Becoming a Ski Instructor

Live the Dream

Ski instructor from ZigZag Ski School

What does it take to qualify as a ski instructor?

So, you love skiing and want to become a ski instructor – let’s do it!

Becoming a ski instructor qualified to teach in France requires years of intensive training and mountains of dedication.  It is a long and difficult process that involves an incredible amount of paperwork and much hoop-jumping.

In France, ski instruction is a genuine, respectable career path.  Instructors undertake extensive (and expensive) training in order to attain a qualification that will enable them to earn a decent living.

You can qualify via the French system itself, or through a foreign system by applying for recognition of another qualification.

Qualifying via the French system : Diplôme dEtat de Ski – Moniteur National de Ski Alpin

STEP 1 : Test Technique – a timed slalom test designed to prove a minimum standard of technical ski ability.  Prerequisites include having a minimum age of 17 years and having completed the French national service day.

STEP 2 : Preparation Cycle – a two-week intensive training course in ski technique & teaching methods.  Prerequisites include having a minimum age of 18yrs passing the Test Technique and attaining First Aid certification.

Upon successful completion of Test Technique and the Preparation Cycle, a candidate becomes a trainee instructor (stagiaire) allowing him/her the right to teach (with restrictions) under the guidance of a training-accredited ski school.  A 3-year window of validity is opened, restricting the period in which the candidate may attempt the Eurotest in order to proceed further. 

A trainee instructor is allowed to teach children and adults at Beginner, Class 1 and Class 2 levels only.  Trainee instructors are strictly forbidden from taking clients off-piste.

STEP 3 : EuroTest – a timed giant slalom test designed to prove a minimum standard of technical ski ability.  Prerequisites include successful completion of both the Test Technique and the Preparation Cycle.

Upon successful completion of the Eurotest, the 3-year window of traineeship validity is extended by 1 year, restricting the period to 4 years in which the candidate must complete the next stage.

STEP 4 : FIRST CYCLE – a four-week intensive training period covering teaching fundamentals and off-piste alpine techniques and safety.

Upon successful completion of the 1st Cycle, the 4-year window of validity is extended by 2 years, restricting the period to a total of 6 years in which the candidate must complete certification.

STEP 5 : SECOND CYCLE – a total of five weeks’ intensive training covering competition practices, along with expert level ski technique, teaching technique, mountain safety and avalanche awareness, including the “Eurosecurity” exam.  Prerequisites include 25 days’ teaching experience, 6 days’ ski touring and successful completion of the Tronc Commun (a general entrance exam for all sports professionals totalling 180hrs of theory).

Trainee Remuneration & Regulation

It is interesting to note that the Alpine DE is the only sports teaching diploma in France that allows partially qualified candidates to work for remuneration with just two weeks of training.  The bar is set high at entry level, requiring candidates to pass the test technique before beginning traineeship, however once this initial hurdle is passed, a candidate can complete the Preparation Cycle and be on the slopes teaching for pay within just two weeks.

Trainee instructors are paid for the hours they teach, at a reduced rate of generally around 30% to 55% of a fully qualified instructor’s pay.

Training Accredited Ski Schools

In the past, ski schools were able to profit from trainee instructors’ low pay rates, with little or no incentive to help them fully qualify.  Many ski schools therefore offered little or no support to trainees seeking to complete their ski teaching qualification.  In order to regulate this the Ministry of Sports Regulation (Ministère de la Ville de la Jeunesse et des Sports) now imposes training requirements upon ski schools.

To become training accredited, a ski school must prove a minimum of 10 fully qualified instructors are working full time.  Only once a ski school is accredited may it employ trainee instructors. The number of trainees must remain equal or inferior to the number of ski instructors working full time.  The ski school accepts a responsibility to provide the training and mentorship necessary for a trainee to progress through the system in a timely manner.

Trainee instructors are restricted to teaching lower levels of ability (up to Class 2) and are strictly prohibited from taking clients off-piste.  A trainee has a limited period in which he/she must complete the next step of certification and if too much time elapses, trainee certification is invalidated and the candidate must begin the process afresh.  There is thus a pressure to balance paid teaching work with time dedicated to training towards the next level of certification.

Equivalency via a Foreign Qualification

To attain equivalency via a foreign qualification system, a ski instructor must hold the highest level of qualification within that system and have passed the Eurotest.  On successful completion of the Eurotest, a request for equivalency may be lodged with the French Ministry of Sports (Ministère de la Ville de la Jeunesse et des Sports).

Becoming a Trainee Instructor with ZigZag

To teach as a trainee ski instructor with ZigZag, you’ll need to have passed the Test Technique and completed the Preparation Cycle (or accredited equivalent).  If this applies to you, we’d be very interested in hearing from you.

Becoming a Volunteer Instructor with ZigZag

Like all schools in France, ZigZag is only allowed to employ instructors with appropriate qualifications.  If you’ve not yet qualified as a trainee (stagiaire) ski instructor in France then sadly no ski school in France is allowed to employ you.  In this case we’d be delighted to have you lending a hand to our qualified instructors but it’d have to be on a voluntary basis.


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