I still remember the tiny specks of my mother, father, and sister waving (well, I assumed they were waving) in the distance as the airplane left the runway that day. This was my gateway to change: to a whole new country; a whole new environment; a whole new season. What was my action plan? A ski instructor course in Japan with WE ARE SNO – Instructor Courses.
That was two seasons ago and counting. Back to back winters are now all that I know. Summer, what’s that? Winter is where I can live the dream of making money through my hobby.
Looking back, I never would have thought that my obsession with skiing would mean that I would base my entire life around having the freedom to ski every day.
It all started with asking myself the prevailing question, “How do I ensure that I can ski each day and for at least 50 days every season, yet still make enough money to live?” A light bulb went off – I needed to become a ski instructor!
With that in mind I promptly signed up for a ski instructor internship course I had been thoroughly researching. The icing on the cake was the ‘guaranteed paid job upon completion of the course’ ambitiously declared in the description that I had highlighted and underlined several times on the brochure. A job at the end, what did I have to lose? With that weight off my shoulders, I launched into the journey of becoming a ski instructor and the different characteristics that came with that title.
A season of laughter, tears, hard work and more laughter with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. The whole experience easily topped my university days that others are so quick to claim are the “best days of your life.” Definitely worth the investment and commitment when you consider a solid internationally recognised certification ensuring a great ‘foot in the door’ opportunity for anyone’s skiing career.
Working as a Ski Instructor
Working as an instructor can be challenging, but is also tremendously rewarding. Watching my group go from ‘never evers’ to linking ‘snowplough’ turns is one of the best feelings. In your first season you generally accompany the beginner skier groups. In my opinion, first-timers may not be the most stimulating, but are, without a doubt, the most rewarding group to teach. To see someone not only improve, but thrive on a small amount of direction makes it all worth it. Not to mention the fact that you play a significant role in their skiing journey, positive or not, it is enough motivation to put the effort in!
Yes, the pay may not be extravagant, especially when you start out, and you may be teaching on the beginner slopes on a bluebird powder day, but it’s a lifestyle choice at the end of the day. Although, you can consider all of the paid après ski appointments and delicious meals out with those that you teach, and private requests that may even take you to neighbouring mountains for a change of scenery – bonus!
The best part of my winter experience out of my ski boots was resort life. Resort life can be defined by any off-mountain activity that happens inside the town closest to the ski field that you worked.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to experience my ‘office’ life in Hakuba resort. One of Japan’s most vibrant skiing destinations.
Off snow, we dabbled in so many cultural activities I lose count. From Fire Festivals to Sushi Sundays, it was amazing. Tokyo is surprisingly close, so when you really want a break from the resort you can head into one of the craziest cities on the planet for a few beers!
Life after the Season: Travel
Of course, life as a ski instructor has some disadvantages such as being a seasonal career choice. Although, I didn’t really see this as a negative as I saw this as an opportunity to explore this beautiful country and stumble upon something fresh and new!
Looking forward I’ll aim to add a higher certification to my list each season to begin to pave the travel pathway through to the rest of the world. Until then, Japan will always be my second home and the place where I scored the best job on earth.