How to become a ski instructor: Understanding the ISIA Tech exam

The blue line is a familiar site for any one who has sat a ski instructor exam.

The horrible blue line!

If you got through your BASI Level 2 exams without too many problems then the BASI level 3 tech is a significant but not insurmountable next step.

There is a logic behind it owing to its positioning and this in fact, can tell us some important things about the exam.

  1. The BASI Level 3 offers the ISIA stamp which in many countries is only awarded at the highest level of qualification. It may well be where the qualification path stops for many skiers. This means that the L3 tech must demand a clear and accomplished level of skiing itself. The candidates are examined in 5 key areas; Central Theme, Piste Short, Piste Medium, Bumps and Variable/Steeps. The ISIA stamp is given to a ski instructor that looks accomplished in all these areas. Quirky skiing showing imprecision and too many mistakes will not be looked upon kindly.
  2. It is an intermediate but a very important step between the BASI Level 2 and the BASI Level 4. The BASI Level 4 is light years away from the BASI Level 2 in terms of technical skiing and it is for this very reason that the BASI Level 3 or ISIA is perhaps the most important of the technical exams. If done correctly, the Level 3 maintains a very respectable level of technical competence but seeds the foundations for future success at the Level 4. How? The basic premise is that you will be asked to do very similar tasks to the level 4 and you will be expected to get similarly accurate outcomes. The main difference is that the environment will be easier. As an example, the bumps will be easier but you are expected to be able to ski them in a way that is accurate, demonstrative and shows the critical things that you will talk about to your clients when tackling bumps.

So what changes from the BASI Level 2?

The ability to pilot the skis and steer them will be tested to higher levels through the strands of the bumps, variables and steeps but the other big difference will be that the piste strands demand more advanced use of the ski design. Putting the ski on a clean edge is one thing but how much edge, when do you put the ski on the edge and which joints do you use at which point in the turn become more important to create an accurate and consistent outcome. Carving is a given; the way you move to load and use the sidecut becomes of utmost importance.

Tom and James watching some drills during the BASI Level 3 ISIA Training Course

If I were to offer some advice to people considering this exam I would say lots of things, but here are two!

Go discover skiing! Find some time in the season to ski different models of ski for different purposes. For instance, a slalom ski and an off piste ski. I think at this stage people typically learn a lot from experiencing the rigidity of a race ski and the flexibility and flotation of a fat ski. The diverse spectrum of skis nowadays give you sensations that are so different from one another that you learn a lot from these different feelings. Conversely, if you ski always on a middle of the road ski for the exam, you may struggle to discover the feelings that help you understand what you need to do in the powder or on the piste. Of course, you will have a principal ski that you will train on, but take some time – a few good mornings – to see what equipment at the far ends of the scale can give you.

The other thing I would strongly advise is to attend a training course prior to taking the exam. I have taken a number of these exams over the past few years and it is quite clear to see that some people come prepared and know exactly what to expect. For these candidates they can just continue to do what they do with a few little tweaks. Others arrive and have a much larger task on their hands as they have to settle into the group, learn how to meet the criteria which is already 2 days of the course gone. That leaves two days to reach the level. Forewarned is definitely forearmed.

To describe what to do to pass cannot be done in an article. You need slopes, snow, images, practice, videos, feedback and a trainer who can interpret the criteria and tell you how best to meet them. However, maybe this gives you a little overview of what the BASI level 3 ISIA tech is about and that may help you see the wood for the trees.

Written by Dave Morris – Podium Coach, BASI Trainer, New Generation 1650 RM

Tom one of our ISIA coaches going through a drill with the team on the Courchevel BASI Level 3 Training