Tuesday, March 20, 2007


AASI and PSIA both follow a similar pattern of advancement. Levels 1, 2, and 3 are followed by the DCL (District Clinician Leader) and Alpine Team. One advantage to this is it's pretty easy to tell where someone is in the ranks regardless of discipline.

The part that isn't easy to realize is just how large of a gap there is between levels 1 and 2. The testing changes from general skiing ability to a realm entirely different. Book knowledge, teaching abilities, and general skiing all need to increased by several fold. Wherein lies the problem.


Working at a smaller resort has it's advantages until you reach the concept of advancing, where you run into the unspoken barriers within the organization. Working with beginners is about 90-95% of any instructors' job regardless of location. Typically busy from open to close with a minor break for lunch. With a larger resort though, it's possible to pass off a class to another instructor giving you time to practice what's needed for your exam certs. The sad truth is that working regularly with beginners degrades your own skiing abilities as an instructor (mainly you become sloppy in your form).

The advancing tests aren't about the ability to make it down run XYZ in one piece at Level 2 (or 3), they're more focused on the ability to get down a run gracefully while fully utilizing the standards of balance. Did you engage those edges? Actively pressure the fore and aft of the ski? Maintain a balanced stance? Were you able to "dance with gravity"?

If you're a weekend warrior or part-time instructor time becomes your enemy here. When downtime arrives, it's typically at your second job, which has nothing to do with riding. In short, you've now encountered the ugly side of the professional organizations; the unspoken desire to keep the ranks to an exclusive group of full-time professionals. There are part-time and weekend warriors who have made it to the level of DCL, it's taken them years to achieve this rank. I've met two and both of them are amazing instructors and people. While talking with my DCL this weekend over my leveling exam he expressed the difficulties many of his own instructors were having with this very issue.

Maybe I'm being hyper-critical to the organizations. The testing and ranking seems to have done extremely well for them. Yet let's look at another factor here, instructor retention. It certainly doesn't carry the same prestige it once did. The allure is gone for the general populace. The ability to recruit new blood becomes increasingly more difficult each year. I know, I've been trying for the past three years. The current generations of instructors aren't getting any younger, and the pay-scale just isn't there. This is especially true at the non-destination resorts where tips are rare, the clients all live within an hour or two drive, and pay raises are based upon odd point systems that make little sense to anyone. New instructors have a quick and attainable goal of reaching their Level 1 certs, but find shortly after that the road to advancement will take two or more years to increase their pay by $1.

How would I remedy this?
Change the level system. There are two options as I see it. First is to split the destination resort/full time instructors and the part-time instructors into two different groups. This would probably create a huge rift within the organizations that wouldn't benefit anyone. The second option is to introduce new Levels 1.5 and 2.5, something that can be used as shorter term goals. The ability to quickly achieve levels and ranks is an important part of any sense of belonging to a group. I'm not advocating watering down the ranks completely, it still needs to maintain some basis on knowledge of instructing, demonstrating, and application of the ideas you're preaching. Possibly moving from the entire BERP (Balance, Edging, Rotation, Pressure) knowledge to just pieces is the right solution. Focus the point-5s on only two of the main goals, while the wholes will complete the testing. The distinction becomes difficult as each really does depend upon the other, but the testing could be done in parts.


Justin B said...

Posted a link to you at my site.

Off-piste said...

Thanks. Unfortunately Blogger doesn't seem to like the use of trackbacks, or editting comments.

MySnowPro said...

PSIA-RM allows for partial passes for L2 and L3. The instructor can pass the teaching/tech or skiing. So this is sort of the 1.5 and 2.5 designations of which you speak.

I would suggest L3 should be very rigorous. I remember passing my L3 in 94 when I came to PSIA-RM. Another instructor in my group passed his full and absolutely should have not passed. I was disgusted with the result. Maybe he would grow into the pin. But I doubt it.

I do understand that some instructors get discouraged in the process. It is very difficult for the a part-timer to make the jump. I applaud those who do pass L2, L3, or DCL/TA while working part-time. It is a huge commitment and accomplishment.

good article

Stacey said...

What's a destination resort?

Off-piste said...


The PSIA does allow you to take portions at any time, but does not officially recognize a change until you make a full completion of the process. The only issue I have with this is it doesn't help the average instructor who is already barely making an income on it.

Like I said, I'm not advocating making the steps easier, as I agree a Level 3 should be of a certain quality instructor. What I'm advocating is an official recognition of moving towards a goal.

For example, martial arts have the belts concept. As you move towards your blue belt though, you may have a yellow belt with blue stripes. There's no reason the same can't be done with instructing.