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PSIA-E members

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I got my PST in the mail yesterday. In general, a very good issue, however, did anyone else get it and read the letter from the President, by Hetrick? Did anyone else notice the fundimental flaw in this? I forgot to bring it with me today, so I can't quote it, but as soon as I can, I plan on writing a rather harshly worded response. I'll be sending it in via e-mail, so I'll post it here.

Have you guys in other divisions heard anything about this idea that PSIA and the Ski Area Association to increase skier retention by using higer cert level instructors to teach beginner classes?

Now, don't get me wrong, I think it would help immensely, if more beginners were taught by Level 3 certs, but the psia-e president, Bill Hetrick, hints at expecting us, out of the kindness of our hearts, to teach more beginner lessons. He made no indication of any efforts on either PSIA's, or USSAA's part to do anything to work toward long term goals.

I'll get into it more in the letter I write, but it really struck a nerve. Especially since we had a few level 1 groups go out, this year, with class sizes in the 30s and 40s (yeah, that's right. FOURTY-PLUS students to a group).

Sorry for the rant.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JohnH (edited March 16, 2001).]</FONT>
post #2 of 16
John H, I feel your pain. One of the reasons I retired (temp.) was that our school would send you out with more students (beginners) than were viable for a meaningful skiing experience. Many times basic abilities (balance, etc.) were quite different in this group. Eventually, if they stuck with it, students were moved up or given special help, but I think much of this should have been done beforehand. This didn't make some of the lower level instructor's teaching experience very postive either.
post #3 of 16
I can't even begin imagining how I would handle a class with 30 to 40 students.

It sounds like he hasn't thought this one through. In order to take the Level 1, you have to have something like fifty hours teaching. If the 2's and 3's are teaching the beginers how will anyone qualify for even the Level 1?

I would like to see a stronger presence by the senior level instructors shadowing or functioning as co-instructors in beginners classes. I feel there is a strong need for a quality assurance program and that would solve the problem. It would piss a few off but it would stop a lot of the corner cutting that underlies the problem of quality instruction.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Here's another thought I just had, based on another discussion.

Do you think it would help if the ski areas charged more for higher certified instructors, and on their literature and signage, made it obvious? For example, a 2 hour beginner lesson with a level 1 cert costs $30, but a beginner lesson with a level 3 cert costs $40? That way the student would be forced to acknowledge that they are making a decision, with their wallet, that they will, or will not pay more for quality? It seems to me, that the current system is the same as if GM charged the same for a Chevy as they did for a Caddilac. Even though the Caddie costs them more, and offers a better quality product. It would also force the students to ask and learn about instructor certification. Another benefit would be that the ski area would be able to make more money if people were actually willing to pay for quality. The only drawback would be that they may not have enough level 2 or 3 cert instructors to fill the demand. But then you would get the whole supply/demand process working. If people wanted level 3s, and would pay for them, then the ski areas could pay enough to encourage instructors to achieve higher cert levels.

feedback? (anyone?, Wigs, BobB?)
post #5 of 16
I have a question -

I'm a first season instructor from vt. So far, I'm having a great season and getting good feedback from my "students".

Now to the question. Several of the other first year instructors recenlty went through their Level 1 certification - somehow I missed out on this one. IMHO - several of these folks do not have "what it takes" (poor feedback from students, general lack of personality/ski knowledge, etc.) BUT they still made it through the certification process.

Later, after asking one of the folks that was certified in this group what the process was like, they stated that they had their "certifications" even before they got on the moutain (ie - when they paid for the class). Is this standard operating procedure?

It made me think twice about the certification process and PSIA in general . . .
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 

Level 1 is an exam, that you need to pass before you will have a certification. It is, however, VERY easy. Don't let it give you bad feelings about PSIA, because level 1 is intended just to give people a flavor of teaching, and get them into the organization. You will need to be a member to go to most events, so it is something that you'll probably need to do if you want to keep teaching. But level 2 is a world apart from level 1. If these other guys don't really have what it takes, then they will have a tough time getting through level 2.
post #7 of 16
JohnH -

I'm sorry, I'm not sure that this is the place for a rant, but here I go . . .

Why would I waste the $147 if I'm not going to learn anything that I haven't been taught already from my trainers at my local mountain. If I have been through my local mountain's training program, I think that you should have a pretty good "flavor" of teaching (especially since you are required to be on the mountain teaching students for a certain amount of hours).

My oppinion: the PSIA is just looking to fund itself with a Level 1 certification program. Yes, I would like get a certification, but for the cost ($147) as compared to the benefits (an additional $0.25/hr) I will never be able to break even as a part-time instructor (It would take 588 hours to break even). The reason that I am part-time is that I can't afford to go full time!

I recently hear that next season the Level 1 certification program will now be a 3-day program (probably more expensive also). At this rate, I will never be able to make this happen.

