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Thoughts on a Level II Exam...

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
I just recently took a the Level II Exam at snow Summit (I work at Bear Mountain). I honestly thought that I had passed the exam, and was surprised to find that I had failed it. One of the examiners was my SSD, Steve Fengler (I'm going to go ahead and name names here, since I had no problem with the examiners themselves), and he told me that I came very close to passing and should retake the exam at Mammoth. Before retaking the exam, I have one thought to share, and one question to ask (I almost made this two posts, but decided to cram the question and the thought into a single post).

I was somewhat upset at having failed, since I thought I had passed. The trainers and Level III instructors that I regularly ski with thought that my skiing was up to par and expected me to pass. After talking to the two people who passed (both were friends), they were also very surprised that I didn't pass, so it's not just that I have an enormous ego. From what I understand, in PSIA-W there were some (a lot?)people who passed exams last year that didn't deserve to pass. Also, I have heard that PSIA in general is upset by the fact that American instructors aren't skiing/teaching at the level of the European instructors. The fact that only 20% (2/10) passed this exam shows that they are definitely making the exams tougher. However, doesn't a 20% pass rate seem a little bit low for a Level II? Many of the snobs from up north will take this as an opportunity to point out that this was the Southern California exam, so what would you expect, but I really don't think that's fair. We are mostly part-timers, but we do train hard, and teach a lot of lessons.

This leads to my first thought. It appears that this exam was much more strenuous than those in previous years (I'm basing this assumption on the low pass rate). Is it fair that we are subjected to significantly higher standards than instructors in previous years? Is a 20% pass rate something that PSIA should strive for? And finally, if we're going to be held to European standards, why don't we get the salaries and respect that the European instructors seem to get? Or, am I just a whiner who doesn't desreve even the bronze pin?

OK, I guess that was more than one thought, now for the question:

On my scorecard, my main failing seemeed to be a lack of flex in the ankles. I've been trying to work on this the last few times I've been out, but I'm not really sure where I'm going wrong, since it feels like I am flexing my ankles. Does anyone have any drills to reccomend? Is it possible that this is a boot issue? I've noticed that when I push into the tongue of my boot, my heel lifts up about half an inch, and my toes curl up (as if to hold onto the bottom of the boot).
post #2 of 27
SoCalSki,

You don't mention what part of the exam you didn't pass. Teaching or skiing. and specifically what part of the teaching or skiing were you lacking.

When I took my Level 2 (end of last season) it was 20% in my group. We actually had an "in house" exam. The examiners came to our mountain for the exam so we had a "home court advantage" and still out of the 5 of us, I was the only one to pass. One person missed by 1 point for one examiner and a few points for the other. The rest I understand failed pretty badly mostly in the teaching portion. only one person really failed any of the skiing portion.

as far as flexing your ankles. I was skiing with some examiners last Thursday and we got talking about that. They felt that possibly 75-80% of instructors are in boots that are too stiff (fore-aft) for them. Have them looked at or talk to someone about how you can play with the buckles and achieve a softer flex without doing much.

Moving the power strap inside to only wrap around the liner. then don't buckle up second buckle (from the top) can make the boot softer without any other modifications. Depending on the boot, you might be able to remove a flex bolt, etc..

It's worth looking into.

Maybe I'll see you at Mammoth.

DC
post #3 of 27
SoCalSki,

Try this exercise.
Find another pro and face each other with skis off. Stand about 1 to 2 feet away from each other. Press your palms against theirs at the height that you hold your poles. Feel the flex in the ankles that you need to not fall backwards. You can also practice this against a wall when alone. Put your skis on and ski down the hill without poles and press forward with your hands. Now you have bend in the ankles and your weight is forward. Now grab your poles and ski in this athletic stance.

Hope this helps.

Tappertee
post #4 of 27
SoCalSki,
I don't know what you've done to try to get more ankle flexion but there is a simple thing you could do to try to get the right stance. I'm assuming that there really is something wrong.

Look at some pictures of typically good ankle flexion - remember what that looks like. Get your skis on and stand in front of a window where you can see your reflection. Mimic the pictures in your head. Try it in the athetic stance and with some lean as well (while leaning against something). Get the images to match and look down at your legs and ankles. The knees should be bent (oh my god, I'm going to burn in hell... I referred to bent knees). Weight should be balanced toward the ball of foot (not squating). Try to burn the feeling and look into memory. Now go make some easy turns with that stance. Repeat as necessary.
post #5 of 27
While standing still or moving slowly hop you skis about 6-12 inches off the snow. Please note, does the whole ski come off the snow or just the tips or just the tails, and in a small hop of 4 inches note the same.

