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The Elephant in the Living Room

post #1 of 229
Thread Starter 
The "P" in PSIA is not in AASI. Does the omission mean anything, or were the inventors merely making the name to roll more smoothly off the tongue?

The talk of exams, the congrats to those who were successful, the plaintive comments of examiners and the supportive comments of alumni, all seem to waltz around a giant bulge in the carpeting.

The word "professional" implies that those so certified are engaged in a career. A career implies that it sustains a life's work, earns a day's bread, and carries health and retirement benefits.

The elephant I refer to is the fact that this profession allows such a small percentage of those who proudly carry the credential to have a career. Only around 23% of the total membership of AASI/PSIA is Level III certified, and only a fraction of the Level III certs work full time in the profession. Many are resting on their laurels while pulling in a steady paycheck in a technical or professional field.

Why? Because they couldn't support themselves, let alone a family, from their career as a pro.

Why do intelligent people continue to pay big bucks for the credential that enables them to join the profession and have the career?

Why do alumni encourage candidates to persist instead of warning them that they will have won a pyrrhic victory?

Why do examiners agonize over their reponsibility to deliver accurate judgments?

Why do we all behave as if certification was a "high stakes test"?

Just wondering...
post #2 of 229
Although, your definition of professional is accurate, I think there are also usages that connote high quality, that I am perfectly willing to accept. I also think that this may have been one of the intentions of the founders--to use a term to separate the top instructors, and those associated with schools from the "friends teaching friends" groups. Also, professional doesn't always mean that you can make a good living from it. I think in the early days of the organization, one of the intents was just to state that these people get paid for it, as opposed to those who don't. There was never any indication of how much. How much is a market issue and always has been in every job. (Which doesn't mean that people ever get paid enough!)

It is interesting to me that several of our pros have very lucrative jobs in the real world that probably take up 8 months of their work life and produce about 90% of their income. When you ask them what they do, they will tell you that they are ski instructors.

I'm proud of these people--because they're proud of what they do. That's a form of professionalism. I don't think the AASI name has anything to do with it, and the AASI people have the same pride. (Their name came about in a different era.)

The answer to all your questions is that all these people care about skiing and each other. How cool is that?

(and you know all this nb!)
post #3 of 229
Interesting remarks to put forth, Nolo. Being an English major, I pulled out my Webster's to look up the word "professional".

Several definitions, but here goes:

"1 a: of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession b: engaged in one of the learned proessions: c: (My favorite) Characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession. 2 a: paraticipating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs."

Seems to me that the "P" in "PSIA" certainly fits into these definitions. By the way, there's nothing about insurance, benefits, salary, or what the value of that "professional" is in any of that mentioned.

So, what does it mean to me? Why did I pursue this Level 3, with all of its time and cost when it means a whole wopping $1 an hour raise next season? Let's see, why did I complete my CFP (Certified Financial Planner) when I do not make a living with this? Why did I pursue a Masters in Humanities, when my resume does not include teaching? My real estate license? Why DOES my resume include sitting on boards of Children's Charities (no pay), chairing the Shakespeare Festival, tutoring children in Spanish?

Why do I choose historically poorly paid positions like "flight attendant" and "Ski instructor"? Because, although they do not pay me a highly sustainable income, I LOVE WHAT I DO! And, I am DAMN proud to wear my shiny gold pin and my shiny gold wings and I smile when people ask me what I do. Because they are envious that I live a life I love and love the life I live. That about says it all.
post #4 of 229
Bravo,VSG... ....Ott
post #5 of 229
Thread Starter 
It sounds to me like your hearts arrived at a conclusion and then enlisted your minds to provide the rationalization.

Take the emotion away and what do you have?
post #6 of 229
Take the emotion away from skiing, and what do you have?
post #7 of 229
Oh - a couple of more things.

QUESTION: Why do intelligent people continue to pay big bucks for the credential that enables them to join the profession and have the career?

I think we ALL know the answer to this question. Because we love what we do, and, with any "profession", there is a price that must be paid to hold that certificate. For some, it is an R.N., M.D., J.D., C.F.P., Title 9, Title 7, shoot - to sell bad life insurance you need a license.

Why do alumni encourage candidates to persist instead of warning them that they will have won a pyrrhic victory?

