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Certification vs longevity

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Whenever someone posts asking about getting lessons one of the first things mentioned is the advantage of asking for a level III cert to increase the probability that they will receive a quality lesson. I'm not in anyway disagreeing with this advice but I was wondering if there might be another criteria that would be just as effective as far as increasing the chances of getting a good lesson. My idea would be to ask not for a cert level but to ask for the the most experienced instructor available, in other words "Gimmie the instructor that has worked here the longest!".

 

Seems to me that since ski instruction is a job that people do because they want to not because they need to that someone who has done it for many years will have a lot to offer regardless of their cert level.

 


fom

post #2 of 16

From my experience as a student, those who've got sincere passion for the sport and have survived the politics without losing their passion have been some of the most incredible instructors. 

 

I've been really fortunate to have encountered some longevity in the ski instructor line up.

 

post #3 of 16

On the other hand the longest serving instructor may just have been delivering mediocre product longer than anyone else. Certain people are very likeable and yet seemingly not very effective teachers. I remember speaking with someone who praised very highly the instructor she had been taking regular weekly lessons from for a very long time, like 10 years or so. I looked at her skiing and wondered why, if she had 10 years of great instruction she was still skiing at level 6?

post #4 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

On the other hand the longest serving instructor may just have been delivering mediocre product longer than anyone else. Certain people are very likeable and yet seemingly not very effective teachers. I remember speaking with someone who praised very highly the instructor she had been taking regular weekly lessons from for a very long time, like 10 years or so. I looked at her skiing and wondered why, if she had 10 years of great instruction she was still skiing at level 6?


I've observed the exact same thing among some of the recreational skiers I know.  They take lessons on a season basis with the same group over and over, praise the instruction highly, but when I ask what they are working on or learning, they can't describe anything.  I'm good at probing questions, but that approach doesn't get any information either.  Perhaps the social aspect is what they love, or the positive attention given to their skiing from an authority figure.  There is certainly no deliberate practice going on, or they would be aware of it.

post #5 of 16

I don't think that either Level 3 or Longevity are necessarily good indicators. You need someone who skis well enough to demonstrate what you need to learn, has a personality that's compatible with you, and can explain things in English in a way that you can relate to (directly tied to personality). Where I work we have L3s who I think are terrible teachers. They're great skiers, but they can't connect with people. We also have a few long-term instructors (L2 and L3) who bore people stiff. If the ski school desk staff have a pretty good familiarity with the staff, explain what you're looking for and ask if they can suggest someone.

 

For instance, I've become their go-to person for certain kid lessons plus women in their 30s-70s who express that they want someone to help them get over some sort of hump. I always have a bag of gummi bears in my pocket to keep kids entertained (gummi bears stick to chairlifts really well if you lick the back of them), and since I'm over 40, the women find me non-threatening and usually fun. Those two groups are where I get my most frequent 'regular' customers and the sales desk folks have figured that out. I also know the mountain really well so if someone is just looking for a good orientation/tour, I fit that bill also. But I'm not a L3 instructor (never will be) and I'm nowhere near the most tenured of the staff.

 

BTW, if you're taking a group lesson, you don't really get much choice in instructor.

 

This brings up a subject I've thought about a little bit recently. Is there anyplace online where people can review/rate their instructors. I'm thinking a la Yelp or ePinions. A ski area could institute their own system on their web site, and this might make sense since then they can edit/control the feedback. I know I'd love to read reviews of my teaching style. It would be helpful from the instructor's perspective if they could "reply" to reviews just in case some nutjob posts a bad review and you want to clarify some point (e.g. "Susie may have had a better experience and been less terrified if she hadn't insisted on an expert group lesson despite only skiing one day in her life.")

 

Would such a site/feature get enough traffic/reviews to be at all helpful? Should it be in a generic site like Yelp? On Epic or TGR? On the ski area's site (more likely to be kept up-to-date with current instructors, photos, schedules, etc)? Or maybe PSIA should host it for their members and allow individual participating ski areas to link in their staff from the PSIA site? The more I think about it, having PSIA do it would make a lot of sense - plus it would actually be a way for PSIA to show some 21st century value to its members.

