If you’ve ever hit the slopes and thought, “Wow, being a ski instructor would be a dream job,” you’re not alone. It’s a career that appeals to many avid skiers, but as with any profession, the big question is always: how much can you make?
Becoming a ski instructor allows you to share your passion for skiing while also getting paid for it. However, like any other job in the world, your salary depends on several factors such as experience, location, qualifications, certifications, and demand.
Whether you’re considering changing careers or just want to get an idea of what ski instructors earn, this article will explore everything you need to know about their salary. You may have already guessed that wages vary significantly due to several reasons – region, employer, full-time versus part-time, competition, skill level, citizen or foreigner, among others.
“Salary structures of ski instructors differ from country to country, resort to resort, mountain range, and season to season.”
In this post, we’ll delve into these factors and provide you with the average pay scale of ski instructors worldwide. Read on to find out if working as a ski instructor is financially viable, what qualifications are needed to become one, how long it takes to train and certify, and why more experienced instructors often earn higher salaries than new ones.
Factors That Affect Ski Instructor Salaries
Location of Ski Resort
The location of a ski resort is one of the main factors that can affect how much a ski instructor is paid. Resorts in popular skiing destinations such as Aspen, Vail, and Jackson Hole tend to pay instructors higher hourly rates than resorts in less popular or remote areas.
According to data from Glassdoor, the average hourly pay for a ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado is $22. In contrast, the average hourly pay for a ski instructor in Steamboat Springs, another popular skiing destination but with fewer visitors, is $14.50.
Similarly, resorts located in expensive metropolitan areas like New York City and San Francisco also pay their ski instructors more due to the high cost of living in those areas. The average hourly rate for instructors at big-name resorts near these cities can range from $18 – $30 an hour depending on the resort and level of experience.
Type of Ski Resort
The type of ski resort can also play a factor in determining a ski instructor’s salary. Larger, more well-known resorts may offer better pay and benefits packages compared to smaller, local operations.
In general, resorts affiliated with larger companies, such as Vail Resorts, typically offer higher wages and better employee perks like health insurance, retirement plans, and tuition reimbursement programs. For example, Vail Resorts offers full-time employees access to subsidized housing options, discounts on dining and retail products, and free lift tickets for themselves and qualified dependents.
On the other hand, independent or family-owned ski resorts may have tighter budgets and offer lower salaries and fewer benefits due to limited resources. However, instructors at these types of resorts may have more flexibility when it comes to scheduling and work-life balance since they are typically smaller operations with fewer employees.
“Ski instructing can be a somewhat transient job, attracting individuals who have traded off long hours and hard work for the chance to pursue their love of skiing and snowboarding in some of the most beautiful locations on the planet” -The Balance Careers
A ski instructor’s salary can vary significantly depending not only on their experience level but also the location and type of resort they work at. It’s important for potential instructors to research pay rates and employee benefits before committing to a specific resort to ensure they’re receiving fair compensation for their skills and expertise.
Typical Salary Range for Ski Instructors
Entry-level Salaries for Ski Instructors
As with most professions, ski instructors start at the bottom of the pay scale. The entry-level salaries are typically around minimum wage or slightly above, depending on the state and the resort where they work. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for an entry-level ski instructor in the United States is $26,731 per year.
It’s also important to note that ski instructors often work seasonally, so their actual pay may be divided into smaller amounts throughout the year rather than being consistent like a traditional job.
Median Salaries for Ski Instructors
The median salary for ski instructors varies based on experience level, certification status, location, and employer. However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for recreational instructors, including ski instructors, was $19,580 as of May 2020. Keep in mind that this number reflects all types of recreational instructors, not just those teaching skiing.
A survey conducted by the National Ski Areas Association found that ski instructors make a median hourly wage of $14.36 across all levels of certification. This number includes both full-time and part-time instructors. The same survey found that the highest-paid instructors made over $40 per hour while the lowest-paid earned less than $8 per hour.
