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    Only the Best Make It! How to Become a Ski Instructor in Austria

    It’s not just leisure skiers who carve their way down Austria’s slopes in winter, but also around 18,000 professional ski instructors in smart uniforms. So how do you become one of them? We decided to find out!

    Professional Athletes Instead of Party Animals

    One thing’s for sure: working on the slopes doesn't mean partying on the slopes. Simon Egger from the Tirolean Ski Instructors Association has been teaching guests for 20 years and runs the ski school in St. Johann. He sees himself as a "sports instructor". "The myth that après-ski is of top priority in our job may have been true 40 years ago, but not anymore", the Tirolean clarifies. "Modern guests expect maximum results for their money. It used to be more about entertaining, taking them tobogganing, curling or to the hut after the lesson, but nowadays people want to learn as much as possible in the shortest amount of time to then take advantage of other services such as the hotel spa." In the course itself, quality clearly takes precedence over quantity: "We do not sell mass processing but cater to each guest individually."

    Simon Egger, ski instructor
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    The Strictest Training in the World

    It’s no coincidence that expectations of ski schools like Simon’s are particularly high. "The Austrian training is considered to be the leading in the world", he says. "Of all countries, our ski instructors have the most training days and highest qualification levels by far. The ski guide qualification as such only exists in Austria." The selection of future professionals is accordingly strict. You can become a candidate from the age of 17, but while a simple registration is sufficient for the basic course, a practical test is required for the further levels (state ski instructor / ski guide). "There are around 140 to 180 applicants hoping to become a state ski instructor every year, but two thirds fail the exam", Simon reveals. The greatest hurdles? "Skiing off-piste and – above all – completing the giant slalom within the time limit."

    skiing in St. Johann in Salzburg
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    "Of all countries, our ski instructors have the most training days and highest qualification levels by far. The ski guide qualification as such only exists in Austria."

    Simon Egger, ski instructor
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    Simon Egger - Tirolean Ski Instructors Association

    "Modern guests expect maximum results for their money. The myth that après-ski is of top priority in our job may have been true 40 years ago, but not anymore."

    Simon Egger, ski instructor
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    Simon Egger - Tirolean Ski Instructors Association
    • Fitness Is Fundamental

      Simon Egger has known the business since he was a child. His father ran a ski school, and Simon began accompanying guests on the slopes when he was just a teenager. Whilst he was fortunate enough to have passed all the exams in one go, he saw many colleagues fail along the way. "Even if that doesn’t mean the dream of becoming a ski instructor is over, it really messes up the schedule because you have to wait up to a year for the next qualifying test." Many also underestimate the training itself. "You are on the slopes all day and then have theory lessons, so a lot is asked of you. The higher training courses, which take you off-piste and onto moguls, are extremely physically demanding."

    • Ski Schools as Modern Service Providers

      When hiring ski instructors himself, the pro does not just look at fitness levels and skiing ability, but above all social skills. "You need to have a good understanding of people; you have to be able to talk to them and motivate them. The more trust someone places in their instructor, the more they will benefit from the course."

      There is no age limit for the professionals, by the way. The oldest instructors at Eggers Ski School have been teaching for five decades. And there are equal amounts of men and women. "We are not in the 80s anymore, when ski schools were male territory."

    •                     Skiing with children in St. Johann in Tirol
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    •                     Skier at the Harschbichl in St. Johann in Tirol
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    What Do Ski Instructors Do in Summer?

    The question that remains is how do ski instructors spend the summer months? Some, especially the younger ones, the same way as the winter season. "In my twenties I worked as a ski instructor all year round", Simon tells us. I did five seasons in a row – in Austria and Australia. That’s a life experience I would recommend anyone to have." These days, Simon is in his early forties and has settled down, running a bike school and rental in St. Johann alongside the ski school. Most of his staff work for both. This not only guarantees his team an income throughout the summer, but also allows them to skip regular gym workouts in between winters.

    •                 Two skiiers with a ski instructor in the Schladming ski area
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      Ski Course – Yes or No? Why a Professional doesn’t just make Sense for Beginners

      Around 70% of Austria’s winter guests are drawn to the mountain top, but how many of them can actually get back down in style? Find out why even experienced skiers can benefit from a course.

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    The Four Levels of Ski Instructor Training

    Snowsport Austria, the umbrella association for Austrian ski instructor training, describes the path to becoming a modern instructor as "polyglot", i.e. in addition to skiing you also learn how to snowboard, cross-country ski, and – depending on region – to snowbike or freeride. The training itself consists of four levels, from aspiring instructor to ski guide.

    • Level 1 Ski Instructor: Basic course, which in addition to alpine skiing includes an introduction to the latest trend sports, alpine safety, and pedagogical training (ten days)
    • Ski Instructor: Consolidation of Level 1 in two parts (24 days plus seven days of alpine education and three weeks of practical training)
    • Diploma Ski Instructor: Perfecting of theoretical and practical skills in skiing and trend sports, as well as extensive alpine education ("Euro-Security"). Duration: two semesters
    • Ski Guide: The knighthood! The focus is on off-piste skiing and alpine safety (course duration varies)
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    Author: Astrid Hofer

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