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Ski Instructor Job Shaming


Diva in Training

The longer I have been home after my season working as an instructor the more often I have experienced what can only be called job shaming.

When I tell people I am a ski instructor, and how much I love my job, I am met with shock initially. People then laugh it off and ask what I am doing next, they expect me to go back to academia or maybe get a job in finance. When I say no this is what I want to do, forever, then people get funny. Some get angry and just say that I'm wasting my education, they get frustrated telling me it will never work out, or they tease me for my low salary.

The joke is these are usually the same people who tell you to go find a job you love and you will never work a day in your life. For me, it is confusing as to why when we go out and do this, that we are met with such resistance from our families, friends and sometimes even guests!

Have any other instructors here experienced similar? What are your thoughts on it?
Or even if you're not an instructor, why do you think this happens?

ski diva

Staff member
I'm not an instructor, but I'll put my oar in the water, anyway. Really, what you do isn't anyone's business. My only thought is that these people must be jealous that you're so happy doing what you're doing. Also cowardly and unimaginative, if they think the only way to live is the conventional, 9 to 5 sort of way. Doing what you love is priceless, and you're lucky to be have found your way.
That's really weird. I don't think I know anyone, skier or not, who would react that way. Honestly, it's a good litmus test of who not to hang out with. I mean, tease you for making a low salary? Getting angry? Where do you meet these people?


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
That's really sad to hear. I have big respect for those who have made ski instructing their job, especially considering the sacrifices it involves (either taking half a year off instructing each summer or jumping between northern and southern hemispheres to work year-round!). I think some people are just too unimaginative to realise that people can have a happy and fulfilling life working "non-traditional" jobs.


Diva in Training
That's really weird. I don't think I know anyone, skier or not, who would react that way. Honestly, it's a good litmus test of who not to hang out with. I mean, tease you for making a low salary? Getting angry? Where do you meet these people?
You would be surprised!
I had it everywhere from my university professors, to family and friends, even within my own ski resort.

I think you guys are right in that we shouldn't let other people bother us with it, if anything it makes me a little sad for them! They clearly have a very strict vision of how their life should be. Personally I used to be like that, I used to be incredibly academically orientated and thought if I did anything but I'd be a failure. As I matured a bit however I realised that we can do all the work in the world but if we don't enjoy ourselves then what is the point. I'd rather look back on my life thinking wow I had such a great time than saying wow look at these pay checks!
Or even if you're not an instructor, why do you think this happens?
I’m not an instructor, but I’ll throw two cents at this question. People often look at seasonal work as ‘temporary’ (and for many people it is). So I think it’s a valid question for someone to ask what you’re planning on next, especially if they know you and know you went to college for x-y-z (which it sounds like you did, based on your posts). However, being judgemental when you tell them is uncalled for...and teasing is even more unacceptable.

I see, on your avatar summary, you’re 23...so I’m guessing you’re recently out of college and decided to go down a different path?

I ran into a decent amount of judgement when I left college...I worked in a hockey/ski/bike shop for a year, reaping the benefits of cheap skiing, cheap equipment and a decent pay. People often asked what I was doing. When I told them, there was almost always a judgemental tone in whatever statement came next (although I don't think anyone outright teased me about it). So I definitely get where you're coming from.

I know my parents weren't totally thrilled with my decisions to not get right into a job with my degree right away. This probably stemmed from them helping me with college tuition, and thinking that they just wasted a lot of money...as well as them caring about my financial stability and ability to provide for myself.

A small bit of advice...
If you feel like you ever want to use the college education you got, do it now. Degrees become more and more useless the longer your don't use them. But.....if you really have no interest in getting a job in the field you studied....don't. Don't do it just because you feel like you "should" or people bully you into it. Keep loving what you do.
Oh, okay. You're 23. People feel entitled to have an opinion on what you should do with your life. I agree with the sentiments that this is more about them than you.

There are tactics to shut down those kind of nosy, not-your-business questions and conversations. For instance when they start asking judge-y questions say, "why do you ask?" or meet a judgement with a "wow."


Staff member
I graduated many years ago and got the job, got the mortgage, got the car payments etc. Looking back I wish that I'd taken some time to ski, travel, enjoy. So really I'm envious. I hold an instructors certification here in Canada, but don't teach anymore. Age and desire are part of that decision. So again envious that you can do it. The part that I would concerned about, and it can happen in any profession, is longevity. I know too many instructors that have gotten hurt and can't ski and/or teach anymore. One was hit by a tree in his driveway in the summer. Paralyzed from the waist down. But injuries can happen in any occupation, but most "standard" occupations have health and disability insurance for protection. Sports except professional ones, seem to miss out on this.

In reality, it's none of their damn business what you do, (unless it's illegal), so shaming is all about them, not you. Christy's got some good ideas there.
Hi, I'm going to weigh in here. I have been away from the forum for ages. I've been structing for 16 years, sometimes full-time seasonally and some times part-time. Sometimes in management, sometimes not. Sometimes as a staff trainer, sometimes as a coach of racers, and sometimes as a coach of 3 year olds. I even did 3 years as an ED of a ski-related non-profit.

I think you get people's opinions because you're at the outset of a career that people don't perceive as really professional. But it truly is; resort managers, VPs of operations; overseers of on-hill competitions and events; marketing gurus; directors of skier services, etc., often come out of ski schools. And that list doesn't include snowsport directors.

I read through your web page "about" section and I can see that you have management ambitions. So, why not share those? Not that you owe an explanation to anyone, but people may not understand that the industry requires some smarts -- budgeting, personnel management, logistics, to name a few. If you can share how important the industry is as an industry in most tourist regions, and explain that line coaching is a step on a ladder, you might be able to deflect your critics by describing the sort of "path" you envision for yourself.

I get the exact opposite reaction from my peers, but then again, I'm more than 35 years older than you are. And, I did the reverse ski bum thing; I practiced law for about 15 years and when I left to be at home with my child and then went into ski instruction, most of my peers were jealous.

I have a 25 year old daughter and ski instruction has always been a part of her life since she could apprentice. She is a teacher and does it part-time now. I'd be fine if she decided not to teach but to do something in the ski world full time; but I can imagine that she'd get the same reaction from people unfamiliar with the industry that you've gotten.

Good luck!
If you were American and I met you and you told me that your life’s ambition was to be a ski school instructor, I would make some assumptions about your socio-economic background (i.e. that you must have a trust fund.) I wouldn't say anything about it though. Understand that you are outside the US and available social supports are different.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I'm not an instructor, but I have to agree with @ski diva on this one. If the people giving you grief are older, it's probably because they regret not having the courage to walk away from a lucrative career they hate and towards a life they love. They're throwing at you every reason they shackled themselves to an upwardly mobile, soul-destroying career. If they're younger, they are defending their current, safe, expected choice of career path. When you encounter supportive reactions and knowing smiles, they are kindred spirits who have figured out the balance thing. Ask the older ones how they've maintained that balance over the course of their career and life. Their collective wisdom may help you craft a future full of balance, growth, security, and joy.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I think at first when people decide to do something "non-traditional" in terms of career, especially when it is something seasonal, I can kinda see how you might get that kind of reaction. Even more so if perhaps you had talked about other career paths in the past, and suddenly its a big shift!

I think in this current climate where many ski resorts seasons may be in question, family and friends may just be in there own way expressing concern. I think also people tend to project their own financial concerns and lifestyle considerations. Not that makes it any easier to take any of the criticism you are feeling from them.

And heck, if you are making it on your own and supporting your own lifestyle, they can just basically suck it.

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