There are competent and incompetent practitioners of just about every profession and occupation. Unfortunately, ski instruction is not an exception there.
Newton--you are right that one of the biggest problems in the profession, although hardly unique to PSIA, is that there are few requirements for keeping the certification pin once you achieve it. PSIA requires a minimum of one update clinic every two years, but there is no official re-verification of the skills. It is up to the instructor to remain current, although some ski schools are more demanding of their instructors' continuing education than others.
In the Rocky Mountain Division (PSIA-RM), as in most divisions, we constantly strive to improve our education and certification process. We have completely revamped the Level 3/Full Certification exam for the upcoming season, and we introduced a brand new, more education-based program for Level 1 last season. We are also in the process of revisiting the "re-currency" issue. Believe me, while an out-of-date instructor is a travesty for students, it is his/her fellow instructors who really see red and the profession itself that suffers the damaged reputation.
Above Level 3, in our Trainer Accredited, Divisional Clinic Leader (now called "ITC Examiner," because they lead our Instructor Training Course Level 1 Certification program), and Examiner levels, we have resolved the re-currency issue pretty well. In addition to our annual Fall Training sessions, we have incorporated a trainer's portfolio of continuing education, event audits, participant feedback and peer evaluation, and a skiing skills re-verification program that repeats on a two-year cycle. It is not easy! Nor has the program been universally welcomed. While most have found it motivating, it has prompted a few to retire from the Education Staff since its inception a few years back. Harsh, perhaps, but it is what we have needed.
There is no doubt that the state of ski instruction as a whole, world-wide, has suffered a loss of consistency and a deservedly tarnished reputation. Many ski school directors have been replaced by marketing department heads and suits who understand only the direct short-term financial contribution of the ski school to the shareholders. While cash cow ski schools running hundreds and thousands of unsuspecting students through mediocre beginner programs can be quite lucrative on that bottom line, they do incalculable damage to those students' enjoyment of the sport, and to the industry as a whole in the long run.
PSIA, CSIA, and other national ski instruction educating and certifying bodies have little control over all this. We can set certification standards and develop and offer educational programs, but we cannot control who goes through the programs, or how they actually behave at their jobs. It is the individual resort and ski school that sets hiring, training, and behavior standards. PSIA can train instructors to the highest levels, but we cannot prevent resorts from putting poorly trained, poorly motivated, poorly paid, incompetent instructors in uniform. We can offer unmatched education, but we can't force anyone to take advantage of it!
Ultimately, it is up to the students to demand competent instruction. If you refuse to pay for their product, resorts will have no choice but to improve it. Some ski schools still really do what they can to provide a quality product, with in-house training, selective hiring, and demanding high standards. Even these, of course, can fail to deliver at times--even the best instructors can have bad days. But unless the student complains about bad lessons, there is little incentive for any resort to maintain a higher standard.
We've discussed this many times in the past at EpicSki, but I'll repeat: ski lessons with top instructors can be the best time you'll ever have on snow, time and money well-spent. Every ski school has a few great ones, even if they also hire a lot of duds. Ask for a Full-Certified instructor and tell them you refuse to pay if they can't provide one. That won't guarantee a great lesson, but it will substantially improve your odds. With luck, you'll strike gold. But if the lesson--any lesson, no matter what the instructor's credentials--is anything less than stellar, return to the ski school desk and complain to a supervisor. They hate to hear complaints, and will try to minimize their re-occurance. And they hate to see unhappy customers, and most will go to great lengths to see that you get a superior lesson with one of their best instructors, after refunding your money.
By doing this, you may not help the resort's bottom line that day. But you will do lots of people a favor, including your fellow students, dedicated ski professionals, and ultimately the resort itself. And you'll get a great lesson!
I apologize for helping this thread drift into a tangent.