A Typical Day In the Life of a Ski Instructor (What It’s REALLY Like)
Have you ever wondered what a day in the life of a ski instructor is like? Of course, they do a lot of skiing, but if you ever wanted an hour-by-hour breakdown, you’ve come to the right place.
In general, the work day of a ski instructor on the mountain spans from around 8:00 in the morning until 4:00 in the afternoon. They will be in their skis and teaching for most of that time.
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Every ski instructor has a different routine, and every day on the hill is completely different. What’s universal though, is that the days are long, snow-filled, and packed with fun (usually!).
Timing Varies Depending On Client; Ends at 4:00 pm at the Latest
Private lessons differ from group lessons in many ways. While the group lesson is generally structured and controlled by instructors and their supervisors, private clients determine the way that their day goes.
Usually, after meeting the instructor for the first time, they will exchange contact information. The client determines what time they meet and where: this can be at the lift in time for the first chair, or at noon at the hotel.
It all depends on what the client is looking for. Usually, private clients have a strong idea of what they want to improve on, and it’s the instructors' job to deliver that to the best of their ability.
For lunch, it’s not uncommon for clients to treat their instructors to lunch at the base of the hill rather than at the lodges. Many clients have known their instructors for years, and consider them to be friends or even family.
The end of the lesson, like the beginning, is determined by the client. This is great flexibility to have, as they can choose to stop when they are fatigued or keep going until the end of the day.
Private lessons are among the most coveted type of lessons, for multiple reasons. Instructors get to know their clients quite well, especially if they are booked for multiple days at a time.
For instructors who work multiple seasons, private clients eventually coalesce into a private client list. Seasoned instructors sometimes only teach private lessons, which is especially great when you consider that they tend to be more lucrative when it comes to tips.
Wake Up Call: 6:30 am-7:30 am
Every ski instructor wakes up at a different time, depending on how close to the mountain they live in and how much of a morning person they are, but most wake up between 6:30 and 7:30 am.
This time frame allows them enough time to grab some food and a coffee before leaving their house and either getting in their car or hopping on the bus.
You’ll find some early birds doing yoga or even heading up the lift for an extra run to get ready for the day, and some not-so-early birds chugging Liquid IV and fighting off last night's hangover.
No matter which one you are, you’ll be up and at the locker room by 8 am at the latest, putting on your uniform and gear. Most people come to the mountain in their underlayers and just put on their jackets and snow pants over the top.
You’ll check your schedule to see where to head for the day; whether that’s meeting a private client, heading off a beginner lesson, or teaching advanced skiers. After that, it’s time to head up the gondola for the morning meeting.
8:00 - 9:30 am
In general, all the ski instructors working on a particular day meet together before the day kicks off. You’ll have a quick discussion about what to expect for the day, regarding conditions and some quick safety reminders.
After that, you’ll start to split off into different groups. Higher levels for advanced students, lower levels for beginners, and the instructors who will be waiting on call in case more are needed. Students start to show up around 9am, and instructors will be interviewing them to determine their skill level to the best of their ability.
9:30 am-10:00 am
Now it’s time for the lessons to start to head off. All the instructors who’ve been assigned a lesson will take their groups out for a quick trial run to make sure that their students are placed in the right group.
This process is called the ‘split’ and makes sure that group lessons are as evenly matched as they can be. If there’s a large disparity in skill level in one lesson, no one is happy.
Instructors who haven’t been assigned a lesson generally hang around a little later to help out and wait for stragglers. Depending on how busy the mountain is, they’ll either be ‘cut,’ and go home early, or come back after lunch for afternoon lessons.
10:30 am - 4:00 pm
For the rest of the work day, instructors are wholly focused on their students and making their lessons as good as they can be. Ideally, everyone learns as much as they can while still having a great day on the mountain.
People tend to be a lot more receptive to learning when they feel comfortable and safe. Because of that, most ski instructors begin their lessons by getting to know their students and giving a quick talk on safety.
Afterward, it’s time to really get going. The first thing that beginners learn is how to stop, followed by controlling speed and turning.
