The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA) and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) are organizations that create skiing/riding techniques and teaching methods based on those techniques, they also certify instructors in their approach. With PSIA/AASI certification, instructors may earn a bit more money and teach higher level lessons at some resorts. The organization was founded on the idea that it would be better to have one American approach to instruction, rather than a variety options for customers to choose. This was following the European model, but there is marketplace of options between European countries which are close together.
If you decide to pursue PSIA certification, understand that the approach we use is different. Focus on becoming very good at our approach, and then at some point if you want to get PSIA certified, various clinics are available.
Keep clear the differences in the programs so you can pass your PSIA exam; you will have to be good at both and not confuse them.
PSIA has had a focus on active movements with the new inside ski to start turns such as releasing the edge and steering it with a gradual weight transfer. This subtle sequence of movements is hard for new skiers to make especially children, but PSIA believes it is the foundation for offensive skiing.
It is taught to skiers from a traverse, so the focus is on the top part of a turn first. The skier's
momentum is moving across a gentle slope and has to be directed down the hill with very little gravity to help redirect it. If students can make the moves, they feel a relatively slow response, because momentum is directed more across the slope rather than down the hill.
Our approach has skiers go straight downhill in a wedge with some speed to build momentum and reduce friction. They either turn their feet or flex one ankle to make the bottom part of a very slight turn. Momentum and gravity are working in a similar direction to first load the ski in the bottom half of a turn, and then to quickly and automatically move the skier into the start of the next turn upon release. Right from the start, this teaches skiers to move over the forces of the turn and to control their speed with a minimal amount of turning. So they learn to reduce speed confident that they can move with their momentum, rather than feeling the security of redirecting it for control. This is the key to good skiing. A good finish makes a good start; go with the flow!
Our approach requires the proper choice of terrain for any given conditions. It helps to prevent rotation and banking at the start of a turn which occurs when making turns so far across the hill that there is little downhill momentum to start the next turn. The response to movements with our approach is quicker so the association between the action and response is stronger.
This difference in approach is maintained in more advanced skiing. We continue to focus on maintaining momentum through the turn using progressive ankle flex and angulation (flex and tip.) Just turning the feet can even produce ankle flex and angulation when using the front of the ski. However, PSIA has stayed focused on releasing the downhill ski, then steering or edging it to start the turn with a gradual transfer of weight.
The PSIA approach was supposed to create offensive movements in contrast to early weight transfer which was seen as a defensive move away from the turn. But this was not taking into account the role that momentum plays when linking turns if skiers are not moving back and inside, or the direction a skier can project their body. After a few years of involvement with USSA, PSIA is now reintroducing active weight transfer to outside ski as part of their new "five fundamentals of skiing." This shift in thinking reverses what PSIA instructors strongly believe, so there is some resistance which could increase depending on how this change impacts the PSIA approach to teaching beginners.
Trends impact the PSIA approach and the exercises they use. When they shifted away from weight transfer, a key exercise became pivot slips. Long and very detailed list were created in some divisions to describe the maneuver which included things like the skis must be totally parallel with little vertical movement. This is to demonstrate the moves thought to be necessary for offensive skiing, such as release of the downhill edge, simultaneous steering, and a gradual weight transfer. It also makes sure that moves PSIA has seen as defensive, dead end, and out of date are not present like: early weight transfer, extension, and any convergence.
Our approach uses the uphill christie as a key exercise for more advanced skiers to develop continuous movement with progressive ankle flexing and tipping. We use the pivot slips to show that the weight is over the center of the skis so the momentum can maintain a straight path.
Timeless not tends
Our approach does not rely on technical trends. Skiing is not intuitive so it requires clear and consistent goals to develop and maintain Ski Moves, especially for infrequent recreational skiers. If the goals are regularly changing it will make it harder to improve. Consistent simple fundamentals are important because they are not easy to develop or execute well in a variety of situations.
Early weight transfer is a timeless Ski Move. We work on up and down moves to develop timing and rhythm and have skiers link smooth, skidded turns. Like early weight transfer, PSIA sees these as out of date and dead end moves that will not produce the carved turns with retraction they focus on making.
We provide a very specific plan on how to apply the fundamental Ski Moves and what the timing should be, it is like a receipe or detailed building plan. PSIA is worried that being specific would create a return to "final forms" that they worked so hard to change with a vague skills approach, but this is like providing building materials and no building plan. It also is an inneffective approach to managing a large staff of instructors who only teach a few years, specific expectations and training create success.
