Should Snowboarders Become Ski Instructors?
If you're a snowboarder considering joining EA Ski & Snowboard on an instructor internship, we encourage you to take the time to consider becoming a dual certified instructor. Not only will becoming both a ski and snowboard instructor create more employment opportunities, but it will also give you the chance to broaden your skill set and create variety in your job.
Here's why you should take the time to consider becoming a dual qualified instructor.
A brief history of snowboarding
Modern snowboarding was first invented by a man called Sherman Poppen the 1960s in California, USA. However, it wasn't until it was first included in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, nearly 40 years later, that the sport began to boom globally.
Snowboarding, otherwise known as snow surfing or snurfing (in the very early days), began as a controversial addition to the winter sports industry and commercial ski areas were slow adopters. Early snowboarders were often banned from the slopes or made to take a skills assessment to ride the chairlifts. The playful rivalry between skiers and snowboarders that exists today can be traced back to these days when early adopters of snowboarding were accused of being dangerous hooligans on the slopes by nervous skiers.
In 1985, only 7% of all USA ski areas allowed snowboarding. As equipment and skills improved, gradually snowboarding became more accepted. By the mid-1990s, most major ski areas had separate slopes for snowboarders and today approximately 97% of all ski areas in North America and Europe cater for snowboarding.
At its height of popularity in the early 2000s, snowboarding was the fastest growing sport in the world. But, despite its reputation, the global ratio of snowboarders to skiers that visit commercial ski fields each year is estimated to be about a 25:75 split.
Why do beginners choose skiing over snowboarding?
“Skiing is easier to learn but harder to master - whereas snowboarding is harder to learn but easier to master.”
It is widely known that for complete beginners, skiing is a lot easier to progress in than snowboarding. Skiers legs are separated so it's easier for beginners to rebalance themselves at low speeds. Also, facing forward rather sideways can make picking up essential skills like balance and turning easy. With snowboarding, having two feet attached to one board can feel awkward and restrictive at first. Also, the unnatural body positioning and limited vision can mean that complete beginners spend more time falling than turning down the slopes.
From a learning perspective, it's easy to see why most people generally start on skis and move to a snowboard once they begin to enjoy the snow.
While being a ski or snowboard instructor can be glamorous, exciting, and insanely fun. It can also be exhausting and tiresome at times. Some days, you might be teaching people who want to explore every inch of the mountain and buy you lunch. Other times, you might be teaching a group of complete beginners on the magic carpet.
A beginner snowboard lesson can be harder to teach than a beginner ski lesson. This comes down to the coordination it takes to stand up with a stiff board attached to your feet. Beginner snowboarders tend to fall over a lot more frequently than beginner skiers do so you might find a lot of first-time snowboarders asking, “Do you teach skiing too?” and “Is skiing easier?” Having the option to switch it up can be a welcomed relief. Dual instructors can also say to their clients “yes, book me for a private tomorrow and I’ll show you how to ski or snowboard too...”
The important thing to realise is that regardless of whether you're a ski instructor or a snowboard instructor, at the start of your career, you're going to be teaching beginners. You'll need to earn your stripes before you're considered for higher skilled lessons and private work, in either discipline.
Who is a dual instructor?
Dual instructors are professionally proficient in both skiing and snowboarding. They don’t buy into the age-old rivalry of skiers versus snowboarders. To them, there’s no need to pick a side - they get a thrill out of both. They are happy to teach both skiing and snowboarding and are more interested in helping a beginner develop a love of the mountain, regardless of what piece of equipment that beginner chooses to play on.
These instructors have twice the opportunity for career progression, twice the number of tricks to learn, and a whole other way to view terrain.
Being a dual certified instructor is excellent from an employment perspective. Ski resorts are quick to hire instructor staff who can teach both skiing and snowboarding as it means they can more easily adjust for demand.
“Being dual certified is fantastic. Now that I am hiring people…that is one of my first questions. Do you do both?”– Daniel Mee, Snow School Director, Hakuba Snow Sports School
Choosing to become a dual qualified instructor in your first season can be a great way to get an idea of teaching both disciplines, the clientele, and what certifications you may want to gain in each sport. Being a dual certified instructor also means you'll have more variety in your job.
We asked snowboarders on Reddit if they thought snowboarders should consider becoming ski instructors too. Here are some of the responses:
"I've got a year of instructing in both and honestly, yes. If you're in it to make any kind of money in tips or otherwise, then skiers are where it's at, and on top of it, you'll get at least double the lesson opportunities. More experience teaching tends to make a better teacher too. This may be an unpopular opinion as well, but I found I liked the ski lessons more because it was a lot easier to get students up on their feet and to learn rather than helping them get up for an hour straight and strapping back into my board and soft boots afterwards was always a welcome change."
“As a snowboarder that has been learning how to ski, actually, I think this would be cool and useful. I feel like I carry over habits from one to the other that doesn’t necessarily help, for instance, learning about similarities and differences might help me progress more at both. I think it’s a matter of a bigger perspective, and you might be able to jump into the niche of splitboard training too."
EA Ski & Snowboard offer a dual internship program each year at Big White Ski Resort, in Canada. For more information about becoming a dual certified instructor, get in touch with our team.