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Refined Skier Ability Level Descriptions

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
I do believe these lists have some merit in addition to their use at the ski school. All sports have some way of measuring their participants' ability level and skiing to me and many others is a sport and not just a recreational outing. Yeah, skiing is fun but so is golf and I along with most golfers know what our handicaps are even if most of us participate at a recreational level. It has less to do with ones ego or bragging rights and a lot more to do with knowing ones ability and where one stands with the best out there. Who is going to question a single digit handicap golfer’s intentions when they state their ability? Do you think they are boasting or inflating their ability for doing so? I happen to think that it is a great and well deserved accomplishment.

As has been mentioned, this subject comes up quite often and there are many lists out there that tend to inflate the ability levels or are quite vague at the upper levels. I posted the following list at another site a couple of weeks ago. I compiled the info from the best lists out there along with what has previously been suggested at EpicSki including the idea that there are sub-levels among the upper tiers. As all lists, it can be subjective and open to some level of interpretation. Still, it is a good guide listing the abilities and/or limitations that one would be expected to have at that particular level. I think most skiers of any level could look at it and comfortably say, “that’s me” with a reasonable amount of accuracy.

For those of you who think such ideas are worthless or ridiculous, that’s cool. Move on, have fun skiing, and don’t concern yourself with it. For those of you that see a value in such things, please offer suggestions or ways to improve the list.


Never Ever: Level 0

Beginner: Level 1: J-turns to connected wedge turns on Bunny Slope

Beginner: Level 2: Connected wedge turns on Easy Greens, stop in a wedge, capable of riding surface lift

Novice: Level 3: Controlled wedge turns on all Greens, capable of riding and exiting all lifts

Novice: Level 4: Controlled wedge turns and beginning to finish with a skidded parallel on Easy Blues

Intermediate: Level 5: Start turns with a slight wedge but finish turns in a skidded parallel, can stop using a “hockey stop”, upper body still follows skis, turn shape and speed are constant, less than ideal conditions are still very challenging, can ski at this level on all groomed Blues and Easiest Blacks in best conditions

Intermediate: Level 6: Skis mostly in a skidded parallel, beginning to use a pole plant, upper body beginning to face down fall line, can vary turn shape and speed, beginning to use edges during turn, struggles on ice and heavy snow, skiing off well groomed slopes is a rarity and extremely challenging, can ski at this level on groomed Harder Blacks in best conditions

Advanced: Solid Level 7: Good parallel form with pole plant, upper body mostly faces down fall line, capable of using edges on all groomed slopes in most conditions at moderate speed, capable of keeping downhill ski on edge throughout turn, beginning to weight and un-weight ski, has achieved a fair amount of athleticism and conditioning, beginning to ski off-piste, can ski at this level on groomed Hardest Blacks in less than ideal conditions

Advanced: Top Level 7: Comfortable venturing off-piste but is challenged in moderate moguls and light powder, beginning to explore other off-piste disciplines, can ski on un-groomed Hardest Blues and Easiest Blacks in best conditions

Advanced: Low Level 8: Very good parallel form, understands mechanics of the turn, very good upper and lower body separation, weights and un-weights skis, upper body faces down fall line, skis “cross” or “swing” under body, can make carved connected railroad tracks by keeping both skis on edge throughout the turn on all groomed trails in all conditions at high speed, has good athleticism and conditioning, is challenged by several off-piste disciplines, can ski off-piste at this level on the Hardest Blacks in slightly less than ideal conditions

Advanced: Solid Level 8: Skis most off-piste areas and disciplines well at moderate speed, skis bumps of various size and shape well, skis powder well, skis trees, skis open bowls, capable of hiking and difficult traverses, can self arrest, beginning to ski toughest snow conditions off-piste where weaknesses are revealed, can ski off-piste on Easiest Double Diamonds in best conditions

Expert: Top Level 8: Excellent dynamic parallel form, adjusts weighting of skis according to conditions, can ski 90% of the terrain, in 90% of the conditions, 90% of the time at any resort mountain, struggles in very few areas, can ski at this level on Harder Double Diamonds in less than ideal conditions

