PSIA - CSIA Compare and Contrast the Organizations (Training, Certification, and Teaching)

Discussion in 'Ski School' started by DavidSkis, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. DavidSkis

    DavidSkis Thinking snow Skier

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    Moderator Note: This thread was started as a split off from Instructor might quit because he still sucks at skiing.. The posts from that thread were copied here to contain the PSIA-CSIA discussion.

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    There's a guy in the instructor training program I'm at who attained his level 3 ski after just two seasons. So he doesn't have a ton of miles (probably 200 ski days under his belt), but he did deliberate practice under excellent guidance. This story is a repeat of what I saw 10 years ago at Silver Star, where a first season skier/instructor, who started the season skiing only wedge turns, attained his level 3 ski by the end of the year.

    In contrast I know a multitude of instructors who have been at this for decades and aren't presently contenders for the level 3, despite attending many sessions and trying their best. The success factors I observe in the successful guys that are sometimes absent in the rest are:
    • Consistent time on snow (not just weekends, but also multiple consecutive days)
    • One to three mentors who can assess and teach at a high level (no more than 3)
    • Deliberate practice
    • Moderate or better mind-body connection
    • Sufficient physical fitness to move through a range of motion and balance against forces acting on the ski/skier
    • A strong understanding of advanced skiing concepts
    For me, I've been at this for 12 years now, and am only now getting more consistent turns at the 3 standard--and it still comes and goes. I can put checkmarks against some but not all of the boxes above. I lost a number of years due to inconsistent time on snow (particularly after moving back to Ontario), too many sessions with too many instructors, mediocre fitness, an underdeveloped understanding advanced skiing concepts, and an underdeveloped mind-body connection. Things picked up again once I found a good coach who put me back on track.

    In contrast, Razie got his coach-3 in quite a lot less time. It would be interesting to hear his perspective.

    And Chris Walker, it would be awesome to see a ski-specific study! Great idea :)

    In Canada, the standard for 3 is scored on blue or black terrain (depends on the turn). We've gotten used to seeing such awesome skiing on TV and Youtube (Candide Thovex, Richie Berger, JF Beaulieu, Tanner Hall, Reilly McGlashan, etc) that the bar on "looking good" is incredibly high. Even a level 3 can look pretty unassuming on steep and deep terrain, even though they could teach the typical advanced skier how to ski better. I can understand why snowschool directors don't want 1s and 2s to ski steeps or off-piste in uniform - it's just not a good image when the instructors are making a series of linked recoveries down Couloir Extreme. FWIW the policy where I used to work was that 3s and 4s could ski where they wanted in uniform, although those guys were almost always booked into lessons, so...

    That said, I'd agree that the marketing for advanced and expert skiers is almost non-existent. At the same time, there are far fewer 3 and 4 instructors out there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2018
  2. at_nyc

    at_nyc Getting off the lift Pass Pulled

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    Market or marketing?

    I think everyone realize the market for advanced or beyond lesson is quite small. Would more marketing generate more market?

    Do you think it's a result of less demand? Or just the result of insufficient reward to motivate instructors to do the assessment?
     
  3. LiquidFeet

    LiquidFeet Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Why are there few level 3 and 4 instructors out there? In Canada? Dunno.

    In PSIA East, I'll go with inadequate training. One needs an up-to-date mentor, and one needs hours on snow. Most instructors in the East are part-time. How many small mountains in the east have some level threes who are current on what's being required of new candidates? Many level threes got their level three many years ago, and a lot of small mountains don't have many level threes on staff. There isn't enough time or pay-back for current level threes to freely mentor the part-timers who seek higher certification. These folks are busy teaching because the mountains are short-staffed. How many part-timers who want higher certification can beat the odds of this situation and figure out on their own how to do what the test looks for in their limited free time on the mountain?

    It's different at huge destination resorts, from what I read. But in some areas there aren't many of those, if any.
     
  4. DavidSkis

    DavidSkis Thinking snow Skier

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    TLDR: Our terrain isn't great and it's too far away, and that makes it far more challenging to improve.

    For me, all the factors I mentioned earlier are hard to bring together in Ontario. The nearest OK hill is 1.5h away from Toronto, the largest population centre, though my main coach hates skiing there. The hill where level 3 exams run is 2-2.5h away. And even at that, neither hill has a lot of terrain that helps you discover or consolidate the sensations of good skiing.

    Skiing is a real sensory sport. When you find the "sweet spot" on your ski, turning becomes far less work. When you feel yourself balance on the outside leg at the top of the turn, it gives you the ability to shape the turn. When you allow separation to occur between the upper and lower body, your legs "unwind" into the next turn all on their own. These kinds of outcomes give you physical "feelings" in your body. Once you've locked in a feeling, it becomes your reference point. If the next time you ski, that "feeling" is gone, you can run through your checklist and self-assess and self-correct. E.g. when I'm not feeling good steering or can't easily initiate a short radius, for me, I revisit my separation and my mobility, and 9 times out of 10, I can get that feeling back. But I can only self-correct because I experienced those good feelings in the first place.