You could even do this on grass in your yard. Unbuckle your top two buckles and see the difference.

...Ott
post #6 of 27
Thread Starter 
dchan - I passed the teaching part of the exam (and the written part), but failed the skiing. I honestly expected to be weaker in the teaching than the skiing, so this is a surprise. I'll be at Mammoth for the Sunday of convention, and then I'll take the Level II Monday and Tuesday. I'm not sure if I'll take part in convention, since I don't have that much money to burn (I'm already spending $360 for a $1 raise, which means that if I pass the exam, this "investment" will pay off in February 2008).

I'll try some of those exercises. My boots are Nordica W8s, so they're not super stiff, but I'll try loosening them up a bit to see what happens.
post #7 of 27
I'm leaning towards taking the level III exam, Monday-Wed. Most likely I will not participate in the convention either due to other activities I need to attend to. My "investment" will take much longer to pay off. Probably 2010 or beyond.

For the boots, take your "power strap" and wrap it around your liner and make this snug before you buckle up your top buckles (wrap the buckles over the power strap) Then ski with the top buckle just tight enough to take up the gap between your shell and liner, try the second buckle from the top barely attached. Play with different amounts of "tightness" in these buckles.

This should keep your lateral stiffness up and allow for fore-aft flexion.

PS.

Which tasks/skiing portion did you fail? Was it demos, tasks, or free skiing.

A note for demos, If you do not greatly exagerate your movements it will not "show enough" to your student. Your examiner or a level 3 might be able to see it but an untrained eye like your student will need a lot more movement for them to pick it up. This being the case when you do your demos, you need to really show that movement even if you don't use that much in your skiing. Your examiner is looking for "What's the Picture you are presenting?"
post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 
The freeskiing was where I failed. Every freeskiing task had the comment that my ankles were too stiff. I also failed bump skiing big time, but what do you expect, "bumps are gay" so they groom them out at The Park (at Baer Mountain).
post #9 of 27
SoCalSki - its better to try & fail then to not try at all. There were people in my old ski school who never went up for an exam and were sure they would pass if they took it.

Did you feel that you didn't pass because the pass rate was low or because of technical aspects (ankles & bumps). Isn't bump skiing - at least on blue runs - a requirement in the Western division? For level 2.
post #10 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by HundenMaster:
Isn't bump skiing - at least on blue runs - a requirement in the Western division? For level 2.
It was last season so I suspect it still is. Our's were in black diamond bumps pretty deep crud and quite steep. A lot of the candidates were complaining that "those aren't LVL2 Bumps" but that was what we had to work with that day. Everything else was either groomed or Rockhard Ice bumps. You take what you get and the Examiners then have to "account" for the extra pitch or difficulty in their scoring.

DC
post #11 of 27
SoCal, ankle flex doesn't show up if you also don't extend the ankle. If you habitually flex forward as much as your boot allows and don't also extend that will be "frozen ankles" too.