Salaries for Experienced Ski Instructors
Experienced ski instructors who hold advanced certifications can earn significantly more than their entry-level counterparts. For example, a Level III certified PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America) instructor can earn up to $60+ per hour at some resorts. To put that into perspective, consider that the maximum salary for a Level I instructor is typically between $15 and $25 per hour.
It’s also worth noting that ski instructors who work at higher-end resorts or private clubs can earn more than those working at smaller, less expensive ski areas. These positions often come with added perks like free lodging, meals, and skiing privileges for the instructor and their family members.
Bonuses and Tips for Ski Instructors
In addition to hourly wages, some ski instructors receive bonuses and tips throughout the season. Bonuses may be awarded for performance, such as achieving high satisfaction ratings from students or teaching a certain number of lessons. Tips are also an important part of many ski instructors’ income, since they’re often included on top of base pay rates. According to SimplyHired, the average annual tip amount earned by ski instructors in the United States is around $4,000.
“Like most teaching positions, being a ski instructor isn’t about the money. It’s about sharing your love and knowledge of a sport you’re passionate about with other people. But if you’re able to make a living doing it, then it’s the best job in the world.” -Chad Fleischer, former Olympic skier and current Director of Snowsports at Vail Resorts.
The Highest Paying Ski Resorts for Instructors
If you’re looking to become a ski instructor, it’s important to consider the potential earnings that come with the job. Since not all ski resorts offer the same pay rates for their instructors, we’ve put together a list of the highest paying ski resorts in North America.
Luxury Ski Resorts
- Aspen/Snowmass: This luxury resort located in Colorado is known for its high-end clientele and focuses on providing top-notch instruction for skiers of all levels. With an average hourly rate of $30-$35 per hour, instructors at Aspen/Snowmass can make up to $800 per week.
- Vail/Beaver Creek: Also located in Colorado, Vail/Beaver Creek has made a name for itself as one of the most prestigious ski resorts in North America. For ski instructors, this means higher pay rates – with average hourly rates ranging from $25-$40 per hour, instructors here have the potential to earn up to $1,000 per week.
- Deer Valley Resort: Located in Park City, Utah, Deer Valley Resort is another well-known luxury ski destination that attracts affluent travelers seeking a top-notch skiing experience. Their ski instructors can expect to earn an average hourly wage of $20-$45, making it possible to earn up to $940 per week.
“Ski instructors are well-regarded professionals who can earn above-average wages if they work for the right resort.” -Jeff Greco, CEO of MountainJobs.com
Popular Ski Resorts with High Demand for Instructors
- Breckenridge Ski Resort: As one of the most visited ski resorts in North America, Breckenridge sees a consistently high demand for ski instructors throughout the season. With hourly rates ranging from $15-$30, ski instructors can earn up to $700 per week.
- Whistler Blackcomb: This popular ski destination in British Columbia, Canada offers some of the highest pay rates for instructors, with average hourly wages ranging from $20-$40 per hour. Instructors at Whistler Blackcomb have the potential to earn up to $1,000 per week.
- Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows: Located in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is a popular ski resort known for its expansive terrain and high-quality instruction. Ski instructors here can make an average hourly wage of $20-$35, bringing their weekly earnings potential up to $910.
“While luxury resorts offer top-paying jobs for ski instructors, some popular ski destinations also offer competitive wages due to consistently high demand.” -Jeff Greco, CEO of MountainJobs.com
Keep in mind that salaries may vary depending on experience, certification level, and other factors such as tips and commission. It’s important to do your research when considering job opportunities at various ski resorts to ensure you’re getting fair compensation for your skills and expertise.
All in all, becoming a ski instructor can be a lucrative career choice if you choose the right employer. Whether you prefer working at a luxury resort or a more popular destination, there are plenty of opportunities out there to make a good living doing what you love on the slopes!
How Experience and Certification Affect Ski Instructor Salaries
Effect of Experience on Ski Instructor Salaries
Ski instructors with more experience tend to earn higher salaries than those who are new to the profession. This is because experienced ski instructors have a better understanding of how to teach skiing techniques and can effectively communicate and demonstrate these skills to their students.