First of all, I certainly do not consider it a pyrric victory. Excessive losses? Certainly not. I think about what I have GAINED from studying/practicing for my Level III's. My turns are, well, Wow! My knowledge of the sport and my own skiing have exponentially improved. I am a much better instructor. And, I have gained new friends, strengthened old ones, gained respect from peers and those whom I admire. Yeah, I spent $180 on the exam, another $90 on a clinic or two, and a handful of days of lost wages. I could, equally, condemn you for Phyrrhonism!

Why do examiners agonize over their reponsibility to deliver accurate judgments?

Damn, I'm GLAD they agonize! They want to be fair, and let's face it, skiing is arbitrary to judge - kind of like ice skating, eh? It is in the eye of the beholder, not judged by some exact science. Thank you to my examiners who agonize!

Why do we all behave as if certification was a "high stakes test"?

I don't think any of us believe it to be a high stakes test. God knows, no one in my group did! We took it as a BENCHMARK of our skiing, nothing more, nothing less. We were highly supportive of each other, and, in our group, of those who didn't pass a certain segment, each one knew that they didn't meet the criteria, and went away with a better knowledge of where they were, and knew how to come in next time better prepared. Hardly high stakes.

OK, I'm climbing off my soapbox now.
post #8 of 229
Take the emotion away you have physics and biomechanics on a pair of long pieces of manmade material. Yuck. I think I'd rather stay home and read a book.
post #9 of 229
By the way, loved the subject - a nice messy can of worms, eh? Would love to meet/ski with you sometime - I admire women with brains who can turn a pair of skis!
post #10 of 229
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by VailSkiGal:
I admire women with brains who can turn a pair of skis!<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

So that's what I've been doing wrong. I always thought it was foot pressure, not brains!
Actually, most people say my brains are in my arse, so maybe if I sat on my skis I could turn them with my brains! [img]smile.gif[/img]

post #11 of 229
Hey, Fox,

Actually, it's a happy combination of pressure control, tipping (edging) and that rotary movement also known as steering, twisting, or as I prefer to say, turning those boards!

And, I have no doubt, but you'd look pretty silly sitting on them, and your feet would probably serve as rudders and you'd face plant it. Though that would be fun to see! [img]tongue.gif[/img]
post #12 of 229
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by VailSkiGal:
you'd look pretty silly sitting on them,<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

VSG, I look pretty silly anyway, after that it's all a matter of position.

post #13 of 229
Thread Starter 
As I said, VSG, take away the emotion and what do you have? At the foundation of this coversation, I would say you have a question, plain and simple. A question is not a position. I think a question is an invitation to join together in looking at something that I at least find interesting.

I find your comments to be insightful and your point of view truly inspiring to an old frog in the well like myself.

Let's for a moment remove your point of view from you personally, and just call it a point of view. One of many, perhaps, that may exist regarding the issue of the P in PSIA.

In any case, a question shouldn't contain a point of view, or it wouldn't be a sincere "quest." It would be leading to a foregone conclusion.

I see no point in asking questions as a way of persuading people of the rightness of my foregone conclusion. I am honestly seeking a clear view of the thing that my question raised. I try not to believe in anything, to "hold positions," as beliefs represent a conclusion, and conclusions are just what they sound like--"the end." The end of the quest for the clearest view, the end of observation.

My interest in asking the question is sincere. I have not made up my mind about it, after many years of calling myself a ski instructor, though, like you, I have done and do many different things worthy of mention.

You have shared your conclusions with us very eloquently. Passion and certainty are powerful tools of persuasion. I have learned something from Weems, as always.

I am hearing you say that emotion is what drives this profession. Am I correct?

I hear Oboe say that emotion is the sine qua non of snow sports.

Does emotion also drive the parties to which our profession as a whole is dependent, such as resort operators, manufacturers, lenders, and the like?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 13, 2002 10:24 AM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #14 of 229

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as the case may be) I am a human who oftentimes lets emotion get in the way. For me, a question is oftentimes a reflection of my point of you, sometimes not. Without the question, and, certainly, without the emotion, there would be no forum here. The questions make it interesting, the points of view, often laden with emotion, give the conversations spark and passion.

