Becoming a Ski Instructor in Japan

Calendar April 28th, 2013

Japan might not have been Isla Sherrington's first choice to become a ski instructor, but it ended up being an experience of a life time, so much that Isla doesn't want to leave!

For other blog posts from Japan check out:




Here is a recap of Isla's road to becoming a ski instructor in Japan:

I signed up for the EA Ski Internship Programme in 2012 with the hope of going to Revelstoke, Canada. As it turned out, lack of organisation with visas sent me packing to Japan with mixed feelings of nerves and excitement. Within the first hour of touchdown, all anxieties were forgotten as I was faced with the biggest culture shock of my life and loved every second of it. Being a small town girl from the Highlands in Scotland, Tokyo was quite an experience in itself. If anything, the new surroundings helped gel our group of sixteen interns together almost instantly as we were toured around one of the busiest cities in the world. Of course, our bonds only grew stronger in the evenings, as we excelled in our Western mutual love for finding great nightlife… and found it we did.


So, with our heads still spinning and memories returning, we were whisked away on a shinkansen train, that I’m sure was once used in a Sci-Fi movie, bound for our new home in Yuzawa, Niigata. The weeks of training that followed was invaluable in terms of my skiing standards. Having skied for many years, I was perhaps slightly delusional in thinking I would sail through. In reality, everybody began on a similar level as our ski skills were stripped down to basics and reassembled over a two-week period. Now, even when I free ski for myself, the improvement felt is astonishing in terms of control. I have pushed my abilities out here in Japan further than I have ever had the confidence to do in the past.

With a sigh of relief, mid January, everybody had passed their NZSIA Level 1 (thanks to a group effort) and we all began our season as qualified ski instructors. The work is probably the most rewarding and fun I have ever had whilst being paid. It’s not always easy, but without sounding too cheesy… a bad day on the hill is truly greater than a good day in the office. An age-old saying but true to life. My most repeated line to all my customers began with a gesture to the beautiful scenery and was accompanied with a cheeky “welcome to my office”.

It has to be stressed that this is a job like any other, where you will need to remain professional and work hard. However, the real fun is the free skiing with your mates and of course, the Japanese powder. I was lucky to have skied many times in the European Alps, including a few ski tours, and had thought I had experienced powder in its finest. One trip to Nozawa Onsen, about an hour up the road, blew all previous experiences out the window. Endless tree runs where you can barely breath for the amount of face shots made me happier than a drunk at an open bar. The heavy powder in the South Island lasted till around the end of February this year as spring rolled in early. But all that meant was that it was time to practice park skiing. A discipline I had tried a few times without much luck, however having a group of people at a similar level of ability meant we could all push ourselves enough to improve without hurting ourselves too much. Overall, I have a lot of great memories of just spending whole days playing like kids in the sun and have learned the odd wee trick on top to keep me happy.


As well as skiing, Japan is great for travelling and experiencing something entirely new. I have been to a few festivals; one to look up is Nozawa Onsen Fire festival in January. It has to be one of the most bizarre and hilarious evenings of my life, which involved a LOT of free sake as we witnessed local men literally fighting with fire. I have also spent my free time partying in Tokyo and visiting surreal temples. We were asked by the local village to carry a shrine down the streets while they pored beers down our throats. I have also simply enjoyed getting lost in a country, which still has elements of mystery and intrigue.

I really do recommend Japan as a top destination to anybody interested in living the ski bum lifestyle. I have enjoyed myself so much that I am currently in the process of training for my canyoning guide licence so I can stay here over the summer, then will repeat the winter season starting next December. Hopefully there to meet the fresh faced interns about to embark on the same journey I just took. Enjoy guys, I promise you its going to be epic.


Sound Awesome?
Check out more information on EA's ski instructor courses in Japan or snowboard instructor courses in Japan