Expert: Low Level 9: Skis with high confidence and ability on all but the hardest terrain in all but the most difficult conditions, has high athleticism and conditioning, weaknesses are revealed only in the most extreme terrain and conditions, can ski the most exposed Hardest Double Diamonds in the best conditions

Expert: Solid Level 9: Extremely knowledgeable and skilled on the mountain including back country, very few weaknesses if any, is capable of coaching and guiding anyone, is confident and comfortable in any situation, skis where falling is not an option on the most exposed Hardest Double Diamonds in less than ideal conditions, Skis Anytime, Anything, Anywhere, Any Condition, Any Speed

Elite/Rock Star: Top Level 9/10: Off the chart, a true Ski God/Goddess and world class athlete, Skis Sick Terrain!!! Sick Conditions!!! Sick Speed!!! Sick Style!!!
post #2 of 17
Cornbread's breakdown of skier ability levels is one of the best of this type I have seen here. We often have skiers question what level they are, and the 9-level system has some obvious ambiguities, especially in the advanced and expert levels. It seems to take the first seven levels to describe beginner and intermediate skiing, and the distinguishing abilities of advanced and expert skiers are compressed into just two levels.

I'd like to hear some feedback from instructors whether the descriptions above might be useful, or if they could even be refined. What I'm really looking for is a reference piece that can be used on the frequent occasions that the question "What Level Am I?" arises in the forums.
post #3 of 17
cornbread,

Not a bad level system, but where do gates come in?

Quote:
upper body faces down fall line,
I'm not shure why this keeps comming up in the level descritpion as an important cryteria.

RW
post #4 of 17
Very nice list. Only problem I have with any of these lists is that you could theoretically argue that a professional bump skier or an alpine slalom skier who doesn't spend any time practicing other disciplines isn't a level 9 skier. It would be like saying a basketball player who can't handle the ball like Iverson or rebound like Ben Wallace can't be a professional, even if they can shoot like Jordan. Nonetheless, for the vast majoirty of skiers, this list would be very helpful for characterizing skier ability.
post #5 of 17
If your list is simply to place yourself on some level of ego or ability to compare your skiing ablility to someone else's I would agree fully with the list. I think we have needed a list on Epic that is not connected with instruction. I like not being at the very top of the skier chart. My conditioning level, the normal terrain available to me and the number of days I ski will not allow me to rise above the lowest level of 9.


If your are trying to place yourself for the purposes of seeking instruction, especially in the lower 7 levels, I would remove some of the references in the levels to terrain and conditioning/athleticism. When terrain enters into the picture, its far easier for a skier to misjudge themselves. Athleticism and guts can replace good technique for terrain comfort but it does not replace where you would benefit the most from the point of seeking instruction.

As far as I am concerned, the PSIA chart is still a damn good tool for instructors. The biggest problem encountered with the PSIA skier levels getting out to the general public has been that the terrain suggestions in the levels were meant as terrain suggestions for where to teach that level and not what that skier is actually capable of skiing. This terrain deflation has been a constant source of skier over self evalution. One must also understand that the upper levels were grouped in mass because there are so few students at those levels. Anyone who is at the lowest level of 9 will probably seek instruction in a far different fashion than showing up at the group lineup.
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ron White View Post

Quote:
upper body faces down fall line,


I'm not shure why this keeps comming up in the level descritpion as an important cryteria.

RW
Because old technique dies hard in literature
post #7 of 17
Quote:
Pierre
As far as I am concerned, the PSIA chart is still a damn good tool for instructors.
I agree.