I understand your question about the "P" in professional. For many years, as a ski instructor, I scoffed at those who considered this a career or a profession, somehow believing that salary and prestige equated directly to that word, profession.

However, adding the passion and the emotion has, undoubtedly, changed my opinion on this. I am privileged woman, being in such a situation where I can afford to live this life, teach as I desire, and still have pretty darn nice house over my head. The reasons for that are irrelevant.

My respect for this profession, however, have grown immensely over the past couple of years, and, like all "professions," our is filled with professionals, and many who are not. Not unlike, I would say, the medical field, technology field, academic field, etc. etc. Just because you carry a couple of extra letters behind your name, or in our case, a silly little gold pin, it may signify nothing... or everything.
post #15 of 229
Nolo, do you know of a profession that doesn't require some emotion? I can't think of any professionals who don't want their efforts to be successful in terms of service results. Some, of course, also earn a lot more than others financially from their success, but they all practice their profession partly to gain an internal reward.
post #16 of 229
Nolo, I carry the badges in the attached photo in my skiing wallet and no one sees them unless I show them or when I pay a check. And that is because I am retired and not actively teaching.

The reason I show them to you is that they signify that someone else besides myself says that I'm qualified to teach skiing.

In the olden day, probably before your time, ski instructors who qualified got the rectangular badge proclaiming that they were CERTIFIED ski instructors (full, there was also an associate status and those were round badges and they said so), but certified meant certified.

Those predate PSIA and were issued by the United States Ski Association, an association which presided over all AMATEUR races and instruction, local to olympic, and any hint of "PROFESSIONAL" would imidiatly disqualify that person from all activity associated with the USSA.

When Willy Schaeffler and his cohorts decided to start the PSIA with the word 'Professional" to differentiate it from the USSA's 'Amateur', we voted on it and fully half of the instructors wanted to stay with USSA, mainly as they were also racing in USSA sanctioned races and after joining PSIA could no longer do so.

Several years after the formation of PSIA it had no certification power until USSA relinquished it in the early 60s.

Now if I had my drathers, instructors and their badges would refer only to CERTIFIED, which means now Level-3, and we would go back to Associate and Registered status for Level-2 and Level-1.

And I don't mean Associate >Certified< or Registered >Certified< either. Then everyone would know who is really CERTIFIED and who is in training. And the name of the certifying entity wouldn't matter.

That's my take on it... ....Ott

The PSIA badge is an old one, the "C" with a blue background is Full certified and with a red background is Associate.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 13, 2002 01:15 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Ott Gangl ]</font>
post #17 of 229
All of us who chooses any profession involving improving the quality of people's lives have to deal with this question.

It sometimes seems that financial renumeration is in inverse proportion to how much joy we can potentially bring to people.

A heart surgeon once commented to me that while I improve a persons quality of life, and perhaps prolong longevity, he merely prolongs their death.

And earns infintely more than I do in doing so.

So what's the payout? Look at Todd's thread about the "end of season horror". A day of office work has worse physical repurcussions than a day of skiing moguls.

But it almost seems that whatever non monetary benefits someone recieves for choosing a quality of life enhancing profession, are deducted from the salary threefold.

Sadly, I'm not sure what the solution is. In order for there to be a change, the values of our society need to change.

Given a million dollars, most Americans would buy a bigger house, car or TV set to watch the NFL.

I doubt they'd buy a season of ski lessons, and a year round personal trainer to get them in shape for the season!

VSG, did you teach at Whistler?
post #18 of 229
Thread Starter 
Did I imply or did you infer? I do not see where I said overtly or covertly that emotion is a bad thing. Emotion is emotion. It is the color in a black and white life. I am just wondering if our emotional attachment to the job (and all its insignia and titular honoraria) enables our employers to make a strictly rational decision to use our emotional attachments to pay us less and gain a higher return for the owners, shareholders, and other financial interests?

You folks sure like to jump to statements...
post #19 of 229
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by nolobolono:
Does emotion also drive the parties to which our profession as a whole is dependent, such as resort operators, manufacturers, lenders, and the like?<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Obviously not, nolo. They are driven by money only. And yes, they do take advantage of your emotional attachment to your profession. This is in much the same way that our society takes advantage of the emotional attachment that folks who work as teachers, social workers, public defenders, etc. have to their professions.