 

Maybe I should start a new thread on the rate your instructor idea.

post #6 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinecure View Post

I don't think that either Level 3 or Longevity are necessarily good indicators. You need someone who skis well enough to demonstrate what you need to learn, has a personality that's compatible with you, and can explain things in English in a way that you can relate to (directly tied to personality). Where I work we have L3s who I think are terrible teachers. They're great skiers, but they can't connect with people. We also have a few long-term instructors (L2 and L3) who bore people stiff. If the ski school desk staff have a pretty good familiarity with the staff, explain what you're looking for and ask if they can suggest someone.

 

For instance, I've become their go-to person for certain kid lessons plus women in their 30s-70s who express that they want someone to help them get over some sort of hump. I always have a bag of gummi bears in my pocket to keep kids entertained (gummi bears stick to chairlifts really well if you lick the back of them), and since I'm over 40, the women find me non-threatening and usually fun. Those two groups are where I get my most frequent 'regular' customers and the sales desk folks have figured that out. I also know the mountain really well so if someone is just looking for a good orientation/tour, I fit that bill also. But I'm not a L3 instructor (never will be) and I'm nowhere near the most tenured of the staff.

 

BTW, if you're taking a group lesson, you don't really get much choice in instructor.

 

This brings up a subject I've thought about a little bit recently. Is there anyplace online where people can review/rate their instructors. I'm thinking a la Yelp or ePinions. A ski area could institute their own system on their web site, and this might make sense since then they can edit/control the feedback. I know I'd love to read reviews of my teaching style. It would be helpful from the instructor's perspective if they could "reply" to reviews just in case some nutjob posts a bad review and you want to clarify some point (e.g. "Susie may have had a better experience and been less terrified if she hadn't insisted on an expert group lesson despite only skiing one day in her life.")

 

Would such a site/feature get enough traffic/reviews to be at all helpful? Should it be in a generic site like Yelp? On Epic or TGR? On the ski area's site (more likely to be kept up-to-date with current instructors, photos, schedules, etc)? Or maybe PSIA should host it for their members and allow individual participating ski areas to link in their staff from the PSIA site? The more I think about it, having PSIA do it would make a lot of sense - plus it would actually be a way for PSIA to show some 21st century value to its members.

 

Maybe I should start a new thread on the rate your instructor idea.

 

Glad you're popping your head in here more.  This is some good food for thought.

 

 

post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

 

Glad you're popping your head in here more.  This is some good food for thought.

 

 



There's good stuff over here. But I get annoyed/frustrated by all the "which gaper ski should I buy" threads, plus it is so freakin PC (I'd have said the real F word on TGR). I also think it is totally ridiculous that only "pros" can comment in the boot threads - they overthink stuff way too much.

post #8 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sinecure View Post

I don't think that either Level 3 or Longevity are necessarily good indicators. You need someone who skis well enough to demonstrate what you need to learn, has a personality that's compatible with you, and can explain things in English in a way that you can relate to (directly tied to personality). Where I work we have L3s who I think are terrible teachers. They're great skiers, but they can't connect with people. We also have a few long-term instructors (L2 and L3) who bore people stiff. If the ski school desk staff have a pretty good familiarity with the staff, explain what you're looking for and ask if they can suggest someone.

 

For instance, I've become their go-to person for certain kid lessons plus women in their 30s-70s who express that they want someone to help them get over some sort of hump. I always have a bag of gummi bears in my pocket to keep kids entertained (gummi bears stick to chairlifts really well if you lick the back of them), and since I'm over 40, the women find me non-threatening and usually fun. Those two groups are where I get my most frequent 'regular' customers and the sales desk folks have figured that out. I also know the mountain really well so if someone is just looking for a good orientation/tour, I fit that bill also. But I'm not a L3 instructor (never will be) and I'm nowhere near the most tenured of the staff.

 

BTW, if you're taking a group lesson, you don't really get much choice in instructor.

