Another email from Winter Park Ski Resort. Why I opened this one, I really don’t know. But then the contents of the email caught my eye.
“Hey Winter Park Pass Holders. Want to ski for free this winter? We’re recruiting ski instructors for the winter season, no experience necessary. Work only 15 days for the season. If you are hired, we will refund you the price of your season pass.”
Hmmm. 15 days for the season. A free ski pass to my favorite Colorado ski resort? Maybe…
Still I had my doubts. I started to fill out the application, but then didn’t finish it for several days. Who was I to think I could be a ski instructor? Sure, I skied reasonably well, but I certainly didn’t consider myself an expert. When you saw a ski instructor, you expected them to great skiers, way better than us average mortals.
Part of the interview process involved recording a selfie “video interview” where you answered three questions. I don’t remember all three, but I do remember one. What has skiing meant to you in your life?
I reflected about the year I got fired from my job. I felt defective, hopeless, despairing. Afraid to even try to apply for another job, I just wanted to stay in bed all day and pull the covers over my head. Yet, that year brought amazing snow and great ski conditions. So I would get up and go skiing one or two days a week. During those precious six hours, I felt a little bit of joy and I felt normal, a part of the human race. I even felt competent at something.
I shared this during my interview and two weeks later I became a ski instructor. Truthfully, that first season, I think I did it mostly for the season pass. I didn’t expect to really love it, or pursue it as a long-term thing.
Fast forward four years later, and I am aching in my quads and butt from the countless lunges, squats and running I am doing. I’m not doing it because I love weight training. I like running even less than weight training — it has never come easy for me.
But this year, as a member of the Professional Ski Instructors of America, I want to be ready. Ready to be a better instructor, and ready to pass my Level 2 PSIA Exam and get my shiny silver, blue and red pin. I want to stack the odds in my favor of doing everything possible to be the best skier and the best instructor I can be.
So you might be wondering, could you be a ski instructor? Here’s some simple questions to consider.
Do you have patience, endless patience? Because you will either be spending a lot of time with kids or a lot of time with beginner skiers, or probably both.
Are you ok with being outside whatever the weather may be? You may have to teach in an full on snowstorm with sub-zero temperatures, or be sweating in 60 degree temperatures during spring break.
Do you have the tough skin and willingness to change your own skiing, even after years? You may think you are a great skier, but the PSIA standards of skiing require precision to a way that is probably counter to what you’ve been doing. It can be very hard thing to hear trainers tell you “You’re doing it wrong!” over and over again.
Are you ok with either getting up at 5 a.m. to commute to the ski resort, or do you have a friend or relative who has a ski condo you can stay at?
Do you love your ski boots? More to the point, do you love hiking up hills in your ski boots? Because you will spend a lot of time walking up ski slopes to help the student who fell and can’t figure out how to get up.
Do you want to feel the joy of a student having a break through, and smiling and giggling gleefully as the whoosh down the mountain? If so, this may be for you.
The moments I’ve shared with students who told me our time together was the best part of their week paid me back in ways I never could have anticipated.
I’m a ski instructor. I couldn’t be prouder of any job or more fulfilled by another job.