Depending on how athletic a group is, this can take quite a while, but instructors know plenty of drills to make sure everyone masters these skills before moving forward. The pacing of first-time lessons is quite slow, and it requires a lot of patience on both the part of the instructor and the student.
It’s not at all uncommon for it to take two or three days for a group to get off of the bunny hill (beginners area) and onto the main mountain. In fact, it’s recommended that the first day is spent entirely on the bunny hill, no matter how advanced a group becomes.
This is because the main mountain has a much higher fear factor than the bunny hill. Everything is larger, more crowded, and usually a bit steeper as well.
For more advanced lessons, there is a lot of variation on where the lesson starts and the direction it can take. It’s up to the instructor to analyze their students' skill levels and determine the best ways that they can help them improve on their skiing.
For some lessons, that might mean challenging the students with terrain, and for others, it might mean drills. Ideally, both of these tactics will be mixed together.
Usually, instructors will eat lunch with their groups as well. There are usually no breaks during the ski instructing day, so for these hours, instructors are working nonstop.
At the end of the day, instructors bring their students to the bottom of the hill, say their goodbyes, and check out with their supervisors. After that, they’re free to spend the rest of the day however they want.
9:30 am - 4:00 pm
If there are not enough lessons to go around, but an instructor wants to work, there are still options. These days are called alternate days, and it usually means that instructors help out with other jobs on the hill.
Generally, they're assigned right after the pre-lesson meeting.
They might join the lift operators to help load chairs and gondolas, or grab a scanner and check tickets at the bottom of the hill. A favorite among instructors is something called “Star Riding,” which means that they lap the bunny hill and help bring little kids up the chairlift.
4:00 - 8:00
After work, every instructor does something different, and it usually changes from day to day. Usually, there are three main camps of activity after work.
While instructors do eat lunch on the mountain with their students, they burn a ton of calories on the hill, especially if they’re working at altitude. So usually, the first thing that instructors do is find something to eat.
The social butterflies meet up with their friends and usually head out for a little food and a massive glass of water or beer. Some people will even head out with their students, although this isn’t necessarily recommended.
Resorts are extremely social and often party-centric environments. This can be a ton of fun, but it’s also important to know that despite how it might seem, they’re also very small communities.
You’re just as likely to run into your friends at the bar as you are your boss or your students.
Others will go and hit the gym to keep up their fitness for tomorrow. Some would keep it relaxed with some stretching, while others were training for marathons.
The last faction, and perhaps the most common, is to go home and put their feet up (maybe whip out a Theragun). A whole day of public speaking and athleticism is extremely tiring.
Those who live close to the mountain will often head back to the village or town for dinner to meet up with instructors after resting for a bit.
No matter what you do immediately after skiing, everyone makes sure to spend a little time relaxing, a little time laughing, and a little time stretching out those sore muscles.
8:00 to 12:00
Now, after a long day, it’s time to head to bed! It gets cold and dark early during the winter months, so most people head to bed relatively early.
This allows instructors’ minds and bodies to recover so that they can enjoy their packed day tomorrow! Of course, this isn’t always the case.
Mountains are extremely social places, so a lot of instructors will go out to parties at night, although this is mostly if they have a day off the next day.
Hands down the most common thing for instructors to do on their day off is to hit the slopes. After all, most instructors have that job because they love to ski more than anything else, and they’re not people to let a great day on the mountain get away from them.
However, this isn’t always the case. Especially towards the end of the season, instructors can get burnt out from skiing (I know, crazy) and prefer to spend their days relaxing, going for walks, or catching up with friends off the slopes.
Some even work second jobs. No matter what they do, instructors make sure to relax and have some fun so they’re fully refreshed when they return to work.
Life of An Instructor
And that's the definitive breakdown of a ski instructor's day. Of course, the only way to truly understand the ins and outs of the ski instructing lifestyle is to get out there and do it, but hopefully, you now feel a little more well-versed in the day-to-day.
The life of a ski instructor is one that is packed with meeting new people, enjoying the outdoors, problem-solving, and coming up with new and exciting ways to teach the sport. It will provide enough routine to set a comfortable schedule while maintaining excitement day to day.