PSIA participates in the international instructor conference called Interski which is held every four years since 1951. The focus of Interski is on technical differences between nations and their teaching progressions. The organizations work hard on preparing their newest techniques, even though many acknowledge that there is little difference in technique now. It is hard to change long standing traditions and established culture.
PSIA's approach was seen as a change from the final forms of the European schools, favoring more freedom from the rigid progressions. Their skills approach was seen as a way to encompass a wider variety of skiing and teaching, but it is difficult to deal with all that freedom when it is time for certification. Creating certification exams requires a more specifics to test.
The skills approach provides the building materials but not the blueprint of what to do with them. It makes it hard for more than 30,000 instructors to deliver a consistent product without specific plans. But designing tests for certification results in detailed descriptions of maneuvers that end up functioning like final forms. These detailed descriptions conflict with the idea that PSIA does not have strict progressions or "a system" and that "everything fits in the PSIA skills approach."
Interski also tends to focus attention on high end skiing and creating teaching approachs that target those goals. But the majority of students are recreational skiers so the role of valuable elements like skidded turns is reduced. It is hard for a group of dedicated high level PSIA instructors to break from tradition and focus on the needs of less passionate recreational skiers and then develop clear and specific directions for them to succeed.
Studying what skiers at every level of development have in common reveals the endless challenge of replacing their natural moves with counter intuitive Ski Moves. The challenge is so great that it is achieved much more easily with consistent goals and precise feedback.
This is how our approach is different from the tradition of searching for the newest technical trend. It is based on visual data using digital coaching software that was collected over more than 20 years of side by side slow motion comparisons between skiers ranging from young beginners to World Cup athletes. Understanding how people naturally move provides a more effective basis for teaching and technique than trendy technical theories rooted in tradition and marketing demands.
Trying to make technique and progressions fit the latest theory is different from making a theory fit how people actually move. Following trends in technique can end up looking contrived because of a lot of complex details that are hard even for instructors seeking certification to perform let alone new skiers. Examples are PSIA descriptions of wedge christies and pivot slip.
Occam's Razor simplicity is important in science as well as skiing because complexity quickly expands into a Rube Goldberg Machine that is hard for the students to use and it hurts growth. When things are well understood, they can be put in the simplest terms, but people looking for answers can confuse complexity with greater understanding and authority.
Clear consistent specific
Technical trends make instruction more complex and difficult with changing goals that confuse instructors and frustrate students. This is especially true for the large number of infrequent recreational skiers who are not trying to become top skiers. Searching for the latest trend and a lack of specifics also make it hard to create the consistent standards PSIA needs for their goal of creating a national approach. As PSIA tries to simplify instruction, we will see how they deal with these issues while creating even higher levels of training requirements for college credit.
The dedicated and passionate members of PSIA bring great energy to instructing, but the organization has some cultural and structural contradictions to resolve. Despite the PSIA claim that everything fits under their broad flexible approach, it does not work that way at a PSIA exam, so don't use our approach. If you go for a PSIA exam, know and practice their approach.
A PSIA team member (Ballou) explains diverse information from trainers
He explains that only a couple universities study skiing so we do not know much about how to ski, and that is why trainers say so many different things that contradict.
He claims the basics are very broad because they will be different for each person. This makes it very hard to train 30,000 instructors, especially when most are part time, seasonal, employees who work a few season for little pay. Without clear and specific goals, there will be confusion and variation among instructors and the public, especially in a sport that is so counter intuitive.
PSIA has been student centered for 40 years, but they are just now giving instructors training in people skills.
At 18:45 the claim is made that it is easy for instructors to evaluate and teach the technical content because this is settled. Then they say each country has different fundamentals. As stated in the first video, trainers still have a wide variation in what they think and present, because there is not agreement on what to teach, and they have broad principles rather than a specific details which are necessary for simplicity, clarity, and consistency.
Near the end they say that PSIA provides little information on how to teach, they are going to start building that information over the next few years. According to these videos they don't know a lot about what to teach, or how to teach, and are just now starting to train instructors in people skills. This has been a problem in instruction and helps explain the low conversion rate.
The 2018 fall team training event ended early in November and the focus was on getting ready for Interski this winter. Here is a comment from one of the team members "The consistency of our technical message and how it's assessed is too variable and is one of our association’s biggest challenges,” said Helfenbein. “I can promise that in the Intermountain Division a specific focus of ours will be on our scoring practices and how to improve.” Again contradiction the comments in the national academy presentation that there is consistency in technical understanding.