I would love to be able to become a full-time, level 3 instructor, but I can't see how anyone can afford to make this happen -

well, I guess I'll just have to wait until I retire (only 35 more years) . . . there aren't any age restrictions in PSIA, are there???

Maybe I don't understand the program or PSIA in general - any help or explination would be appreciate (PSIA.org doesn't really give you to much info).

Jeeper <FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by Jeeper (edited March 20, 2001).]</FONT>
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I understand your point about the cost of the exam (and don't forget the prerequsite). I was in that situation, to the extreme. I started teachin when I was still in high school, and paid my way through the Level 2 exam while I was in college. A lot of people complain about the cost. But lets face it, those examiners don't work for free either. Personally, I think that the prices are well worth it. Check out what a 3 day computer cert course will cost you ($1000+). If $150 is worth more to you than the benefits (personally and professionally), then maybe ski teaching isn't for you. But you do learn a lot from the exam process. For a long time, I thought that Level 3 wasn't attainable for part timers. However, I kept pushing myself, and found that it is a relistic goal. And the cost of it becomes less of an issue if you are not trying to pay the bills by teaching skiing. As you start making more money, it'll be more affordable. (I spent more then $150 on dinner with my wife for our 8th anniversary!) But until then, just keep having fun with it, and enjoy yourself, and think about the cost of a season pass that you didn't have to buy.
post #9 of 16
Thanks for the replies -

For 23 years, I have wanted to be an instructor and I have finally put myself in a position to do so. I am not trying to put the PSIA down (although it seems that way), but I was having a hard time understanding why the Level 1 certification was given away to some of my "co-workers". I was not the only instructor that was upset over this.

From my perspective, it seems that Level 1 certification is definately the marketing tool that Bob mentioned. I was not thinking of the recognition issue - I feel the recognition when I get a tip, when my supervisor shadows one of my lessons and finds that he/she does not have to say a word to correct but only to add to my "bag of tricks", or when I pick up my paycheck and read the good (mostly) feedback I receive from some of the guests.

I think that the certification program at our mountain hit at a bad time for two reasons:

#1 - I was asked to be included - probably an issue that I should take up with one of my supervisors. OK, I'm jealous.

#2 - The weekend of the certification was probably the busiest lesson weekend of the season. Complain? Not really - I had several good lessons and got paid for the weekend. OK, I'm still jealous. . .

I, as do many others, work full time and instruct part-time. In my full-time position, if training is necessary, then it is provided. So the cost of the computer certification courses is usually covered. Basic business protocol. I have yet to pay for any computer training. If Resorts/mountains want to have higher certification level instructors, maybe they should foot the bill??? (Ok - I'm dreaming) If ski schools start to charge more for the higher certified instructors, supply and demand might just take care of this because $150 is really just a drop in the bucket.

As far as the cost to the mountain for the season pass - I used it once. Full-time work leaves little time for play - if you know what I mean! In reality, I could do without the pass and get a bigger paycheck - or for that matter, take the savings and put it toward my certification - maybe this could be skier's choice? (I'm dreaming again - sorry)

There are several veteran instructors that have been at the moutian for 20+ years that have not gotten certified, are not registered with any organization, and have been full time instructors for years. They complain that PSIA is too political. I cannot comment on that, but it makes me curious.

I love both of my jobs and want to do what is right to keep them both. If I have to get certified, so be it. Knowing that it has taken me 23 years to get to this point (a first season instructor) - another 10+ to become Level 3 certified really ain't that long. It's good to have long term goals

Thanks for the perspective check . . .

PS - Us Vermont'ers would like all Bears to pray to the snow Gods for us!!!! Looks like an early spring Nor'Easter is on its way with the current potential for several feet of the white goods!!!

post #10 of 16
JohnH. The system you are talking about works very well in the fitness industry. Specific trainers are known as "master trainers" who get a higher rate. This encourages the other trainers to get their skills up to parr. The only problem with having this in the ski industry is that many of us already break the bank for a single weekend at the slopes, and might decide to take fewer lessons from their favorite teachers. Its too bad the pay incentive can't come from management. But heck, I suppose if hair salons charge more for certain stylists, the ski industry certainly desrves it.

Be Braver in your body, or your luck will leave you. DH Lawrence
post #11 of 16
Thread Starter 

I hope I don't sound rude (I don't *sound* like anything, since you're reading this ), but if you can't pay the money for a top instructor, then your priorities are different. As with anything, you will pay for quality. Maybe only take half as many lessons, or find a less expensive instructor. I find it mildly offensive that people want quality services but are not willing to pay for them. A long time ago, I worked at a not-as-cheap electronics store, on commission. Because I was on commission, I HAD to know my product well. So people would come in and pick my brain and get all kinds of good info from me, and decide what they wanted based on what I told them. Then they would go and buy the product somewhere else because they could get it for $5 cheaper because that store just paid an hourly wage to people who knew nothing. That really pissed me off.

