<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!