Originally Posted by epic
I'm trying to hold back a rant here.
Oh don't. Should I insult Stowe to get you going? That way Josh will be alerted also.
Originally Posted by Gustav
I concur with your analysis. I recently attended an Eastern Division exam (I was there for support, I was not a candidate), and the pass rate for LII Skiing was about 1/3. One examiner failed 20 of 21 candidates. I teach at 2 areas, one of which has 2 Alpine Team members and several examiners on staff.
I call it a "process" problem, but semantics aside, something is amiss. My initial thought (at least for LII), is that too much training time is spent on reference tasks instead of a evaluating and improving the candidates overall skiing ability. If you attend an "exam prep" and your SSD and both say "you're ready" and you subsequently fail an exam, there needs to be: (a) some accountability for those remarks/conclusions; and (b) some consistency in how candidates are evaluated.
Well I can tell you that if you believe the bolded part, you are definitely not ready to pass level 3 and I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all.
Here's the deal, the tasks, or drills just highlight certain aspects of your skiing. It's not like you do something differently in your skiing compared to the tasks, the tasks just isolate certain skills. That isolation gives you a chance to see it for yourself, and I presume, let's the examiner focus on one aspect of your skiing to confirm most likely what they already know. It also gives them a specific way to remember how you skied when they look back at the card later. Looking at the task and how you did reminds them of what you looked like among the 5,10,15 people they skied with. (over 3 modules) It's a way of remembering your overall movement patterns by looking at the pieces.
For example, if you don't commit downhill at transition that will show up pretty clearly in the 1,000 steps drill, (which we did in the exam on steepish slush), as you step into the turn. It will also show up fore/aft balance issues. Essentially, all along, and especially at the turn, your skis should diverge in a V with the old outside/new inside leading the way with your body. Bob, I used the "make V's for Vail, not A's for Aspen". Gates Lloyd, who was observing from Rocky Mt, Vail?, got a kick out of that one.
Here's one of the odd things about preparing for my Level 3. It's like I was inoculated by aliens, because now I love doing wedge turns, wedge christies, or open parallel reference turns. In fact there almost more fun then the advanced maneuvers On the appropriate terrain that is. Seriously, if anyone mentions wedge turns I'm all over a discussion of them and insist we go do some. Doing them alone is not as fun.
I blame this on Bob and many late night discussions and posts on epic. In fact I remember at esa Big Sky at lunch one day at Moonlight Basin, talking with Kate Howe who was preparing for her exam. I mentioned that Bob basically wrote the book on wedge turns, and "he's sitting right over there". I didn't even get the sentence out when she flew over to him and practically forced him to finish lunch so he could show her proper wedge turns. (Now there's something Bob can't resist: a pretty girl insisting on learning a proper wedge turn!) So I went out with them. Now Bob is very enthusiastic about anything skiing and doing wedge turns is perfect because you don't move far or fast, he can excitedly explain, and demo the turn at the same time. It's perfect. I just thought he was ski crazy Bob, and Kate wanted learn everything Bob knew. (At the time, she'd been skiing for 1 year I think. It was pretty impressive.) I was like, Ok, can we go freakin' skiing now??
Now I get it. That was skiing. Everything you do there, you likely to do in your high level free skiiing.
I will say this about the exam process since people have posted some very odd things in other threads, such as they heard advice to "not wear stripped pants to the exam" because...I forget. It shows up what you're doing too much?? Really! Think about that, it's ridiculous. I mean don't wear razzle-dazzle camouflage pants cause they'll get a headache looking at you, but If you're skiing is that tenuous that it matters what pants you wear, don't go to the exam!
There also seems to be a general belief of "they're out to fail me". Having just done the L3, I have to acknowledge the examiners for the way they were. It became pretty clear that they actually want you to pass, they're not trying to trip you up and make you fail. They're also just not going to let you pass cause you're a good guy. It is a standard. They were very clear in explanations of what we were going to do, and tried to make a fun, relaxed atmosphere. (One never gets that relaxed, but they made an effort) If there was a question about something they totally explained it, and we even had group coaching one time.
It's really no mystery what they're looking for. It's not perfect turns done slowly with a metronome. It's basically athletic oriented skiing that has flow to it and some sort of spark. It should be expressive, not working hard at getting it right. They want people to see it and take notice. If you're not enjoying it, it will show up. You can make mistakes if you've got the other, because it's seen as a mistake, not the way you ski. I suppose at some point, you can have too many, but a few is ok. I mean I fell in the low level bump task cause I was paying too much attention to the turns, forgot to look ahead and make a line, and buried the tips in some manky snow. In the afternoon on a narrow traversing trail, I was fooling around shaving the built up side of it's soft snow, caught a sapling or something, buried the tips, faceplanted, and lost a ski. The examiner was ahead waiting at the trail, it took a bit to get the gear back on and the snow out of my googles, so the group was waiting, having been told that I "had wrecked". I think the examiner thought it was kinda funny.