    In Ontario, and probably in many parts of the US, our terrain is almost all too easy or too short to easily develop good feelings of high performance skiing. We have one bump run about 300' in length, or a genuinely steep pitch that also flattens out after about 300'. Any intermediate skier can skitter down those two runs and think "wow, I did it!". But a developing skier needs more time to carry the good feelings from easy to hard terrain - and that's tough to do with such a small amount of good terrain.

    Somewhere like Mont-Sainte-Anne, in contrast, has genuinely long stretches of steeps (e.g. Super S) or bumps (la Soumande). These stretches let you either "lock in" a good feeling, or coach you that you don't have the feeling--and allow you to sort things out on that same run. I have (re)discovered more good feelings at Mont-Sainte-Anne in my first 3 days of skiing here (under level 4 coaching) than I did in the multiple months spent back in Ontario.

    So while it's possible to become a level 3 or 4 skiing mostly back home... it's felt like an uphill battle, even with the awesome coaches we have available. Hats off to the folks who can pull it off. Back on topic for the OP, it would definitely help to move closer to awesome skiing! But even if you can't do that, a good multi-week stint in a training program like Rookie Academy would help you get close to your goals (save those pennies).
     
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  5. Monique

    Monique bounceswoosh Skier

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    And just to clarify for anyone following along from home:

    CSIA goes up to level 4; PSIA goes up to level 3. Can anyone speak to whether these two levels are (sort of) equivalent?
     
    Dave Petersen likes this.


  6. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    nope, not even close. Level 4's are skiing gods.

    The closest equivalency is a PSIA Level 3 examiner. That requires going through trainer selection, E-1, and E-2.

    Mike
     
  7. mdf

    mdf back to being an ordinary Gatheree Skier

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    ^^^ that is what I always heard. So next question, how does a CSIA 3 compare to a PSIA 3? Similar?
     
  8. MattFromCanada

    MattFromCanada Professional Something-or-another Skier

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    From what I've heard, it all depends on who you ask, and which division you're comparing to. Also from what I can tell, the PSIA 3 exam places far more of an emphasis on how well you can demonstrate drills, while the CSIA 3 focuses more on your skiing demos.
     
  9. oldschoolskier

    oldschoolskier Out on the slopes Skier

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    IMHO the bar for level 1 and 2 (CSIA) is set to low, yes you may be able to demonstrate skills, but a lot that I have met can’t ski well enough or have all the skill sets.

    That said, the higher level instructors generally are way better. Night and day difference better.

    Sad part is most new and intermediate skiers are taught by 1 and 2’s, which in the case of intermediates some ski better than the instructors.

    Sorry don’t have answer for the fix, but I suspect it’s based on how little instructors get paid.
     
  10. Kneale Brownson

    Kneale Brownson Out on the slopes Instructor

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    Level 4 CSIA ARE the examiners.
     
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  11. DavidSkis

    DavidSkis Thinking snow Skier

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    CSIA level 3s may also be course conductors after passing the required training and completing the examiner tasks. They're limited to conducting level 1 courses.
     
  12. markojp

    markojp mtn rep for the gear on my feet Industry Insider Instructor

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    Wow, this thread has gotten interesting again! David, thanks for the great contributions! First off, I'm an often and self-professed fan of CSIA. I've gotten a lot from their online information and videos. I'd love to run up to Whistler and do a 2-3 day clinic to experience things first hand. I've said many times that half my PSIA dues should go north. ogsmile

    Relative ability of L3 in both associations... that's a tough one as it's inconsistent within our organization (PSIA). IMHO, the best L3 in PSIA are between CSIA L3 and 4. I think preparing for and passing CSIA L4 is certainly an attainable goal for this group. That said, there are all too many PSIA L3 who are no longer current and couldn't pass their L3 exam if they were required to take it again. This doesn't included those very special instructors who have great eyes and communication skills, are conceptually 'current', but no longer have the physical skills because of age or injury. What David said about 'where' is very important, both in terms of terrain, and the culture of the local ski school. The latter can't be underestimated. I have no first hand experience in the East, but from exam prep videos I've seen, it would appear that there's a lack of time and opportunity to work on skiing skills.

    A quick question for CSIA members... Is there a mechanism for helping or requiring your members to continue skiing and teaching to individual level standards?
     
  13. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Yep. Still, the CSIA Level 4's I've skied with ski better than some of the E-3's I've skied with in PSIA-RM.

