Interview With a Snowboard Instructor: A Day in the Life at Breck

While being a snowboard instructor seems attractive to many young individuals, he shares some light on where he thinks the sport is going and if it is worth starting a career as a snowboard instructor. Let’s dive into it.

Snowboard instructor with student.

Jack: Thanks for joining us Steve. For everyone out there that doesn’t know you as well as us, since we went to college together, can you do a quick intro?

Steve: Thanks for having me Jack, for sure. I’m a 2nd year snowboard instructor at Breck, Colorado and I’m 28 years old. Before that, I was doing a stint waiting tables at some restaurants mainly.

Jack: Nice man, let’s get right into it. What took you to Breck and why snowboard instructing?

Steve: Great question. I’ve been riding ever since my teenage years. I love the mountains and being outside. I’m originally from upper New York but knew I wanted to get out west while I still could and see a bit more.

Jack: That sounds typical for a lot of people we have chatted with on the east coast and who get into life as a snowboard instructor.

Steve: Yeah, pretty typical I’d say. It’s not something I see doing for 20+ years but for now with this second season almost wrapped up, I still love it and I’m getting into a groove.

Jack: So for someone who wants to go into snowboard instructing, what advice would you give them?

Steve: There’s so much it’s hard to even start. Get really good with your riding and have all your own gear. I think those two are givens. Next figure out which resort you want to work at, way ahead of the season. A lot of people want to come to the big resorts like Breck and Vail since they are well known but that makes it a bit more competitive.

Jack: We’ll it seems like you were ready for some competition for the job…

Steve: I suppose but after you get your foot in the door, show up and perform, they will want you back for a second year. It’s all about landing that first snowboard instructor gig.

Jack: So just to clarify for the people out there, you are full-time or part-time?

Steve: I’m full-time. I wouldn’t be making a proper job out of it if I was part-time. The full-time instructor jobs are harder to come by. Most people start out as part-time and work into full-time, sometimes after a year. On the other hand, I applied to places for a year and didn’t get anything full-time. When I did, I quit the waiter job.

Jack: Gotcha, so you went all-in when you had the right opportunity. So tell us a little bit about the day-to-day for people who aren’t familiar.

Steve: Sure, so I stay about 15-20 minutes away in Frisco and always drive-in before the first lifts. Some days we will know there is a lot of lessons booked, other days it is a lot of walk-ins and sometimes I’m off doing private lessons. It really just depends on how crowded the resort is and trust me, it is almost always crowded.

That’s why I like Breck though. The hustle and bustle of the new people excite me and I don’t mind hitting some of the bars after work as well. The nightlife can be good.

Jack: Surely I can imagine. So what are some of the drawbacks to being a snowboard instructor?

View of Breckenridge ski resort.
View of Breck.

Steve: While it might seem like a dream job to many, let me tell you, I think I made more money waiting tables. The hourly pay isn’t amazing and comes out in the low 20’s when I consider the one-off tips I get on some lessons but that is another thing in itself. Some people tip and some don’t. I’m not saying there should be a standard but it does help us when we get them.

Jack: For sure. I can see that. So I know a lot of our readers will want to know but do you have any snowboard certifications?

Steve: Ha no. Those things… they are a waste. I don’t expect to be an instructor for 10 years and even if I did, I doubt I’d get it. The company, PSIA or whatever, they want you to do continuing education to keep up your certification year after year. It is a money grab to be honest. Like how will you lose your riding and teaching skills if you are good at them?

Jack: Yea, I guess when you look at it like that, it makes sense. Does the resort encourage it?

Steve: They sure do. You have some people, more on the ski side, I call them ski snobs and they think you should be certified to be full-time. It’s a joke in my opinion and I’ll leave it at that.

Jack: So what’s to come in the industry? Could you make a career out of being a snowboard instructor?

Steve: For me? I’ll do this maybe one more year then look to switch resorts or go into marketing. I have a college degree in it but never really go into it. I suppose I could make a career out of being a snowboard instructor if I moved up in the ski school or into the office side of things. I’m sure I wouldn’t mind moving into the office side of things but I’ll definitely need to find something that pays a bit better.

Jack: Enjoy it while it lasts right? Do you at least get in enough riding?

Steve: Ha. More than you could imagine but to be fair I feel like you are going to ask if I get sick of it and I don’t. I love every day being out on the mountain and exploring the trails. Especially since the season is limited and you only get so much time.

Jack: Yea I was going to go there so thanks for that. Favorite trails at Breck, you have any?

Steve: Of course, I don’t want to give all my secrets away but I do like 4 O’ Clock on days when I’m not teaching and Crystal off of the Falcon Superchair. It always depends how much time I have and where I’m located on the mountain. There is so much good stuff to ride that I could talk about that for ages.

Jack: So what else? We’ve covered your background, the day to day, the future, is there anything else you’d want to share or let people know before going into a career as a snowboard instructor?

Steve: I think just to reiterate, you are in it for fun. You know the pay isn’t amazing but it’s livable if you are full-time and live outside of the resort. I prefer outside of employee housing. You’ll eventually need to try to get a more managerial role if you want to stick with it for the long term but in the short run, if you love snowboarding, I’d say go for it.

Jack: Perfect advice man. I think you really hammered it home. It’s all about having an open mind and for a lot of these people considering it, to realize that they surely aren’t going to get rich as an instructor but they can count on some fun.

Thank for catching up Steve. It’s good to see you as always.

Steve: You too man! Likewise.

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