Freeride athlete Andrew Rumph on why being a ski instructor is the world’s coolest job.
27 years. That’s how long Andrew Rumph has been teaching skiing for. 200. That’s how many days he typically skis in a year. The Aspen, Colorado-based certified ski instructor and Flylow-sponsored freeride coach loves skiing so much, he spends his summers at Portillo, Chile, so he’s on snow most months of the year. Rumph, who grew up in New Jersey, competed for years on the Freeride World Qualifier tour and these days, he also coaches part-time for Aspen’s junior big-mountain team. We called him up to ask why he loves teaching people to ski.
The first time I went skiing, I was six years old and in the Poconos. I absolutely loved it. After a few days of learning how to ski, I would get on the tow rope, straightline the bunny slope, and lap that all day. After that, I would always bug my parents, “Can we go skiing?” They’d be like, “No, it’s expensive.”
In college, I transferred to the University of New Hampshire. That’s when I really started skiing a ton. Every weekend, I’d ski. Mostly Sunday River, in Maine. My roommate and I would just get after it. We skied 45 days my junior and senior years. We skied Tuckerman Ravine. That was just unbelievable. It was my first backcountry experience. It opened my eyes to other possibilities. It was almost life changing to know that that kind of skiing was out there.
When I graduated, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I majored in economics, I don’t know why. I had this cool professor who had done a ton of traveling. He lectured us on going out and seeing the world and following your passions. It got me thinking about what I love. I loved skiing more than anything so I thought, I should just pursue that.
I had some friends in Steamboat, in Colorado. They found me a studio apartment. I moved there in early November and ended up getting a job as a ski instructor. I wanted to be on snow every day. I wanted to be outside skiing. I didn’t want to miss a day. I also enjoyed teaching.
I was the lowest instructor on the totem pole, so that meant I would get the beginner kids. The kids were nice, but I was on the magic carpet every day. It was still super fun. It was rewarding to see the kids get better and to see how much fun they had.
You’re teaching people how to be more confident. At first, everything is new. It’s putting skis on and sliding around. It’s a weird feeling. They’re like baby deers on ice. It’s teaching them how to stop and turn and feel like they have control and not like they’re just going to shoot down the hill.
My first two years, I didn’t take it very seriously. I was working part time and skiing as much as I could. My parents were like, ‘What are you doing? You’re skiing every day and barely working.’ I got a job teaching skiing in Las Leñas, Argentina. All the instructors were from Austria, Norway, the U.S. That’s when I knew this was a lifelong career. I loved the culture, the camaraderie. I loved how everyone was as passionate about skiing as I am. I got all my certifications and worked my way up.
Ski instructors work a lot. On their days off, most of them don’t want to ski 9-4. I still don’t take days off. I’m only off snow for like two days a winter.
Aspen is one of the few places you can live as a ski instructor and make a career out of it. It pays well and has really good clientele. I have a lot of clients who are good friends now.
When I teach beginners to ski in Portillo, I call out, “La Cuña!” That means wedge. I yell that as they’re running into the fence.
A stereotype of a ski instructor? They definitely have a reputation of being entitled. Like they’re above a liftie, or they’re a know it all. There are only a few instructors who are really arrogant who make us all look like jerks.
Every instructor has a passion for spreading their love for skiing. They love it so much, they want to spread that stoke to other people. Every day is rewarding. Most days, I come home and feel good about helping people get better at skiing. It becomes bigger than skiing. It affects their whole life. If someone can improve at something and make them more confident, they will do more in life.
I wear this bright red jacket. So, of course people ask questions. You have to be on all the time, always polite. They’ll be like, ‘What’s the best run on the mountain?’ People ask about the weather a lot, too.
Even if you’re an expert skier, you could benefit from a lesson. You might pick something up that’ll help you. Or something that you’re working on, you can see it from a different angle. I can show you spots not everyone knows about.
People think that ski instructors are dorky and ski slow. That’s not always true.
[To see how not slow Andrew is, follow along with him here.]