The BASI level 3 or ISIA qualification is a bit of a different beast from its predecessors. This is the point at which everything starts to change, the BASI 1 & 2 are great qualifications but they can be done as part of a gap year or just for the experience. The BASI level 3 or ISIA however can not. This is the point where you have to commit to make a decision that this is what you want to do as career, people are still around you to support you but the responsibility to book exams, ski outside of training, sourcing accommodation and so forth all now lies with you.
So what do you need to be thinking about before coming into your BASI level 3 or ISIA. Well first up lets face facts; by now you know that going all the way through the BASI system is not cheap and the ISIA is no exception. It is no longer enough just to have one set of skis, all of a sudden you need at least two pairs, one for performance training and one for touring. As well as touring skis you need touring bindings, a transceiver, shovel, probe and in an ideal world touring boots. We have a blog coming up soon on making sure you buy the right kit for the off piste exams but for now lets focus on the ISIA or BASI level 3 qualification as a whole.
With the journey to becoming fully qualified being such an expensive one it is worth spending every penny wisely and where you base yourself can have a massive impact on this. Basing yourself in a smaller resort may save you money on lift passes and accommodation but are you going to be able to train there? What about exams do they run there?
We always advise our ISIA students to try and base themselves somewhere that as many exams as possible run. For example Verbier, Val D’Isere, Morzine and Courchevel all host BASI level 3 ISIA tech, teach and mountain safety exams as well as opportunities to sit your 2nd discipline. Each week that you are required to travel away from your home resort can cost you up to £1000 by the time you have paid for the course, travel, accommodation and lift passes etc. If you do that for 2,3 or even 4 exams that is a huge amount of money. All the resorts that host these exams will also normally have at least 1 training provider running courses for that level. Whether you plan on doing a training programme or not this is important. If you want to do adhoc weeks of training here and there or just want some one to ski with at least you know there is stuff going on.
So once you have decided where to base yourself you need to find some where to live. Staying any where in the Alps is pricey but some resorts to cost less than others. Resorts like Val and Verbier are renowned for being expensive to live in and you can be looking at around £3000 a season for a shared room. One of the slight issues with these resorts like Val is that there is no where down the mountain that is a real option, you are sort of in Val or in Bourg(45 minute drive)! I also want to be quick to add though that Val will always be home. These are just things for you to consider when making your choices. Resorts like Courchevel are no less expensive if you decide that you want to live up in 1850 however in some of the smaller villages like Le Praz or La Tania which are still linked to the lift system there are much more affordable options. This is where the majority of our 3 valley students live. Or if you are happy to have a 10 minute drive each morning you could even consider Bozel. Another advantage of living in these smaller villages. The nearest proper supermarket is 10 minutes away not 40!
Once you are settled on where you will be staying you need to start thinking about lift passes and so on. Do not rush into buying your pass straight away (unless there is an awesome early bird offer). Resorts like the 3 Valleys and Espace Killy do offer bulk buying options so you may be able to team up with your peers and all save some money in resort. Similarly you may decide that you want to work and a common perk of this is to receive a free or subsidised lift.
If you do want to work this should also not be a problem even if you are on a BASI level 3 training programme. Jobs like transfer driving and cleaning pay well and are primarily weekend work so fit well with exams and training.
Next time we will look at selecting a BASI level 3 training provider, booking exams and those final few pitfalls and in the rest of the series will look at what is involved in each exam. For now though get researching and work out your options.