If you want to get the most from your time on the ski slopes, you’ll need to learn the fundamentals of skiing. And the best way to do this is with a trained and qualified instructor, who can give you the right advice and spot and correct any problems.

But, with so many different options on offer, it’s not always easy to choose the right instructor. It requires plenty of effort and research before you book. Here’s how to do it!

Things you need to know when choosing a ski instructor

An ESF ski instructor wearing the famous red ski suit and carrying his skis
Our guide can help you find the ski instructor who best suits your needs © ESF

When it comes to learning to ski, there’s nothing better than being surrounded by competent, experienced instructors. Mastering the skill requires the support of qualified professionals who can share their knowledge and valuable expert advice. This is particularly important if you’re a beginner or if you want to perfect your technique or try out specific activities (off-piste skiing, freeride, freestyle, etc.).

To choose the right ski instructor for you, there are three main criteria to consider.

1. Qualifications and experience

Before deciding on a particular ski school, it’s best to check whether the instructors are properly qualified to share their knowledge of this popular winter sport with you.

Two skiers go off-piste for a lesson with an ESF ski instructor
Organise an off-piste skiing lesson with a qualified instructor © ESF Les Arcs 1800

The state diploma

Firstly, make sure that the instructor you are considering holds a Diplôme d’État (DE). This diploma, issued by the Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme (or ENSA), is compulsory for anyone who wants to teach. It certifies the instructor’s technical skills in skiing, guaranteeing a better learning experience and faster progress for pupils.

That said, ski instructors must also have safety skills. During their training, instructors undergo specific training in safety on the slopes, enabling them to deal with any emergency situation and ensure their pupils’ safety as effectively as possible.


When choosing an instructor, you should also look at their skills in particular areas if you want to discover or learn more about specific disciplines such as snowboarding, freestyle, off-piste, cross-country skiing or handiskiing, for example.

Although all French ski instructors have the same diploma, that doesn’t mean they are experts in every discipline. Once they have obtained their diploma, the schools encourage young instructors to specialise in certain practices, but they are under no obligation to do so. As a result, some instructors have more advanced skills in some disciplines than others.

Choosing a ski instructor on the basis of their qualifications and experience is therefore essential for a safe and successful ski experience.

2. Knowledge of the area and its slopes

Choosing an experienced ski instructor with in-depth knowledge of the area and its slopes has many advantages:

  • Safety: an experienced ski instructor can assess piste conditions and guide you safely, reducing the risk of accidents;
  • Adapted learning: they can also recommend the most suitable slopes according to the level of their pupils;
  • Discovery: instructors often know less-frequented slopes and can help you discover unique places;
  • Local knowledge: some instructors also have in-depth knowledge of their region and its natural environment, so they can tell you more about the local fauna, flora and history. This can add real value to your experience.

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3. Adaptability

And ESF ski instructor gives a ski lesson to a young child
A good ski instructor should be able to adapt to the needs of their clients © Office de Tourisme Le Grand Bornand

Finally, make sure that the instructor you are considering has a real ability to adapt.

Instructors should be able to adapt to the skill level and goals of their students, whether they are learning the basics or perfecting existing skills.

But they should also be adaptable to the personality of each individual. Do you need an encouraging and motivating ski instructor? A ski instructor who specialises in children? An instructor who speaks your language? The instructor who accompanies you as you learn to ski or improve your skiing skills must be able to meet your individual needs.

If they are responsive to your needs and your personality, the instructor will be able to offer you tailor the lessons to you individually. In this way, students will feel more confident and learn more easily.

3 steps to choosing your perfect ski instructor

1. Set out your needs

Before jumping in head first, it’s important to identify and define exactly what you want to get out of lessons. This will make the search easier. First of all, assess your level of skiing (beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert) and your expectations. For example, you could be looking to…

  • Specialise in a particular discipline;
  • Acquire the basics of skiing;
  • Gain confidence and improve your technique;
  • Get off the beaten track.

This stage is essential for selecting the instructor best suited to your needs and expectations and choosing the course best suited to your level.

2. Do your research

3 ESF instructors in red uniforms
ESF is arguably the most renowned ski school in France – photo by Yann Allegre on Unsplash

Once you have set out your expectations, the next step is the most difficult and important – finding the right instructor to meet those goals.

First and foremost, you need to find out about the various ski schools available in the resort. While the best-known and most popular is the ESF (Ecole de Ski Français), with its famous instructors in red ski suits, there are many other ski schools, especially in the big resorts. Depending on the area, you may also find the ESI (Ecole de Ski International), Evolution 2 or Oxygène. Find out more in our post titled “Ski schools to complete your winter holidays“.

Once you’ve found the school best suited to your teaching philosophy and values, it’s time to choose your instructor. This is where you need to take into account the three criteria mentioned above to choose the ski instructor who best meets your expectations: qualifications and experience, knowledge of the terrain and adaptability.

It’s a good idea to ask other customers for their opinions, consult forums or get word-of-mouth opinions to find out whether they are reliable and to get feedback on the quality of their services. As with hotels and restaurants, you can find reviews of each instructor online, so don’t hesitate to consult them. If a name comes up several times, it’s probably a good sign!

3. Take a trial lesson

Finally, you could arrange a trial session with the instructor you have selected to assess compatibility and to see whether their teaching methods are in line with your needs.

This will allow you to see whether their teaching philosophy, values and personality match you and your expectations.

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Choosing your ski instructor is not something that can be left to chance. By taking into account the various factors mentioned above, you should be able to choose the ski instructor best suited to your needs and expectations.

We strongly encourage you to take your time with this process to maximise the benefits of your lessons and enjoy the best learning experience.

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