Also, if the additional pay just comes from mgt (which it already does in some cases), then the ski area is incentivised to use cheaper instructors (which is what they are now doing), and the student is not forced to recognize that there is a difference in cert level quality, and won't ever request the higher cert. If the customer were asked "do you want a level 3 instructor?", the student would have to ask "what's that mean?", and if they want the higher quality, they will be asked to pay for it. The way it works right now, it's like the car dealer selling you a car, but you don't know what you'll get. You pay a generic amount, and you might get a Yugo, or you might get a Porsche. But the auto industry has figured it out, and asks "do you want the Yugo for $4k, or the Posrche for $90k?" And because of that, you can make a decision on what you want. Even if you can't afford the Porsche (a.k.a. your favorite L3 instructor), you have the choice. And I bet that you know the general differences between the Yugo and the Porsche. Even if you chose the Toyota.<FONT size="1">

[This message has been edited by JohnH (edited March 20, 2001).]</FONT>
post #12 of 16
So am I right in guessing something here - quite a few people think that the extra money a person might pay for a private lesson is worth it, especially if they get a higher-quality (or more certified) instructor?

That's the closest our resort gets to having the guest pay more for a higher-cert instructor, and there was recently a theory going 'round that folks weren't willing to pay for it (I don't think the theory holds true, but just adding .02...)

~Michelle H.
post #13 of 16
John H, please don't get upset, but I think that your idea would probably backfire. Most people would probably go for the cheaper lesson. There is a perception that lessons are not a good value. I take many more lessons than the average skier (at least one every year), and I had always thought that the instructor got a much larger percentage of the lesson fees. And before I joined this forum, I had no idea that there were different levels of certification, much less the benefit of having a higher certified instructor. So consider how much money and effort it would take to make the average skier aware of these things.
post #14 of 16
I think managment giving the instructors a little more leeway to promote the school would go a long way and I think that the instructors should get more of the fee particularly for privates or specific requests. I think once you have a great instructor even one time, you won't settle for less. This is very true once you get up there in the lesson structure. John Q Public needs to know there is a difference and that there is something they can do about it. It is OK to complain to the managment for a poor lesson. You don't go to a resturant and leave a big tip for poor service, I hope you complain to managment. You don't just go to another auto shop if they do a poor job, you complain like mad. Ski instructing/school is a service. If you pay good money for it and don't get what you paid for, let the managment know and let them know you WILL take your business elsewhere if they don't make it right.
(stepping down off my soap box now)
post #15 of 16
Thread Starter 
Milesb, you wrote: "I take many more lessons than the average skier. ...And before I joined this forum, I had no idea that there were different levels of certification, much less the benefit of having a higher certified instructor."

That is Exactly my point! Thank you for giving us a real-world example (even if you didn't mean to).

Had you been confronted with this issue at the ski school desk, you would have learned the difference before coming to this forum. And you would have understood the benefit of requesting a more experienced instructor.

You also said that most people would probably go for the cheaper lesson. I don't agree with that 100%. Sure some will, but let's say you decide, one time, to pay the additional cost of hiring a L3 instructor, and you *really* like the lesson. Not only will you continue to hire L3 instructors for yourself, but you would probably make sure that when your kids take lessons, they get higher cert instructors, and when someone on the lift bitches about how they never take lessons because they took one years ago and it wasn't worth it, you'd probably tell them that they need to get a better instructor, not give up on the whole deal. And we're only talking, maybe $5-$10 more, in a group format. That's not going to break any banks.

People these days will spend the money for BMWs, Benz's, and fill up the $300-$500/night hotel rooms faster than the $75 hotel rooms. I think that, if actually forced to make a decision, more than enough people would pay for a higher quality lesson. And as I said before, it would mushroom as people actually realized the difference in quality. If it did work out that way, and many more people were requesting cert instructors, then the resorts would begin to recognize the true value of the ski schools, and newer instructors would see the benefit of sticking with it. This would lead to lower turnover, which would lead to fewer open positions and the opprotunity for more instructors to make a career out of teaching skiing.
post #16 of 16
John, alot of skiers would not see the difference between lessons with different level instructors. Especially at the lower levels. Consider this: an intermediate skier takes a lesson. The instructor shows the student some new skills on easy terrain. After the lesson, the student goes right back to the steeps, moguls, whatever. The new skills are not really learned. Does this sound familiar? Does it really matter who taught the lesson in this case? If the student paid for the more expensive lesson, he would just figure that it is even more money down the tubes, and would certainly tell his friends, and so on.

How about all you instructors stage a protest, like teaching all your students how to clip lift tickets!
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