Even in my profession (I'm an MD), there are obvious financial trade-offs between those of us that are motivated by our emotions (i.e. our care for and commitment to our patients) and those who are motivated only by their own financial gain. Likewise, there are also situations in which the emotion-driven are taken advantage of. But I can tell you that I have never met a member of the latter group that seems truly happy to me. I bet the same is true in your business.

So to respond to one of your questions, I think that people pursue higher level certifications because they enjoy their work and take pride in the skill with which they perform it. It truly stinks that there is not appropriate compensation in return, particularly given the money poured into lessons by your students. I hope that one day this is no longer the case.

For the time being, though, I think we are all stuck with having to make decisions between our emotional motivations and financial realities. If you can figure out a way to afford to do what you love, go for it. If not, there are tough decisions to be made...
post #20 of 229
Warning! Unpopular opinion!

Perhaps its management's perception that many ski pros are in this profession for their own selfish reasons, and not to help others learn the sport.

This forum probably has some of the top ski pros in the industry, yet in the past, we have heard instructors advise anyone who has less than a totally fearless approach to skiing to take up golf!

And for some, the ideal ski school would have students that are already incredibly fit, with good movement skills, and an excellent command of the English language!
Not exactly a guest centered fantasy!

Its a sad thing! But if management knows that the "pros" motivation is primarily self centered, the impetus to pay higher wages may not be there.
post #21 of 229
Thread Starter 
Well said, BobY.

<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>I think that people pursue higher level certifications because they enjoy their work and take pride in the skill with which they perform it.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

I think many people in this industry are in it for emotional reasons--resort operators, manufacturers, even association managers. I think everyone who works in the industry envies the instructors and guides the benefits of their job. I think many guests envy us our jobs.

Could it even be that this envy contributes to the low financial rewards? "Why should I pay a lot of money to someone who gets to play?"
post #22 of 229
When I was in law enforcement we had three levels of certification issued by the state in which I worked.

I had a degree from Duke University, however, I longed to achieve the "Advanced" law enforcement certification. My degree has long ago been packed away. Police officers at the department where I worked were either patrolman, patrolman first class, or Master Officer. Becoming an M.P.O. took a minimum of six years on the street. Each designation had differing insignia for a uniform sleeve. Every two years you could sew on a new "hash mark" on long sleeved shirts or outerwear.

I wanted that Advanced law enforcement certification for the den wall, the Master Officer rank, and a sleeve full of yellow hash marks like all the wise old grey haired patrolmen. The rookies all looked up to the patrolmen with twenty years or so in a radio car. They were the guys who could answer a call down a busy interstate at 120 mph with the emergency equipment running, calmly transmit on the radio, balance a cup of coffee on the dashboard, and polish off a sandwich. It was just another call, on just another rain slick highway, on three hours sleep, after a fight with your wife, with a screaming hangover that only an alchoholic can fathom.

It's the same deal at line-up. It's the folks with the gold pin on their jacket.

Enjoy that gold VSG. It's not about the dollar raise. You should be very proud of what you have done.
post #23 of 229
Thread Starter 

Very interesting angle, to suggest that there are many instructors in the profession for selfish reasons. This doesn't square with what I am reading as the consensus of this thread: that instruction is a labor of love and our profession is driven by emotional attachment--to the job, the students, the sport, the school, etc.

I for one would be interested in hearing examples of what "management perceives" as the selfish reasons people have for working as instructors?

Your criticism of "top pros" for lacking guest sensitivity is taken entirely out of context and is pejorative. Sounds to me like the "top pros" surfaced one of your "pet peeves."

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 13, 2002 06:56 PM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #24 of 229
Nice challenge, Nolo. This has been a cool discussion.

It's made us all think about the money/love of work polarity. And obviously we're all doing a lot of soul searching on this.

I don't have a lot to do with how much our company pays our staff--from lifties to pros. But I do know that it is driven by exactly the same forces that labor costs are driven by in all companies in all industries.

I believe that the notion that the ski area companies take advantage of the emotional connection of the pro is a little far fetched. There are simpler, less conspiratorial, market driven forces at work. Most companies want happy employees and also have to make a profit. The owners, whether they be public or private, need to see performance. Everybody is trying to figure out the balance between price and pay in order to have lots of customers and happy employees to serve them. And NOBODY is very damn good at it--at figuring that balance out--especially in a down time for the industry.

