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How do you know if a ski teacher's any good?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I've been pondering this since I returned from Zermatt a couple of weeks ago.

I was planning on taking a weeks lessons with the Swiss Ski School as I normally do for a couple of weeks a year. I'm a good skier, but there's always stuff to learn and bad habits to shake off and I really enjoy group ski classes and have never had a bad experience with the Swiss Ski School.

Unfortunately they were not giving group lessons that week (despite being the only resort in Switzerland with any snow - one of the by products of Swiss efficiency is that having decided to do something on a certain date they stick to their plan whatever!). So I decided to take three sessions of private tuition for me and my two mates which would cost about the same as a week worth of group lessons.

Based on things I'd heard on here and in the Ski press, I went to Stoked, the independent ski school in Zermatt, and they were able to fix me up with an English teacher who we'll call Nick (not his real name). I remember thinking as I parted company with my £300 that there aren't that many situations in which you spend that much on a service, knowing very little about the person you've invested in; but I guess you rely on the quality and reputation of the outfit.

Nick wasn't a bad skier and he was a bit better than me, but as we chatted on the lifts it became apparent that he had only been skiing for four years, oh and one of those years he was on blades and one of those years he broke his back so he didn't ski that much, so actually he'd probably been skiing for just over 2 seasons and this was his second season in Zermatt. Why he told me this goodness knows, I think I'd be a little less forthcoming in his position.

He did have BASI 3 and I know that you don't have to be a brilliant skier to be a good teacher, but he also lacked the experience you pick up from having taught people, knowing what works well and what doesn't and consequently we felt as if he threw all his little technique tricks and tips at us in a fairly indiscriminate way to the extent that we bailed out of the third session, blaming an injury to one of my mates, but knowing that we'd got all we were going to get from him. There is something that you get from having spent years skiing that gives you a refined understanding of the learning process and this guy just didn’t have that..

The ski school refunded our money for the final session without any problem.

My question is, should I have asked more questions when I booked? I took it for granted that I'd get an experienced teacher. What do others do in this situation?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Steve Sparks, I would say if you have had a good teacher you find yourself doing runs you would never dream of doing before hand and not giving them a second thought or looking at a run and feeling you have the confidence to do it.
I found myself doing exactly that.
I dont think it matters how long your instructor has been skiing himself as long as he takes you to your next level with confidence Little Angel
If he hadnt told you this info would it have made any difference to what you thought about him? Puzzled
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Steve,
I've just got back from Wengen. I'm a cautious intermediate skiier, and enjoy most red runs. 4 of us, roughly the same standard decided to have a private lesson to gain more confidence and get out of some bad habits. we booked with the Privat ski instructors at wengen and had two hours with Sarah. She was great and took great care in assessing how we skiied and what each of us needed. After two hours we were all more confident and the various faults we had, although not completeely eradicated for ever, had been recognised and put right. The result was that for the three days we had left we were enjoying our skiing so much and were braving steeper slopes than we had attempted before. Sarash went at our speed, found out our agenda, and really helped all of us.

Well worth the expense which was not great. CH140 for 4 four of us- less than 18pounds each per hour! Little Angel
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Brian, I'm very impressed. 2 hours isn't long with 4 people and it sounds as if Sarah really made the rest of your trip.

I'm wondering if we were too specific about what we wanted from our guy. We really needed a tuning clinic. We spend more time off than on piste. Conditions in Zermatt meant that we were restricted to piste work, where really we were looking for little tweaks, me to shake of my "A Frame", Natasha to lose her Austrian style -legs never more than 6 inches apart and Annie to get those pole plants more dynamic.

It may be that we set him too demanding a task, but I also wonder if someone who had spent 15 years or so skiing - like most Alpine 25 year olds, may have been in a better position to provide what we were after. Certainly it's going to make me more circumspect about non alpine native teachers in the future - not rejecting them out of hand but asking a few more questions.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Steve Sparks,

At your level of ability & for that money I'd certainly want an internationally qualified instructor, ie ISIA, which would be a BASI 1 or equivalent.

I've booked for two 3 hour performance clinics (their level 6) with New Generation next week in Courchevel at a cost of £100 & the first thing that I ensured was that I'd have an instructor of that standing. I also asked for details re the format/content & the no. of years of experience & time spent in resort that the instructor had.

