I was one of the first to pass the new format two years ago. I wrote an article for SnowPro and posted it here two years ago.
I searched the archives and couldn't find it, so here is the article again. Enjoy.
Article for SnowPro – PSIA-E
Level III Certified, Waterville Valley, NH
The Journey Back to Level III
It was a cold, wet, icy week in 1971 when I became certified by the relatively new Eastern Division of PSIA. With few manuals and only a few years experience teaching I decided to take the exam. At that time there was only one exam. No Levels I, II, or III. You were either “certified” or you weren’t. It was brutal and only about a third passed, somehow I was one of them.
I taught for eight more years, moving from a small mountain in suburban Boston, Blue Hills, to a major mountain in New Hampshire, Waterville Valley. I had a ball. But, by 1979 my then wife and I decided to have children. The thrill of having kids and wanting to be with them and ski with them made me decide to leave teaching and just ski. Thinking I’d never return to teaching I “retired” from it. I didn’t pay any more dues, nor did I ever attend another event.
That all changed a few years ago when my kids were all grown up and off on their own. Deciding I didn’t want to ski alone any more I decided to take the plunge back into teaching. It’s a decision I didn’t take lightly and one that I now know was the right thing to do.
I could have taken a “reinstatement” event and gotten my Level II back in a relatively short time. But, I decided that since I’d been away so long I should go through the whole process again. About the only thing I remembered from so long ago was “rotary, pressure, and edging”.
I passed the Level I exam the first year back, the Level II exam the following year, and then set my sights on Level III. That gold pin that I had worked so hard when I was 19 became my Holy Grail.
I decided that this year would be the year I went for it. I signed up for the Level III Skiing exam at Hunter in January. Arriving at Hunter on the Sunday afternoon before the exam was a scary experience. A warm spell and hard freeze had hit the region and the winds were blowing 50 mph at the top. There was scarcely any snow left on the mountain. It was bulletproof, rock hard snow. And, my 50-year old knees were aching just looking at the conditions.
Skiing with three examiners over the two-day period, the event was as tough physically as it was mentally. You would think that the Skiing portion of the exam would be the easier of the two, but it wasn’t. You’ve got to be on all day long. You can never let down. You need to pay attention to the details of what the examiner wants then execute in just the right way.
But, somehow I skied well enough to pass. I was thrilled, excited, and proud of myself. No time to rest, on to the Level III Teaching exam!
With a bit of bravado I had simultaneously applied both for the Level III Skiing exam at Hunter in January and the Level III Teaching exam at Stowe, a mere three weeks later. So, now, the pressure was on. I had been studying my progressions and books like Bob Barnes’s “Encyclopedia of Skiing” and Ellen Post Foster’s “Skiing and the Art of Carving”, but now I was committed to the exam in three weeks and I had better really start studying.
One kink in the process was that at the skiing exam I found out that for both Level II and Level III, there was a new process for the teaching exam. Rather than three days with three examiners and looking at videotaped skiers, I now had to prepare for the new four-module exam process. Each module had four parts for a total of sixteen scores. You need ten to pass the exam.
Here’s a quick look at the four modules and how I fared:
On the Job – Area and Industry Awareness – This is an entirely new concept in the exam. You need to think back into your experience and come up with a situation that was either very challenging or very rewarding. You’re then interviewed about it on the lift by the examiner then you give a 15-minute teaching segment on the topic. The idea is that you demonstrate sensitivity towards your clients, you understand your resort’s place in the ski industry, and you know how to teach your way around the situation.
My situation involved a Level 8 class I had where six of the seven students wanted to spend the whole time in the bumps and one wanted to ski no bumps. And, when I suggested she move back to a Level 7, or even Level 6 class where the group would do very few bumps I got a very stern “but I am NOT a Level 6 or 7 skier.” Knowing how to diffuse a potential customer relations disaster is a good thing for us to know.
This is one of the two segments that no one should fail. Why? Because, you can prepare for it. You need to think about this very hard and be very prepared. Anyone who’s been teaching for several years should have a lot of stories that would fit.
Creative Teaching – This is the second module that no one should fail, and for the same reason. You can prepare for it. I found this the most fun module. It’s all about “the power of the transfer,” and how to teach a lesson using analogies and metaphors. I had given this a lot of thought and did a lesson on “creating angles.” Metaphorically speaking I started the group on bar stools and finished with them leaning against a lamppost and concentrating on their zippers, parka zippers, that is! Use Guided Discovery and Problem Solving I was able to coax out of them the best body position for creating angles.
Teaching Movements and Skills – Going into the exam I had thought this module was going to be the easiest. It wasn’t. We chose a topic out of a hat and had to teach a 15-minute segment on it. The topics ranged from fairly straight forward, “explore how pressure variation affects skiing in the bumps” to the fairly esoteric, “explore pole swing variations in medium to long range turns.” This was hard and thankfully we had a great group. We brainstormed with each other on the lift and when we could to feed each other ideas. It worked well.
The last module is Movement Analysis – I think this is the toughest module and gratefully it was the last of the four. In this module you watch your group ski and standing next to the examiner you give a running commentary on what you like and don’t like about each person’s skiing. You’ve got maybe ten seconds to comment on each person. A thorough knowledge of mechanics and especially cause and effect are essential to passing this module. The fact that this was the last of the modules and we each had a chance to watch each other ski for two days was a big help. It’s still very hard, though. You may know that Joe has a tendency to use too much rotary, which results in an abstem, you may not be able to remember it in the heat of the moment.
In the end I passed. I got 15 out of a possible 16 and six ratings of “Strong.” I was happy that I had prepared well, happier that I had performed well, but happier still that it was over. It had been almost 31-yrs to the day after I passed the first time that I got the gold pin back. I’ll keep paying my dues and attending events until the day I day. I don’t want to go through that again!
Before I close, I’d like to share a little bit of what I learned in going through this two step exam process in 22 days. It may not work for you, but it worked for me.
Prepare – For the teaching exam know your stuff cold. Be able to teach your stuff in your sleep. Take a lot of notes. When you do a clinic at your home mountain write it down. Have sit-down sessions with experienced instructors and ask them “what are your favorite exercises for Z-turners.” You won’t be the only one on the lift going through your notes. This counts for the skiing exam too. Practice all those moves that your trainers tell you will be there, one footed skiing, moguls, lane changes, etc.
Be a Team – You’ll be put in a group of seven. Don’t forget you are a team. The more teamwork you do, the higher the pass rate. Feed off each other. Ask each other questions. “So, what kind of things are you working on in your skiing” is a good question to get you ready for the Movement Analysis module.
Be Creative – The more you use different teaching styles the better you will be. Learn the difference between Guided Discovery and Problem Solving. Use techniques other than call down or pair skiing. Use lots of metaphors and analogies. Even if it’s not the Creative Teaching module use them. You’ll make yourself a better teacher and give better lessons, whether it’s in an exam or at your home mountain.
And lastly, don’t be afraid. It can be scary and challenging to put yourself on the line. Putting yourself out there and risking failure is tough. But go for it! Someone much wiser than me once said “boats are safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boats are for”.
[ March 01, 2004, 01:33 PM: Message edited by: WVSkier ]