 

This brings up a subject I've thought about a little bit recently. Is there anyplace online where people can review/rate their instructors. I'm thinking a la Yelp or ePinions. A ski area could institute their own system on their web site, and this might make sense since then they can edit/control the feedback. I know I'd love to read reviews of my teaching style. It would be helpful from the instructor's perspective if they could "reply" to reviews just in case some nutjob posts a bad review and you want to clarify some point (e.g. "Susie may have had a better experience and been less terrified if she hadn't insisted on an expert group lesson despite only skiing one day in her life.")

 

Would such a site/feature get enough traffic/reviews to be at all helpful? Should it be in a generic site like Yelp? On Epic or TGR? On the ski area's site (more likely to be kept up-to-date with current instructors, photos, schedules, etc)? Or maybe PSIA should host it for their members and allow individual participating ski areas to link in their staff from the PSIA site? The more I think about it, having PSIA do it would make a lot of sense - plus it would actually be a way for PSIA to show some 21st century value to its members.

 

Maybe I should start a new thread on the rate your instructor idea.


If you want to see how this might look, check out rateyourprofessors.com and rateyourteachers.com.  It can be ugly, or inane, maybe sometimes helpful, but anonymity protects all.  

 

post #9 of 16

Deciding based on tenure? Nothing worse than a crabby old jaded instructor... 

 

It gets tough at the more advanced level to find a good instructor. I find it's important to meet an instructor you have a good rapport with, and who excels in coaching, analysis and gives lots of feedback. (That's very counter to the current CSIA teaching technique for high end skiers, but I don't care.) For me, such instructors make up a fraction of the level 3s and 4s even at a big hill. 

 

Good idea to work with the ski school desk staff to inquire for the personality you're looking for (someone calm? methodical? high energy?), terrain you want to ski, any special needs (injuries, disabilities, fears) and the certification requirement you're looking for. 

 

And when you find an instructor you love, tip well ;)

post #10 of 16

 

Quote:
If the ski school desk staff have a pretty good familiarity with the staff, explain what you're looking for and ask if they can suggest someone.

 

Yes, this is a really good idea.  If the ski school has their act together, they will really want to make sure you have the best time possible, and can work with you to find a good instructor.  And good instructors love working with people who are actually motivated and want to learn.

 

You might want to see if you can speak to a manager, or even talk with the SSD.  If you just walk up, the person actually working the desk may know the staff inside and out... or might not have a clue.  (Or they might be the SSD, depending on where you are!)

 

It's true that some really excellent instructors have no formal certification.  You occasionally see the opposite (lots of certification but not very good instruction), but in my experience that's rare with a PSIA L3.  Sometimes it's just a question of matching up personalities and teaching styles, though.

post #11 of 16

Some of the most highly requested instructors at Mammoth Mtn. ski area when I worked there were not certified at all.  I remember two gals specifically Heika Pfifer, and Penny Padgett who were new hires but had a great personality and magnetism that drew people toward them.  They connected well, were passionate about learning themselves and exuded fun!  They both skied the first season at perhaps a level 6 but improved and became certified later on.  We also had others who had taught 30 plus years and hadn't been to a clinic in years but had a solid clientele built over the years and saw, understandably, no reason to attend clinics or pay dues any longer (Scotty B, Fitz, Julie Findley....).

 

It's not necessarily about the pin but any serious student of the sport will pursue some level of certification.  I have not seen a certification for personality, passion and charisma??

 

Perhaps requesting one of the most requested instructor on the staff would be a great place to start?

post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by fatoldman View Post

Whenever someone posts asking about getting lessons one of the first things mentioned is the advantage of asking for a level III cert to increase the probability that they will receive a quality lesson. I'm not in anyway disagreeing with this advice but I was wondering if there might be another criteria that would be just as effective as far as increasing the chances of getting a good lesson. My idea would be to ask not for a cert level but to ask for the the most experienced instructor available, in other words "Gimmie the instructor that has worked here the longest!".

 

Seems to me that since ski instruction is a job that people do because they want to not because they need to that someone who has done it for many years will have a lot to offer regardless of their cert level.

 


fom

Like everything else, there isn't one answer and there is plenty to consider.  One of the things I think haven't been mentioned is "What do you want the lesson for?"  A never ever, to go from level 6 to 7, learn bumps, improve your nastar time?  That might not be the same person.

