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A couple of PSIA Examiners Talkin'

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
So, we are sitting in the cafeteria at Sunday River, eavesdropping on a conversation some ski pros were having.

The Subject: Snow conditions on exam day. Do some instructors get an unfair advantage if they test under good weather conditions?
One examiner had a rather creative way of evening out the odds.
If there were excellent conditions on the day of a level 3 exam, he
would have the instructors ski White Heat, a rather long and steep bump run.
The Rules: No one starts until he has completed the run. The Reasoning: He has no interest in what they are doing at the top, where they are more consciously controlling their movements. He wants to see how well they do when they are tired, what is their general fitness/endurance level, etc.
post #2 of 35
LM - our guys have to do a 'race' (at least for level 3)

The examiners run it too. They must be within a certain percantage of the examiners. Diff levels(percentages) for females & also for age....
post #3 of 35
I have heard of some examiners doing this type of testing, but I do not believe it is either accurate, nor fair. The idea of the exams is to determine whether the candidate meets the standards set for the particular certification level. It is too easy to create an exam nobody could pass. And fatigue is an issue which we must all deal with, not be judged by.

In any exam I have ever given (been doing it since '79), I make a point of skiing the specific task, in the conditions the candidates will experience. Only then can I truly evaluate the degree of difficulty added by weather, snow conditions, visibility, etc. And in accordance with my feelings about those factors, I may soften or stiffen my grading, in order to maintain the appropriate standard.

I once gave a Level 3 exam at Crested Butte, CO. The most common comment after it was over was, "Why didn't we ski harder terrain?". Several factors came into play-.
1) Many of the candidates were from CB, were very familiar with the terrain, and wanted to show off their prowess. Several were from much smaller mtns, and had little experience in those conditions. From a safety point of view, there wasn't any reason to place any candidate at risk, so why go up into those places?
2) Level 3 tasks did not require that such challenging terrain be skied. We usually meet prior to the exam, and determine which terrain would be most suitable for any given task. By being consistent from group to group, as to where tasks would be performed, we attempt to create fairness to all the candidates.
3) I don't need to see someone ski Double Black Diamond terrain to determine if that skier meets the criteria for Level 3. Some mtns don't even have DBD terrain. So why not up the level of precision required, on slightly less radical terrain?

Ironically- the skier I gave the highest skiing marks to, gave me the harshest evaluation...

post #4 of 35
Thread Starter 
Interesting, VSP. For the record, I have no opinion on this, just curious about others.

But IMHO, I usually will do much better mid trail, so I don't know if this evaluation method works for everyone.
post #5 of 35
"heard also".....

1-testing is done to fatigue level to see if you "own the skill". I ski to have fun, and stop before I get fatigued. I don't want to risk injuries.

2-tests are not done on easy terrain, even though a good examiner can see the skills at slower speed and lower degree slope. Embarrassing for a potential level 3 to fail if skied the beginner's hilll only. If I am able to isolate the skill, it shouldn't matter what degree slope I perform it on.

I'll tell yo later in the year how I do on my level 3.
post #6 of 35

I have always been amazed by anyone who has "tested" at Loveland at the end of the year. You have been doing this a long time. In the past four seasons the conditions have been pretty tough there. Last year the bumps were glazed over by a thaw/freeze cycle. The year before it was knee deep oatmeal.

I went just to watch the level II and III exams taking place and to root for friends enduring the process. All the Eldora guys passed!

I'm "testing" this year and may flunk so many times that I end up at Loveland for a last ditch effort, however, I have always said I would avoid the last exam of the year!

[ January 05, 2003, 07:09 AM: Message edited by: Rusty Guy ]
post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 
Of course, the moral of this story is that if you are talking about something related to the ski school at the cafeteria, someone who might actually THINK about what you are saying can be listening!

