“Bend ze knees, five dollars pleeze,” was once jokingly the mantra of the ski instructor of the 1950s and 60s…as European instructors pioneered the fledgling U.S. ski industry with hair like Stein Eriksen and matching Norwegian accents.
While much glamour and tradition still surrounds today’s ski instructors, they aren’t necessarily of fine European lineage, with chiseled jaw, skiing avalanche shoots like the boys from “Aspen Extreme.” Today’s ski and snowboarding instructors range in age from 14 to 83, and don’t have to be black diamond level skiers to be good instructors.
The Fairbank Group resorts – Jiminy Peak in western Massachusetts, Bromley in the Green Mountains of Vermont, and Cranmore Mountain Resort in the White Mountains of New Hampshire – recently announced plans to fill 250 ski and snowboard instructor positions by the start of the ski season in late November, and they are looking for reliable ski and snowboard enthusiasts who can be taught how to teach, not necessarily the top freestyle skiers in the world.
The Fairbank Group, LLC, based at Jiminy Peak and co-owned by the father-son team of Brian Fairbank and Tyler Fairbank, manages and oversees a group of businesses that include Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Cranmore Mountain Resort, and Bromley Mountain, as well as EOS Ventures, Bullwheel Productions and other endeavors.
There’s a misconception that skiers or snowboarders must be experts to become instructors. The reality is that they can start teaching (in assistant positions) at 14 years of age with intermediate skiing or snowboarding skills. What’s more important is how they relate to people.
“If a potential instructor arrives highly motivated and with an engaging personality, we will teach them to ski or snowboard better through the paid training we provide,” said Bromley instructor Burleigh Sunflower, director of snowsports. “We’re looking for people passionate about the sport, who love being out on the hill, and who want to share the sport with others.”
The majority of instructors at the three resorts are part-timers teaching on weekends and holidays to supplement their costs for gas, food and lodging, which tends to hold true across the industry. Instructors create an ideal learning environment using the terrain-based learning (TBL) technique that relies upon various terrain features to teach beginners how to stop and feel the sensations of their skis or snowboard on the snow, as well as other progression-based teaching methods.
“We eliminate the fear factor and create an environment that builds confidence,” said Jiminy Peak’s Sherrie Bradway, director of snowsports. “Instructing provides people the opportunity to be on the snow, outdoors, and active during the winter.”
“Cranmore has been around for almost 80 years and some of our instructors have been teaching for decades,” said Karen Dolan, Cranmore snowsports school director. “It’s not uncommon for instructors to teach multiple generations and make lifelong friends among our guests who treat instructors like a member of the family. Where else can you work in a beautiful environment and improve your own skiing or riding proficiency while taking someone new to winter sports and changing their lives forever?”
For high schoolers, Dolan believes a ski instructor job looks great on college applications. “We’re teaching them life-long job skills, outdoor safety, and people skills. I may be biased, but it’s certainly a lot cooler than flipping burgers.”