Job title Fitness instructor (and director)
Employer Parallel Lines
How to be a ski instructor
Ski Instructor and Director at Parallel Lines, Méribel, France, John Hendry explains how skiing can provide exciting short and long-term work opportunities
How to get a job as a ski instructor?
I became a ski instructor because I wanted to ski and I needed a way to finance it. I organized a couple of ski groups on coaches to Aviemore and was asked to instruct some of the beginners, the seed was sown. Before doing my BASI Level 1 (formerly Grade 3), I spent a season as a ski tech and then worked at Nevis Range Ski School, where we trained and skied loads. John Clark, who now commentates on Eurosport, was our Head Instructor and was inspirational.
So when did you realise skiing was more than just a hobby?
I first skied when I was 12 or 13 on a school day trip to Glenshee, Scotland. My first coach was called Gavin, I remember because his brother sometimes works with us at Parallel Lines. He was about two or three years older than me but could make short swings look easy and was good fun. I joined a ski club and probably skied twice a week, one evening dry slope and one day on snow, from 13-16 with a couple of longer stints at Easter. When I left school I worked in an office. On Fridays, I would arrive with skis over my shoulder to head up to the mountains straight from work. When I went to work again on Monday I would be shattered and fall asleep at my desk. Something had to give, the job had to go!
Where have you worked in your career as a ski instructor?
As a ski instructor I've worked seasons in Scotland (Nevis Range & Cairngorm), in France (Les Gets and Méribel), in Italy (Pila and Courmayeur) and in Mammoth, California for four winters. As well as running BASI courses in Switzerland (Saas Fee & Zermatt) and Austria (Stubai Glacier).
What’s your favourite ski lesson to teach?
Every lesson is a challenge to make the difference your clients are looking for, but there's no doubt when you find something that clicks it’s a terrific feeling to ski with someone who has just made a breakthrough.
What makes a good ski instructor?
A good ski instructor works hard on their skiing to gain understanding and technical excellence in a broad range of skiing environments. Coupled with this, there needs to be the willingness to listen to your clients and put yourself in their shoes to understand what they are experiencing.
And what makes a great ski instructor?
A great ski instructor can be inspirational to her/ his students. The great ski instructor has the experience to combine all the threads of emotional, psychological, technical and physical in the right quantities to produce great lessons. The great ski instructor helps build rapport and support between all members of the skiing group. The great ski instructor works hard to produce the best lessons every time.
What are the best and worst parts of the job as a ski instructor?
Best bits as a ski instructor are working in Méribel, skiing every day, working with great clients. Worst bits of being a ski instructor are being stuck for periods in the office in summer when it's scorching hot outside!
Training to be a ski instructor what qualifications do you have?
I hold BASI Level 4 ISTD, I am also an AASI Level 2 qualified snowboard instructor (in the USA). I was a Trainer for BASI for eight years and have recently started doing this again. I have also qualified as a sailing instructor, windsurfing instructor, kayak instructor, climbing instructor, and I've been a professional RIB skipper and boatman for years… I'm not big on office jobs...
What advice would you give to those looking to follow in your footsteps?
You've got to love what you do, working in the ski industry looks like a holiday but in reality it takes hard work and a fair few sacrifices. No job is as idyllic as it may look, but working in Méribel is pretty close!
“You can follow John via facebook.com/ParallelLinesSnowsportsSchool.”
If you're interested in becoming an instructor, visit http://www.snowskool.co.uk. SnowSkool operates courses in Canada, France, New Zealand and the USA. Every year, SnowSkool trains hundreds of people of all ages and experience levels to become a ski instructor or snowboard instructor - and sometimes both. They have a pass rate David Beckham would be proud of. As well as instructor training, SnowSkool offers ski and snowboard camps and skill-specific ski and snowboard training holidays of between one and 12 weeks.