7 Ski Instructor Myths Debunked

Last updated 04.12.2017Maximilian GerlMaximilian Gerl

Is the ski instructor uniform really a chick magnet and do they actually party all the time? Does the envious or negative imagery that the job title conjures-up have any grounding in reality? We conducted methodical fieldwork to debunk some of the most common myths.

1 – Ski instructors are all male.

No. It’s true that for many, many years ski instructors were mostly male. But that has changed. More and more women are instructing and today about 40 per cent of the Tirolean ski instructors are women. One of the reasons: Instructors spend a lot of their time teaching kids aged around four the basics on a nursery slope and that requires a lot of patience, gentleness and sensitivity. As these traits are traditionally cited as feminine, parents tend to ask for female instructors to teach their kids.

Raised and born on skis in Kitzbühel, Jacky is one of the famed “Red Devils” ski instructors. She is distantly related to legendary Olympic and World Champion Toni Sailer, a Kitzbühel native. She works as a ski instructor in the winter and at a bike shop in nearby Kössen in the summer. She usually works with English-speakers: About 60 per cent of her clients are British and Irish skiers.

2 – Teaching someone to ski is not an actual job.

That’s wrong. Working as a ski instructor is surely about as far from the 9-5 routine as a job gets. Actually, they teach four to five hours a day, yet they work each day as days off are rare during the season. They work every day from December through late March, in all weathers. Plus: Ski instructors are responsible for their student’s safety and they need to make them feel it is easy, everything is under control and it is more fun than it is stressful, which can be quite strenuous at times. Ski school managers are the busiest; apart from teaching, they organize and manage lessons and keep the records of students.

Ski instructors teach four to five hours a day. Days off are rare during the season, which usually lasts from December through late March.

3 – The ski instructor uniform is definitely a “chick magnet”!

Yes and no. It happened to be like that in the past. But since then the ski instructor has gained a whole new level of cachet. “Of course, there are still opportunities for romance if instructor and client are attracted to each other,” says Kitzbühel-based ski instructor Sebastian Kahn. However, it is widely regarded as unprofessional nowadays. Rumour has it that today instructors in Tirol are more likely to date fellow instructors!

Skilehrer können eine Sache am besten: Skifahren oder Snowboarden und andere darin unterrichten. Alles andere ist eine Frage des persönlichen Zugangs in Beziehungsfragen. Und der ist bekanntlich bei jedem Menschen anders.

In order to teach others the tips and tricks of skiing or snowboarding, instructors need to be excellent skiers or riders themselves and love the sport. Although anybody can learn the basics, it takes a special bond between the student and the instructor to get to performance. A great instructor can make the students love the sport—and sometimes even more.

4 – Anyone can become a ski instructor.

Well, yes—and no. To become a professional ski instructor, you’ll have to train and earn certifications from a recognized organization. Ultimately, each country prefers candidates who hold qualifications from that country and so Tirolean ski schools would give priority to those who hold a highly acclaimed Tirol qualification. There are four levels of Tirol ski instruction certification and the training is regarded as the best in the world. Instructors start by earning level 1, which is quite easy to master for good skiers. Certification for levels two and three is not such an easy task. These levels are challenging and it is quite common for instructors to fail multiple times before passing. This ensures that instructors meet a standard and are capable of movement analysis, instructing, and skiing at a desired level. Only the best instructors are Level 4 (the highest level available) and can take their clients on guided backcountry ski tours.

Die Tiroler Skilehrerausbildung gilt als beste der Welt, entsprechend zeitaufwendig ist sie. Wer es bis zum Diplom-Skilehrer schaffen will, muss sich laufend weiterbilden – und unter anderem auf Parcours an seiner Technik feilen.

The Tirol ski instruction certification is regarded as the best in the world and it takes a lot of dedicated training – sometimes many years – to get through. Without flawless technique, fitness, power and precision, you are unlikely to pass Level 4.

5 – All ski instructors are locals.

No. There is a tendency that older ski schools employ more locals as they are more deeply rooted in tradition. However, ski instructor has long become an international job and qualified instructors who speak the appropriate languages, such as Dutch, Polish or Japanese in addition to German and English are much sought after. That’s why many of the 7,000 instructors in the 300 Tirolean ski schools come from abroad.

Philip, 27, is from Poland, where he works as a taxi driver in the summer and dreams of the mountains. For the last few years, he has spent his winters in Kitzbühel as an instructor at the famed “Red Devils” Ski School. Next winter he will definitely return to Tirol: “I have already been hired!”

6 – Farmer in the summer, ski instructor in the winter.

Partly true, some farmers or construction workers take the opportunity to work as a ski instructor in the winter, when not much happens out on the fields and building sites. However, the majority of instructors are university students or work at a bike shop or as a raft guide in the summer. Ski instructing even has the ability to turn it into a full time year round job opportunity. Some ski instructors chase the endless winter by spending the European winters in Tirol and the European summers in Australia, New Zealand, or South America.

Zweitberuf Skilehrer. Eigentlich ist Basti Profi-Paraglider und entsprechend viel unterwegs. An zwölf verschiedenen Orten auf der ganzen Welt finden während des Sommers Wettbewerbe statt.

Ski instructor as a seasonal job: Actually, Basti is a professional paraglider and competes at 12 different venues all across the globe during the summer.

7 – Ski instructors hang out in aprés ski bars and party all night, every night.

Yes and no. “My young colleagues sure like to party and there’s never any shortage of companions for a drink,” says ski instructor Sebastian Kahn from Kitzbühel. “Yet that has nothing to do with being a ski instructor but with their young age.” Apart from that, ski instructors don’t hang out in aprés ski bars with clients like they used to. Again, the ski instructor has gained a whole new level of cachet. Nowadays, students consider instructing more of a “customer service” job. They are looking for someone who helps them improve their skiing rather than for someone to have a drink together.

Spätestens wenn die Lifte schließen, ist für Basti Feierabend. In der Skischule räumt er seine Sachen ein. Manchmal geht er danach noch ein Bier trinken. Mit Après Ski habe er es weniger, sagt er, aber „es gibt da schon noch Kollegen, die machen das“. Außerdem habe er eine Freundin. „Ich bin jetzt brav.“

Basti usually calls it a day when the lifts stop spinning. Occasionally he goes out for a “quick beer” with friends afterwards. Après ski is not really his passion, he tells us, “although some of my colleagues love to party in ski boots.” And on top of that he has a girlfriend. “I am settled now.”

Maximilian Gerl

Maximilian Gerl lives in Munich, Germany. Each and every year he resolves to finally spend more time in the mountains. He attended the German School of Journalism and currently is working as a freelance journalist.

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