I've heard this thrown around a lot.. generally in the context of exams, but just in general discussion as well, and I would just like to try and explain my views on why I don't think there's a "style" in skiing.
Generally the conversation will spark up by them saying things such as "I just need to fit into their style and I'll make it." or "There's PSIA's style of skiing, and then there's real skiing." (talking about big mountain skiers) or "The examiners didn't care for my style, and that's all there is to it."
From these comments and talks I've had with people there's this hint of "I just need to do the PSIA thing and then I can get back to skiing." as though it's so different from anything else..
The first question that comes to my mind is: What is PSIA's style? or to put it in a more discussable way, what is PSIA's focus? What are "they" trying to get across to us and what is the end goal?
I'll mention the response I hear most often, which is "efficiency". They're trying to make us ski/ride more efficiently. I don't totally disagree with that but only if it's contextualized. The most efficient thing you can do is kick back and watch a movie at home. Skiing is inherently not very efficient in the grand scheme of things, especially in high performance skiing or challenging tasks. I'm panting and tired by the end of it possibly... so, to me, saying that the goal is working towards efficiency is not the whole picture. Hell, pointing your skis straight down the hill and standing on them is probably the most efficient way to ski. (I suppose you could argue that sitting on them would be more efficient.. but I think that might end up being classified as its own sport ;p)
I hope I don't sound too far off when I say that when someone is referring to a "style", they're referring to tendencies (both positive and negative) that could be found commonly within a group of people. I won't argue that there are tendencies you could find statistically in any group of skiers, including PSIA, however I think it's a bit disingenuous to dismiss that group (again, PSIA, USSA, USFT, NSP, etc) as having a style that is so very different from anything else. I feel that getting hung up on a "style" to fit is not ideal for progressing as a skier, as I think it would only propagate the thought that what you would be asked to do, for example, in an exam is so different from anything else you would do in skiing.. and I don't think that's the case. I believe that, regardless of organization, there will be positive tendencies among the "best-of-the-best" skiers.
Literally, a skier is just a person with sticks on their feet sliding down a hill. We all have a body, a mind, and those skis. We can move in certain ways, which could impact the skis in some way, which would react to the snow and forces present in some way. From there it becomes entirely about choosing what you want to do.
My interpretation of my goal in skiing, for which I have heavily used PSIA as a resource to pursue, is: the most efficient way to maintain the most control over my skis, mind, and body while performing my desired task. (and I like to think that I'm not terribly far off from what the image of PSIA is) I'm sure some people might think something similar when considering what they've learned from another organization.
Now that task could be performing a wedge turn, or it could be some high speed GS turns, or it could be throwing a backflip off a cornice. Regardless of what organization, there's a set of movements or methods that will accomplish that goal, and those that won't. And again, regardless of whether it's PSIA or something else, I've learned how to most accurately apply my muscles to control my body, I have a clearer picture of how my body or skis will respond in certain situations or snow conditions, and have a broader understanding of how my skis can be used to accomplish what I want.
Thoughts? Opinions? I wonder if I'm not just reading too far into generalizations, but it's something that always bugs me when I hear it.. Saying that racers can only carve groomed runs and ski fast or that PSIA only encourages boring, low-end skiing.. it's just asinine. There's plenty of examples of overlap where an instructor might ski very similarly to a racer or patroller or vice versa that I've seen personally. I believe that any of these people have the potential to learn whatever they want, and have just chosen (maybe subconsciously, but I don't want to get into that) to do what they want, and are doing it. Regardless of their organization's "style", there's a way to do what they want best.