To their credit, New Gen were extremely forthcoming with the info & commented that they were pleased that I'd asked.
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I think there is a pretty large performance gap between a BASI 3 and a BASI 1. I would be disappointed if I'd used an independent school which was trying to build a reputation for quality and had been allocated a BASI 3 instructor, and I don't think that you set too demanding a task. Glad to hear that Stoked refunded part of your money.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Steve Sparks, Back in the 90s Zermatt had an awfull reputation for Ski School. My only bad ski lesson was in Zermatt (1990). More recently I had heard things had improved. But maybe not? Any other reports?
A ski instructor is a gamble. You take them on trust. How do you know they are any good? Well, they will make you feel good. Some are quite chatty and that helps (but not essential), but they will make you relax in your skiing, you will enjoy your skiing, you will discover things about your skiing, and you will start doing things you never managed before. You will know.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
A good instructor can teach an intermediate a lot in just a couple of hours private tuition, unfortunately there is no way for the normal visitor to a resort to know who is a good instructor and who isn't, I've seen very young instructors who were superb and old ones who were only adaquate so age is no guide, also some instructors do the follow me technique whilst others do the instruct then watch technique, in a private lesson it may be that the follow me technique actually works very well but with a group the instruct then watch technique is generally better, I'd be seriously worried however is having booked a private lesson I only got as BASSI 3 instructor which if I recall is almost their lowest qualification of instructor.
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Thanks Guys, a real clear pointer for the future for me when taking private lerssons is if they're BASI qualified ask what level and insist on level 3. Also, I like Spyderjohn's suggestion of asking about the format and content of the session. If they can't give a clear idea that should ring alarm bells.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
Steve Sparks, no, they count down, so BASI 1 is the best and 3 is the first rung on the ladder!
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Steve Sparks, actually if it's a private lesson then the content of the lesson is up to you, though the format will depend on the instructor, a good instructor will find out what your current standard is very quickly then they will be able to either help improve your general standard of skiing or concentrate on particular skills e.g deep powder technique, or steep and icy technique (obviously dependant on suitable conditions being available)
ski holidays     
 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Not all impressed with getting a BASI 3 for private lessons. Of course you could have asked pertinent questions but didn't the ski school ask what you hoped to achieve..?? Why did they assign this guy..??

I have heard about Zermatt ski schools being poor.

I hired an off-piste guide called Rudi from Zermatt who was excellent. Took us everywhere.
It is the norm to expect the instructor has been skiing for eons and this guy was an education in all-round mountain craft.

I would have asked for my money back.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Good advice all through this thread!
To go back to our Pivat instructor. She asked each of the 4 of us what we wanted to acheive, then skiied down red slope 100 metres, and watched each of us come down. Did the same thing a few times till we reached the levelish bit at the bottom of the steep red from Manlichen. She then coached each of us down to the next steep and repeated the process. all the time she was coaching and advising. Brilliant. With me it was mostly 'Weight more downhill and better weight transfer at turns'

Spyderjohn: you are right, we should all be more assertive when booking, but some of us find it difficult if we regard ourselves as mediocre skiiers. But we are the paying customers and the result of just accepting what is given results in more mediocrity Sad
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Firstly I want to say that I don't want to offend any BASI 3s out there, and I do know several BASI 3s who are fantastic teachers, but can't ski well enough to get beyond that level.

However, I am apalled that a BASI 3 was given to good skiers for a private lesson. BASI 3 is an extremely basic qualification and theoretically should not teach above basic parallel. Also the experience of this guy was clearly suspect. ISIA is equivalent to BASI 2 + a bit but not (if you're thinking of the States etc.) of a BASI 1. The Swiss and the Austrians have Village, REgional and National qualifications roughly equivalent to BASI 3,2 & 1. ISIA status is awarded at Regional level. BASI 3 used to be called "Assistant Ski Instructor", they've dropped the "Assistant" in the name but the meaning is the same.

Brian T, clearly got the "real thing" she sounds great (actually she sounds like me!)

Steve Sparks, I'm very sorry you had such a dodgy experience (and the price seems steep to me), but better luck next time.

This is actually a good example of the strengths of the French system being so hot on "equivalence", as this could not have happened here.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Brian T, was she a fairly slight woman with brown hair ? If so I think I know who you mean, unfortunately I'm dreadful with names Embarassed
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
easiski,

