One of the questions that we get asked the most, revolves around the issue of getting a job as a ski instructor in France. Over the next few updates we will be bringing you a range of case studies, articles and specific information about how to become a ski instructor and work in France
So to dispel the myth….
“You don't have be French to become a ski instructor and teach in France.”
It’s no longer the 50’s and thanks to things like the EU, the good work of BASI (British Association of Snowsport Instructors) and the fact that us Brits underpin a significant proportion of visitors to the French ski resorts, it is very possible to gain the qualifications required to work in France. Although it is fair to say that the road to becoming a ski instructor in France is longer and more challenging than others. This should not put you off, becoming a ski instructor with the qualifications to work in France puts you at the pinnacle of the ski instructor world.
British qualified instructors in France are highly sought after and thanks to that long and winding road, ski instructors in France are incredibly well paid. To give you an idea, English speaking skiing instructors working in France often get paid more by the hour than the average lawyer working in the centre of London.
So we all want to become a ski instructor and work in France, right?
As we always say, there is a massive difference between a good holiday skier and good seasoned skier, especially a seasoned skier that has been on a season long coaching program. It often takes direct experience to get people to realise this.
The general outlook for the average holiday skier or, indeed a hard working, toilet scrubbing, beer guzzling seasonnaire is that the reality of passing all the required levels to work in France is unlikely.
The purpose of this article and the ones to follow is to outline that a British trainee ski instructor can without doubt, obtain full time employment in the French Alps.
It’s not easy, however the most rewarding things in life never are!
Qualifications needed to work to teach skiing in France include:
BASI 1 – BASI 2 – BASI 3 – BASI 4 – TEST TECHNIQUE – EURO TEST
The journey to becoming a ski instructor able to teach in France is best explained by using examples of those within our team that have successfully achieved ski instructor status in France.
Craig Halliday (29) BASI Level 4 ISTD Instructor – Head of Basecamp’s BASI Ski Courses, Val d’Isere, France.
Craig, started his journey back home in Scotland, passing the ASSI (Artificial Slope Snowsport Instructor, equivalent of today’s BASI Level 1) at the aspiring age of 16 in April 2000. The following 6 years saw him climb through the BASI and French ranks enabling him to teach skiing in France.
There are many different routes to passing the required levels. Some complete all their BASI level’s before attempting the French standards, others take on the French Standards immediately after completing their BASI 2.
Here’s how Craig did it.
After the ASSI Craig passed BASI Level 2. Using his Level 2 Craig spent his time teaching at dry slopes in Scotland throughout his time at University. He then spent the next 5 seasons working in Zermatt, Switzerland.
The BASI level 2 qualifies you to teach skiing in the Swiss Alps. Craig’s seasons in Zermatt enabled him to train towards his BASI Level 3 and 4 as well as getting his skiing up to the required level to pass the French Test Technique and Euro Test.
During this time Craig worked as a ski instructor, however with the pay not being anywhere near the levels of France, Craig had to find sideline work to enable him continue his journey towards becoming a ski instructor in France.
Craigs route to becoming fully qualified to teach in France.
BASI 1 – BASI 2 –- BASI 3 – TEST TECHNIQUE – EURO TEST – BASI 4
“Becoming a ski instructor in France was always the plan, however being self funded, meant that I had to put my qualifications to use straight away. Using my BASI 2 qualification to work in Switzerland for all those seasons, gave me invaluable experience, however working in France is what pays, I feel very lucky to be in the position I am in” says Craig.
The Test Technique
The first hurdle to teaching in France is the Test Technique. Having BASI levels 1 and 2 status is one of the routes to being eligible to take the Test Technique.
The Test Technique is a timed slalom, organised by the DDJS (local department authority). To pass the test technique you have to complete a slalom within a specific time set on the day by a professional skier. Without genuinely good technique, fitness power and experience, you are unlikely to pass this.
It is timed trials like this that have got British knickers in a twist. One could argue the test technique favours the French skiers because they grew up slalom racing. Weekends would be spent competing in regional slalom races. Unfortunately most of us Brits don’t have this opportunity. The only gates we ever went through were at the end of an ESF coaching week. Here at Basecamp, we don’t have a problem with the Test Technique, our job is to provide training courses that ensure we can catch up on lost time.
Back to Craig's journey….
Having passed the Test Technique, you gain ‘Stagiaire’ status, the term given to a French trainee ski instructor. Stagiare status is valid for 4 years, during which time you must continue on to pass the Euro Test.
Working as a ski instructor in France as a Stagiare has its benefits. You are now in the uniform, and working with some of the most experienced ski instructors in the world, as well as hopefully, your future employer. An internship with a provisional driving licence if you like.
Even though you are effectively in the French system, you are still at experience level 1, so don’t expect the pay to be anything other than minimal. All that stands between you and the best job in the world is the Euro Test, which as you now know have 4 years to pass having completed your Test Technique.
The Euro Test
The Euro test is a straight up Giant Slalom, no holding back , downhill speed test. You need nerves of steel and flawless technique and to pass the Euro Test. Passing the Euro test once again requires you to complete a giant slalom course, within a time set on the day by a professional ski racer.
Speaking with Serge Kalenitchenko (Aka Tchenko), our French Director of Basecamp’s Performance ski courses and owner of SnowFun in Val d’Isere, he reminds us that the Euro Test used to be a special slalom test, but under the pressure of the British became a giant slalom test, which in his view is a lot harder.
Tchenko was the man behind the movement from ESF to ESI, a big hitter in the French Ski Instructing industry and a great man to have on our coaching team in Val d’Isere. This season will be his 10th season coaching Basecamp student in France.
Climbing the ladder and accepting the challenge is key to success for those wishing to teach in France. Whilst it can take a number of years to obtain the prize for success its a dream job that pays living and working in some of the world’s finest French ski resorts.
Basecamp were the first organisation to operate BASI courses in France. We do not subscribe to one pathway, instead we partner with everyone we can and in doing so create an unchallenged pathway to success when it comes to becoming a ski instructor living and working in France.