I think this gets down to the question as to whether or not being extremely skilled as a skier necssarily means that you will be equally skilled as an instructor.
post #8 of 35
Of course not
post #9 of 35
I agree with VSP that there is a standard to be tested to. It is what differenciates a subjective (unfair) process from an objective (fair) one.

I've never agreed with those individuals who feel the need to bring out the worst in a candidates performance by driving them to the fatigue point or biasing scoring on off the wall tasks that people have never seen before. How are these things relative to the standard? I've always been more interested in seeing someones best than their worst (wouldn't want them to see my worst either for that matter). With a little creativity one could probably set up a skiing tasks that more than a few examiners would struggle with but it wouldn't prove anything relative to their ability to teach and ski as required to do their job.

Note however, I am disapointed that Level-III standards do not include, and therefore do not encourage, development of knowledge or skiing skills to support teaching recreational level racing. I look at how that skill set, and awareness of the fundamentals that support it, has agumented my ability to help skiers, at all levels. I think a Level-III should be able to get a Gold Nastar for their age class and be able to apply their knowledge to coach a recreational racer that wanted to lower their handicap or race in club events. Rudamentary knowledge of line and tactics is not too much to expect. If candidates skiing prep included some guided GS experiance, I suspect they would reap benifits for their skiing in general. The skiing is simply carving skills applied to turning where you have to and controlling turn shape to a specific line (a little different than just turning where you want to and just going where they take you).

My 2 cents.
post #10 of 35
Lisamarie, Do you think that table discussion was inappropriate for public exposure?
post #11 of 35
Thread Starter 
Hmm, that's a tricky question. For me, it was not a big deal, since I realize that there is always a "gray area" on these issues. Someone else may have interpreted it differently.
But cafeteria conversations are never private. People are always sort of interested in what the people at your table are saying, so I think sensitive issues should probably be avoided.
post #12 of 35
Originally posted by Lisamarie:
Of course, the moral of this story is that if you are talking about something related to the ski school at the cafeteria, someone who might actually THINK about what you are saying can be listening!

I think this gets down to the question as to whether or not being extremely skilled as a skier necssarily means that you will be equally skilled as an instructor.
[In best Dr. Evil voice, with hands rubbing together] So many people to mess with, but sooo little time! Bwwaaahahahahah [/Dr Evil] [img]graemlins/evilgrin.gif[/img]
post #13 of 35

In the east, they do test you on recreational racing at the Level 3 exam. However, they spend very little time on it.
post #14 of 35
Central had running gates as part of Level-III in the past. Possibly it got de-prioritised about the time we got a cycle of decision makers without any background or expertise in that aspect of skiing. Maybe just a coincidance?

Central still runs a couple offerings each season for coaches and racers that have been pretty well attended, so the interest among the membership seems to be there.

I discussed this with some folks and case was made that a Nastar Gold may be too high a bar to set for Level-III, but Silver maybe? It would have to be objective and consistant to be fair to all.
post #15 of 35
I only hope most examiners do not see their responsibilities this way. Unfortunately a few may.

As I see it is the responsibility of the examiner to set an environment that allows the candidate to succeed based on the criteria for each level of certification? Nowhere in my manual does it say to put the candidate in jeopardy through increased fatigue and then ski them down the toughest and longest bump run you can find. I suppose the examiner would time the candidate too? In fact if you would do the same to a student and they complain to the desk you may get fired for pure lack of good judgment! It is SAFE & fun skiing.

