It's not just people skills.WHAT IT TAKES: A lot of instructors begin their careers without having achieved "expert status. They have to be strong skiers, of course, but people skills and the ability to teach effectively are equally important. "You don't need to be the best on the mountain, says John Armstrong, president of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA). "You do need a simple, clean skiing style.
The best way to improve your own skiing technique is to truly understand the mechanics of skiing and be able to communicate that knowledge to others. Having your own technique broken down—then totally rebuilt—can be frustrating, even humiliating. And a rookie instructor can expect to pay dues by spending the majority of the first season teaching beginners.
Ski instruction is an honorable profession, but not a lucrative one. The real perks are in the ongoing training and on-snow time. New instructors usually improve at an astonishing rate. Their background knowledge and communication skills rise off the charts. The best instructors are serious lifelong students of their sport, always seeking to better themselves. The old stereotype of the aloof, bronzed-god instructor is long gone. American instructors, in particular, are down-to-earth folks who can rip. The best can walk the walk any day, on any terrain, and help others do the same.
HOW TO GET THERE: Ask a resort near you about its instructor training program. Sign up, and if it's a good fit, sign on as a part-time apprentice. Stick close to your mentors, and give all you can to your students. Study video of yourself skiing, and strive for a quiet, economical style. Become a member of the PSIA (psia.org). Each regional division offers several levels of certification. First-year instructors usually achieve Level 1. Level 3, the highest, is very demanding. The best make the PSIA Demo Team. Always work toward higher certification: It'll motivate you and keep you fresh.