My personal ankle action has improved greatly since I started paying attention to opening and closing the ankles while doing a toe rise exercise I use to warm up my Achilles tendons before standing on a ramp to stretch them. I've been doing this routine since rehab for surgical repair of a severed tendon in 1995.
post #12 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by SoCalSki:
The freeskiing was where I failed. Every freeskiing task had the comment that my ankles were too stiff. I also failed bump skiing big time, but what do you expect, "bumps are gay" so they groom them out at The Park (at Baer Mountain).
I am trying to get the hang of this reply stuff... Hope this works. I actually read your comments on the Level 2 Exam after recieving them from a fellow ski instructor who I work with. I think she was trying to cheer me up. I failed the skiing portion also. And same as you I never nor did anyone I took the exam with feel I would not pass. In fact we did a mock exam the day before at the location with an examiner from our mountain and I was told I was OK. Everyone I've skied with Level 3 and above for the past month said I was better than I needed to be to pass. I had similar comments about my ankles, that should flex more but another examiner said I was too flexed. The third of threee passed me and had totally different comments. Needless to say I am totally confused! I have to also say, I am not really looking forward to putting myself through this again. The training alone which at our mountain takes place over the entire season with multiple examiners each of whom explain the same thing many different ways. It is so overloading and frankly takes the fun out of skiing. Thank God we don;t talk to our customers in the same manner or else we'd all be out of jobs! I took one year off, not from teaching but from exam preperation and cut back on the clinics I attended because an examiner told me I needed to forget all the lingo and go ski. I really feel like I get alot from the PSIA examiners I work with but I have walked away from this exam dazed and confused and with a bruised ego. It is not pleasent to hear that your skiing doesn't cut it for the PSIA 2 standards even though you work for peanuts because you really enjoy turning people on to a sport that you love. Well last weekend some women I taught 2 weeks before the exam made the 5-6 hour journey back to Killington to celebrate my passing the exam. They arrived on Friday evening only a few hours before I found out I didn't pass. I was embarrassed to face them but they made me realise why I still do this. The fact that they were skiing that weekend was because of me and they were happy to ski with me the next day with a level 2 pass or not.

I hope this makes you feel a bit better as reading your posting did for me. As for Stiff Boots, I bought the stiff boots I have because two years ago I was told that my boots were too soft. Maybe I can find a pair some where in between and pass the exam next year.
post #13 of 27
Quote:
SoCal, ankle flex doesn't show up if you also don't extend the ankle. If you habitually flex forward as much as your boot allows and don't also extend that will be "frozen ankles" too.

My personal ankle action has improved greatly since I started paying attention to opening and closing the ankles while doing a toe rise exercise I use to warm up my Achilles tendons before standing on a ramp to stretch them. I've been doing this routine since rehab for surgical repair of a severed tendon in 1995.
Kneale might have hit it right on the head. You might be too far forward and not coming back to neutral. Remember flexion is only half the equation, extension is the other half. If you're static too far forward you will appear to have stiff ankles.

Can you a good clean traverse on the uphill ski? That is the ideal neutral position. Try to get even pressure on your boots all the way around. Don't press into the fronts.

Have you had your alignment checked? When in a neutral stance where are your kneecaps? Are they over the toebox of your boot? If they're more forward than that, or more rearward than that you will have a tough time balancing and your ankles will have a tough time flexing and extending.

BTW, in the east between 1/3 and 1/2 pass the Level II skiing exam. The certification is in two pieces, you have to pass the skiing before they'll let you take the teaching portion. Two trips. Two expenses.

bob
post #14 of 27
The reality of Level III is you should be a real hot shot to pass first time. I mean a stand out skier that can demonstrate all levels of skiing in all conditions and can concisely explain how the whole ball game is played.

My personal experience was to fail Level II skiing once and Level III skiing once which equated to 6 winters (4 x home and 2 x Europe) to get my skiing up to par for a pass at Level III International standard. As someone who started skiing at 20 it took 10 full winters over 7 years training, training, training with European task masters to get to Level III. I also had to “fit in” with the APSIA gang so to speak (which was probably the hardest task for me )

Think of it all as a huge positive. Don’t get mad, get even. The harder the task the bigger the personal rewards. If you want to join the International fraternity of skiing gangsters you must work hard for the invitation; don’t watch the others, watch yourself etc …… oh and bend zee hankles not zee neez :
post #15 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by disski:
Only 1 fail at Level 3 Oz? :

You can't be my instructor then - I collect the ones that keep failing - after they win the level 3 race (or whatever the country is)....

They swear that doing the training is good for them & they like the experience....
Thats what I keep telling my husband when he asks why I keep putting myself through all the training, lack of free skiing and expense.....
V Wagner
post #16 of 27
Thread Starter 
Passing the Level II will definitely be a bigger accompishment if I don't do it the first time. I was seriously dissapointed, but I'm glad to see that others have had the same experience (it's hard to feel like a loser when you're not the only one who failed).

I have a feeling that part of my ankle problem is due to my trying to keep the ankles flexed all the time. I've been told a number of times in the past that I should make sure that I can constantly feel pressure on the shins of my boots, and that I shouldn't get back at all. After the exam, my SSD/Examiner #1 told me that I need to make sure that at the end of the turn, I'm back just a little bit so I can move forward into the next turn. I've been trying to think about this the last day or two I've been up.
post #17 of 27
Only 1 fail at Level 3 Oz? :

You can't be my instructor then - I collect the ones that keep failing - after they win the level 3 race (or whatever the country is)....