1. Ott is right: professional was used to distinguish from amateur.
2. If you don't love it, you gotta get out our supplement it. That's reality. Nobody will ever be able to pay me enough to compensate for what I've put in to it. But that's all right. It's been worth it.

You can't buy this "skiing family". You all know this from the great cross section we've got here at the Bear.

I wonder, letting the imagination wander, if we did have the money we deserve, whether we would then as a group end up not deserving the money we earn. Maybe we would change too much. (I've seen some of our greedier pros do that--lose the essence.)
post #25 of 229
(A) This is one of the all-time great threads on this site.
(B) nolobolono is a PSIA examiner who also is highly qualified for two other lines of work: (1) College professor, and (2) CIA interrogator - oh shit, why stop at two - and lawyer and politician and psychologist and philosopher - and she's a real mother, and I mean that in the most complmentary way. I mean that her daughter [the one whose picture she posted and asked us to believe it was SHE] has one HELL of a guru for a parent. nolo, you are one deep, intelligent woman. Bless you.
post #26 of 229
I think Your Highness is really Helen Reddy.
"I am woman, hear me roar".

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 14, 2002 06:56 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #27 of 229
This is one discussion which is way out of your realm of understanding!

As far as your post-

You are boring- hear me snore! ZZZZZ
post #28 of 229
Thread Starter 
I guess the old adage is true: Every village needs an idiot.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 14, 2002 05:52 PM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #29 of 229
I've been sitting back most of the evening, reflecting upon the posts input to your question.

WOW! The passion which exudes from them is unbelievable! The level of which confirms my own feelings. I'll try to sum them up.

When I first became an instructor, it was for my own purposes. I wanted to ski. I wanted to ski alot! Becoming an instructor offered that, and the possibility of making a few bucks.
But something happened along the way. Oh yes- I still wanted to ski, to make a few bucks, but something began to grow inside me as I learned the craft. CARING! (Emotion#1) An empathy for students. I really cared if they were having a good time, and were achieving their goals.
This, along with some prodding from my mentors, encouraged me to continue studying, learning from those with much more experience than I. The better I became, the more my students enjoyed it. I became more than enthusiastic!(Emotion #2)

As success built upon success, I received some measure of self-satisfaction (Emotion#3) and the resulting pay increased with that success. This cycle has continued now for a very long time.

At some undetermined point, I began to view myself as a professional. Not because of things I'd learned, not because of time in service, and certainly not because of a paycheck. It was because of the committment I had made to the sport.

In the case of our organization, I don't believe we can isolate a specific definition of 'professional'. I do get paid to perform my craft, while continually striving for even higher degrees of comprehension and performance.

But if we were to remove the emotional ties we have to teaching, would we still have the same level of committment; could we still make the connection with our students which we deem so critically important("no one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care")? I don't believe so!

So, asking a "professional" ski instructor not to be emotional to some extent about his/her teaching is to remove the very soul of what teaching is about! I may not have the background of a classroom teacher, but I do recall that the teachers I got the most from were the ones who had the soul, who had made a committment to their task.

Have various parties(including PSIA) taken advantage of my soul over the years? Sure! But that has only happened when I allowed them to. There is always going to be some trade off when a lifestyle is connected to a commercial venture.

Is the definition of "professional" so vague or amibiguous, that we can't apply it to ourselves, but we identify it immediately when one of us acts "unprofessionally"?

Ok- I rambled on long enough. :

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 14, 2002 06:21 AM: Message edited 1 time, by vail snopro ]</font>
post #30 of 229
nolo asks: Could it even be that this envy [of instructors] contributes to the low financial rewards? "Why should I pay a lot of money to someone who gets to play?"

Let's face it nolo, you do get to play in your jobs. In addition, the supply side of the economical equation is substantial. There are loads of instructors who are ready to work for next to nothing just to have a job. Too bad the demand side is not there.

In the end, the financial picture around your industry has to follow the same rules like any other industry. Supply and demand will dictate the financial situation.

But to answer your original questions with some measure of positive content, you need passion and emotion. And VSG has done that with great effectiveness.
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