Yep, the bottom line is for £300:00 he has to be loads better than me. And all my guides have been able to teach me something.
I have never had one that has not been an inspiration and deserve respect especially UIAGM. And I have picked all these up from the local tourist office This may seem lucky but I would expect it to be a 'given'.
ski holidays     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I agree with what easiski (Charlotte) has to say. The gap between BASI 1 and BASI 3 is huge and you'll find that it's the gifted skiers and those who work extremely hard in training that actually make it to BASI 1 level. Many ski schools are now training up instructors which is great, but they should beware of matching BASI 3 instructors to experienced groups of skiers. BASI 3 is extremely basic in ski teaching terms. We only employ BASI 1 instructors so we guarantee that you ski with one of the highest qualified instructors in the world. You're paying good money afterall. (Hello to Charlotte - hope things are well with you over there!)
snow conditions     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
spyderjon, I took a NewGen performance clinic last year (also level 6, funnily enough) and found it to be very good. To be honest, I still prefer individual, private lessons, but the clinic was very good value for money (especially the first day). I did a writeup somewhere in this section last year...
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Mel@EurekaSKI, Hi Mel, good to see you posting away too!! Have you got anymore than us - we're all open but getting very rocky. Let me know if it's worth popping over for a ski (if I ever get a day off that is!) snowHead
snow conditions     
 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Being a relative newcomer to skiing (8 weeks), I guess I've had the "easy" route - that is, learning on skis that turn themselves.

The seminal moment for me was during a lesson from an ESF instructor when he suggested doing something he called "Autumn Leaves". Basically it required the unbuckling of my boots with skis traversing the slope, transferring weight or standing up on the inside ski and "feeling" the movement in my feet as the skis came round to initiate a turn.

That "feeling" has stayed with me and with regular lessons since, the only movement to initiate a turn is by ankle flex now - as far as piste skiing goes at any rate. Anyone else exerienced the "autumn leaves" "method"?

Welcome to snowHeads Mel@EurekaSKI, BTW (and Happy New Year).
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Mark Hunter, not heard it called that but it's a nice exercise to do. The effectiveness varies person to person with these exercises, what works for one person may not for the next. One of the consistent aims of those exercise is to do exactly what you say, to develop that feeling for the way the skis working and have that feeling of "rightness" stay with you.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Mark Hunter, Mr HH was given a similar sort of exercise in Tignes a few years ago...all aimed at stopping him sitting back on the tails of his skis and using brute force to turn the skis instead of weight transfer! It worked very well for him too....
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Mark Hunter,

Good practice for when you come out the KK...or anywhere half way up the hill..and because you are too drunk to tie your shoes laces together, certainly can't be bothered with boot buckles to ski down the 4 o'clock run in the dark...!!!
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
DGO - Sorry for the delay, I've been away. Yes, she was slightly built with brown hair. We have booked her again for our return in February
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Hi All, and Mark and Charlotte. Finally got Broadband in the village! What a revelation!!! Actually I am sitting in an internet cafe in Grenoble at the mo. Off to UK for two days for a birthday bash. Charlotte - snow in Monetier is okay, particularly in the mornings (pisted). We could definitely do with more snow but probably because we were getting used to the massive amounts we've had the last two years! We've put the new skis back in the garage for the time being! If you do come over, please look us up; resort mobile number is on our website. Would be great to all go for a ski together. Mark - you not even going to get a weekend in this year? Hope to see you at some point! Mel
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
Mel@EurekaSKI, you temptress! I'd love to get there, even for a long weekend. It's not too much of a sell to Annie (wife) as she loves it there too. Will watch the snow and see what happens - will drop you a line if we can organise something.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I'd like to stick up for BASI 3s! Don't assume that because an instructor is in the early stages of their career this does not make them any less able. In my experience a new instructor who has recently trained is likely to be more 'up' on high end ski techniques (as he has recently been taught them himself) than a more qualified instructor who may have spent 90% of the past 20 years teaching beginners. he may not be the best skier in the world but if he is any good he should be able to spot in you faults he may have only recently ironed out of his own skiing.

Of course BASI 3 is a basic qualification, but it certainly qualifies that person to teach I'd say at least 90% of holiday skiers. I believe it is down to the ski school to ask the right questions of their clients to assign the right instructor. Obviously if you are pretty much of an instructor standard yourself then you want someone who trains skiers at that level regularly and you should make that clear. But I don't believe there is anything wrong with a BASI 3 giving private lessons to beginner to advanced (and by advanced I mean someone who can get down a black run but with little style) levels - just not experts. It does vary for each different instructor - their employer should know their strengths and weaknesses.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
beanie1 wrote:
and by advanced I mean someone who can get down a black run but with little style)


you mean "british holiday skiier advanced"? "getting down" a black run doesn't mean you're advanced. Skiing a black run on the fall line with style and grace means youre'a advanced.

I'm definitely not advance, before anyone asks, firmly intermediate at best!
ski holidays     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I'm not going to get into a discussion about the definition of advanced - I was purely qualifying what I called advanced to make clear the level of skiing to which I was refering. Yes I did mean 'British holiday skier advanced'. Someone who may have been skiing a couple of weeks per year for 10 to 20 years or more. I would call someone who can ski down a run of any level of difficulty with grace, style and appropriate technique an expert.
ski holidays     
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
nbt,

You could start a whole new thread here, I'm always confused at the so called levels.