According to Payscale, the average salary for a ski instructor with 1-4 years of experience is approximately $14 per hour. However, this rate increases to around $18 per hour for those with 5-9 years of experience and jumps up to an average hourly wage of about $25 for instructors with over 10 years of experience.
This is further supported by data from Indeed, which shows that in popular ski destinations like Colorado and California, experienced ski instructors can make upwards of $30 per hour, compared to entry-level salaries in the range of $11-$15 per hour.
“It takes time and practice to become a successful ski instructor. By logging hours teaching on the slopes and building your reputation as a knowledgeable and effective instructor, you’ll be able to command higher wages and enjoy greater professional opportunities,” says Dave Gibson, President of the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA).
Effect of Certification on Ski Instructor Salaries
Certification is another factor that can significantly impact ski instructor salaries. Earning certification from a recognized organization, such as the PSIA or the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI), indicates that an instructor has undergone training and demonstrated proficiency in teaching techniques, safety procedures, and customer service.
Not only does certification provide validation of an instructor’s abilities, but it also opens up opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries. Certified ski instructors may have the ability to teach more specialized or advanced classes, as well as work with elite athletes, which can lead to higher hourly rates and tips.
According to the PSIA, certified ski instructors can earn up to 30% more than non-certified instructors. In addition, they can also enjoy other benefits such as health insurance coverage, liability insurance, and access to continuing education programs.
“Ski resort managers and clients alike recognize that certification is a measure of quality assurance,” says Nicholas Herrin, CEO of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). “Certification tells them that the instructor has met an independent standard for skills, knowledge, and professionalism.”
- In summary,
- Experience and certification are two important factors that affect ski instructor salaries.
- Ski instructors with more experience generally earn higher salaries due to their increased proficiency in teaching techniques.
- Certification indicates validated abilities and can open up opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries.
Becoming a successful and well-compensated ski instructor requires dedication, hard work, and ongoing professional development. By gaining experience on the slopes and earning industry certification, ski instructors can establish themselves as knowledgeable, skilled professionals who are highly valued by ski resorts and customers alike.
Perks and Benefits of Being a Ski Instructor
Free Ski Passes and Equipment Rentals
One of the biggest perks of being a ski instructor is getting free or heavily discounted ski passes. This can be especially valuable if you live in an area with high-priced lift tickets. Additionally, many resorts offer their instructors free equipment rentals for the season, which can save hundreds of dollars on rental fees. Not only does this help save money, but it also allows instructors to have access to high-quality gear that they may not have been able to afford otherwise.
“Working as a ski instructor definitely has its benefits when it comes to skiing. I get to ski every day and usually don’t pay for anything related to skiing.” -Josh Brewer, Professional Ski Instructo
Opportunities for Advancement and Career Development
Becoming a seasoned ski instructor can lead to opportunities for advancement within your profession. Some ski schools require an additional certification, such as a Level 3 PSIA/AASI certification, to become a lead instructor. Others offer promotions based on performance and tenure. In addition to career advancement, working as a ski instructor can provide opportunities for personal growth in communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and leadership development.
“The ski industry offers endless possibilities and lots of different careers from grooming, snowmaking, patrol (ski) / mountain bike patrol/ beach patrol, cat-driving, tree planting, etc. If you’re motivated and hardworking, the sky’s the limit when it comes to your job.” -Katrina DeVore, Former Director of Human Resources at Vail Resort
Flexible Work Schedules and Seasonal Employment
One of the most attractive aspects of becoming a ski instructor is the flexible work schedule. Many ski resorts offer part-time and full-time positions, as well as seasonal employment, which can allow for a work-life balance that is difficult to achieve in other professions. Seasonal employment also allows instructors the opportunity to take extended time off during the summer months to pursue other interests or hobbies.
