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Becoming an instructor

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Right now it's only curiosity, but how does one become an instructor? As far as PSIA Level 1 certification goes, do you get hired by a PSIA-affiliated school and THEN get trained, or is it the other way around? Does the school have to be PSIA-affiliated for someone to become a member of PSIA, or do they only have to be an instructor that attends PSIA clinics?

I've tried the website several times, but beyond the opening screen the website doesn't respond, so that's pretty much been a dead-end.

Thanks for any information you can give me.
post #2 of 15
The web site was down this morning.

You need 50 hours of teaching and clinics combined and a sign off by your ski school director to apply for a level 1 exam.

Level 1 Study Guide says:

- 16 years of age

- Be an employee of a recognized ski school and have completed a minimum of 50 hours of combined in-house training and actual on the hill teaching, as attested to by the ski school director. Applicants are required to use the special application on page 26 of the Level 1 manual.

- Attend a PSIA Level 1 event and (1): demonstrate knowledge, experience, and basic skills in each of the areas of competence and (2): pass an assessment of the criteria for Level 1 skiing tasks, teaching assignments and professional knowledge.

In short, the Level 1 Event, is your test that is given over two days.

Your skiing skills are very basic. Things like demonstrating speed control and linked wedge turns, christies and parallel technique and the use of pole swing and touch on green an blue terrain.

Industry knowledge based on a customer service model.

Basic skiing terms.

Developmental stages of varied student classes such as children and older folks.

Cost is about $160 for the 2 day test and first year dues.

I guess that the kicker is the "recognized ski school". If the application reads "JOES DONUT SHOP & SKI SKOOL" and your mom does the sign off, you may have a problem.
post #3 of 15
Cut directly from PSIA . . .

"How To Join The Professional Ski Instructors of America

Determine which ski area you would like to be employed by as an instructor. PSIA divisions can help you determine which areas in your geographic are a are PSIA members.

You should go through the area’s hiring clinic and be employed as a teacher before you seek PSIA membership.

Contact the appropriate PSIA division office to receive a member information packet.

Once you have filled out the appropriate paperwork, received training from your area and have paid your dues, you are considered to be a Registered member of PSIA.

If you choose to, you may participate in training programs offered by your area and division to achieve a Level I certification. Through these programs, you will learn snow sport teaching fundamentals to prepare you for Level I certification exam."

Its as easy as that!

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Interesting. So your average teacher for beginning skiers may not even be a PSIA Level 1 instructor. How does this work in the real world? I hope the non-experienced and/or non-certified instructors are at least supervised when teaching a class. What kind of resources are available to them as non-certified instructors to help them progress?

The local hill I was considering teaching at isn't PSIA-affiliated, and isn't likely to be since it's on an Air Force Base. It was convienient for me, since my day job and the hill are 5 minutes apart. I've always enjoyed teaching because it helps you to clarify and simplify difficult concepts and it also teaches you how much you don't know. Besides, you get to be the first one to see the big grins on the faces of people who finally get the idea. However, without the resources and experienced personnel behind me, it would be a much more difficult proposition.
post #5 of 15
What division are you in? In the NW you only need 10 hours teaching time and have to pay dues plus $15 for the level 1. The exam only lasted about 3 hours. In 1994 anyway, maybe things have changed.
post #6 of 15
I started as a TA for another instructor. I basically did the same thing as the certified instructor but there was always someone there by me. Great way to learn. I got my level one at the end of that season and insturcted the next year. I think this is a great way to start and I learned a lot by doing it.
post #7 of 15
Grizz: I am in PSIA-E (east). I think the cost reflects the cost of the event plus dues.


I think the key word is RECOGNIZED... not affiliated. I would hope that they would recognize the folks on an Air Farce (oops..
I was Navy Air)... er.. Force Base. Perhaps you could get your cousins over at 10'th Mountain to pay them a convincing visit???

I guess the logic of the PSIA is that after you have spent time in a clinic and have have been teaching for a few months that you will have endured and might even last for awhile. If they were a "money mill", they would simply open the events to anyone who wanted a trophy/pin, but had no desire to teach.

At our hill they have a 4 day clinic for new instructors, followed by 5 lessons taught with an experienced instructor (all unpaid). So, you are just not turned loose.

<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by yuki (edited February 23, 2001).]</FONT>
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Well, I got "forced" into the instructor role this weekend. The people I'm stationed with up here either love it or hate it, and the ones that hate it say there's nothing to do in the winter (I know, I know...). So when I heard a couple of co-workers were going to try skiing at the base ski hill without taking a lesson ("It's too expensive"), I offered my services to avoid injury to them or other people. Besides, the whole "Alaska sucks" mantra was getting on my nerves and I wanted to see if I enjoyed teaching.

First of all, I think my students were excellent. They were relatively fit and had extremely positive attitudes.

Since the rope tow wasn't operating, we booted up a 25 yard sled hill and I taught them the basics about the snowplow and turning, as well as taking off/putting on skis while on a hill. They didn't really seem to get the turning experience down until I set up a ski pole slalom course and gave them a visual to turn around. We progressed further up the hill onto steeper grades until they felt comfortable.

One of my students was grabbed by friends at that point and taken down the big hill. She came back 30 minutes later shaking her head about how steep the hill was and how out of control she felt. She left soon after, and I felt bad because she is leaving tomorrow on an all-expense paid vacation to Saudi Arabia. I think she still had a positive experience, besides that little foray into terror.

I then took my remaining student, now shaken by reports of the "Death Mountain", up the chairlift. Once at the top, I showed her how to read the terrain and make the slope less steep by traversing. She fell once near the bottow when she encountered some cut-up powder, but on subsequent runs she not only stayed up, but grinned the whole time. That was her only fall of the day. Meanwhile her husband, who was trying to teach himself to snowboard, sat at the base of the hill in the lodge slumped over in pain/exhaustion. He's not going to hear the end of this one.