 

Longevity might only mean they've found a way to keep getting a season pass with minimal effort.  Granted, this isn't the norm but I've met instructors that I don't think are on par with their time in service.  All professions of folks that are lackadaisical.  This one isn't different.

 

I also got a couple "lesson" early in my training as an instructor from a long time instructor that I'm not sure could help me much now, but at the time, was just what I needed.  I'm not saying I'm better than him or anything like that.  I'm saying my interests are more focused in an area that he isn't interested in.

 

So, my answer is "Depends."
 

 

 

post #13 of 16

I don't think either are absolute factors. I usually advice clients who are going to a different mountain to be honest and upfront about their level, learning style and goal when requesting for an instructor. For example; "I'm an advanced skier who prefers a technical approach. I would like to work on off-piste skiing" or "I'm a beginner that's really timid but wants to attempt intermediate runs".

 

Like the others have mentioned, a front desk that is switched on will know their instructors styles and capabilities and will allocate accordingly. I believe this would be a better approach to receiving a quality lesson rather than asking for a specific type of instructor, "I would like a fully certified instructor/ the most experienced instructor". 

 

 

post #14 of 16
This is a pretty interesting thread to read, here's my two cents worth

By skiing with a level 3 (or higher) you know they at least have an understanding of skiing to a certain level and have put time, effort and money into obtaining that understanding. It doesn't make them a good teacher however. Knowledge is one cornerstone of that but as people have eluded to passion, experience and being able to relate to people are equally important. These things are harder to measure but as a rule of thumb the longer you are an instructor the more you will have these qualities, for example if you hate people you probably would have given up teaching a long time ago. On the flip side of this I'd question an instructor who has been in the industry for a long time without the desire or ambition to further themselves through obtaining higher qualifications. Even if they don't obtain them they are learning through training and exposing themselves to others ideas.

Asking front line staff might help in some resorts but when it's a big ski school some instructors might have little contact with the staff selling the product, yet they might offer a great lesson. I've worked in a resort that had over 1000 instructors.

To summarize, what I think makes a great instruction is both, qualifications and longevity, that way you get someone who is passionate, experienced, qualified and into their job of making people better skiers and having more fun!
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by bud heishman View Post

Some of the most highly requested instructors at Mammoth Mtn. ski area when I worked there were not certified at all.  I remember two gals specifically Heika Pfifer, and Penny Padgett who were new hires but had a great personality and magnetism that drew people toward them.  They connected well, were passionate about learning themselves and exuded fun!  They both skied the first season at perhaps a level 6 but improved and became certified later on.  We also had others who had taught 30 plus years and hadn't been to a clinic in years but had a solid clientele built over the years and saw, understandably, no reason to attend clinics or pay dues any longer (Scotty B, Fitz, Julie Findley....).

 

It's not necessarily about the pin but any serious student of the sport will pursue some level of certification.  I have not seen a certification for personality, passion and charisma??

 

Perhaps requesting one of the most requested instructor on the staff would be a great place to start?


Bud,

I had Penny two years ago for Race Camp. Last year I had Simon the first day and downgraded myself to Grant's class. All were passionate instructors and I learned a lot, but Penny definitely exuded fun. Hey, I heard she got married.

 

Spacecase
 

 

post #16 of 16

As an instructor myself, I don't know how to request the best instructor.  Some of the experienced and higher certified instructors are fabulous.  Some of the L3s attend the clinics but haven't brought their instruction forward.  Some tell the students every detail they've ever heard in a clinic, and the student is swamped with info that they can't put to use.  Some ski very well due to their innate athleticism and don't know how to teach it.  And some just don't ski nor teach very well and got that full cert so far back that things were different.  Some of the younger L1s are great with kids and teens.  The sales desk will give work to the full timers before they'll call the part timers regardless of how effective the instructor is, and the sales desk people really don't know.  The student really needs an instructor that'll connect with them and give them the one or (at most) two most important movements they need. 

 

By the way, if you run across a really excellent instructor, let the sales people and the ski school manager know!  And if you get a truly mediocre instructor, let them know that, too.

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