In recent years Japan has become a hugely popular ski destination, thanks to its unique and diverse culture, coupled with unrivalled snow conditions. This popularity has been responsible for the increased demand for English speaking ski instructors across most of Japan’s resorts. To meet this demand opportunities are now available to train and qualify professionally by attending a ski instructor certification course. Understanding and choosing the most suitable ski instructor course in Japan can be tricky. There are a number of training providers offering courses that are all slightly different. Most come with a structured training element, internationally recognised qualifications and paid employment. However, there are a variety of other important factors to consider too. Below we’ve put together a useful guide to help you understand the ins and outs of ski instructor courses in Japan.
There are two main types of courses available in Japan to look out for:
Ski instructor training courses are the traditional way of gaining a qualification. They package together a number of course elements that are likely to include: accommodation, lift pass, training and exam costs. There will be additional inclusions specific to a particular course provider that should be researched prior to booking. Instructor training courses do not provide paid employment opportunities post qualification.
Less pressure on passing exams as there is no job offered
Easier to enroll on as course spaces are not usually limited
When the course ends (usually mid winter) you are required to support yourself
No employment offered
Restricted on time (e.g. less than 2 months)
Would not be able to legally work within Japan (e.g. not eligible for working visas)
Do not want to work or start a career in snowsports, simply want to improve their skiing and spend time in the snow
There is not usually a massive amount of difference in the two courses when it comes to overall inclusions. You will always get a full season pass with the internship and often the chance to live in staff accommodation. The key difference, however, is the inclusion of full-time instructor employment post qualification. This means that the courses tend to start very early in the season (late November or early December in Japan), and last longer due to the working element. Note, these are sometimes referred to as ski instructor apprenticeships, but it is essentially the same thing. You can learn more about ski instructor internships here.
Earning a wage to support resort living
Valuable work experience to help with future career prospects
Stay in resort longer and enjoy a full season
Work can be unpredictable and levels are lower outside of holiday periods
Limited places each winter due to ski school recruitment needs
Are looking to start a career in snowsports rather than a single winter
Are able to work legally (e.g. can apply for a working visa)
Have 3+ months available and wish to work as an instructor
If you’re considering an internship course, we recommend you speak to one of our team before applying for a visa to ensure you meet the criteria.
When considering ski instructor courses in Japan, it is vital to pay attention to the types of instructor qualification and certification on offer. You should ensure the course is working towards a certification offered by an International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) member association. The two most likely associations are:
Australian Professional Snowsport Instructors Inc. (APSI)
New Zealand Snowsports Instructors Alliance (NZSIA)
There is no major difference between the two on paper, however, the teaching style and course curriculum offered are slightly different. The NZSIA are a bigger association and you can find their certification courses offered in more countries worldwide. Both of the above, and any other certification from an ISIA member association will be recognised internationally. You can learn more about ski instructor qualifications here. There are a number of snowsports professionals who are qualified under the Professional Ski Instructors Association of Japan (SIA) accreditation. It is much less common to find a course of this nature as it is only geared towards domestic, Japanese speaking clients, rather than English.
Believe it or not Japan has over 600 resorts spread across the country, these range from basic one run/one lift hills to large interconnected resorts with a vast array of lift systems. For an instructor training course or internship to be viable, the intended resort needs to be of a particular size. There needs to be established international ski schools operating in the area and the required resources close by.It is important that you choose a resort based on the type of winter experience you are looking for. We have chosen two resorts in Japan that offer something slightly different, they are:
– World renowned, bustling ski town made famous for its volcano views and light fluffy powder snow.
– An authentic Japanese ski town, famed for its amazing off-piste conditions, deep snow and uncrowded resorts.
Our team will be able to provide more detail on each resort, as well as showing you our latest brochures to help you understand the main differences.
Despite Japan being in the centre of Asia, it is actually a non-Asian audience that is drawn to ski instructor courses here. Each course has a slightly different mix of candidates, but largely they are:
Between 18-30 years old
Around 60% male, 40% female
From the UK, Canada, Australisia, Europe & Scandinavia
Have at least 4 weeks of current, on-snow experience
Training programmes may have a slightly different demographic because participants don’t require the right to work. Generally speaking everyone will share the same passion for skiing, traveling and meeting new people. You can check out the reviews page to hear from some of our ex-interns or visit our instagram channel to see some recent photos/videos from our courses.
Ski instructor internships are designed so you can train, qualify and work all in the same season. You will transition into the working element of the programme after 3-4 weeks and start teaching real-time clients during the busy Christmas and New Year period.A few things to note:
You will likely live in staff accommodation which is shared, social and affordable on your instructors wages
Wages are very good in Japan, teaching rate starts from around ¥1,600 per hour. You will get paid more for requested, private and night lessons
Larger ski schools offer staff discounts on meals and transport
It is advisable to work as much as you can during peak periods to give yourself a financial buffer during quieter times
Take up opportunities for additional training provided by the ski school. This will really help with your professional development and any future qualification attempts
You will work for an international ski school so all of your lessons will be conducted in English, to English speaking clients
There are 5 main costs to consider when looking into a ski instructor courses in Japan, these are:
Fees will vary depending on the resort and qualification type of your choice, but will always be the largest component. We offer a range of flexible payment options to help make courses more affordable. Tip: Consider securing a position for a future winter if fees are a sticking point. It is quite normal to secure a place 18-24 months in advance to give yourself time to get prepared for a course.
Depending on the distance you are travelling and the airline you choose to fly with, flight cost will also vary. If your final destination is Niseko, it is possible to fly direct to Sapporo but some will require internal flights from Tokyo. We offer a personalised travel consultancy service via STA Travel to any of our clients based in the UK and Australia.This will give you access to discounted and group flights with flexible fare options available.A ballpark cost for return flights would be:
£700 from UK
$1,000 AUD from Australia
$1,100 CAD from Canada
It is essential that you have a travel insurance policy to participate in a ski instructor course in Japan, or indeed any other country. You will need a comprehensive policy along with a winter sports package to ensure you are fully covered.A ballpark cost for insurance would be:
£300-600 from UK
$700- 1,000 AUD from Australia
$800 – 1,100 CAD from Canada
Most people who have spent an extended time in the mountains will have their own gear. If not that’s not a problem. You will be required to own your own gear and not use any rentals, as that could prove expensive for the duration of a winter season.Once you secure a position on an instructor internship course you will be provided access to a detailed equipment guide. This will give you in depth information on exactly what you will need for the course. Our staff are always on hand to offer tips and advice as well as helping you select the right equipment.
During your time on the ski instructor course all of your accommodation will have full catering facilities. That means you can prepare meals and work to a budget if necessary. There are usually benefits for being mountain staff that will entitle you to discounted food and drinks on the mountain.Part of the working holiday visa conditions state that you must have $2,500 AUD (or equivalent currency) in cleared funds and a return or onward journey ticket. We believe this is a good buffer to cover expenses during the training period prior to starting work. This does obviously depend on individual spending habits so should only be used as a guide.
To finish up, here are our 10 top tips for comparing ski instructor course providers:
Be wary of heavily discounted course offers
Fully understand the payment structure and plan offered
Check full list of course inclusions
Check accommodation is arranged for the duration of the course
Check how many people share each room in accommodation
Make sure the qualification offered is from an ISIA member association
Check all exam fees are included (level 1 & 2 depending on course)
Check there is a programme manager looking after you in resort
Read online reviews from independent websites like Trustpilot
Ask to speak to someone who has attended a course with that training provider