How to become a Ski Instructor: passing BASI level 1

Today marks the end of the BASI level 1 ski instructor exams for our 2014/15 instructor courses. If you’re looking to become a ski instructor this is the first of four stages and it’s looking good for our trainees so far. Over in Verbier we are happy to say we have again achieved a 100% pass rate at BASI 1 and here in the 3 Valleys we are eagerly awaiting the results.

If you’re thinking about becoming a ski instructor, and wondering what the level 1 exam entails and what do you have to do to get it then read on…..

The BASI level 1 qualification is comprised of 4 modules, all of which have to be completed before BASI will award you with your license and you are able to teach.

The 4 modules are:

  • BASI Level 1 exam (5 days)
  • Safeguarding Children module
  • First Aid course (2 days)
  • 35 hours ski school experience

The above modules are all included in a BASI 1 and 2 residential programme and you will be trained and taken through each in order.

The first hurdle in ski instructor training is the BASI 1 exam so what should you be expecting and how good do you need to be to start?

Practising teaching in Verbier

The BASI level 1 Exam

Before you think about sitting your level 1 exam make sure you are realistic about your current ability and seek expert advice if you are unsure. We run free open days in the UK where you can come and ski with us and get advice on your current ability and the most suitable path for you if you are unsure.

Prior to the course you should already be able to ski parallel confidently coping with a variety of snow conditions and terrain variations. On red runs you should be able to make short rhythmical turns at a consistent speed for an extended duration. While on greens and blues you should be able to make parallel turns carving at least 2 thirds of the turn. Students can sit the BASI 1 exam from the age of 16 but will not be awarded a license until they turn 18.

The exam itself is assessed under 4 main criteria although these are all broken down and assessed simultaneously so you may not notice.

The first area the BASI trainer will be looking at is your technical skiing. It goes without saying that if you want to become a ski instructor you need to be good at skiing. The BASI trainer will want to see you:

  • Accurately demonstrate all phases of the central theme, showing a clear distinction between each phase and displaying effective posture and balance.
  • Perform round parallel turns on a blue or easy red, using a variety of corridor widths at a constant speed, again displaying effective posture and balance.
  • Carve cleanly at least the last 2 thirds of your turns on a green or easy blue slope as with the above you have to show effective posture and balance.

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During your BASI level 1 exam you will also be asked to deliver mock teaching sessions. These sessions are scenarios set up by your trainer that you deliver to your peers. You will be assessed on your:

  • Understanding of the central theme
  • Understanding of performance beyond the central theme and how the fundamental elements link to piste performance and on into the 5 strands.
  • Ability to identify and evaluate major faults in all parts of the central theme and provide effective solutions for the learner
  • Understanding of major faults and effective solutions in piste performance
  • Understanding of how people learn as well as the TIED model, skill acquisition and different teaching styles.

As well as assessing your technical understanding of the content you are delivering, the BASI trainers will be evaluating the method that you use to deliver the sessions.

It is important to make sure that your sessions end with a clear sense of achievement for the learner and that while you have been teaching your entire group has been active regardless of any splits in ability or students that needed more time.

Ensure that you are clear and concise when communicating with the group. Yes they have paid to listen to what you have to say but they also really want to ski. You also need to be aware that you can not approach each client the same way, you may need to take a different approach with different people.

While delivering feedback try and do it in the most supportive way possible, and ensure it is related to the task you set. During the course you will learn that there are various types of feedback and it does not always need to be provided by you. Understanding the TIED model and how it creates a feedback loop is key so make sure you read your manual!


You will be asked in your evening sessions to create a lesson plan that flows from introduction of an activity through to conclusion. This is a really important part of the course but remember to teach what you see. Do not rush on to the next activity you have planned if people are not performing the current one correctly or there are glaring errors. Remember a key part of the exam is the “Ability to identify and evaluate major faults in all parts of the central theme and provide effective solutions for the learner”. Moving on to the next activity if things are going wrong in the current one may make the trainer suspect you are not sure what you are looking for.

While all of this is going on the BASI trainer will have their eye out for one more thing. One of, if not the, most important aspects of being a ski instructor is managing the safety of your students. The trainer will be looking at the terrain you decide to run each activity on, how you manage your group as well as many other things including your knowledge of dangers that are specific to mountain environments.

And it all seemed so simple at a glance!

What happens if you fail?

Failing is never fun but BASI have two levels of how un-fun it can be. If you fail both the Teaching and Technical part of the exam then you are required to resit the whole 5 day course.

However if you only fail one part, either the Teaching or Technical aspect of the course, then you are just required to do a 1 day resit and life is a bit happier.

For more information about where you can work with your BASI 1 and the courses that can get you there check out our ski instructors’ insiders guide.