My journey to becoming a ski instructor in Japan

Hi, my name is Sara Cooper (Scoops to my close friends!) and I’m a qualified ski instructor. I now work as an instructor in Japan, New Zealand and Canada thanks to a WE ARE SNO instructor internship course.

Before I started my course last year, I worked as a major trauma nurse in Nottingham, UK. I loved looking after people, but the emotional stress that comes with the job was often significant, so I decided I needed a break. It was at that point I spotted an advert for WE ARE SNO online and started researching the opportunity. I’d always loved skiing, and I was at a point in my life where I had nothing holding me back. I thought this could be my opportunity to travel and explore the world doing something that I enjoy!


Prior to signing up for the course, my parents were against the idea, and thought the opportunity sounded too good to be true. I didn’t let this stop me and found out that a mutual friend on Facebook had completed a WE ARE SNO course the previous year. I contacted him to ask about the legitimacy of the company and if the course was worth pursuing, thankfully I heard only positive things and couldn’t wait to get involved. I remember being on a night shift at the hospital and checking on the website to see if I was deemed suitable for an instructor internship course. The website gave me the information I needed and the more I read, the more I wanted to head off on a new adventure!

After reviewing the course brochures and various emails back and forth I had a call with Adrian. This was to determine which course might be most suitable for me based on my previous experience and my goals for the season. The next stage of the application was a telephone interview and something I was quite nervous about. Things were getting real, but the interview was fine, just a relaxed conversation so Adrian could understand more about me and how my personality would fit with the others on the course.

Thankfully I was accepted onto the Niseko ski internship and WE ARE SNO were there to guide me through all of the pre course elements. This included my visa application, advice and assistance on flights and insurance and to what ski gear to buy or bring with me. The process was smooth and hassle free, any questions were answered quickly and thoroughly.


On departure day from the UK I met up with a bunch of the guys and girls who were on the same course. WE ARE SNO have a course Facebook group so everyone can meet and chat before heading out to resort. By the time we arrived into Japan we had already made some good friends. On arrival into Sapporo we met up with our WE ARE SNO Programme Manager, Ed. He was there supporting us throughout the course, organising trips, meals and nights out amongst other things. We waited as the group began to grow with people coming from different parts of the world, we then boarded the coaches and headed to our accommodation base in Niseko.

We were living in the heart of Hirafu, Niseko in the Stoked Hostel, right next to all of the bars and restaurants and a short walk from the lifts. It was an amazing experience living here together as one big family as we had the place to ourselves. The staff (Peter and Yoko) were hands down the best hosts in the world! Stoked was perfect with its open plan living, large dining area and commercial kitchen. We got breakfast everyday and unlimited hot chocolate after a day training on the slopes!


During our instructor training we had NZSIA trainers from Propeak Ski School who are the resort partners for WE ARE SNO. Training went on for around 3 weeks and was a brilliant mixture of fun and learning. We’d start each day with a funny warm up, we had everything from British Bulldog to a Scottish Dance! Then we’d break into small groups and spend the day with our trainers working on our skiing technique and understanding how to deliver lessons successfully. It was great to see my personal improvements and how much the others in my group were enjoying it. We had a 100% pass rate on the level 1 exams and celebrated in true Japanese style, with drinks and Karaoke!

Throughout the course Ed organised several nights where we could go out as a group and socialise together. We had Sushi making and a Nabe evening at the hostel as well as meals out and apres ski drinks. WE ARE SNO subsidised many of the social evenings/activities to make sure everyone was included.


While working in Japan, we continued to have support from WE ARE SNO. Many of us were training to attempt the level 2 instructor exams, and were given advice to secure future jobs in ski schools. In fact, everyone who took the level 2 instructor exam also managed to secure a job for the next season too.

I am currently working at Porters Ski Area in New Zealand and unfortunately am nearing the end of the season. I have loved it so much, met some amazing people and have been able to ski almost every day. At Porters I’ve been told I have developed a good reputation for teaching kids, my Cookie Monster impression is certainly something they seem to love! The enjoyment I have from teaching rubs off and everyone ends up having fun.


I find working as a ski instructor is as rewarding as nursing, but with much less stress. Don’t get me wrong, kids will cry and people will crash into you or moan that they can’t do it…but when something clicks and they get it, you can see the happiness as they start to enjoy being on the mountain. There are harder days where the weather makes you wish you were inside, but the good days easily outweigh the bad. You get days where you can go for laps of your own and enjoy your skiing, and days where you work 7 hours straight without a break! You’ll stuff your pockets with snack bars and teach all day, but it’s still so much fun!

For the upcoming Northern Hemisphere winter I’ve even got myself a job at SilverStar Ski Resort in Canada, one of British Columbia’s largest resorts. I will move to Canada in November and look forward to skiing and working in another country. If you’re considering becoming and instructor I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend WEARESNO, it’s a perfect way to start a new career, I wish I could do it all over again!