Could We See More International Snowboard Instructors Working In America?

by Baden Knifton
Onyx Baden teaching in Vail, CO. 2007

“Where should I apply to get work as an instructor?”….. An email topic received on a regular basis here at Onyx Snowboard School and one that with the ever increasing number of BASI level II instructors is becoming harder for us to advise on especially in Europe as there simply are not enough jobs. But thankfully that could all be set to change!


Onyx Baden & Grant teaching in Mt Snow, VT. 2005

Onyx Baden & Grant teaching in Mt Snow, VT. 2005


A brief history lesson. 

First we need to rewind 8 years or so when 3 members of the Onyx team were busy having fun working, training and gaining valuable experience on (and off) the slopes, but these schools were not located in Austria, Switzerland, Canada, Italy or indeed (the hardest place to teach ever) France…. no sir…. they were in the good old United States of America! Cue ‘Jimi Hendrix – Star Spangled Banner’ please.


I had the opportunity to work for Mt Snow in Vermont then Vail over in Colorado during the noughties and loved every minute of it! The corporate set up there differs to Europe as a company, Vail Resorts for example, will lease the land from the Forestry Commission giving them sole rights over who can/can not teach in the area. So you all work for the mountain’s school giving you lots of riding buddies and as the Americans really push personal and professional development there are training clinics you can attend to become even more of a ninja at low work times. It really was never ending fun on/off the slopes and experiences that helped shape how Onyx Snowboard School was created and is run.


This was the era of H2B’s! A visa which allowed skilled seasonal workers the right to employment in the USA for a named company, undertaking a specific role and for a predetermined period of time where not enough American employees existed.


This ground to a halt around 2008 when an impending election and fear of being ‘that party who supported immigration’ saw part of the law lapse which allowed those who held a H2B within the x few years prior to applying exemption from the capacity limit of visa issued every year, reducing the total number of H2B’s available to around a quarter of the original amount. Many companies found creative ways to dodge this using the cultural exchange ‘Mickey Mouse’ Q-1 visa and the elite athlete O-1 visa, again authorities were quick to regulate their use and the number of foreign instructors working at American resorts plummeted.


Onyx Baden with the instructor crew in Vail, CO. 2007

Onyx Baden with the instructor crew in Vail, CO. 2007


Why should we get excited?

‘The Gang of Eight’, who are indeed a gang of eight American politicians including Sen. Michael Bennet from Colorado (you can see why he’s keen for this), have been instrumental recently in preparing a new immigration reform bill to be put before congress. The original 844-page bill was made public less than a month ago but it’s the revised 867-page version that has us whooping like frat-boys at a beer pong championship as it contains the following very specific break……


“A ski instructor, who has been certified as a level I, II, or III ski and snowboard instructor by the PSIA or AASI, or received an equivalent certification in the alien’s country of origin, and is seeking to enter the United States temporarily to perform instructing services”


The AASI is the American Association of Snowboard Instructors and means that not only are skiing and boarding recognised in historical legislation but reference to international equivalent qualifications are also noted.


Onyx Baden teaching in Vail, CO. 2007

Onyx Baden teaching in Vail, CO. 2007


So what does it all mean Baden?

In a nutshell – If passed it could mean an increased number of more accessible visas granted to international snowboard instructors for temporary (seasonal) work in the USA and once again opening up greater options of employment for BASI level II’s. It’s the inclusion of the break above that is significant to the whole thing.

The good news – There are efforts to move this bill through senate at an accelerated pace with a deadline set for a final Judiciary Committee vote by the end of the month!

The potentially bad news – This bill has only been available for a few weeks and as such certain items are only just being highlighted. Areas such as immigrant worker hourly wages states Farm Equipment Operator will get $11.58 (£7.60-ish) in 2015 and greenhouse workers will see $9.64 (£6.33-ish) in 2016, this could be a problem for those looking to earn bigger bucks with the bigger resorts should this be fixed nationally.


While nothing is set in stone we’re just stoked to see the Americans looking at the immigration law again and the addition of a snowboard specific break has us optimistic that Brits and other nationals could be back in uniform on the mountains there in the near future.


We’ll keep you updated as more news comes to light,



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