One of the best things I heard was, you want to go to the exam skiing at 65% of your level and be able to meet the standard. That way it accounts for nerves, having a bad day, etc.
I think for examples of high level skiing, some of the best stuff has come out of Csia. Those "Cream of Skiing Skills", and CSS2, have some great examples of skiing, especially the stuff in the cut up powder with Sebastien Michel, and then Georgio Rocca doing slalom training. The free skiing is way higher level than 3, it's csia4, but it gives you a good example. Also, take a look at the video rollo87 just posted. I mean is there any doubt at all he'd pass a L3? No. (he's Canadian) That's csia4 again I'd say.
The "athletic" component of L3 may be a problem with the increasing age of many instructors. It's not just an age, but you have to be in decent shape to do it, and the older you get the less you can get away with or take for granted. At the end of the two days, part of the speech from the director of the exam was that they were looking for athletic skiing and people might want to consider going to the gym or doing things like jumping rope.
I suppose that's why hop turns are included in the tasks now, and the ghastly sequential converging hop turns. It takes a certain amount of energy to do that.
Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz
Well put Gustav. It is a process problem. In my opinion no one really cares about this, if they did they would have all sorts of red flags as to why the pass rate is so low. I know they were very concerned about the pass rate for Level 1 being so high, so they addressed that.
It's a bit of a pyramid scheme. Give out the entry level certification and then string you along for years trying to advance. When I attended the Snow Pro Jam I was shocked at the number of long term Level 1 Instructors. These were people who were most likely excellent instructors for many years, stuck at Level 1. Lumped in with new instructors who can barely ski. It was sad actually. They keep paying for the exams and keep failing, and it's not for lack of trying.
There should be something between Level 1 and Level 2, or Level 2 standards should be lowered. It's a HUGE jump.
I'd go the other way. Make a level below level 1 and raise level 1. Make level 1 meaningful, it will make everyone have more pride in the system. I think that's been the mistake - level 1 had little meaning. It was more of a learning experience- which was good, but not a standard.
I suppose you could have a separate teaching level in between. They used to have that with the "Master Teacher" track, but that's been eliminated right?
In terms of "they keep taking exams and failing", that's a bit more complicated.
When you have an examiner on staff for training, it makes a big difference. I know for L2, we were very prepared from doing clinics. We did all the tasks many times, related it to skiing, did movement analysis etc.
Now we don't have an examiner, and the clinics are not as focused. Gustav said above that too much time was spent on tasks. Well, if you don't have someone on staff who's really good at giving you ma, you will be well off understanding the tasks and doing them correctly. I think the big problem is understanding the tasks and what is considered well done.
I can't tell you how many arguments I've had about pivot slips. Listening to people talk about "extending" each time. oy vey! It's one release or no release, ie it's all released, depending on your pov.
Believe it or not, at the L3 exam, on the chair lift before the run to do them we had a disagreement on this. One guy said to do them with "a very narrow stance" and that he "extended to release" for each pivot. Well that is almost opposite, and flatly wrong! I will say though, when it came time to do them, I've never seen someone do them in that narrow a stance, and he wasn't extending. It might have been a micro extension, but it was very different then he described.
If you want something that will for sure help you to pass your exam and improve your skiing/teaching, it's 72 pages.
It's called "Who? What? Where? Why? How?: A Guide to Understanding and Performing the Skiing Maneuvers of the PSIA-Rocky Mountain Alpine Certification Exams" by Bob Barnes, 2007. (Hey Bob, could you give it a longer title?)
It used to be on the psia-rm site, but it hasn't been now for a couple years. It's the single best thing I've ever seen from psia. Very specific, very detailed, with diagrams, (Bob's famous cooking!), and photos. You could seriously start a study group with it and at least agree on what you're doing. It really should be updated, expanded, and turned into a national manual. I can't believe rocky mt took it down to replace it with video. boo.
Anyway, Bob could probably make it available again? It's a 20meg pdf file.
But in general, at our mountain, I see a fair number of people who stay in the lodge, don't go out and ski on their time off and then wonder why they don't pass exams. The less challenge you have at your mountain, the more you have to look for it. Ski the death cookies, the ice, all that "bad" stuff everyone avoids. Take your kids in lessons through it.
The other issue, is there often isn't much incentive to go to level 3. I mean at our mountain, I think it would take some 800 hours to recoup the cost of just taking the two parts to level 3.
Edited by Tog - 4/10/13 at 1:49pm