They are tanned, at least on the bottom half of their faces, they don’t hold back and shred the best turns on snow. Austrian ‘Staatliche Skilehrer’ (diploma ski instructors), the poster children for ski tourism. The five Michelin Stars is for a chef, or the doctorate is for an academic what the ‘staatliche’ is for a ski instructor. After the Anwärter (level 1) and Landesskilehrer (Level 2) comes the Staatliche (Level 3), which is the highest certification. Within the ski world, the course is well renowned but the general public only knows very little of this. It is only those who have completed it, that really know what it entails.
The entry exam
Every year there are only approximately 60 to 70 people who make it to the Staatliche course. Those accepted have successfully completed and passed two days of entry tests (normally at the end of January). This consists of a Giant Slalom race within a specified time limit and three demonstration and off-piste runs.
The course normally begins in November. Through until April there are six different blocks of courses. The participants are trained in demostrating, racing, off-piste, and some theoretical subjects. The first course normally takes place at the Pitztaler Glacier, where the conditions are already optimal in late autumn (November). This is followed by a theory course in Hintermoos focusing on ski specific dryland training and subjects such as sports biology, movement theory, English and the history of alpine skiing. Arlberg, which is regarded as the main arena for the Staatliche certification, is tentitively where the third course is held. At the Ski Austria Academy in St. Christoph you will find the ideal conditions to continue the journey of becoming a fully certified ski instructor. In January there is an avalanche training course. In terms of content it is fairly similar to what was covered during the Landesskilehrer avalanche course. You will go into further detail and will solidify what you have already learned. You will be tested on locating burried LVS devices, orientation with the help of maps and compasses, guiding a group in an off-piste area, types of snow, amongst other theoretical subjects. The participants will be trained in how to safely and competently guide guests off-piste and take them to untouched areas. The avalanche course marks the end of the first semester and the future Staatliche ski instructors will return to their home resorts to work in their local ski schools. The second semester begins in March. The Eurotest, a Giant Slalom race, is held, previously learned skills will be consolidated and the participant will hunt the dreaded moguls of the Arlberg and they do this all with one goal in mind: to be able to call themselves a Staatliche ski instructor.
The cost of the certification variers, but an essential part of that cost is beer 😉 The certification itself doesn’t cost anything, you will however have to dig pretty deep into your pockets for accommodation and lift ticket expenses. The cost for the entire certification will range between €7000 and €8000.
The examiners of the Staatliche ski instructing certification enjoy an almost god-like status in Austria. They are the best of the best, the whole package when it comes to skiing. They can usually ski moguls better on one ski than their students can on two, they can recite movement patterns and exercise progressions in their sleep and therefore deserve complete respect within the Austrian ski community. This is a factor that can make future participants sick to their stomach. Rumous of very strict trainers and incredibly hard training methods are spread but are mostly wrong. The journey to becoming a fully certified ski instructor in Austria is certainly not always sunshine and rainbows – you are required to and often go well beyond your limits and are regularly going out of your comfort zone. The trainers, however, put their pants on one leg at a time and are human and take interest in every participant.
Will you be in the same group with the same people for the entire certification? Will you always be with the same examiner / trainer? These are some questions that are often asked. The groups change at every different part of the course and will contain roughly 6-8 people. Normally no one will ski with the same examiner / trainer twice. This ensures that the participants become better acquainted with each other and less fixed groups are formed and that they can enjoy the knowledge of all the different trainers.
What do you gain from the Staatliche Skilehrer?
Studies have shown that Staatliche ski instructors have up to 40% more success with the opposite sex. They no longer have to put on their own ski boots or carry their skis (the Anwärters do that for them). They have a royal-like status. Just joking – Staatliche ski instructors would never leave their skis with an Anwärter. The primary motivation is usually personal training and improvement, along with that there is also a financial motivation – the salary increase is significant but this varies from ski school to ski school. In addition, the Staatliche certification provides the following: Endorphins (on skis everyday), new friends, a lot of knowledge and a perfect goggle tan.
