or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › How do you tell what certification an instructor has
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

How do you tell what certification an instructor has

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
As a trainee I have always asked for certified instructors but come to think on it I have never seen any proof of certification. I have only seen it advertised once (Squaw Valley) and when I asked the instructor he danced around like he didn't know what PSIA was then said "all of us are certified." How do you tell what, if any, certification an instructor has?
post #2 of 35
You could ask to see his PSIA card. It will say (in the case of a skier) Alpine Certified Level (1,2 or 3)
post #3 of 35
After years of head banging , and lots of expense, PSIA gives you a shiny pin to wear on your jacket ( if you pass the exams ). Cert 1 is bronze, cert 2 is silver and cert 3 is gold. Not all instructors wear their pins but if you spot one on a uniform chances are the instructor earned it. The SSD knows which instructors are certified and to what level. [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #4 of 35
My C-pin (from the days when you either had a National certification or a Divisional Associate certification) is red/blue/silver. The only national pins with gold in them at that time were D-Team members, I believe.
post #5 of 35
I'd run--don't walk--away from that instructor in Squaw Valley!

As Snowdancer says, if an instructor is wearing a pin, it is likely he/she earned it. You can't buy them without the necessary certification. The PSIA pin is shield-shaped, about an inch high. The full-cert pin (Level 3)is blue on top, with white letters, and vertical red stripes on the bottom, on a gold background. The Level 2 pin is the same on a silver background. The Level 1 pin is a black design on a bronze background.

The problem is that those pins don't tend to last very long. I'm lucky if I can keep one for a week, before the pin releases and it falls off my jacket. And they are fairly expensive to replace (although nothing compared to the dollars, hours, and tears required to get the first one!). So many certified instructors don't own a pin, unfortunately.

Still, Snowdancer is right--the supervisors and director know who is certified, and to what level. And, with very few exceptions (one of which you encountered at Squaw Valley), few instructors would lie about their certification status when asked directly.

Remember too that there are other valid certification pins out there--from other countries, as well as from independent organizations. I'd respect any national full-cert pin, or the "ISIA" pin, which is available only to full-certified instructors from any national organization. I would be suspicious of an "independent" pin--you never quite know....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #6 of 35
Hey Bob,
I used crazy glue on the clasp of my pin and it has stayed on all season. Although, I don't know what will happen when it's time to get a new uniform. You know what has always amazed me is the fact that people pay the same amount for an instructor no matter the cert. I know when taking golf lessons that a class B pro costs less then a class A pro. How can we educate the public?
post #7 of 35
Thanks for the suggestion, Vailboarder--I'll give it a try (as soon as I buy a new pin)!

As for charging different prices for different certification levels, I've thought the same thing. It would be very interesting to see what people would do, given the option to pay extra for a more highly-credentialled instructor. If nothing else, it would open their eyes to something few people even know exists--instructor certification!

But I think that there is actually industry pressure AGAINST such a practice. I believe that one of the main reasons we even HAVE different levels of certification is in response to resorts who want to brag about having a higher percentage of "certified" instructors on their staffs. To allow people to pay a premium for a certified instructor would be to admit that much of the staff is under-qualified!

Not too many years ago, PSIA recognized only one level of certification--FULL. Instructors began in PSIA as "registered members." In a couple years (minimum), after passing an exam, they could become "Associate Members"--the equivalent of today's Level 2 Certified. After at least a year as Associate, they could attend another exam which, if passed, finally granted them "Certified" status.

With this rigorous standard, there were very few "Certified" instructors on most ski school staffs, which did not please resort management. Of course, they could have increased the pay and benefits to a level that would retain top instructors. But, instead, they convinced PSIA to lower the standard. PSIA responded by creating the "Level 1" standard and, more significantly, calling them ALL "certified"--Level 1 Certified, Level 2 Certified, and Level 3 Certified.

Almost instantly, the number of "certified" instructors mushroomed. And the average quality of lessons given by "certified instructors" dropped to its current dismal state.

Imagine if people could call themselves--and start practicing as--"Doctor" after only their first year of medical school! Imagine if few of us knew that there was any difference between a first-year medical student and a physician with all the required years of training, residency, and experience that we currently require before someone can practice medicine!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #8 of 35

It sounds like they were alluding to the "certification" by that individual ski school. That's something like a four day in-house session and you usually get a nice certificate ......... suitable for framing??...
post #9 of 35
Bob, I've lost my share of pins. That, and also since I'm no longer active, I carry my pins in my wallet, one of those PSIA soft wallets, where they have been for about twenty years.

