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If you love skiing, what better job could there be then to get paid for skiing all day? The role of being a ski instructor sounds like a pretty good gig. Teach a few small classes then get to ski for free the rest of the day. But is being a ski instructor all it is cracked up to be? Can teaching a few lessons a day make you enough money to live on through the winter?
The average ski instructor makes $9 to $15 an hour in the US. If you stick with the job for several years and offer private, experienced classes, your wage could get up to $20 an hour. In Switzerland & affluent European countries the starting rate can be higher from $20 to $40 an hour (€18 to €37).
Factors that Affect Pay Rate
The Country in Which You Work
As briefly mentioned above, some countries will pay ski instructors much higher than others. The highest-paid ski instructors teach in France. They make anywhere from $28 to $65 (€25 to €50) an hour depending on experience. It is also much more challenging to teach in France as it won’t recognize ski instructors who were qualified through other national organizations outside of France.
Switzerland comes in at a close second for the highest-paid ski instructors in the world. They make between $40 and $55 an hour (€35 to €50). Spain, Finland, the United States, Austria, and New Zealand all make between $15 and $20, and the UK and Poland bring up the rear with only $12 to $17 an hour.
The International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) sets the global standards on the level of training you need to be a ski instructor. Depending on what country you live in, you receive your training through the national ski association used in your region. For example, in the United States, you gain your credentials through Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).
Once you have taken the courses and passed the exams, you are a certified ski instructor. Your pay is based on what level of the course you received.
For example, level 1 allows you to teach beginners and is usually only recognized in the country in which you received the qualification. Level 2 will enable you to teach intermediate skiers and is recognized somewhat internationally. Level 3 allows you to teach experienced skiers in varying types of terrain. If you reach level 4 and pass, you can teach all levels of skiers as well as future instructors.
The higher the level, of course, you have passed, the more you can expect to get paid. Even if you are already certified to teach skiing, it might be a good idea to continue to level up with your certification and make a little extra per hour.
Another advantage of being able to teach various experience levels is that you will get more time in teaching. If you are only qualified to teach beginners, you will have less work than if you can teach intermediate and experienced skiers as well.
Remember also that depending on what qualifications you receive; you can make more by working in other countries. So before you get certified, do the research to know what criteria are recognized in the higher paying countries such as France and Switzerland.
Regardless of how experienced you are and how hard you work, if there is not enough snow to ski on, then people will not be paying for ski lessons, and resorts are likely to open late and close early.
Even if the ski resort you work at has the resources to produce enough artificial snow to stay open, you can almost guarantee ticket sales will drop. Regardless of how much snow the machine can make, people will know when the snow level and quality aren’t quite up to par. Given the prices of lift tickets, many families and beginners that might want a lesson will put it off until next year.
The annual salary works out to about $25,000 if the ski instructor is working for five full months. Unfortunately, the weather has much more to say about how many months of work you get than you do. If there is less than the average amount of snowfall in a year, ski instructors will see a significant decline in pay.
Do Ski Instructors Get Paid Only For the Classes They Teach?
At most ski schools, ski instructors only get paid for the hours that they are teaching. Therefore, the pay is different every day and every week. So it is difficult to count on how much money you will make from ski instructing alone in a month.
Some ski schools pay you a standby rate. It won’t be as high as your regular hourly wage, but it does give you something for coming into work that day, even if there are no clients. If a ski instructor only works part-time, he will get paid for 2 hours of work, and if he works full time, he will get paid for 4 hours of work regardless of whether or not any lessons are taught that day.
Unfortunately, that is not the case with all ski resorts, and it is something that worked into the contract before you start working.
Do Ski Instructors Get Tips?
Much like all other areas of tipping, it is much more the culture to tip your ski instructor in the US and Canada. Being that this is also where you get paid the least for ski lessons, it works out quite nicely.
While tips are never asked for or expected, ski instructors greatly appreciate them. However, only about 50% of private lessons tip, while only 20% of group lessons tip.
Tips can make a big difference in how well the ski season goes for the ski instructor. Most commonly, people tip around 15% of the cost of the lesson or $10 for a free two-hour lesson. Other times, students will even offer to pay for lunch after the lesson. While this is less common than a cash tip, it still is a nice bonus at the end of a long lesson.
What Benefits Come With Being a Ski Instructor?
With all the uncertainty that comes with the job, people might wonder why ski instructors chose their careers. While there are undoubtedly many factors that go into the stability and pay rate of being a ski instructor, there are still many perks to the job.
1. You Get to Ski Every Day
How many of us get paid to do our favorite hobby? Not many. Yet ski instructors get to be out on the slopes, and they even take home some cash for it at the end of every day.
2. Skiing is Free
If you’re a ski instructor, you will never spend money on a season pass again. The money you save on lift tickets is well worth the low pay rate. Plus, whenever you don’t have a class to teach, you can explore the mountain on your own or spend quality time with your friends until your next class starts.
3. Discounts and Freebies
When you’re an employee of a ski school, that status often brings you discounts from all over the resort. Imagine getting new gear from the ski shops and not having to pay full price. The same goes for restaurants and pubs owned by the resort. Get all the discounted food and drinks you could ever dream of. Many restaurants offer free meals to ski instructors for taking their students there for lunch.
You will probably be able to get free waxes and tune-ups as well from the rental shop just for working as a ski instructor. Your gear is even more important to you now that it is considered work equipment. You’re going to want to keep it working right.
Ski Instructor Insurance
Because ski instructing is typically a part-time, seasonal job, there aren’t usually many benefits like health insurance or dental insurance like other jobs offer. Since skiing can, at times, be dangerous and accidents do happen, it is crucial for ski instructors to read and understand what their employees will cover.
Many ski schools offer insurance that covers you if you are hurt while you are on the clock. Often, though, you won’t be covered if you get hurt during leisure hours or on your way to and from work.
It is necessary to remember also that if you choose to work abroad, giving ski lessons, the laws and regulations differ from country to country. It is often required of companies in certain countries to be liable for anything that happens to an employee while at work. However, other countries might not offer employees the same protection.
Thankfully, there is actually such thing as ski instructor insurance. Depending on the policy you purchase, it will cover things like injuries on the job as well as potential accidents traveling to and from the resort. Some of the policies even include covering the cost of things like lost baggage or flight cancelations if you’re planning on working abroad.
Being a Ski Instructor is Worth it
Ski instructors aren’t in this line of work for the money. They do it because they love skiing, and they love passing that skill on to others. True, depending on where you work, you can make a lot of money.
However, the money is never the drive behind an excellent ski instructor. And the better you do at your job, the higher you will get paid when you consider tips and pay raise for advancing your certification. Meanwhile, even if it’s not the highest paying job, you can still find it to be rewarding and fun.