When learning to ski or board, it is vital to make use of a fully qualified instructor to help you along your way. Our guide to ski schools, in Britain, Europe and around the World, can help you get the best start for your snowsports adventure.
Ski schools will be able to help you learn to ski, either as part of a group or private lesson, and provide guides to help you explore the resort. The price varies between resorts, school, type of lesson, and, of course, the time of year that you book. All will take absolute beginners, including young children, and help you all become comfortable on snow. For the more advanced, they can offer off-piste and race training, including offering “camps” throughout school holidays.
The training and qualification system can differ widely between nations – quality of instruction does not. National governing bodies share many of their ideas and techniques, and as a result, you can be confident in the quality of instruction available regardless of where the licence was issued.
One of the major differences in accessing instruction is just how it is co-ordinated between different resorts – especially “public” ski schools overseen by a national association. These can work on a centralised system, such as the Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF), which directly oversees instructors in each French resort, or on a decentralised system, where local clubs and offices manage instructors in each resort. As a result, booking methods differ between nations.
France offers a fully centralised booking and instruction network. The Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF) runs offices in almost every French resort, offering instruction, guiding and race training for all ages. Due to the huge volume of Brits who make the pilgrimage to the French Alps every year, they run their own English booking system, available here.
The ESF will be able to provide English language tuiton, as well as a standardised grading system to allow you to take your knowledge and previous experience to a different resort and get right back at it!
Switzerland – Similar to France, the Swiss Ski School (Schweizer Schi Shule) offering tuition in 170 locations across Switzerland. Visit https://www.swiss-ski-school.ch/en/ for more information.
The vast majority of other Alpine nations, as well as Britain, run on a de-centralised system, which each resort or centre overseeing their own pool of instructors as well as booking and lesson co-ordination.
UK – each snowdome, dry-slope or alpine resort has an in-house team dedicated to helping you start your skiing experience! The BASI (British Association of Snowsports Instructors) level one instructors licence is specifically geared to these “limited” environments, meaning you will get instruction tailored to wherever you choose to learn.
Italy – In Italy, each resort town has its own local, public ski school administered by the central body. Examples include Scuola Sci del Cervinia, in Breul-Cervinia, or Scuola Sci Cortina in Cortina d’Ampezza. Instructor and guide bookings will be handled here.
Austria – Austrian ski schools are similarly resort-focused offerings, often with several private ski schools operating in each resort – the Tyrol region offers 360 ski schools across just 80 resorts! With such a selection, it can be tricky to get the selection right. You can use the local tourist board’s resources, such as Tyrol’s “Quality Award”, or individual resort’s websites, such as here at St. Anton, to see the full list of each resort’s schools.
Andorra – Andorra offers a decentralised system, with each resort administering their own skiing lessons. Andorra can be a hidden gem of instruction, as it attracts a wealth of British instructors every season. More information can be found here.
Private Ski Schools
Particularly in Europe, resorts can play host to a number of British-based ski schools, offering British instructors and a UK-based booking system to ease your introduction to the mountains. Their instructors will be fully qualified to the standards required in whichever territory they operate in.
You’ll find many of them in the bigger resorts, where the sheer number of visitors allows them to offer a great alternative to the local or national ski school operating there.
A great example is New Generation Ski and Snowboard School, who we have teamed up with as out Preferred Partner for instruction for this season. They operate across France, Austria and Switzerland, and offer discounts on a range of courses for Ski Club members, with a booking centre right here in the UK.
North America and the Pacific
Canada, America, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand all operate on a similar, hybrid system, where each resort has its own autonomous ski school but directly overseen by each nation’s governing body. Because of the comprehensiveness of each school, there is often much less in the way of private tuition or even other “public” schools available in these parts of the world.
Canada – Instruction is provided by each resort’s ski school, such as at Whistler Blackcomb or Tremblant. Bookings will be handled by each school, often through the resort’s website, where more information can be found.
USA – The USA operates in a very similar way to Canada, with instructors provided by local, resort-based ski schools and governed and qualified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America & American Association of Snowboard Instructors (PSIA-AASA). Examples include Winter Park and Stowe.
Japan – the language barrier in Japan is often seen as one of the major barriers to travelling to, and skiing in, Japan. However, English is a highly valued skill in Japan, and the influx of both skiers and instructors from the Anglosphere, results in a noticeable lack of a language barrier. On top of this, the Japanese governing body has allowed itself to be widely influenced by a North American influence. As a result, they operate on a similar, hybrid system, with the instructing body having an autonomous presence in each resort. See Hakuba or Niseko Grand Hirafu for good examples. You will also see several private ski schools available as well.
Australia – Another skiing nation influenced strongly by North American trends, each resort hosts its own ski school. Perisher, one of the countries biggest resorts, is a good example of this.
New Zealand – with smaller resorts hugging the side of the mountains, New Zealand’s ski schools are smaller than some of their counterparts elsewhere. Instruction is just as widely available however, managed by each resort.