RW
post #8 of 17
I might not have this exactly right. A PMTS skier is rated by the terrain on which they can consistently perform the movements correctly. That would make me a blue skier, because I don't yet own those movements on harder terrain.
post #9 of 17
MilesB, your tag line reads like the ending of your post just perfectly.
post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cornbread View Post
...All sports have some way of measuring their participants' ability level ...
Really? I doubt that. What about tennis? I'm sure people could come up with others. Do people really have that competitive need to prove themselves against others - then race.
post #11 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Really? I doubt that. What about tennis? I'm sure people could come up with others. Do people really have that competitive need to prove themselves against others - then race.
I think tennis rating (and it exists and is quite descriptive) is more important (on a clubhouse level) then skiing ratings, as your opponent has to have similar level of abilities for both of you to have fun and be challenged.
When it comes to real ability assessment I have no experience with teaching on snow, but on the court I just play for 20 min and I know what my student/opponent represents.
In practice self assessment is one thing and ability on a slope, court is another, so for teaching purposes you have to see the student in action to know what he/her is lacking and where they are with their abilities.
A propos competing, in tennis playing your opponent's mind is a part of the game, a great part of the game and your game improvement has to include winning.
Skiing in my modest experience I would compare to equestrian disciplines (I was an instructor at some point in my life), everything is in balance, the question is to what level you can take that balance; you can go for a hack in the fields and jump a rail or a ditch and have fun and feel adequate but going into a tight course with 18 jumps up to 6" high and 10" wide it's a complete different story.
post #12 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by icanseeformiles(andmiles) View Post
Really? I doubt that. What about tennis? I'm sure people could come up with others. Do people really have that competitive need to prove themselves against others - then race.
Actually, tennis does have a very formal rating system; for the insatiably curious, it is here. It's needed to ensure fair tournament play, just as the skiing rating system was created to ensure that group lessons had students of more-or-less equal ability.
post #13 of 17
I stand corrected. My experience was just my coach saying, "you're playing the "x" set."
post #14 of 17
Looking at that rating system, I see that it would be difficult to apply to a skier who is self-taught, or took a different path than the typical lesson taker, but nothing is perfect. Other than that it is fine. As a system to group students into lessons it is pretty good providing the students have more or less followed the pattern. And it will quickly show gaps in learning that need to be addressed if the student "skipped" a few "lessons".

I wonder if there is an ability grading that is based more on outcomes and terrain than specifics. In other words, more like "can vary turn shape to precisely control line on any slope at any speed" instead of "keeping downhill ski on edge".
post #15 of 17
I appreciate Cornbreads efforts but the subjective terms in levels 8 and 9 leave things a bit vague like "all but the most difficult" because you need to know from whose point of view you gauge difficulty and because difficulty varies from mountain to mountain from day to day from season to season.

I think Pierre said it best when he said this

Quote:
If your list is simply to place yourself on some level of ego or ability to compare your skiing ablility to someone else's I would agree fully with the list. I think we have needed a list on Epic that is not connected with instruction. I like not being at the very top of the skier chart. My conditioning level, the normal terrain available to me and the number of days I ski will not allow me to rise above the lowest level of 9.


If your are trying to place yourself for the purposes of seeking instruction, especially in the lower 7 levels, I would remove some of the references in the levels to terrain and conditioning/athleticism. When terrain enters into the picture, its far easier for a skier to misjudge themselves. Athleticism and guts can replace good technique for terrain comfort but it does not replace where you would benefit the most from the point of seeking instruction.
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ghost View Post
Looking at that rating system, I see that it would be difficult to apply to a skier who is self-taught, or took a different path than the typical lesson taker, but nothing is perfect.
That is not as difficult as it may seem. I have been on both sides of this issue. When I was a long time self taught skier I overated my ability big time because of the terrain that I was comfortable on. I could easily handle double diamonds without flinching. Technique wise I was all over the place from having things that should have been eliminated at level 4 to having techniques that I use today.

In all reality what would have helped me the most was working with an instructor to eliminate the problems at level 4. I would not hear of it though. I was a tough case as a student and only sought instruction when I found myself in snow conditions where I was struggling. Even then I wanted the magic bullet. I was clearly the Highway star student from hell.

I finally chanced upon an instructor at Crested Butte who turned my thinking around and I decided to become an instructor and the rest is history.
post #17 of 17
kazo,

Quote:
Skiing in my modest experience I would compare to equestrian disciplines
One system of rating the instruction a rider is capable of getting is in US Pony Club. Ratings are from lowest D1, D2,D3,C1,C2,C3, B, HA and a new level is being written at the A level. The Pony Club maunual describes each level and what is required from the rider at each level.

RW
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