They swear that doing the training is good for them & they like the experience....
post #18 of 27
SoCalSki,

I am assuming from your post of your equipment type that you might be female. Just a guess...

You might also have someone look to ensure that your fore-aft balance is correct. This is part of what I think that "Ott Gangl" was aiming at in his/her post. If you have ** too much ** forward lean in your boots, you might find that it is also hard to flex your ankles. You will be FLEXED but not FLEXING. This is a problem that we used to see a great deal with those softer flexing Lange boots that half the women on the planet seemed to be skiing up until a about a year ago.

You could have someone look at your stance and the alignment of your hip in your locker room. Try raising the heels 1/4 of an inch and then try the toes 1/4 of an inch. See where your hip moves. (You need someone to help you with this, though since your hips will move when you look down.)


When you are performing the Level II maneuvers, (and the Level I and III for that matter!) you want to be showing an active and deliberate opening and closing of the ankle. This is evident from the traverse all the way up through moderate steeps and bumps. This is CRITICAL to being able to rebalnce yourself in a reactive way and will be essential to move you beyond to having the ability to proactively rebalance yourself.

Try skating with only the top buckle latched. Try to really feel the boot flex -- and even bottom out -- on each push-off. Move back to doing the same with the boot fully buckled. See if the same movements exist.

It's not often that it's just the plane and not also the pilot but this might be a good starting point for you. If you have questions, don't hesitate to ask.


Good luck.
DB
post #19 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by WVSkier:
Kneale might have hit it right on the head. You might be too far forward and not coming back to neutral. Remember flexion is only half the equation, extension is the other half. If you're static too far forward you will appear to have stiff ankles.
I agree with Kneale and WV skier.

I have a couple of thoughts.

#1 Don't pay any attention to what the "level III's say about your skiing. No one is going to say to you......"your skiing sucks and you have no chance of passing your upcoming exam." If you have to ask the answer isn't good. I know my bump skiing is lousy. I'm old and have a bad set of knees. I also know I have strengths.

#2 Find one mentor/examiner/coach and train with that person. Don't jump around from coach to coach. Don't listen to a multitude of people. I found one mentor, trained a great deal with the person, and passed my level I,II, and III in three sucessive years on the first try. Yes the mentor did happen to be Bob Barnes.

#3 A lack of ankle flex or extension never failed anyone. As Bob Barnes has pointed out one CAN ski in concrete boots if everything else "works".

#4 Get videoed. Look at the tape. If you don't throw up when you see it you might pass. Video does not lie. I go back to my bump skiing. I have done a great deal with video and it has really helped. At first I used to cringe when I saw myself in bumps. It was soooooo freakin bad! Now it's just bad.

Level III instructors in the locker room will lie. I had a pro come up to me today and say he was headed to a level III exam in a week and ask if I had any advice. I felt like saying he should hope his car won't start and PSIA-RM will refund his money as a result. The guy will have to have an out of body experience to pass. If there was any justice in the world they would take away his level II pin. What was I to say. I smiled and said best of luck....you'll do fine.

What the hell else do you do? You know what.....the poor guy knows the truth.
post #20 of 27
I took my Level I exam at Beaver Creek. I passed the exam. However, as we were doing wedge christies, the examiner told me I had too much forward lean and suggested I get my boots aligned. I did that 1 week after the exam. Sure enough, the boot guy took one look at my stance and measured the knee angle and said I had about 10 degrees too much flexion. He adjusted the ramp angle in my boots and added a toe plate. My stance is much better. I had trained quite a bit with different people including some PSIA examiners and no one mentioned this issue. Have your boots checked. You can at least eliminate that variable.
post #21 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by SoCalSki:
I've been told a number of times in the past that I should make sure that I can constantly feel pressure on the shins of my boots, and that I shouldn't get back at all. After the exam, my SSD/Examiner #1 told me that I need to make sure that at the end of the turn, I'm back just a little bit so I can move forward into the next turn. I've been trying to think about this the last day or two I've been up. [/QB]
All I have to say is wow!

My $00.02

Go ski.

Stand up.

What the heck does moving "back a bit" have to do with moving forward?