“Ski teaching is perfect for people who want to be outside all winter, have flexible schedules, stay active and love to teach.” -Jon Chiarolanzio, PSIA Alpine Demo Team Member
If you’re considering becoming a ski instructor, it’s important to note that pay rates can vary depending on factors such as experience level, location, and the type of ski school you work for. However, many ski schools offer competitive hourly wages and additional benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans. Additionally, working as a ski instructor can provide an incredibly rewarding career path with opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Alternative Jobs in the Ski Industry with Similar Salaries
If you’re interested in working in the ski industry but don’t want to be a ski instructor, there are other jobs that offer similar salaries. Here are two alternative options:
Ski patrol is responsible for ensuring the safety of guests on the slopes and responding to any accidents or emergencies that occur. They also maintain signage, markers, and barriers and perform avalanche control work when necessary. Ski patrollers typically earn between $13 and $20 per hour, depending on experience and qualifications.
To become a ski patroller, you need to have first aid training, firefighting skills, and avalanche safety knowledge. Many ski resorts offer training programs, which can take several weeks to complete. Some ski patrols require candidates to have EMT certification or paramedic training.
“Ski patrolling is not just another job. It’s an amazing opportunity to work outside in a beautiful mountain environment while serving your community and protecting skiers and snowboarders.” -National Ski Patrol
Snowmaking technicians are responsible for creating snow on the ski slopes. They use specialized equipment to spray water into the freezing air so it crystallizes into snow. Snowmaking technicians must constantly monitor temperature, humidity, and wind speed to ensure optimal snow quality. They typically earn between $12 and $20 per hour.
To become a snowmaking technician, you’ll need mechanical or electrical expertise and some welding abilities. The job requires a lot of heavy lifting and exposure to harsh weather conditions, so physical fitness is essential. Training programs are available at many ski resorts and technical schools.
“While our job isn’t glamorous, we take pride in the fact that without us the skiing and riding wouldn’t be possible.” -Snowmaking Technicians, Killington Resort
Both ski patrol and snowmaking technician jobs offer unique opportunities to work in the ski industry while making a good income. If you’re looking for something different than being a ski instructor, consider one of these alternative options.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the average salary of a ski instructor?
The average salary of a ski instructor varies depending on experience, location, and the resort they work for. In the United States, the average salary for a ski instructor is around $17 per hour. However, some experienced instructors can earn up to $40 per hour. In other countries, such as Switzerland or Canada, salaries may be higher due to the higher cost of living. Additionally, some resorts offer bonuses or commission on top of the hourly rate, which can increase an instructor’s overall earnings.
Do ski instructors earn more in certain locations?
Yes, ski instructors can earn more in certain locations. Ski resorts in popular destinations such as Aspen, Colorado or Vail, Colorado typically pay their instructors more due to the high demand for lessons. Additionally, resorts in countries with a higher cost of living, such as Switzerland or Canada, may offer higher salaries to their instructors. However, it’s important to note that cost of living and demand for lessons are not the only factors that determine an instructor’s salary.
How much do ski instructors make per hour?
The hourly rate for ski instructors varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and the resort they work for. In the United States, the average hourly rate for a ski instructor is around $17. However, some experienced instructors can earn up to $40 per hour. In other countries, such as Switzerland or Canada, hourly rates may be higher due to the higher cost of living. Additionally, some resorts offer bonuses or commission on top of the hourly rate, which can increase an instructor’s overall earnings.
What certifications or experience can increase a ski instructor’s salary?
Ski instructors with higher levels of certification, such as a Level 3 or 4 certification from the Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) or the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA), can earn higher salaries. Instructors with a strong teaching background or experience teaching specialized lessons, such as adaptive skiing or freestyle skiing, may also be able to negotiate higher salaries. Additionally, instructors who speak multiple languages or have experience working at a high-end resort may be able to earn more.
Are there any additional benefits or perks for ski instructors besides their salary?
Yes, ski instructors may receive additional benefits or perks in addition to their salary. Some resorts offer free or discounted lift tickets, discounted equipment rentals, and free or subsidized training and certification opportunities. Instructors may also be eligible for health insurance or other employee benefits depending on the resort they work for. Additionally, some resorts offer employee housing or a housing stipend, which can help offset the cost of living in a resort town.