PSIA could help you to be that instructor that you envision. It might not. You will only get back what you put into it. As far as going for level 1, if you are a PSIA member you have no real reason not to go for the certification. Lots of people don't want to pay dues and I can understand that. If you are paying dues and don't do a L1 because you don't think you can pass, you need to be thinking about doing something other than teaching skiing. L1 is pretty easy and should be a cakewalk for anyone who puts on the SS uniform. I haven't always been happy with PSIA, but I must acknowledge that PSIA involvement has made me a much better skier and instructor than I otherwise would have been. It sounds like you could benefit from some of the training that PSIA makes available to its members. Some of the better training is limited to members of specific certification levels.
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Other than my home mountain, two other ski areas, total of maybe 8 days somewhere else. Teach mostly kids, a few adults, mostly groups, very few privates and teach our season long kids program which is all day Saturday, January thru March.
Percentage of PSIA certified. Maybe 30%, mostly L1. Maybe a few L2 and only one L3 that I know of and he got his 20+ years ago and he is every other weekend or so part timer. Our ski school director has said that so far no one has ever walked in and ask for a certified instructor. The mountain is supportive in that they will pay for the test but not the dues but there is no pressure one way or the other. Money wise not much difference unless you are an L3 wanting to work full time but and at least over the last three years as far as I know that has not happened.
Most of our upper level instructors are more of the ex ski racer types and most are not certified. There is sort of a mixed attitude about PSIA. It is ok if you are but don't expect any special treatment type of atmosphere. For me to get my L1, or even L2 there is no direct pay advantage unless the knowledge gained results in more tips and would you would ever make back the extra cost, maybe, maybe not.
The fact that a SSD is willing to cover the cost of the L1 test does seem like an indication the SAM values L1 certification in some significant way. I can understand not wanting to pressure instructors to pay PSIA dues since the pool of potential instructors may not be that big. Could it also be true that an instructor who gets a L1 pin and is interested in moving towards L2 is then more likely to considering moving on to another SS that is more likely to provide more pay to a certified instructor? If not direct pay, indirectly because there are more opportunities for private or semi-private lessons.
One of reasons to start this discussion was to help decide whether or not the fact that an instructor has put in their own time, effort, and money into getting certified is worth consideration when an intermediate/advanced adult skier wants a lesson. Meaning when there is a choice between a certified instructor or one who has similar teaching experience (number of years) but no certification. In particular for a private or semi-private lesson. Clearly there are many different reasons why instructors do not get involved with PSIA. Based on what I've learned from the discussion so far, unless I had a personal recommendation, for a private or semi-private lesson I think I would be happier if an instructor assigned by the SS started off with a self-introduction that included something about certification. Could either be an achieved status or a comment that he/she was working towards the next level test. If not certified, then I would want to hear that they had been teaching kids and adults at multiple levels for 5+ years, preferably at more than one mountain. For a group lesson or clinic, learning that the instructor was L2 or above would be a bonus but I'd keep an open mind if that was not the case. Perhaps would be more likely to ask questions early on.
ryeguy: please do not take any of my comments personally. What Vickie and I are trying to do is learn things in general from the viewpoint of older adults who are intermediates who aspire to become advanced skiers sooner or later.
I was an intermediate for a long time. Only had enough time to become an advanced skier in recent years when I was already in my 50's. So I clearly remember wondering whether or not paying for lessons was worth it for myself, although I didn't hesitate to have my daughter in ski school. Luckily I had the opportunity to take a multi-day clinic out west by highly qualified instructors. But it wasn't an easy decision to spend the extra money instead of continuing to just stay at a level I was quite comfortable with and could have had fun doing for years. Now I plan for lessons quite deliberately for myself and my daughter (age 12, easy blacks at Alta groomed or ungroomed).