In the Central division when I certified it was the USSA then we could join PSIA and it was a generic PSIA pin with the name engraved. Later when PSIA was the certifying agent we got pins identifying the division, in our case, Full certied (Level III) had a blue fild with a C in it while the Associate certified (Level II) had a red field with a C. There was no Level I certification.

Here is a picture.... you all know what the ISIA stand for...


post #10 of 35
In replying to Vailboarder, I'm reminded that certified professional snowboard instructors in the US wear different pins than ski instructors. "AASI" (pronounced "Ozzie") is the snowboard division of PSIA. Their logo (and pin) looks like a stylized snowboard, made of the letters AASI.

Thanks for joining us, by-the-way, Vailboarder! I'll slide with you any time!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #11 of 35
Thanks for the photos, Ott! There you have it, everyone--look for the shield!

Ott--how are your plans for a Colorado trip shaping up? It's snowing, if that's any help....

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #12 of 35
It'll probaboy be beginning of March...Ott
post #13 of 35

>>It'll probaboy be beginning of March...Ott <<

....And you owe me a visit! [img]tongue.gif[/img]

BTW, I haven't seen Hans this year. I wonder what's up with him?--------Wigs
post #14 of 35
>>>BTW, I haven't seen Hans this year. I wonder what's up with him?<<<<

Probably getting too old, like many of us. I'm not nearly the skier I was last year, getting winded, having to stop more often.

But skiing wise, I fake it to perfection, no one can tell [img]smile.gif[/img]

We'll make sure to get together with you, and also Bob, this time. Taking a day to drive from Breckenridge to Snowmass doesn't leave much time to skis there, but we have friends to visit in Glenwood Springs, so we plan to do that in the morning and after lunch drive to see you in Snowmass. We can meet in the pub after you are done teaching, whenever that is.

post #15 of 35
Ski magazine has an article about it this month. Next year, level 3's are going to be wearing red/white/blue tights, a cape with the PSIA shield, and an enormous codpiece (for men) or a padded bustier for the ladies.
Masks are tentatively optional.
post #16 of 35
>>>>level 3's are going to be wearing red/white/blue tights, a cape with the PSIA shield, and an enormous codpiece <<<<

Jeez, more uniforms to buy, where will it end?
post #17 of 35

Make sure you drop a line when you're out here. It'd be great to meet you.
post #18 of 35
I think we all agree that certification has nothing to do with who is or who isn't a great instructor.

Ski instruction is a service - no different from any other. So what matters are references. If they have lots of great references from students, they're a great teacher. If not, and they've been around for a while, they're lousy. Avoid them like the plague.
post #19 of 35
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I think we all agree that certification has nothing to do with who is or who isn't a great instructor. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

SCSA--how can you possibly say that? No, certification, or lack of it, is no GUARANTEE of a great instructor. But the training, talent, dedication, and experience involved in becoming certified most certainly DO have relevance!

What matters are references? I don't agree entirely here either. Good references from students are a good sign, of course, and BAD references are reason enough to steer away. But how would you, as a student, know whether or not your instructor is teaching you good skiing habits? An instructor can show you a good time, be fun to ski with, and even teach effectively--but still teach you horrendous movements and habits. How would you know, until later, when you reach the end of the dead-end road, and you find that it doesn't take you to "expert skiing" after all! I know instructors like that (so do you, I might add), and they are the scourge of the industry. Their students think they're great, but anyone who really knows sees that they are short-changing their students, brainwashing them, teaching all the "wrong stuff" to their unsuspecting, but trusting, students.

Since you know a little about ski technique, what would you think of an instructor who develops great rapport with his "adoring flock" while teaching them all to turn "parallel" by throwing their upper bodies around? Not knowing any better, and full of trust, his students think he's just the cat's meow. They have fun. They feel "control." They're even skiing "parallel" "like experts" (as far as they know). What if he then pointed out to his students how all the other instructors around were WRONG because they DIDN'T teach that--and that therefore they should only take lessons from him? They'd love him even more, probably, and give him great references, I suspect. Until they realized that they'd been had.

That is where certification comes in. At least in theory, certification is your assurance that that nice, friendly, dynamic, smooth-talking and smooth-skiing instructor is ALSO current, accurate, and technically up-to-date. It is your assurance that the instructor's knowledge, technique, and skill is respected by colleagues and fellow professionals. It's your assurance that he will teach a technique generally recognized as sound, and won't lead you astray. It is the perfect complement to those good references, filling in where they leave off (and vice-versa).

