7 Downsides to Being a Snowsports Instructor

Jenah MacGrain |
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Not everyone enjoys the snow. Image: VTF Vacances

Being a snowsports instructor is often a rewarding and fun occupation. You spend your day out in the fresh air, doing an activity you love, and getting to share that activity with other people. As with most jobs, however, there are plenty of not-so-great aspects to being an instructor. Long days, crying children, annoying adults, kids on chairlifts, arguing couples, lack of tips…check out these 7 downsides to working on the hill!

1. Tears, spit, snot, and other bodily fluids

Every instructor has either wiped a kid’s nose, taught them how to do a “snot rocket”, watched one blubber away with a combination of spit, snot, and tears, dealt with a “code yellow”, or wiped a kid’s bum. It happens. Luckily, many resorts have instructor assistants staffed that can help you deal with one of these situations but be ready with some tissue if the need arises.

2. Helicopter parents

A message to parents- If you are putting your children in ski or snowboard lessons, that’s great! Now go enjoy your day away from your children, and let the instructor do what they are trained to do. That is a polite way of saying- “go away!” Not only is your presence distracting to the instructor, but your children act differently around you. Many begin complaining and need help with things they were doing just fine on their own 5 minutes ago. If you must watch, please try to do so from a place where you can’t be seen!

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Remember to have appropriate layers for any type of weather! Image: Nonstop Snow

3. Extreme weather days

Dealing with rough weather is a part of working an outdoor job. There will be storm days, sunny days, rainy days, and hot days. You may be at the top of the mountain in a rainstorm or teaching a beginner class on the magic carpet in 60-degree sun, sweating profusely through your base layer. Be prepared for anything!

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Skiing above your ability can be dangerous. Image: ThoughtCo.

4. Adults and children overestimating their abilities

When taking a lesson, it is important to be honest about your or your child’s ability level. Most likely, you’re not as good as you think you are. Skiing is a complex sport. It doesn’t matter as much what runs you ski, but how you ski them. You’ve skied a black run- great! Did you ski down in a pizza, in a sideslip, or by traversing to the edge of the run and somehow turning around, or did you actually make consistent turns? Instructors aren’t going to judge you on your ability level if you are truthful from the start, however, they may do just that if you aren’t. If you overestimate your ability, it causes issues for the instructor throughout the day. If you’re unsure, ask questions!

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Skiing is hard. Image: Christy Sports

5. Tired little skiers at the end of the day

The end of the day is a delicate time. These kids don’t usually spend a full day doing physical activity, let alone in the cold and with heavy gear. You need to be careful with what you say, the timing of the day, and how you move your class from point A to point B. Any little thing could set off a chain reaction of waterworks with the little ones in your class. Leave early to get to the pickup area and keep them hydrated, fed, and as happy as you can!

6. The guest that says they want to improve but then doesn’t listen

Many instructors have dealt with this in a lesson- the guest that tells you they want to improve, specifically with skill A or B, but then choose not to listen when you are giving tips, tricks, or drills to help them. They want everyone to know that they have an instructor, but not use that instructor for any skill development. If you end up in this situation, try to enjoy the day of skiing!

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Snow angels are more fun than skiing. Image: Bring the Kids

7. Supervisors who have forgotten what it is like to be an instructor

Many ski school supervisors were once instructors, and a number of those supervisors and managers will actively work to stay up to date with techniques and policies. Some who have been out of the teaching game for a while may, however, lack empathy, give incorrect advice, use lesson assignments as punishment, or send out classes that are too big. Hopefully, other supervisors can remind them that they too were once in the position of instructor and help them see the error of their ways.

Despite these 7 (of many) downsides, being a snowsports instructor IS actually fun! Take this list with a grain of salt and remember that you get to ski all day while other people sit inside.


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