The skiing exam terrain should meet the skill level of the certification that is being examined. That may mean with great conditions the examiner would need to move the skiing exam from a commonly used run to another of greater or if poor conditions lesser degree. That is fine based on the criteria set for the level being examined. Remember skiing is only a portion of the exam. In our division most of those that do not meet the certification criteria do pass the skiing portion but fail teaching, movement analysis, or the written exam. False environments set by large ego examiners give all examiners a bad rep. I assure you only a few are this way and in time, maybe not soon enough for my way of thinking, they are weeded out! (I also do not like call down examining. I believe it stresses the candidate –and a student- with no real good purpose served that could not be viewed in a better way.) [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #16 of 35
VSP, kudos to you. I wish more examiners had your sense of fair play.
post #17 of 35
Interesting topic. Here in PSIA-RM we use a set number of exercises and skiing situations for each exam level(these can be seen at www.psia-rm.org). By having these set in stone it allows a canidate a chance to practice. Each maneuver is used to highlight either a certain skill or the blending of the skills. So hopefully by practicing these exercises their awareness is expanded on both the cognitive and physical levels. As for Rusty Guy, having given the Level 3 and 1 exams over the last 3years at Loveland, I wouldn't recommend using this exam as the fallback exam. As you stated the conditons are so unpredictable,everything from lightning to sunbaked frozen crust.
On a side note, at a level 3 exam here we went to our off piste run and when we reached the starting point I side stepped the group down to reach a more suitable starting point. A point to remember examiners don't like to cartwheel either. CDC
post #18 of 35
I'm not convinced that tremrndous physical stamina is a legitimate criteria. I passed the skiing portion of my level III exam, here in the East, when I was 50, incidently so age and fitness prejudice would not seem to prevail here. I was in pretty high physical condition for my age though. As for evaluating candidates on less than severe terrain and expecting them to nevertheless perform in a certain way, as one poster mentiomed, i would remind him that a competent skier adjusts his/her skiing to the terrain. I take issue with this person's comments because, in my exam, one of my examiners tested us on very gentle terrain, did not ask for any particular technique emphasis. As it turns out,he was apparently expecting us to ski these flats as if they were the steeper terrain my other two examiners had used, although he did not say so at the time. This individual wrote on my exam card that I was a "flat ski type skier" and wished to fail me. Evidently the other examiners who knew my performance in demanding conditions were shocked by his opinion and prevailed upon him. later I spoke to an instructor at this examiner's ski school who told me that the man related that he had not needed to see the candidates in extreme conditions. "A few minutes of watching them ski and he knew what kind of skier's they were" was what was reported back to me. Examiners are quite human and not immune from issues of ego, laziness and lack of insight. If they were without flaw we would need only be examined by one and not several.

On other points, it seemed to me that in the Eastern exam the skiing portion of the exam was far more rigorous than the teaching portion. Only a few, like maybe one in eight or ten of the candidates in my exam passed the skiing whereas most passed the teaching portion. Running gates was part of the skiing portion. Its inconceivable to me that a successful Level III candidate could not get a Nastar gold. Those in my exam were all very good skiers, even those who did not pass. One who did not, for example, was , in my estimation, an incredibly good skier, only lacking a bit in the bumps. These posts do make me wonder about consistency between the divisions.

[ January 07, 2003, 10:25 PM: Message edited by: arcadie ]
post #19 of 35
>>>Running gates was part of the skiing portion. Its inconceivable to me that a successful Level III candidate could not get a Nastar gold<<<

Forever ego when I did my "Full=Level-3" we had to ski a slalom twice but were not timed. We were told the examiners wanted to see if we could turn where we had to, not just where we wanted to.

Out of 35 going for full, just three of us passed, and we were next to each other, the last three in a group of ten. Often we refused to ski the terrain the examiners presented, like sideslipping in a gully where the tips and tail got hung up, shaking our heads as we watched the seven in front of us falter.

On the very steepest part of the slope I was asked to teach the snowplow and treat the class as if they were beginners, having them make a gate and step around into it. Without hesitation I asked the class to follow me and skied down to the flat outrun of the slope and started to teach while the examiner still stood at the top. When he got down he asked me what I thought I was doing and I told him I would never teach a beginner snowplow where he asked me to.

Apparently he didn't grade me down since I passed.

