Nick is an American from Cincinnati, Ohio, who has lived in Vail, Colorado – a skiing mecca in the U.S. – for the last 4 years. During the summers in Colorado you can find Nick working as a ski instructor at Valle Nevado in Chile. In this WAM interview we learn from Nick how he got into the instruction business, and how to find work abroad in Chile.
What’s your background?
I grew up ski racing. Then I instructed in the mid-west, but never took it too seriously. After graduating from Miami University in 2006, I started instructing both alpine and adaptive skiing full time in Vail. I earned full certification for these specialties with PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America). Then I spent a summer working at Cerro Castor in Ushuaia, Argentina. Searching some work abroad job board won’t turn up a job this cool. (laughs)
How did you get the job?
After the season I worked in Argentina, I traveled through Chile and stopped by the Valle Nevado ski school to ask about work in the future. I got the email of the ski school director and submitted my resume.
What’s a typical day like at Valle Nevado?
I wake up and eat breakfast in the employee cafeteria. Depending on the day, I show up for work at 9 or 10 and check to see if I have any lessons. If there are no lessons booked, I check in at lesson call every hour until I get work. Usually if I don’t get work by 2 pm, I go free skiing. During the slow times I work about 2 hours a day, but during the busy times I work between 4 and 6 hours a day.
What’s your favorite part of the job?
The ability to work and free ski in the same day. In Colorado, you either work all day or play all day, but at Valle Nevado I get to ski at least an hour or two for myself each day. In Chile there is a good balance between work and pleasure.
What’s your least favorite part of the job?
When it’s not busy, I have to show up to lesson call every hour and there usually isn’t any work. It’s hard not knowing when I’ll get work. I blame it on the fact that the ski school is very disorganized.
How’s your Spanish?
I’m told my Spanish is pretty good. I learned in during a year abroad in Argentina suring my junior year of college. It’s a great skill for any ski instructor to have.
What was the visa process like?
Good question. It’s pretty simple. I tried to get a work visa before coming to Chile, but I needed an FBI background check – a 13-week process. Valle Nevado offered me the job at the end of March and I needed to start work mid-June. When I left for Chile, the background check hadn’t come back and I arrived without a work visa. Luckily, it was easy to change my visa status after I arrived. I downloaded a few forms them snail-mailed in my work contract, copies of my passport, and visa photos. I still need to visit the ministerio de extranjeria to complete the process.
Is it strange always living in winter?
I love the winter, but it gets old. The last time I did a double winter in Ushuaia, it was basically dark all the time because it was so far south. Here in Chile it’s nice 95% of the time, which makes it easier. I get to travel to the beaches of Brazil and Chile in the off-season. It’s super important to go someplace warm between ski seasons. It keeps me sane.
Are there lots of jobs available? How can I find one?
There aren’t as many jobs in Chilean ski schools compared to Argentina. Chile wants fully certified instructors with lots of experience. In Argentina it’s easier to find work as a ski instructor. I’d guess it’s because there are more resorts and bigger ski schools.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work abroad?
Get your FBI background check done ASAP! Whenever you work abroad, be flexible and willing to adapt. Things aren’t always what they appear when you work abroad, but it’s always an adventure.