Do you want to be the next Erik Guay, Kaj Zackrisson, or Jess McMillan? Well you’re in the right place!
Take note: professional skiing doesn’t just involve getting sunburnt on the slopes, slaloming down some ‘gnarly’ black runs, and downing lots of après ski drinks. If you really want to make a living from skiing, you will need to make it to the very top of the sport.
In order to do this, you will need to practise, train, practise, practise, and then practise some more! Only a small part of a professional skier’s time is spent competing – the rest of the time is spent training on the slopes or in the gym.
Becoming a professional skier is more of a lifestyle choice than a career. In order to be successful, you will need to keep your body in peak condition at all times, and you will constantly have to refine and develop your technique. You will need to manage your diet, train every day, and have serious amounts of drive and determination.
Professional skiers tend to specialise in one of four main areas: alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, cross-country skiing and backcountry skiing. However, most tend to do a bit of everything. Although some professional skiers may occasionally dabble in other winter sports, such as snowboarding, most people are purists who like to stick to what they know.
Salary & benefits
Professional skiers do not earn a salary: they make money through sponsorship, endorsements and prize money.
Some skiers, such as Glen Pake, earn hundreds of thousands of pounds through endorsements, although this is very rare. In fact, very few people are able to make a living purely through skiing. Indeed, many skiers get part-time jobs to supplement the money they make through competing.
A more consistent way to make money through skiing is to work as a ski instructor in a popular ski resort.
One thing’s for sure: this is not your average nine-to-five office job. To become a pro skier, you will need to eat, sleep and breathe skiing.
You will be required to travel all over the world for competitions, which is likely to involve working weekends and national holidays from time to time.
Understandably, skiing can be a dangerous sport from time to time, as you will often be putting yourself at risk of sustaining head injuries, breaking limbs or getting stuck in an avalanche.
There are no academic requirements for professional skiers. To thrive in this sport, you will simply need natural talent, determination, technique, flair and discipline.
Your interest in skiing should start out as a hobby. Learn to ski and start competing in local competitions. This can be tricky, especially if you don’t live in a mountainous region where it snows regularly!
In the UK, the best places to learn and compete in ski competitions are Tamworth and Milton Keynes, which both have ‘snow domes’ with real snow, as well as Aviemore in Scotland.
As you progress and become more and more successful in these events, you should enter national and international ski competitions.
A career as a professional skier will be relatively short-lived and therefore it may be advisable to gain qualifications, such as a degree in sports science, physiotherapy, marketing, retail management or education, if you want to develop a career related to skiing once you have finished competing.
Training & progression
Training will be a daily occurrence. During the winter season, you will train almost every day, refining your technique, building your strength, increasing your stamina and practising tricks if you’re a freestyle skier. During the summer season, you may train indoors at one of the UK’s snow domes.
There is no real career progression. Once you have established yourself on the international skiing scene, it will be up to you to stay there, winning medals and training like an absolute beast.
Once you are past your peak and take a step back from competing, you may look to focus your efforts on training other elite skiers. Alternatively, you could become a ski instructor or move into other areas, such as filmmaking or chalet management. You could even start your own ski school or launch a new brand of salopettes.