I prefer to relate to S&R's ratings, makes a bit more sense of what a certain level is supposed to be able to do, I think.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Do you mean Snow and Rock?

http://www.snowandrock.com/shop/activity/ski/equipment/skis/ability/

I agree to a certain extent but I would add an intermediate catergory for levels 4 to 6.
ski holidays     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
S & R ratings may mean something to people based in the UK who go to that shop, but they're not very helpful for those of us (including most ski teachers) who are based in Europe. rolling eyes
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
beanie1,

That's fair!

I just looked this up and relate to a 9, wouldn't call myself an expert though.
Anyway, whats in a name?
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easiski, I haven't a clue what they mean, Slush and Rubble don't come this far North. Anyway I don't relate to any of them in particular. Depends on the snow for a start. Nasty ice, i'd probably be a 2!!!!
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
The fact that 'Nick' was "only" qualified to BASI 3 is actually irrelevent. What *is* relevent is the amount of teaching experience he'd had at the clients' level, which clearly was very little. A more qualfied instructor (whether ISIA or not) could equally have done very little teaching at that level. However, doing it is the only way of getting that experience!

I think the ski school did the right thing in refunding the unused day: it's their job to match clients to the correct instructor and in this they failed. Maybe if the problem had been explained earlier they'd have been able to change to a more experience instructor.

Declaration: I'm a BASI3 myself. This level allows me to do what I do, and I have no need or desire to gain a 2 or 1 - especially given the high cost of the courses and the time they take. I've been teaching for almost 8 years at ski club level (i.e. keen skiers who want to improve, and budding racers) on both plastic and snow, and so gained a lot of experience of this level of skier. But I'd probably be cr*p as teaching beginners as it's so long since I've done it!

PS BASI 3/2/1 hasn't been called that for years. It's now Ski Instructor, Ski Teacher, and National Ski Teacher.
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Most people still refer to them as 3/2/1 though, and it's less confusing.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
What a fascinating thread! Like RobW I am also BASI 3 qualified - unlike RobW I qualified last year while taking a career break on a "gap" course. As somebody in their mid-30's who has spent 10+ years working/managing others/presenting etc I expect I could pass myself off as an "experienced" instructor to many recreational skiers, but to be honest it would horrify me to be given an advanced group of experienced skiers as described by Steve Sparks. At The BASI 3 level we are only licensed and taught to instruct up to a basic parallel level, as mentioned by easiski. Having said that, I agree with beanie1 - a good number of recreational skiers from the UK would not be a million miles from that level, though I would qualify that statement by saying that those people are not likely to be posting on this site and showing a genuine interest/passion for the sport!

In some cases (in Europe) there may be a trade off between language ability and skiing ability, which will only really manifest itself with higher level skiers. That is where being knowlegable on the subject and doing a little homework will really pay off. If you can get a recommendation from a friend or a site like this it is invaluable. At the end of the day no two instructors will ever be the same whatever their qualifications and abilities.

Finally, a small point of information for those not familiar with the regulations - BASI 3's are not permitted to work in France under any circumstances. Therefore if you book with a BASI instructor there he/she will be at least a BASI 2 and in many cases will have passed their speed test/equivalance (though some may be classed as a "stagaire" (sorry about the spelling!) which means that they can teach for 2 years while training for their speed test/equivalance).

In Switzerland you can work as a BASI 3, hence many with that qualification choose to work there in order to acquire the 200 hours of teaching experience needed to progress to the BASI 2 level. By definition, if you have a BASI qualified instructor in Switzerland there is a much greater chance that they will be BASI 3 - not a problem if you are a beginner or low to middle intermediate, not so good if you want to be taken all over the mountain/off piste etc.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
To quote: "How do you know if a ski teacher's any good?"

You don't, unless you try 'em. Atho you can minimise your risk of getting a bad one by basically doing your research:

1) decide in your own mind exactly what you want the instruction to achieve
2) read Snowheads comments about their previous instructors/schools
3) post a request for recomendations
4) contact the resort tourism office for recs (possibly unreliable, but they might give you a good steer and at least a list of ski schools operating in that resort)
5) go to the ski-school's website for info - a badly constructed or non-existent website is a good indication of the rest of the ski school's organisation and competence

Then:
Chose the school/instructor that looks best on paper
Hand over wads of cash
Receive instruction
Immediately whinge madly to ski school head office if you think you're not progressing due to your instructor's lack of teaching skill
Post report on Snowheads

Then both you and we will have an answer to your question! snowHead snowHead snowHead
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