I really enjoyed the experience, other than the numerous times we booted up that sled hill. I did feel that my progress with them could have been a little quicker. It took us three hours to progress from start to going down the big hill. I just don't have the vocabulary or bag o' tricks. I'm sure that a lot of that comes with experience, but can anyone recommend a book or something to give me a hand? From the way that student was talking to our group of friends, I will probably be spending next weekend teaching. That is, if my legs ever heal from all of that walking.
post #9 of 15

"Bag of Tricks-Crash Course"

- Start with the ski parts and comfort items such as no ski pants in the boots.

- Have em slid around on one ski.

- Center and balance over a wedge... both narrow to start and wide to slow.

- To turn right.... look to the right and push the left heel out a bit. Do not have them "look" with the shoulders... just the face. Repeat 10 times. Now do left turn. Now have them try a left and a right.

- They must not be allowed to ever break the wedge at this phase. They must be centered over that wedge. Everything must be demonstrated and explained simply. Tell them to wash any preconceptions about leaning to turn... it's all centered over the wedge.

Hands forward as if carrying a tray of beer..
demonstrate with the hands forward and then have em pull the hands back to their pockets to demo how hand position puts you in the back seat.

Teach them how to accurately climb/step up the fall line (explain the fall line) and down the fall line to (to get out of trouble).

Explain evrything you do.... remember, they know nothing at this point.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks Yuki! Anyone else have any suggestions?

It took me quite awhile to get them to stay in a wedge. Once they hit the fall line, they straightened up and it was a bumpy ride to the bottom. Then boot, boot, boot... I eventually ended up repeating "BIG pizza wedge, BIG pizza wedge, keep turning, keep turning!!!", which seemed to drive the point home. The big wedge-slow, small wedge-fast thing they picked up instinctively, so I didn't spend much time on it. We covered the basic methods of climbing up and down a slope, since we were walking uphill anyway. I did a brief demonstration on side slipping a hill at the end of the day, but just to demonstrate differing levels of edging.

That look left, right heel out and vice-versa trick sounds interesting, and I'll definitely give it a try. Your progression is definitely what I was trying (unsuccessfully for the most part) to accomplish.

It's been over 25 years since my first lesson, so my memory of it is a little fuzzy.

One question though- one of my students was on shaped skis and one on straight. The one on straight skis had less of a problem holding a stable wedge in a turn, which makes sense. Do you recommend new skiers start on straight skis, or is there a slightly different technique for teaching the snowplow on shaped skis? Neither student knew the difference, so I didn't highlight it at the time.
post #11 of 15

The wedge is a more "relaxed" position that is similiar to the old snowplow but much less accentuated.

It sounds like you need to look at some of the variables, shaped skis are generally easier to turn when edge pressure is applied and the effect is more "carve like" when the ski is tipped to the inside edge. The body position should be relaxed and centered over the wedge with the tips about 6" apart. Take a look at the body posture (erect not hunched forward), hand position and very importantly, knee position. If they are "knock-kneed" or splayed out too far you will have problems.

Are the skiis appropriate for the individuals? How long are those shapes? Most importantly, they just gotta "master" that wedge, any cheating (parallel to start), will accentuate the problems.

Terrain selection and snow conditions are important too and sometimes it takes a few times to find that "sweet spot" on the hill. The hill must be steep enough to allow a start from a stable wedge, but now so steep that they (skis) run away. In soft snow, you may have to do some snow conditioning by skiing over the area in a wedge to compact the snow a bit.

I'm assuming (silly me), that you guys are enlisted because the O's usually had the $ for lessons? what's your MOS?
post #12 of 15
Also, Alaska, think about teaching them what the basic wedge is and how it works in the flats at the bottom, before you start climbing. Easier on the legs!

~Michelle H.
post #13 of 15
Thread Starter 
I tried to incorporate as much flat-land training as I could before taking them up the sled hill. The hill serviced by the chairlift is pretty easy for the most part until the last 10 percent, where it drops off somewhat. Nothing really that steep, but it's just enough to make new skiers forget whatever they've learned. I might have been a little slow in the progression, but I wanted to make sure they were comfortable turning before I took them down it.

In recent lessons I've been exposed to gliding wedges (to widen my stance), where the weight is still on the outside ski in a turn and the inside ski maintains the wedge, but mostly just floats along. Is this similar to what you're talking about? Do you emphasise the weighting of the feet, or is it something they pick up intuitively through your look-left/right-heel-out exercise? So many questions...

Perhaps I should take a group beginners lesson to watch what the instructor teaches and how the students react. Instructing methods have changed so much since I last was new to the sport, maybe starting at square one is the best way to absorb them.
post #14 of 15
Alaska Mike

If you want to learn to become an instructor, come to New Zealand for a 'summer' holiday and combine it with a training camp. Our winter is probably still like summer to the Alaskans.


You get course options with accomodation, tranpsort and sit your Level 1 instructors exam at the end. It is NZSIA , don't know if it is affiliated with PSIA.

We have been thinking of doing it ourselves, because it is at our favourite ski area, Treble Cone. Thought when we retire we could reduce the costs of our North American ski holidays by making them working holidays.
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
You know, I'd love to take a Summer or two off and go to instructor school, but unfortunately my employer (US Air Force) frowns on that. I was looking at a part-time gig, something that would help me improve my own technique while showing others how much fun skiing is.

As for the person I taught a couple weeks back, she has become obsessed. She drags her husband to the slopes every chance she gets and comes into work after every weekend raving about how much fun she had. Kinda makes you feel good.
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