So, you’re a skier considering an occupation change. And, like many skiers before you, you’re thinking about how you can potentially parlay your skills into a long-term job in the ski-sphere. Sure, you could tune skis, mix drinks, or scan passes for a winter. But you’re looking for an immersive, life-long relationship with skiing and the mountains. Lucky for you, there are a number of ways to create a meaningful and sustainable career based around skiing. (We know what you’re thinking and no, you do not have to be Lindsey Vonn — though that helps). Below, we’ve listed some of the most unique and fulfilling ways to make a living while chasing powder.
Everyone knows that person who is constantly showing up to the slopes with the latest boots, a different pair of ski pants, and a new backcountry setup. For gearhead skiers, a career as a tester can be the ultimate calling. Ski brands, magazines, and outdoor retailers employ gear testers to get a good idea of how certain products stand up against real-world use. To land one of these roles, it helps to have some engineering and design knowledge (and/or education). Perhaps more importantly, though, you’re going to need to be a very adept skier. Testers have to be able to write accurate reports on how skis, boots, and other types of gear react in all kinds of conditions and terrain; so, be sure you’ve got your legs under you before trying to put the newest Dalbellos through the paces.
When skiers dream about ditching their lives in the city for the mountains, they’re often fantasizing about donning those official resort jackets and becoming ski instructors. Sharing your love for skiing with others can be an extremely rewarding, lifelong pursuit. Working for a ski resort, instructors are responsible for teaching ski school classes, leading private lessons, and ensuring the safety of guests. Most resorts will require instructors to have at least a Level I certification from a recognized organization (PSIA for those in the US). Preferred qualifications will vary, though, so do some research into the requirements for the specific region and ski area where you’re looking to teach. Dedicated instructors who work their way up to a higher level can earn solid salaries — and, hopefully, big tips.
Bonus: Far from simply helping newbies learn how to snowplow, ski instructors can do a wide variety of things, including coaching extreme athletes, hosting heli-skiing trips, or even helping to train Olympians.
I may be projecting here, but I think that making a career out of writing about skiing is a great way to harness your passions for both language and freshly groomed runs. Popular ski writers like Dick Dorworth and Chris Solomon have made careers out of transporting us to the mountains through their words. Ski and travel magazines, blogs, and a plethora of other outlets constantly need creative ski writing. Consider finding a niche for yourself within a specific format, like instructional writing about ski workouts, first-person travel essays, or even fiction. To begin, build a portfolio, make a list of potential outlets you’d like to contribute to, and then start pitching original ski ideas. In time you’ll be the one inspiring us all to get out and make some turns.
The opportunity to travel to gorgeous locales while shooting fellow skiers has led more than a few people to pick up a camera and head for the mountains, a la Warren Miller. Production companies, outdoor brands, and media outlets all need photographers and videographers to help them create content. Camera equipment can get fairly pricey (especially when you add on editing software and a powerful computer); but once you have some reliable gear, you’re ready to go. As with writing, it helps to find a niche and then build up a portfolio that you can show off. Photographers and videographers can fill in-house roles or go the freelance route by gathering a cadre of clients that will provide consistent work.
Note: Don’t forget that ski resorts employ photographers to take pictures of guests on the slopes or capture images for marketing materials and social media.
Okay, this is by far the most aspirational career on this list. But becoming a pro skier is how you truly embrace the lifestyle, right? Pro skiers generally fall into the competitive racer, competitive freestyle skier, or big mountain/filming skier categories. One of the main ways pros make money is by working with brands — and there is no getting around the fact you have to be able to huck any kind of terrain to attract the attention of big-money sponsors like Oakley or Armada. So, if you’re more of a casual, keep-it-to-the-blues type of skier (which is totally fine), you may want to look at other careers on this list. Even if you’re not quite Candide Thovex, though, you can absolutely still build a pro skiing career by creating cool content and engaging edits (see: ski influencers).
Ski Area Management
This is perhaps one of the most straightforward paths to a career in skiing. As a part of a ski area management team, you’ll be helping to optimize resort operations and ensure guest safety and enjoyment. While many of these roles are seasonal, there are plenty of people responsible for keeping the lifts spinning year round. Prior organizational knowledge and experience will help in getting an office job at a ski area — or you can always go the lifty route and work your way up to that exec-level role.
If you’re a skier with an eye for design and a penchant for building things, you might want to consider helping to craft those beautiful sticks we all use to make our way down the mountain. It’s the designer’s job to shape high-performing skis, creating the perfect combination of materials, camber/rocker, and sidecut (and a million other aspects). These roles often require an engineering degree and/or some sort of product design background — and, of course, a genuine love for skiing. Make a list of all of the ski manufacturers you can find and apply for jobs, seek out internships/apprenticeships, or just reach out to ask if they need any help. After you gain a bit of experience, you could find yourself designing the Black Crows everyone is using next season.
Bonus: There are countless fulfilling careers in the ski-/boot-making industry, including graphic design roles, the aforementioned tester jobs, or even founder of your own ski company.
If what they say about doing what you love and not working a day in your life is true, then skiers can do a lot worse than choosing one of these careers. Some overall tips: be flexible –competition for ski careers will usually be fierce so try to be open to a variety of opportunities; build relationships – connecting with a range of different people in the ski industry is helpful when seeking a long-term position; take the plunge – sometimes, just heading to the mountains is the best motivator.
Keep in mind that there is no singular route to a ski career and there’s always room for enterprising skiers who want to pave their own path. Get creative enough and you could find yourself making a really nice living by carving turns in some of the most beautiful places in the world.