Racing down the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb is hardly a day’s work for Michel Berthoud. There’s no life like it for this engineer-turned-ski instructor whose choice career fulfills his passion for skiing, people and the outdoors.
Michel became hooked on skiing at 13 when first testing the sport at Quebec’s Mount Rigaud. The job perk of a season’s pass drove him to hone his skills, obtain his instructor certification, and teach. He settled at the mountain for six seasons, working his way through university and focusing ahead on what he thought would be a lifelong engineering career.
But the nine-to-five routine quickly bored Michel. After two years he packed his bags, headed west, and followed his heart back to the mountain. Whistler Blackcomb has been his home since December 1999 where he’s worked his way up the ranks to his current position of preparing accomplished skiers to become instructors.
His challenges and responsibilities have grown since his early days of kids camps and beginners. Teaching others how to teach requires new skills and Michel’s emphasis is now on ski improvement, coaching, instructional techniques, as well as mountain orientation.
To Michel, his is not a job but an opportunity to watch others fall in love with the sport and to meet people from around the world. Most of Michel’s learners are British and Australian students on their gap years, seeking their Level 1 and 2 certifications then work in the industry, either here or back home.
Passion for the sport is a must-have trait for success. Patience and good people and communication skills also top the list. Michel emphasizes that a good work ethic is required; the harder you work the greater the chance for reward in this industry.
The job’s joys are accompanied with challenges and maintaining the same energy each day, no matter what the weather brings, can push ski staff to the edge. Staying calm and patient when students are not grasping concepts can be frustrating. But Michel stresses that it’s not at all about your own skiing, but rather, doing things entirely for guests. Your responsibility is to give your best day in and day out so customers will come back and you will keep your job.
Mountain life offers plenty of crossover opportunities when the seasonality bug arrives. Working as a mountain bike guide in the summer, together with skiing, keeps him employed for all but several weeks each fall. The autumn downtime is a gift to him and a chance to slow down and do what he loves before gearing up for the season.
Michel advises aspiring ski instructors is stick with it and it will all come together. Keep the right mindset of getting others hooked on skiing and you will go far. You’ll have the best office in the world and can take pride knowing that your passion for skiing extends around the globe through the skills you have passed on to both local learners and international students.