Several of the large nations within Europe including France, Austria and Switzerland all have a rich history and deep connection with alpine skiing. It is therefore no surprise that Europe is considered a top destination for recreational ski tourism. It is also one of the premier destinations to train and qualify as a ski instructor. With lots of course options available across the continent it can be difficult to decide where is best to train as an instructor. With that in mind we have put together a detailed guide to help you understand the options, and choose a course that suits your needs.

Navigate sections:

  1. Course Types & Countries

  2. Ski Instructor Qualifications

  3. Choosing a resort

  4. Who attends instructor courses

  5. Working as an instructor in Europe

  6. Planning and budgeting advice

  7. Top tips for choosing a course

1. Courses Types & Countries

Depending on where you go, there will usually be options to participate in a couple of different course types. It is advisable to understand what type of course you would like to attend, prior to choosing a country or resort destination. Ski instructor internships are courses which include an offer of instructor employment after any training and exam components have been completed. The course including any employment usually spans the full duration of the winter season. Most European internships that don’t require a language component are offered in Switzerland. Both Austria and Germany have instructor internship options, but usually require a German language component with exams and lessons taken and delivered in German. It is not possible to complete an instructor internship in France, as the country has strict regulations around employment for entry level ski instructors. It is worth noting that in order to complete a ski instructor internship you will need the legal right to take up employment in that country. A British or European citizenship is enough, but sometimes a work permit or visa may need to be obtained.You can learn more about ski instructor internships here. Ski instructor training courses are the traditional method of becoming a ski instructor. They focus solely on the training and qualification elements and do not offer the employment post qualification. The length of the course is typically dictated by the level of qualification offered, usually 4 weeks for level 1 and 10+ weeks for the level 1 & 2.Training courses in Europe are available across most popular ski destinations and can be completed without the requirement of a work permit or visa.You can learn more about our ski instructor training programmes here.

2. Ski Instructor Qualifications

When researching the qualifications offered on a ski instructor course you should ensure that they are internationally recognised and interchangeable. If you have aspirations of working worldwide it is advisable to work towards a certification offered by an International Ski Instructor Association (ISIA) member association. The most likely ISIA member associations operating in Europe are:

  • British Association of Ski Instructors (BASI)

  • Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI) 

  • New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA)

There is also the Austrian Ski School Association (ÖSSV) which provides a comparable qualification system to the associations mentioned above. However, the ÖSSV is not a member of the ISIA, which makes it more difficult for members qualified under this system to work outside of Austria and Europe. Learn more about ski instructor qualifications here.

3. Choosing a resort

Believe it or not Europe is home to over 2,000 ski resorts, ranging from cross-country, high altitude international destinations, to privately owned, local areas with a single lift or tow. Most often, the bigger resorts are worth considering first, as they are likely to have a higher percentage of established ski schools with the best quality trainers. For example, Zermatt, in Switzerland, is a popular European course destination with dozens of great ski schools and huge visitation numbers. In France, Tignes and Val-d’Isère are popular resorts, due to vast skiable areas and a popular nightlife. In Italy, ski resorts that make up the Milky Way ski area, like Sauze d'Oulx, are popular due to their overall value for money in an industry that is known to be quite expensive. It is best to thoroughly research any resorts you’re considering. Look at factors like the amount of terrain on offer. If you’re looking at an internship, what are the employment prospects like? What is the town like, how many bars and restaurants does it have? Check reviews online to ensure that people who have completed courses in the area previously have enjoyed the experience.

4. Who attends ski instructor courses

A large number of ski instructor courses in Europe are run by international training providers with English speaking instructors and examiners. Lessons, exams, shadowing and employment are all provided in English with a very small percentage requiring language skills. Course participants come from all over the world, but the highest percentage are generally from the UK. You can expect to train with people from mainland Europe, Scandinavia and potentially Australasia.Each course has a slightly different mix of candidates, but usually you would expect the majority of people to be between 18-30 years old, with around a 60/40 split of male to female. Skiers usually require at least 4 weeks of previous on-snow experience to be eligible for a basic level 1 ski instructor course. However, the more advanced level 2 courses will require upwards of 8 weeks of experience to ensure a good base level prior to starting the course. 

5. Working as a ski instructor in Europe

Anyone taking part in a ski instructor internship may be eligible to work as part of their course. The transition into instructor employment can happen after the level 1 qualification but in Europe it’s more typical once the level 2 qualification has been achieved. A few things to think about :

  • Most likely you will be living in staff accommodation which is shared, social and reasonably affordable on your instructor wage.

  • Wages in Switzerland are amongst the best in Europe, but the cost of living in resorts can be relatively high.

  • Ski schools may offer discounts on meals, transport, equipment and other items.

  • Ski schools often provide ongoing professional career development as part of the employment package.

  • All lessons will likely be conducted in English to English speaking clients.

6. Planning and budgeting for a ski instructor course

There are five major costs to consider when budgeting for a ski instructor course, they are: 

  • Course Fees – This is where the bulk of the budget will be spent. The course fees are dictated by the package you choose, relating to qualifications offered, resort/location and any additional add-ons. 

  • Flights – Not a huge expense if travelling from or close to Europe. 

  • Insurance – A comprehensive policy with full winter sports cover is usually required for the duration of your time in resort.

  • Equipment – It will be necessary to own your own equipment. Detailed advice and local discounts are usually offered by the training provider. 

  • Living Expenses – Once in resort, you will still be required to cover some of your living costs. Depending on the course, accommodation and food might be part of the package. An internship course will provide some income but it is important to have extra funds for any discretionary spending.  

7. Top Tips for choosing an instructor course in Europe

To finish up, here are five top tips for becoming an instructor in Europe: 

  1. Choose a snow-sure resort.

  2. Train towards a qualification from an ISIA member association.

  3. Ensure you have the right amount of on-snow experience before signing up.

  4. Read independent reviews online to get a good feel for the training provider.

  5. Have a comprehensive understanding of what the course includes. For example, some providers include a level 2 training package but then don’t include the exam fee!