been skiing for a while if you want to be a ski instructor. If you are still renting skis, this may not be the job for you. You should be very confident on intermediate terrain at a minimum.
This section is partly dependent on where you live. In most countries, there is a national healthcare system, and care is free. However, that is not the case in the U.S. - you will have to purchase insurance.
In the U.S., even with insurance, you will have to pay a deductible on the cost of your care if you get injured. Unless you are paying a premium to have a plan with a low deductible, this will be $1 - 4K, depending on your exact plan.
But the real cost is being unable to work if you get injured. In most office jobs, you could still work even if you had a serious injury like a broken back. As a Ski Instructor, most injuries are going to prevent you from being able to work.
Getting injured means that, at best, you’re relying on some form on some form of unemployment or worker’s compensation that's going to amount to way less than you were making as an instructor.
If you have a lease that you’re still attached to, you could end up having to pay rent with no income.
I think being a Ski Instructor is still a great job, but it is important to be aware that job stability is more variable than in other professions.
Despite what the Farmer’s Almanac will tell you, we don’t have the technology to make reliable seasonal weather forecasts yet.
Bad winters are becoming increasingly common. A bad winter is like a recession for a ski town. Less skiers are visiting, and that means less business at the ski school.
When there is no terrain open and not much of the mountain to explore, folks are less inclined to sign up for private lessons. You might end up with a significantly smaller paycheck at the end of the day, but all the same living expenses as before.
General Cost Of Living
You live in a ski town. Groceries? They were expensive. Gas? That’s expensive too. Rent? The upper echelons of the stratosphere, like where satellites orbit.
In some ways, this is the biggest cost of being a ski instructor.
Why You Shouldn't Give Up!
The cost barriers to entry of Ski Instruction vary depending on your gear, experience, and whether or not you want to take a course. But it’s safe to say that being a Ski Instructor will cost you thousands of dollars upfront without a course, and over ten thousand if you opt for a course.
Key Takeaway: It’s still a lot cheaper than many other types of training. College in the U.S., for example, can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Graduate programs can be nearly as expensive.
You’re not going to get rich being a Ski Instructor. However, it’s still one of the best jobs you can have in a ski town. Nothing in this life comes for free - you will have to make an investment in this career, just like any other.
However, if you truly want to live in the mountains and have a fulfilling life, money should be the last reason to turn your back on Ski Instruction.
Q: How much does it typically cost to become a ski instructor?
A: In general, ski instructor training programs can cost several thousand dollars, but prices may range from a few hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars.
Q: Are there any additional costs beyond the training program?
A: In addition to the cost of the training program, there may be additional costs for certification or exams. Some training programs may include these costs in their overall fee, while others may charge them separately. It is important to research and compare the costs of different programs to understand what is included in the price and what may be additional expenses.
Q: Is it worth the cost to become a ski instructor?
A: Becoming a ski instructor can be a rewarding and fulfilling career. If you are passionate about skiing and enjoy working with people, the costs of training may be worth it for the opportunity to work in a field you love. It is also important to consider the potential earnings of a ski instructor and how they compare to the costs of training to determine if it is a financially viable option.
The cost of becoming a ski instructor varies depending on where you live and where you plan to get your training. In general, you can expect to spend several thousand dollars to complete a ski instructor certification program, which typically includes training and exams. Additionally, you need to account for things like ski equipment, lift tickets, and lodging while you're training.