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Professional Ski Instructors Association

Interview with Ray Allard, President and Chairman of the Board of the PSIA


Professional Ski Instructors Association
Professional Ski Instructors Association
When it comes to teaching skiing, The Professional Ski Instructors Association (PSIA) is the most recognized and respected organization in the skiing community. Begun in 1961, today more than half of all paid ski instructors in America belong to the PSIA. Members are easily recognized, not only by their PSIA pin, but also by their dedication to the art of teaching skiers and inspiring a life-long passion for the mountain experience.

PSIA members are involved in the instruction of a variety of skiing disciplines, including alpine, nordic, and adaptive instruction. The level of members competency and teaching skill are enhanced by the organizations commitment to standards and continuing education.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ray Allard, Past President and Chairman of the Board, of the Professional Ski Instructors Association to talk about teaching skiing and about the future of the organization.

Ray and I touched on a range of topics from the teaching standards in Europe and here in the U.S., the number of PSIA instructors currently teaching and the number of young people coming into the organization.

Interview with Ray Allard

Ray, when I mentioned that, in France, I found the standard requirements of the Ski School lessons for children rigidly applied and documented, you made an excellent observation regarding the French government involement in the industry. Can you elaborate on the standards as they apply to kids in America being taught in PSIA classes?

Well, snowsports instruction in France, and other European countries, is heavily subsidized and regulated by the national governments; and those countries are small in comparison to us. The government does not play a similar role in the U.S. PSIA/AASI (Professional Ski Instructors of America and American Association of Snowboard Instructors) produces the primary educational materials that everyone uses, and the nine divisions of our association conduct the educational and certification events, thus creating an American standard. But we are a non-profit organization, and all instructors are not required to be members (though most use our information).

Most areas (there are nearly 500) add their own "spin" to their offerings, and there are 50 somewhat different sets of state regulations involving programs for children. That said, with 65+% of American snowsports instruction being directed toward children, application of the very latest in science and learning theories, and huge investments in children's learning centers, I would say that the American snowsports industry is offering world-class products for our kids.

In Europe most of the instructors work full-time, is that the same here in the U.S for PSIA instructors?

Overall, no, though that varies from division to division. For instance the percentage of full timers in the East, South, Central, or Northwest U.S. is only around 15%, whereas the percentages are nearly opposite in the Rocky Mountain and Far Western resorts. This has a lot to do with small day trip areas vs. large destination resorts.

How does the certification levels of PSIA instructors relate to the abillty levels of the classes they teach?

Basically, Level I instructors have demonstrated the ability to instruct learning levels 1-3 (beginners through basic christies); Level II instructors have done the same for levels 4-6 (up to beginning parallel): and Level III instructors have shown their ability to teach up through level 9 (essentially anything on any terrain).

That's not to say that an instructor might not be qualified to teach above the certification level they hold, and many Level III instructors teach beginners because they are so good at it and they can inspire people to return.

Do instructors have to spend a certain amount of time in each classification level before advancing?

Yes, there are certain requirements involving time between levels and number of hours taught, although very few move through the ranks as quickly as they theoretically could. Most will achieve Level I after a season or two, and those who are committed can usually reach Level II a couple years or more after that. Level III is more difficult, especially for a part-timer, and only a small percentage (15%+/-) ever achieve it.

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