But those were the old days when examiners would secretly tell candidates in class to make certain mistakes to see if the one teaching would catch it and how he would correct it. I understnd that the practice is gone now.

post #20 of 35
Originally posted by Ott Gangl:
>>>But those were the old days when examiners would secretly tell candidates in class to make certain mistakes to see if the one teaching would catch it and how he would correct it. I understnd that the practice is gone now...Ott
I have, however had confused candidates (the ones being taught by one being tested) ski "what they saw" when they noticed it did not show "what they heard" to see if the one teaching would notice and provide adjusting feedback.

Ahh.. da gut olt daz.

My favotie when I tool my Level-III was our examiner who skied perfect short swing, but planting the opposite pole so smoothly that many never caught it. (I was lucky enough to spot it)

[ January 08, 2003, 11:30 AM: Message edited by: Arcmeister ]
post #21 of 35
Originally posted by Ott Gangl:
>>>But those were the old days when examiners would secretly tell candidates in class to make certain mistakes to see if the one teaching would catch it and how he would correct it. I understnd that the practice is gone now.

Not here Ott - not here
post #22 of 35
"Forever ego when I did my "Full=Level-3" we had to ski a slalom twice but were not timed. We were told the examiners wanted to see if we could turn where we had to, not just where we wanted to."

We were not timed in my exam either but the movement patterns and technique PSIA tests for is really ski racing based and the level of skiing required high enough (and the difficulty of a Nastar Gold low enough) that its hard to believe that recent level IIIs are not Nastar Gold material.

In defense of the overheard examiner comments reported above the exam is supposed to test the candidates ability to teach in all normally encountered conditions and terrain and stamina does surely play a role in that.
post #23 of 35
No argument there, arcadie, but if the candidate isn't timed and if there is no forerunner who could tell if it was a gold run?

I know you are saying a level-3 candidate should be able to run a NASTAR course in gold time and I agree, but if they start timing then the time clocked becomes a part of the criteria of failing or passing a candidate. No?

post #24 of 35
Oz - where are you?

Don't our level 3's have to run a percentage of the average examiner time?
post #25 of 35
LM- Vail snopro is right on! As an examiner in the east I can tell you that is not how we ever do any evaluation!!!

We meet the night before and choose terrain and tasks. We are looking for the national standards not the most physically fit.

I look at movement patterns, and can most of the time predict the outcome with out ever going into bumps or ice or steep or powder. Realize that level 3 should be a big deal, You need to be able to ski ANY terrain that is open to the public on the mountain! You could have to go teach a Jackson Hole or Taos your movements need to allow for you to ski ALL conditions and terrain!

Having said that I do not think it is unrealistic to expect a canadate to ski a run top to bottom. If you are a level 3 teaching level 9 students and I was in your class I would want to ski many top to bottom runs.

Hard to judge a comment that was overheard, but I can assure you we take great care to make sure that exams are realworld based, consistent, challenging and above all fair.
post #26 of 35
Interesting to read the feedback from examiners!!
From my own experience at a Level 3 exam at Stowe last year (full disclosure--I failed the exam, but not for the reasons below).

1. The skiing was atrocious..terrible visibility, high winds, and
a temp of below zero.
2. The bumps were rutted and icy, with breakable crust, and piles
of heavy, crusty snow between them.
3. The most experienced examiner looked at the bumps, decided they
were unsafe, and, with her, we skied other runs, mostly black
but some steeper blues.
4. With the first day examiner we did at least 8 runs on Lift-line
and National (both double blacks, and 2 of Stowe's front 4.
5. As one poster put it, if I had taken a student down either of
those runs, whether or not the student complained, I feel that
I could justifiably been fired.
6. The validity of testing us on these runs is very questionable
--I personally would never choose to ski those runs in those
conditions, and would never consider teaching on them. I
believe that at least 2 candidates were injured.
7. Safety is paramount, and not to be compromised.
8. The 2nd morning examiner was just as bad! We skied the same
runs, with Starr and Lookout thrown in! 2 more double blacks in
awful condition.
9. He had us doing pain-in-the-S turns on a sheet of ice on the
steepest pitch he could find.
10.Seemed like 100s of hop turns!!
11.The really important part of our craft--great demonstrations
of skiing skills--was almost ignored. A perfunctory wedge turn
here and there!

