Becoming a Instructor

16 Sep, 2007

Even though I was 15 years old, I made my way to the hiring clinics the beginning of the 98-99 season so I could become an instructor. It took weeks of off-snow clinics and on-snow clinics but I achieved the status of snowboard instructor.
In the beginning I was very nervous during practice teaching in front of peers. But it becomes necessary to teach in front of your peers if you plan to continue onto certification. Once you get in front of students, confidence is key. A confident instructor wins over the students even if you struggle for a second during classes. Teaching snowboarding is fun…snowboarding is fun…so make the lesson fun as well! When I shadowed level II exams years later, I found that the best instructors were the ones that made each lesson fun while you completed the tasks.

After years of teaching, I taught every age possible how to snowboard. The youngest was 4 years old and the oldest was 70 years old. I learned how to teach to the student. Each student you need to win over, you need to teach so they understand you. I once taught a Microsoft employee who was my most difficult student, because he learned by directions, technical directions on how to accomplish each task. Then I would teach young kids who need visual stimulation, constant babysitting and most important, fun!!! I used whatever their favorite character was to make them learn snowboard skills. Sometimes we would be Harry Potter and we’d need to make our way on our magical snowboards to each location down the mountain where we’d have to accomplish certain tasks on the way.

I worked for a ski school that helped me develop as an instructor but also didn’t feel certification was necessary. I disagreed and worked towards getting my certification and attending AASI (American Association of Snowboard Instructors) clinics. It was there that I learned more about teaching that helped me as an instructor in my own riding and teaching skills. Eventually I left the ski school for a mountain that required certification and demanded you to attend clinics to be better. I also found that higher certification meant more pay…and more pay is always good 🙂

I still teach snowboarding and keep my certification updated. I achieved my Level II certification and my level I freestyle certification by the time I stopped teaching full-time for the mountain.

Instructing is not for everyone, it guarantees a free seasons pass but it takes a lot of time and patience. Not everyone can handle the duties required of a snowboard instructor. If you like being rich, instructing is probably not the best choice for you. However you meet new people every day and gain valuable experiences from teaching. In any job interview I’ve had, every question they ask me, I can back up with a story from teaching snowboarding.

Here’s just some information for those interested in becoming an instructor. I’m from the AASI-Northwest division so remember each division has different requirements for AASI.

1. Research:

Start doing your research now for which mountain you would like to work at. Check out the ski schools on the mountain or independent ski schools.

Things to look for are:

Who runs the snowboard program?
How many Level III snowboard instructors do they have?
What is the training schedule?
What is required of you during the season in terms of training?
Do they offer level I exam certification and at what point during the season?
How often do you have to teach to get a seasons pass or lift tickets (find out which)?
Do they offer free instructor training or do you pay for the training?

Most web pages have a lot of information for ski schools. Find out who the training director is and contact them to find out when the hiring and training begins. Most hiring occurs in late September/early October so be prepared to start training before your mountain opens for the winter.

2. Training:

Each school should have a training course you go through that begins with off-snow training and then on-snow training. Do not miss any of these in your first season teaching! They are worth it and everything you learn during these sessions prepares you for your time in front of students. Depending on the school, training can cost money or be free. Usually it’s only a one-time fee but make sure you do your research. When I started, I had to pay but after my first season it was free.

You will be learning teaching methods and a curriculum that is usually linked with AASI. Make sure you get an AASI snowboard manual so you can do reading and research on your own. I still have my original manual with all my notes from my first year and level II preparation.

3. Teaching!

You should now be an instructor after the training. During your first season teaching, you’ll shadow a couple instructors before you get put out onto the snow in front of your first class. Shadowing lets you see how a class works by watching a experienced instructor teach. Anytime I received a shadow for a class, I would have them step in to get some small practice time in or help with students that need more one-on-one time. I would also ride the lift with the shadow to discuss the lesson. This helped keep them in the loop and kept us on the same track of what to accomplish with each student.

Once you get your first class, don’t let nerves get to you. It doesn’t hurt to keep a cheat sheet in your pocket in case you want to be reminded of each lesson plan. When teaching your own classes remember to make it fun, give good demonstrations (if you mess up, say it…and then show them again the proper way) and make sure you are confident in anything you say or do.


4. You as a rider

Your first year instructing will help you develop as a rider because you are constantly around fellow instructors who can work on your riding. Start riding with the level II and III instructors in your school. Get to know them; they will be your best asset for certifications and pushing you in your ability. Most schools offer a variety of clinics to work on your riding, if you are interested in riding pipe…sign up for the pipe clinic.


5. Certification

For those wanting to continue teaching snowboarding while enjoying some extra perks and being able to move to any ski school you want…certification is a good choice. I don’t recommend it for everyone because it does cost money to remain certified. Your ski school should have a qualified training director who gives the level I exams for your school. If not, you’ll have to find another school or ask your division where you can take the exam. But the in-house exams are the best since you know your TD and they will help prepare you ahead of time. You will want to train ahead of time for the exams, it is very easy to see who has prepared for the exam ahead of time and who has not.

The requirements differ in each region…so find out what is required of you to take the exams. The Northwest region requires you to have 10 teaching hours before the Level I exam. Then during the exam, you take the written exam and the on-snow riding portion. The Level II and III exam, you take the written exam on your own and then show up for a two day exam, one day of on-snow riding and one day of on-snow teaching.

After the exam, you receive your evaluation that tells you pass or fail and hopefully the pin if you passed. After the exam, you have the opportunity to discuss it with your clinician…which is always a good idea to listen to them discuss your exam and what to work on for future exams.


6. Keeping the certification:

After you passed your exam, you are now a certified instructor. As a member of AASI, each year you will pay your dues and be required to attend a clinic a year (sometimes a clinic is good for two years). The clinics are very beneficial for teaching once you find one that works for you. Becoming a certified instructor has great perks…you can get discounts off lift tickets to other mountains, discounts off equipment, you can move to other mountains and be hired easier, you have flexibility in your pay, and you have access to awesome clinics that range from freestyle camp to race camps to teaching kids.

You’ll get your certificate in the mail, your shiny pin (Bronze for Level I, Silver for Level II and Gold for Level III) and your AASI membership card.

7. Enjoy teaching!

Your job is to get students hooked on shredding…so remember to make it fun!

About the author


From the beginning of time, I was Shannon. From the beginning of snowboarding, I was Shay. From the beginning of online communities, I was Shayboarder. In the end, I’m the writer, photographer, editor, publisher, guru of sorts, product tester, curvy girl, and most importantly the snowboarder behind it all. Follow me on this journey through snowboarding, mountain biking, traveling and fun experiences!

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  1. hoon
    September 17, 2007

    hey shay. i’ll make sure to link to your site. ahhhh the good ‘ol days instructing. thanks for the memories of groups of 40 newbies from FL, who are screaming “what’s this new-fangled thing? i just want to go to the top.”

  2. Shayboarder
    September 17, 2007

    Thanks Hoon! Yeah I miss teaching as a job but I don’t miss some parts of it. Luckily now when I go back to teaching, it’s fun without being tied down again.