Who can do the certification?
Any person who is over the age of 18, winter, mountain and snow-loving and has already completed the Landesskilehrer certification as well as the entry exam for the Staatliche can participate. Additional requirements are a doctor’s certificate, a work confirmation for a minimum total of six months professional experience as a ski instructor, a completed cross-country introduction course, a freestyle day (included in the certification) and to take part in the snowboard Landeslehrer course (you do not have to pass this exam). It is also an advantage but not completely necessary to have high alcohol tolerance and also a patient sense of humour for austrian ski instructing jokes. And don’t worry, even the non-Austrians are welcome. Foreigners such as Germans, Dutch, Danes and Brits (the usual suspects) always sneak their way in.
Staatliche ski instructors are the masters of their trade, the know what they are doing and they love to do it. They travel long distances, often at great expense, to share their passion with people all around the world and do this in the most professional and sophisticated way possible. Staatliche ski instructors don’t just have an awesome colour contrast between their upper and lower face, or say the craziest things and drink alcohol like water then leave the bar hand in hand with their students, they can do much more and have worked hard for it. Just like any expert does not magically fall from the sky, ski instructors normally don’t either.
Words from current trainees:
„Some will probably ask themselves, what is such an ‘old guy’ doing with a bunch of young guns? He everything takes in, sucks it up and enjoys all the awesome skiing that surrounds him.
You never finish learning… Skiing and it’s perfection up to the top level is just awesome. My life is dedicated to nature and sport. Winter sports and Austria, for me: not to mention, my homeland! I would gladly grow old here!
Professional ski instructing perhaps has sunken a bit into obscurity. Of course times have changed, but the fascination stays the same. I am happily an ambassador from Austria! An in-depth knowledge is essential for this!”
The Ötztaler Quartet alias „Die Skigötter“ (The Ski Gods)
„After the first three or four days in Pitztal we did not know if we should take the rope or the revolver, as we didn’t have either on hand we had to settle for a beer and a Flying Hirsch. We managed to find some like-minded people and happily went off to the next part of the course. We take with us two broken ribs and a torn up face from the Staatliche course!”
„I am doing the Staatliche certification because skiing is one of the only things I can do well and because teaching people to ski is a job makes me happy. I would like to continue working as a ski instructor for a long time to come, also somewhere overseas. The Staatliche certification is a great preparation for this. Skiing is so much fun for me and that is why I wanted to reach the highest level of certification. For me it is an honor and I am proud to be here and am completely motivated. As a sport student I didn’t have to join the course until the second semester. I was a little bit nervous at the beginning about how much the others might have already learnt and how fast I could catch up. I found my way pretty quickly. Aside from this, I was pleasently surprised by the trainers. It’s cool that you can not only learn from the trainers but also from the other participants who are also awesome skiers. When I pass all the exams I will ‘schiaß i mi ausm Lebn’ (Bavarian expression for I will get / am drunk), it will take a big weight off my mind, because a lot of pressure builds up during the course!
„During the Anwärter and Landesskilehrer courses I would have never thought that I would do the Staatliche, but it happened. I love to ski and want to improve my own skiing abilities. All of my expectations were met: the winter was and is really cool, I have never skied so much before. Before the course started I was nervous about what the level would be like. I was afraid that everyone would be better but it turned out that we all put on our pants one leg at a time and we all enjoy to ski and do it well. As a child and teenager I was a ski racer so skiing was always an important part of my life and that’s why the Staatliche means so much to me. When I pass the exams and can call myself a fully certified ski instructor then I will be happy and we can ‘wegschiaßn’ properly (Pinzgauer slang for celebrate).”
„I made the decision to come here and do the Staaliche course because I believe Austria is one of the strongest ski nations in the world. It was a very good decision. I met a lot of motivated skiers here and many interesting personalities and people who love skiing as much as I do. It was grueling, it was hard but it was really fun and I enjoyed the time so much.“