I agree with most of the posters:

1. Stamina is important-we should be able to teach a Level 8
lesson at 3pm.
2. I agree that racing is a great tool for evaluating skills
and I do think that at Level 3 we should be able to earn a
Nastar gold.
3. Unfortunately, I have heard examiners boasting about how
tough they are, and talking with pride about the low
percentage of passes they give. Reminds me of teenage
boys in the locker room comparing their manhood.
4. Whatever happened to "Examining for Success"??
5. PSIA is in danger of devaluing Level 3-seems that, today,
the teaching exam is ridiculously easy, so that semi-literate
skiers are getting their Level 3, with very little teaching
6. There have been murmurings about age discrimination in the
Level 3 exam, with some tasks, such as hop turns seeming to
have a 'disparate impact' on older or heavier candidates.
PSIA would indeed find it difficult to convince anyone
that these tasks are vital to the job of ski instruction.
post #27 of 35
I have the impression, and mind you, it is only an impressiom, for what that is worth, that PSIA-E is seeing a number of the seasoned older examiners step aside for a new crop. Anyone else made that observation? I thought I noticed a bit of hubris at an event last season. I know these guys have worked hard to become examiners but I do sometimes suspect they are chosen for hot feet more than teaching skills.
post #28 of 35
I passed the last Level 3 skiing Exam in the East last year at Whiteface. Conditions were variable- from spring mashed potatoes to hard ice. We skied the whole mountain, but we didn't ski gates. I didn't find it strenuous at all.
Some of us suspect that reason so many Eastern examiners have left in the past year or so has to do with the way the Executive Director was removed a couple of years ago. At least 3 other examiners left at about that time also, and I know at least one of them was upset about the change of administration. At least one other examiner I spoke to was concerned that the new director's background is marketing, not skiing. I've never heard a clear explanation of why the Executive Director was fired.
post #29 of 35
I'm glad you posted skiswift. I thought you might have an opinion on the matter.
post #30 of 35
I know that the rumors about age discrimination abound in the Central Division as well. Before I achieved the level of skiing necessary to pass level III I thought there was some validity to the rumors. I now know that those rumors are total hogwash.

In general, older cadidates have skied for many more years than the younger candidates. That very fact makes breaking old habits far harder for the older candidate. In short, the older candidates have had more years to put the movement patterns into permenant muscle memmory.

The biggest culprit I see is the vertical or latteral extension instead of the diagonal extension. The older candidates tend to swear that they are extending diagonally but are instead extending vertically or latterally. Those motions are so ingrained that they are totally unaware of the fact that they are doing them.

The result of vertical extension is a late edge, poor latteral movement and late movement of the center of mass into the next turn. The result of latteral movement is park and ride, a static late center of mass movement and delayed turn entry. Most older candidates show both latteral and vertical extension depending on the task. They will ski latteral (tip, park and ride) in the medium/long radius turns and vertical in the short/medium radius turns and almost always vertical for dynamic turns. Both are a guaranteed flunk.

I believe the older candidates perception of prejudice comes from the fact that vertical extension requires a lot more energy in dynamic turns than diagonal extension requires. That energy requirement greatly ratchets up the difficulty in the test for older candidates making it seem harsh. On the same token, candidates who move latterally believe they don't have the energy to ski real short dynamic turns with what seems to them to be diagonal extension and therefore can't pass.

I know from my own personal experience that the minute that my extensions became diagonal instead of vertical or latteral I had to find a new way besides skiing to get into shape. My energy requirements dropped drastically when I approached the level III standard. Just my two cents worth. [img]smile.gif[/img]
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