Which course should you choose? Internship or instructor
By Anna Ross – BC Snow Manager
Choosing a ski or snowboard instructor course can be a minefield. There are so many choices out there, in so many countries and resorts and different routes to go down.
Should you do an internship or instructor course? Which country? Which qualification? Which one will provide the best experience, and give you the best head start into a career you love as a ski or snowboard instructor?
I’ll mainly address the internship vs instructor course debate right now, but take a look at our other blogs “Choosing the right ski or snowboard instructor course” and “which ski instructor qualification should I choose?”.
An internship traditionally involves some training, maybe just at the start of the course, and then an opportunity to work and earn money while also training or skiing in your free time.
While this might sound like an amazing opportunity, and cheaper, they often are more expensive and have many more hidden extras compared to a traditional, residential instructor course.
You also need to have a working holiday visa to be able to do this in Canada, Australia, Japan or New Zealand, which for Brits and many other European nationals is pretty tricky these days, especially for Canada!
For quite a few internships around, you need to find your own accommodation in resort once the training part of the course is over, which can be tricky in busy resorts such as Banff or Big White, where housing is in short supply.
Then there is the work itself. While the companies who provide internships will sell this aspect hard, the reality is often that you are on a zero hours casual contract, and as a newbie, you are likely to get less hours of teaching than more experienced instructors.
You also have less training on an internship, so less opportunity to improve both technical and teaching skills as you are thrown into the deep end a bit.
You are likely to have less support and more autonomy in resort, which definitely suits some people, maybe if you are older and have experience of season life already.
An internship is ultimately an independent opportunity, paying a company to provide you with a job and giving you more work experience but requiring someone to be serious about working as an instructor, otherwise the course might not be what you think it would be.
In the past, instructor courses have been considered somewhat of a “gap year” programme.
However, since I’ve been working in this industry the demographic has changed so much, with many more customers opting to do a course post-university or as a change of career later in life. We generally get people from a whole range of backgrounds, countries and ages, making this route appealing.
First of all, you don’t need a work visa, which definitely means you can be more flexible, make your mind up a little later and don’t need to go through that tricky process.
Then, it is the support and organisation that you get on a good quality instructor course. We provide a full time resort manager and rep on our courses, both of whom are generally instructors or have done an instructor course in the past.
You have all your accommodation provided for the whole trip, and most meals provided too, meaning more time to focus on training and skiing, and really having a good time!
You then get a lot more training, and the whole 10 or 11 weeks is focussed solely on you improving your skiing or snowboarding and then sitting your exams, meaning you are likely to reach a higher level of skill than someone on an internship, and will be ready to work as an instructor immediately afterwards.
You get the best bit of a winter season: the skiing, the friends, the activities, and no pressures of work or stresses of organising things yourself!
Our New Zealand Apprenticeship
This year, we decided to set up our own version of an internship-type opportunity, calling it an apprenticeship to distance ourselves from companies offering internships with no accommodation and no support in resort once you have finished the first few weeks.
We provide self-catering accommodation for the whole season, and include training throughout, whilst also working. It is the ultimate combination of an instructor course and internship: you still have support in resort, and a guaranteed job, but you will also learn a lot, gain both your Level 1 and Level 2 qualifications and finish the season with an amazing experience, ready to go on and work in the industry.
As this is a job offer, we need a CV and covering letter from any applicants, showing that you are serious about wanting to work as a ski or snowboard instructor.
There is also a fee to do this apprenticeship, which can be seen as covering the cost of accommodation in resort, which we rent on behalf of you, your lift pass and the training that you do with the ski school.
Some apprenticeships pay lower wages to account for training, however on this course you will be paid the same as any other instructor, which is why the cost of training is upfront.
Our Level 1 Course with Work Opportunity
We also have a course which closely resembles an internship programme, but we advertise it as our CSIA Level 1 Instructor Course (November dates). We work incredibly closely with the Lake Louise Ski School, and have developed a relationship over many years of supplying them with quality instructors, and them providing the training on our programmes.
The November Level 1 course finishes in time to still be in with a chance of getting a job with them, and they leave open spaces in their team in anticipation of some strong Basecamp candidates! It is up to the individual to get the job, impress the school and get their own accommodation (all also true of other internships in Canada).
But if you
a) have a working visa
b) train hard for the 4 week course
c) pass your level 1 exam
d) impress in the interview
Then you will have no problem getting a job and being able to stay in Banff for the whole season!
Essentially, there are many options out there, and many suit different people. There is a high chance that you will have an amazing time whichever course you choose to do: you will be living in the mountains and skiing or snowboarding every day!
All we can recommend is to do your research, think about what you would like to get out of it and which style of course might suit you better. Decide on a country and talk to the experts at each instructor course provider. They will have all done the course before, or at least know it inside out.
Then go with your gut instinct. If you like the sound of a particular company or course then it will be great!
If you would like to find out more about the courses we run, or about the market in general, then give us a call on 0208 7899 055 and speak to a specialist or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.