Thanks for the clarification, SkiDude. I really do not think we are at odds on anything here except perhaps where the line for a national certification (not necessarily a regional certification, as in PSIA-RM) should be drawn.
Perhaps you believe that it should not allow for any compromises in any area, across the board. That would be nice, I agree--perhaps ideal. But ultimately, we have to remember that this has to work for both the organization and for its membership (if those are two different things). It has to be realistic. If the standard is too out of reach, or too expensive to attain, instructors will choose not to bother. Many already do make that choice. The line has to be drawn based as much on practicality as on ideals.
And compromises must include type of content, as well as level. As several have alluded, PSIA's full certification standard has been traditionally based on the "anyone, anywhere, any skis, any time" ideal. But that simply isn't possible anymore, at all. With so many different disciplines, equipment choices, and terrain, condition, and skiing styles from gates to the half pipe, moguls and steeps to jumps and rails, it is entirely unrealistic to require a basic certified instructor to master everything, everywhere. Hence my suggestion for perhaps a lower "compromise" baseline national standard based on fundamental skills and knowledge, supplemented by specialties and endorsements--which need not involve compromise at all. We've already moved in that direction in many ways--obviously by spinning off snowboarding and nordic skiing to their own certifications, but also with freestyle specialist accreditation (we have three levels, plus Trainer and Examiner), Children's Specialist accreditation (two levels plus examiner, with perhaps a third level to come), and more.
So I am not really suggesting that our standard be lowered. I'm really suggesting that we revisit the whole approach to allow for a realistic and attainable basic National Standard (which we do not have now) and an opportunity to implement truly exemplary standards for various specialty and subspecialty disciplines. We have long passed the simpler times when the only direction to go was "up" to a higher level. Progress develops laterally as well, and I think it's time to embrace that, and change how we look at certification at a fundamental level.
In your system of CSIA, you do make compromises for Level 3, by definition--by virtue of the fact that you have a higher standard for Level 4. In PSIA, Level 3 is our highest standardized national teaching certification, and the highest level that is fully transferable across Division lines. It is only the Divisions that go beyond Level 3, and they all differ in how they do it, and what the requirements are. Typically, there is first some sort of a "Trainer" level, which would be most analogous to your Level 4--but not directly transferable to other Divisions. In Rocky Mountain, the Trainer level ("RMT"--Rocky Mountain Trainer, formerly "Trainer Accreditation") represents not only a substantial step beyond Level 3 in teaching, technical, and skiing performance, it also represents an important shift in emphasis and job expectations toward training and evaluating instructors, rather than teaching the public. So it, too, is not just a higher standard, but also a slightly different standard--again, a standard both quantitatively and qualitatively different from Level 3. For example, our RMT selection requires candidates to deliver engaging indoor presentations, and evaluates their ability to judge performances against a standard, rather than just describing movements and prescribing effective changes and lesson plans ("movement analysis").
Anyway, my intent is actually to allow for higher standards, not lower, by allowing instructors to focus more narrowly on certain areas, disciplines, or specialties if they choose. I'd like to allow our varied Divisions more freedom to establish and examine for the particular skill sets they feel their members need to be successful in their region--without going so far as to ignore the general and universal skills required for teaching anywhere. I do not think that a nationally full-certified instructor should struggle in any reasonable terrain, including double black diamond. But I think it is impractical and unrealistic to require the true mastery and comfort level in that terrain that comes only from daily exposure and lots of mileage. Let the true mastery be a requirement for instructors who teach there, as part of the exam in that region. Let it be a specialty for any instructor who chooses to pursue it--not necessarily a requirement for instructors who never see that terrain. Let's make sure the standard does provide for the baseline skill set that would allow an instructor to master the terrain and conditions quickly, given the opportunity for some mileage--as you have described in your own experience, SkiDude. But the reality remains that without regular exposure to some terrain, no one, no matter how skillful, is going to feel or look completely at home immediately.
For what it's worth, I do not think that I can accurately and consistently evaluate a skier's ability to ski challenging terrain well just by watching on groomed terrain. I can identify that the required skill set is there--or not--and I can certainly tell when they do NOT have what it will take to be successful. I can generally tell whether they are sufficiently skilled to attempt the run with some margin of safety. But I cannot ascertain, even for skiers who show exemplary flat-snow skills, that they are masters of terrain that I have not seen them ski. I've seen some pretty good racers, for example, who look surprisingly uncomfortable in terrain that I would have expected they'd find easy.
Perhaps that's the best example of the varying skill sets that are possible between Rocky Mountain and midwest instructors (for example). It would not be surprising to see a midwest full-cert instructor who grew up racing blow the doors off a Colorado full cert instructor (where the minimum race requirement is a gold Nastar medal) in a race course. But the tables would probably turn in the moguls and steeps and crud of Colorado. (Yes, a good racer should quickly become comfortable in terrain, and a good terrain skier should become much faster in a race course with a little focused mileage. The fundamental skills do transfer. But it does take some mileage.)
Which brings me back to the point at hand. Should a retired World Cup racer be given a "bye" to Full Certification--at least the skiing component--based on extraordinary ability in the race world? My observations and experience suggest that they should not--that there is a lot more to teaching and demonstrating effectively, especially across the spectrum of abilities, speeds, and terrain/conditions, than they have probably learned simply from racing, no matter how successful they were at that. And I've known more than a few who have appreciated what they've learned when they became instructors--and often wished they'd learned it before they retired from racing. Of course, what they may lack is not athleticism or basic skill--it is adaptability, specific discipline, and understanding for demonstrating particular movements and variations, sometimes in isolation, for varying skill levels and speeds, and for breaking down wholes into parts.
And I am mostly just "thinking out loud" in this discussion anyway. I know that there are many things to consider, and many good arguments for solutions other than those I've suggested. I've made many of those arguments myself, in favor of a stronger national standard. But in coming full circle, I think that the solution really does lie not so much in enforcing a national standard that is unrealistically high in some areas, for some "geographically challenged" instructors--and that may well not be high enough in other areas. I think it is ultimately better, and eminently more practical, to bring the national standard to a more baseline skills-based level while encouraging the Divisions to set higher standards wherever they feel it is appropriate. If the Northern Rocky Mountain (Big Sky, Bridger Bowl, etc.) cert pin becomes the "gold standard" for steeps, and the Intermountain (Utah) pin represents exemplary powder skills, and so on, so be it. If you want recognition for a broad spectrum of superlative accomplishment, get all of the regional certifications, and any special endorsements you want. Whether those specialty endorsements should represent National certification or regional certification, I don't have a hard opinion.
It's really not a huge difference from what we have now. Even with National alpine certification--at any level or standard, and regardless of country--there are plenty of opportunities for additional relevant credentials and specialties--race coaching, avalanche science and backcountry guiding and ski mountaineering, first aid, foreign language, snowboard or nordic certification, manufacturer's binding certification, not to mention advanced degrees in education, physics, biomechanics, sports psychology, and what have you. Truly superior ski instruction covers such a range of topics and skills that any basic "ski instructor certification" cannot represent more than a broad survey course of the basic requirements, at best.