So I don't argue with your recommendation to seek references, but they alone are not sufficient. The ideal would be a highly certified instructor, from a respected organization, who comes with consistently great references from students. I don't see how someone could go wrong with that!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #20 of 35

Of course training matters. But one can be trained till the cows come home and still not be able to teach a lick.

But training is really important. One couldn't be a great instructor and pile up references without training.

But I just think the whole certification thing is way overrated. Look at football for example. The best coaches were mediocre players. I think people get way too caught up in "how someone skis" or what their rating is. Like I think Rusty could coach skiers to become great and he's only a level 1! I thought Susan was great and she's just an intermediate skier. Like everyone is quick to criticize Lito's technique. But the guy is going on 70! And look at all the skiers he's inspired.

It's probably even possible to teach someone to become a great skier remotely or from the lodge. A skier could send video (shot properly of course). The teacher would send it back edited with comments and instruction - "Do this here instead of that".

I guess what I'm saying is don't take the certification as everything. Talk to their students. Make sure the teacher has "been around the block". Do enough leg work to know what you want in advance.

Yes, a skier could be taught "the wrong way". But they'd eventually figure that out, wiping out their reference. Someone would tell them or they'd find out on their own.
post #21 of 35
Bob, if you are referring to Lito, don't forget that he has a level 3 certification! :
post #22 of 35
[quote]Originally posted by SCSA:
But training is really important. One couldn't be a great instructor and pile up references without training.

Look at football for example. The best coaches were mediocre players.

SCSA-as that player was riding the pine don't you think he was in fact watching, learning to motivate, learning to teach technical skills, learning to organize, possibly learning to recruit, learning to develop effective game plans? Then as he progressed through the coaching ranks he was in fact being certified using what he learned riding the pine.

It's probably even possible to teach someone to become a great skier remotely or from the lodge. A skier could send video (shot properly of course). The teacher would send it back edited with comments and instruction - "Do this here instead of that".

Possible but highly unlikely- delayed reinforcement is usually the poorest form of reinforcement. It would take fantastic chemistry between the student and "instructor".
post #23 of 35
Bob is right, references and a high return rate mean nothing in terms of quality of instruction. The "most requested" instructor is often the one who manages to breed a dependant relationship with the most people. I can think of one in particular who really knew how to work it. He know who he could catch in his trap, and know how to snare them. These people never got past the intermediate stage, even after years of his instruction. I was always amazed at how he could keep them from improving, but always kept them coming back. He certainly was the best at getting return biz, but as far as instruction went, he was terrible. Of course, some people just want someone to ski with them, who tells them what they want to hear. Many of the best coaches I know do not like to sell themselves. They give great lessons, and people come back for more, but they don't send Xmas and Bday cards, or take pictures at the end of every lesson to send to thier "clients". I would have to say that the two "most requested" instructors I know, are unfortunatly not as good at teaching people how to ski well, as they are at building a relationship.
post #24 of 35
"Don't take certification as everything"

Yes, SCSA, I agree with that--I thought we were probably on the same page all along.

The best coaches may--or may not--have been mediocre players. Many great players do indeed become great coaches. Teaching and coaching skills are quite separate from "playing" skills, and it is a rare individual who excels at both. But they are not mutually exclusive either! One thing I would say is certain, though, as Ski&Golf suggests--regardless of their ability to PLAY the game, great coaches pretty much always KNOW the game!

Actually, Miles, the instructors I particularly had in mind mostly work at Keystone, although there are usually a few in every ski school. Lito had not come to mind until you mentioned him. As I've said before, I'm a fan of Lito's in general, in spite of some specific concerns about the techniques he demonstrates. But he is not so arrogant to even suggest that he is doing what he says perfectly. That's why he uses other skiers besides himself in his videos. Though Lito's technique does harken to a previous era, it is still smooth, elegant, and graceful!

You are correct though, Miles, when you imply that certification does not--in practice--even guarantee technical currency or accuracy. There are instructors certified long ago who have kept up, and others who have not. This is indeed a problem with the system that we instuctors need to address. I suppose it's a problem in most professions, to some degree, but it is a big concern of mine regardless.

As it is, the system is not perfect--but certification still says a lot. There is no harm in asking not only the certification levels of instructors, but when they became certified, and what they've done to remain current. Ask your instructor what he's working on in his own skiing, what she sees as current trends, what was the last clinic he attended--and what did he learn from it. Take a look at the instructor's equipment too--if it isn't fairly current, look elsewhere!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #25 of 35
Great points, Spinheli. Yes--there are many instructors who excel at making their students totally dependent on them--at convincing their students that they NEED their instructor in order to perform. I too find this an odious trait in an instructor!

