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Skiing powder and getting paid for it

Press Release from Otago Polytechnic
7 March 2012

Skiing powder and getting paid for it - top NZ snowsports training enrolments now open

Following her dream to ski all day and be paid for it, Hayley Robertson is the skiing poster girl of leading snowsports training based in the snow fields of Central Otago, New Zealand.

Ms Robertson studied at Otago Polytechnic’s Central Otago Campus in Wanaka which offers internationally recognised snowsport qualifications that turn aspiring snowsport professionals into qualified instructors and avalanche specialists. The programme also leads to careers as ski patrollers and mountain guides.

Ms Robertson enrolled in the Certificate in Avalanche Safety Management and Snowsport Instructing (Ski or Snowboard), taught on the slopes of Cardrona Alpine Resort and Treble Cone near Wanaka. She graduated in 2009 and the opportunities have opened up like the view from the top of a favourite ski run – she spent this summer enjoying winter at Sunshine Village in Banff, Canada.

“I wanted the flexibility of career choice that this course could offer. I could work either as a ski instructor or as a ski patroller and avalanche technician. By the end of the course I decided I wanted to work in avalanche safety and secured a position at Mt Ruapehu as a ski patroller.

“My office is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There is never a dull day on the snow and always something happening. You can expect everything from rope rescues, avalanche control and first aid to impromptu ski lessons as you help people down the mountain. I’ve loved how I was able to expand my skills there and take part in exchange programmes allowing me to work overseas.”

“In Banff, I’ve been skiing powder and learning how another mountain works and how the snow pack is different. I have had one of my scariest moments ski cutting here, resulting in taking a ride in a 1.5 Avalanche – definitely a learning experience.”

Enrolments for the Polytechnic’s snowsports programmes are now open with courses starting in mid-May/early June. The programmes are guided by Otago Polytech Snowsport and Avalanche Safety Programme Manager Peter Bilous who was last year presented with an award by Prime Minister John Key for his Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching. The Award, from Ako Aotearoa National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence, recognised Mr Bilous’s commitment to providing excellent, learner focused education in an amazing mountain environment. It cited his contagious enthusiasm for the subject and his commitment to continual course and professional improvement.

“Pete is regarded as the best avalanche and snow teacher in New Zealand,” said Ms Robertson. “He helped me, and every other student under his instruction, to build the skills and confidence to become a snowsport professional. He gave me a taste of what it’s like to be a backcountry ski guide, taught our entire group to work as a team and look after each other. I made great friends and I’ll definitely be back soon to start my Avalanche 2 course,”

Students can enrol for either the Certificate in Avalanche Safety Management and Snowsport Instructing (May 15 start) or the Certificate in Snowsport Instructing (Ski or Snowboard – June 5 start). Mr Bilous says there’s real demand for more Kiwi instructors from the snowsport industry.

“As far as I’m aware there are no other courses in New Zealand, or anywhere else in the world, that offer this type of programme for would-be snowsport instructors. Our students find job opportunities in the field they love,” said Mr Bilous.

The snowsports programmes are continually evolving and improving. This year it includes the NZSIA (New Zealand Ski Instructors’ Association) Children’s Teaching Certification.

“We’ve included this in a direct response to ski area requests. We are in constant communication with stakeholders, such as ski area employers who will provide the jobs for our graduates, to make sure people leave us with highly employable skills. For example we have responded to employer concerns about risk management in the work place – it’s easy to get injured in this sport, whether in work hours or during personal time spent skiing or snowboarding – so we include instruction on maximising safety. We also encourage our students to try another discipline (skiing if they’re a snowboarder or snowboarding if they’re a skier), this way they better understand what it is like for a learner and may end up able to teach both disciplines – added value for a snowsports school.”

In the meantime Hayley Robertson is sizing up another ski patrol exchange opportunity at Snow Basin in Utah to follow the coming season at Mt Ruapehu.

For more information please visit and


Photo captions:
1/ Hayley Robertson in front of a ski area map of Sunshine Village Banff
2/ Hayley Robertson at work in Sunshine Village Banff, another hard day in the office
3/ Snowsports Programme Manager, Peter Bilous training students at Cardrona Ski Field

More about Otago Polytechnic (OP) Avalanche Safety programmes.
These programmes are the most popular choice of professional snowsports training in New Zealand. OP typically has more Avalanche Safety Stage 1 graduates than all the other NZ providers combined. That’s because it is the most established programme (over 25 years old) and utilizes ultra-experienced instructors from diverse backgrounds in ski patrol, ski/mountain guiding and research.
OP is also the only provider of higher level Stage 2 and the Diploma in Avalanche Studies, courses designed for those leading others and managing operations. Most current New Zealand guides and ski patrollers in senior positions have been trained through OP Avalanche Safety Programmes. Many other graduates go on to work overseas before returning to work available in New Zealand.


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