As I type I recall a well known Aspen instructor who had "mother" imprinted on the tips of both his skis.

Why?

His skiing philosopy boiled down to...."turn them mothers"
post #22 of 27
Hmmm....I wonder if Mr. Lacouter still has any of those "Mother Kits"? I need to be reminded.
Sage advice, Rusty! This from a "guy" (sorry) who was as full time as he could be and worked more than free skied...and passed three in a row...I would listen! Rusty; because "moving back a bit" is the antithesis of moving forward and allows a greater range of "motion while in movement" (great to use a little CSIA stuff every once in a while). Just like a flat ski is to be considered an edging or tipping movement!
DevilBoy, welcome to Epic! Say Hi to Brad at marketing for me, he is an old bud and epic poster. Skating is a perfect choice.
SOCAL, I am suprised Steve Fengler (another associate) did not check the equip. A quick question. When you stand neutral, is there a space between your shin and tongue? Even if there is not, if you are moving the shaft of the leg too far to get effective purchase/resistance from the tongue....do this. Tighten your powerstrap around the innerboot first, then buckle.
Feeling the calf of your leg lightly touch the back of the boot in neutral is not such a bad idea for you in that nanosecond between turns. Then seek balance and post before any other turning impetus takes place (like tipping, flexion, twisting etc). Through the remainder of the turn, be patient and "settle". Oh, and say Hi to Mr. Fengler from Robin!
post #23 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by Robin:
Rusty; because "moving back a bit" is the antithesis of moving forward and allows a greater range of "motion while in movement" (great to use a little CSIA stuff every once in a while). Just like a flat ski is to be considered an edging or tipping movement!
Excellent point. Movement is what my skiing lacks and I had never thought of what you described in such terms.
post #24 of 27
A revelation came to me this weekend about this "not enough movement" thought.

Last season during the early part of the season, when I talked to my SSD Mike Iman, about what I needed to work on. His response, More active movement from the ankles. Constant movement, long leg/short leg etc. As I began to work on this (playing with both extremes Fully flexed and fully extended) and skiing in clinics also exploring this idea. I find that I feel like I'm hardly moving at all. When I do my demos or work on movements I find myself really trying to move and my impression is that I'm too stiff. But the comment never comes up that I'm not getting enough flexion/extension. I asked Mike this last week and he said I'm getting plenty. "It shows" I commented to him on a chair ride "It's funny how as I keep working on this (moving/flexing) and I keep thinking I'm too stiff, that I'm really moving more than I thought. Where before when I used to think I was really moving/flexing, I was really stiff" He just responded with a nod and a smile. Like that's what it is supposed to be like.
post #25 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by SoCalSki:
I have a feeling that part of my ankle problem is due to my trying to keep the ankles flexed all the time. I've been told a number of times in the past that I should make sure that I can constantly feel pressure on the shins of my boots, and that I shouldn't get back at all. After the exam, my SSD/Examiner #1 told me that I need to make sure that at the end of the turn, I'm back just a little bit so I can move forward into the next turn. I've been trying to think about this the last day or two I've been up.
I believe this is what we refer to as using the whole ski. As in, "You bought the whole ski, might as well use it all." Not only will moving back towards the finish of the turn allow you to move forward into the next turn, but it'll also apply more pressure to the edges near the tails. This will prevent the tails from washing out at the finish of turn, especially in a carved turn. Of course, I'm adopting all of this from what my Level 2 snowboard clinicianers said, so correct me if I'm wrong.
post #26 of 27
You are on the mark gwmccull. As long as you are not leveraging excessively fore and aft. That would be more old school, pre-shape pressure control, trying to get the most out of "the pencil". Having stolen the tech from you snowboarders, staying in the middle over the whole foot is where it is at!
Welcome to Epic and say Hola to Nic F.!
post #27 of 27
Quote:
Originally posted by Robin:
You are on the mark gwmccull. As long as you are not leveraging excessively fore and aft.

Having stolen the tech from you snowboarders, staying in the middle over the whole foot is where it is at!
Welcome to Epic and say Hola to Nic F.!
Yes Good description.

If you over leverage fore and aft as Robin states this can also promote a breaking free of the ski and loss of edge/pressure control which skids or washes out the ski. So the trick is "how much is too much?" or in Ric's words "How much is enough?, Just enough!"
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