Good teaching sometimes involves a little "tough love." You may make a friend by helping someone up from a fall, but you'll make a self-confident, independent, happy skier when you teach him to get up by himself!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #26 of 35
All right, finally something interesting!

Bob and Spinheli, You guys just dissed a very important thing: building a relationship. I'm sure you didn't mean to do it.

The teacher-student partnership is SACRED. Which is to say that the manipulative instructor who create codependency in students is a VANDAL.

Please say that the relationship between the teacher and the student is important. The nature of the relationship may be twisted, but let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

These blanket statements seldom work for all situations. I see that both you guys work at destination resorts. You probably see clients once a year. I work at a locals day area out of Bozeman. I see my clients once a week during the ski season and once every couple of months or thereabouts during the rest of the year for social outings and outdoor activities.

I have had some people in my class for 5 years. They like the class. No: they LOVE the class. This is a big part of their year. They all get better every year. We ski almost every run on the mountain and they are comfortable in all snow conditions. I had to add another class to meet demand from all the people they raved to.

I genuinely like and care about these people. They genuinely like and care about me.

The first year I resisted being friends with my clients. Then I said, what the heck. If they weren't clients I would want to be friends. So I let nature take its course.

Guess who my best salespeople are? Why would any person in a sales organization want to deny the development of voluntary network marketing?

Branding. It's very important stuff. We all should think about strengthening OUR brand. Both the pin and YOU. Differentiate yourself from the other instructors. Nurture a customer base. Exceed their expectations, generate positive word of mouth, and every chance you get, reinforce your brand in your customer's eyes.

If you're a pro, do you bother to get business cards so your clients can contact you? What sorts of relationships do you build with people who can be helpful to your clients? Do you have a master bootfitter, a ski repair/tuner, a shop with demos, a massage therapist, etc. that you refer clients to? They have contacts with clients they can refer to you too.

Come on guys, our own false modesty (for who are the biggest egos on the hill?) is not doing great things for the profession. If you're good, you may have to do more than quietly teach a solid lesson to get noticed. You may have to TELL THE WORLD.

P.S. Bob, I was around when Level I inched its nose into the tent. My understanding was that "member demand" as communicated by divisions was how Level I came about. If the resorts were behind it, no one ever mentioned it.
post #27 of 35
You are right, of course, Nolo--relationship-building is essential in all good lessons. But building a good relationship, even becoming best of friends, is quite different from creating false dependencies!

Any good lesson will be something that both the student and the instructor will want to repeat. If their wants and needs are addressed, students will come back for more.

But that false dependency that some instructors instill in their students--that belief they foster that without their instructor's help, they can't do anything right--is something I wouldn't wish on any friend of mine!

It's an unhealthy relationship. It's an abuse of power. It's based on destroying self-confidence and self-esteem, rather than bolstering it.

Nolo--several years ago there was a fantastic article in THE PROFESSIONAL SKIER written by none other than...you! It addressed "Selling the Second Lesson" not through sleazy sales tactics, but through genuine relationship building, through identifying and addressing the goals and needs of the students, and through employing teaching styles that complemented the students' strengths, capabilities, and motivations. It was one of the best articles ever printed in TPS, in my opinion, and I have NOT forgotten its message!


Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #28 of 35
Wow. Thank you, Bob. I'd forgotten about that one. I am gratified to hear you second my opinion that manipulating one's position as mentor to the guest is sleazy and unprofessional. But I'd repeat that there are platonic relationships among the teacher and the student that are natural developments that should be cultivated, as they can be platforms for a professional's practice, both in the sense of leading to ever greater and more useful insights for the student and for yielding more work for the professional with new clients referred by the established clients.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 06, 2002 11:19 AM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #29 of 35
Group Hug!!!
I remember the article as well, and I have witnessed the kind of co-depedency Spinhelli speaks of...those are people who have been emotionally hijacked.
In my last school we had several pro's who racked up over 200 request hours per season. Most were III's some were IIs and a couple of Is....common denominator....they delivered on all levels.
As an aside, manipulation is of itself not an evil thing....
The Core Concepts really is a new great tool for those who want to develop meaningful, postive partnerships with their clientele.
SCSA....go get a pin and tell me what you think it represents.
post #30 of 35
If you have a canadain instructor you can check them on snowpro.com. Just tell them to wait there while you run home and check their certification.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › How do you tell what certification an instructor has