    Mike
     
  14. Mike King

    Mike King AKA Habacomike Instructor

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    Not CSIA, but RM has started a "certification update" course that must be taken every 4 years by Level 2 and 3 instructors. Here's the blurb about it:

    This two-day clinic is reqquired to be taken once every four years as part of Level 2 and 3 alpine certified member's continuing education. The educational content covered through the certification process is constantly evolving and is representative of guest needs, member school needs, and the direction of the national organization. This clinic evolves with the certification process and is designed to accomplish our membership’s goal of being current in their understanding and practice as a certified professional. The clinic content is updated and redesigned each year to provide you with the most updated and current information on teaching methodology, technical understanding, and personal skiing to help you perform at the top of your game for your guests.​

    Participants will be exposed to new ideas and information, receive skiing feedback based on their certification level, and have opportunities to share questions and ideas about the state of snowsports instruction and the industry.​
     
  15. Kneale Brownson

    Kneale Brownson Out on the slopes Instructor

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    When PSIA first created the LI, the evaluating could be done by LIIIs. The next year or two, it became an event requiring an examiner.
     
  16. wutangclan

    wutangclan Getting on the lift Skier

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    Yes and no ... there’s the periodic “recall”, i.e. you must attend update clinics every couple of years. But these are not pass/fail; you just attend them and you’re good. Frankly, as a result, every Canadian resort has a handful older instructors who are rather out-of-date in both their skiing and their teaching.
     
  17. T-Square

    T-Square Terry Moderator Instructor

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    We have the same thing with PSIA. People with certifications that don’t keep up with current standards. We are required to take continuing education clinics. I tend to take those clinics that are technically oriented. But then too, I’m a technical nut. There are many good clinics offered.

    It is the same with all professions. There are individuals that don’t keep up. As a licensed Professional Engineer I was required to take 30 hours of continuing education credits every 2 years. You can get credit for attending lectures. It doesn’t mean you are keeping up with the latest ideas in your field but at least you are getting exposed to some.
     
  18. James

    James Making fresh tracks Instructor

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    Examiners in the East this year had to go to an evaluation clinc to get their skiing passed. I think that's the first in quite some time. Probably this century. Such things are expensive as everyone is paid. The figure I heard was $16 or 26k, can't remember, but a significant amount.
     
  19. Goose

    Goose Getting off the lift Skier

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    Im not sure where this fits in but fwiw (not just in skiing but a lot of things) I don't feel one has to be real good at something in order to teach it. That said, skiing is a bit different because its done together out on the slopes. Though technically it can also be done in the classroom. And with video and also student video. I think of golf. An instructor (to the misguided logic of many) doesn't have to be better than his/her student in order to teach the student. But only hast to better understand it all and be able to see the faults or lack of skill areas of the student. Professionals in just about anything have instructors teaching them too and if you really think about that,..... the athlete(professional student) is better at actually doing it than his/her own instructor is. You never hear them say "well, why am I listening to you when your not better than me"

    As for being more in tune with the topic,.......there is one thing that seems to collectively risen throughout the posts and that is resources (or lack of). The most dominant ones being availability of time and terrain and possibly money. For an instructor to advance he/she then imo becomes the student. And just like any student he/she needs those resources to then be taught and also practice what they are taught. Assuming the resource of time is the same, more advancement (or I should just say more avenues to advancement) imo can be taught, learned, and practiced, at say Killington vs camelback and more of that can be done at whistler vs Killington. More conditions, more terrain, more people involved. And just over all more avenues more readily available more often to be able advance. Its sort of a catch-22 as well because the more available avenues and resources anything has the more it produces while less produces less. The former cycles upwards while the later has very little if any movement.

    Being stuck (so to say) one imo has to question what the goal is. If the desire and satisfaction is the teaching itself then so be it and so just teach what you can to who you can help. If that is not enough (and I can certainly understand that) then its more about advancing and teaching higher levels. Then imo you become the student and need to seek the avenues available and like any student one needs the resources (some of which mentioned above) to even begin to do that in the first place.

    In many ways (as a recreational skier) I find frustration being stuck to mostly Pocono resorts where as anything else needs to be a more planned and more costly trip requiring resources of time and money. What can I do? With the exception of moving my life elsewhere Im stuck where I am as for skiing. Are some of those same frustrations that of instructors for some of the same reasons? I don't truly know that answer cause im not nor ever was an instructor but are some the things I mention above that work against advanced learning over all the same for an instructor as it is for a recreational skier?
     
  20. hrstrat57

    hrstrat57 Skis guitars Mustangs Skier

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    Brilliant stuff here. Golf student are often light years better than their coaches. Heck my players were often better than me when I coached youth sports.

    Never quite understood the mega egos of ski instructors despite being amongst them for many years!
     

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