BASI – ENSA Exchange
28-31 January 2019
Ecole Nationale de Ski et d’Alpinisme – Chamonix
By Lynn Mill
At the end of January 2019, ENSA invited a delegation from BASI to visit their headqaurters in Chamonix and take part in an information and skills exchange. BASI Chairman, James Lister, led the BASI mission team that included: Roy Henderson, BASI’s Training Manager together with Lynn Mill and Jas Bruce, BASI trainers and NET members.
Introduction to ENSA
On Monday evening we arrived at ENSA tower in Chamonix where we were welcomed by Nicolas Sauvage, the Training Director of the skiing department at ENSA, Hervé Josseron, General Director of the Mountain Sports National School and ENSA trainers; Emmauel Marchand-Arvier and Alexandre Levet. The purpose of the week was to exchange information and promote engagement and the sharing of ideas with the French. The ENSA team had previously hosted Belgium, Austria, Italy and Denmark and now it was our opportunity to collaborate.
The ENSA building is the permanent training centre for all training and assessment courses that pave the way to the French Diplome. It is 10 000m2 building comprising accommodation for 130 students, a canteen to keep everyone fed and a climbing wall, gymnasium, amphi-theatre, workshop, a sports medicine and a mountaineering equipment test lab! We were shown our accommodation within the building, issued with a fistful of food tickets and so our 3-day experience of life inside ENSA began.
The Birth of French Alpine Ski Technique
On Tuesday morning we went skiing in Les Houches where Manu and Alex talked us through the history of the French teaching system starting with its creation in 1937. Back then, their ski technique used a lot of rotational force to turn the skis. It looked like coiling up like a spring pre-turn, before evolving to include vertical movements. The formal establishment of ENSA happened in 1945 but the real turning point in technique occurred in 1956 when the French National Team pushed for modernity and wanted to promote opposition (independence) between upper and lower body. This ‘virage parallelle de base’ (base turn) featured many elements we see in modern-day ski technique but was very counter-rotated and had lots of leg flexion.
Into the 1980s and the French progression saw the creation of ‘le virage performance’ which simply looks a bit like step turns. The transfer of weight between each foot became an important element of skiing a this time.
With the arrival of parabolic skis (carvers) came the new mechanics of French ski technique (modified most recently in 2012). During this phase, the instructor short turn and the instructor long turn were created. We skied through this history, which was a lot of fun, and when we reached their current era and technical terminology there were many words and phrases used to describe their outcomes that seemed more familiar to us as BASI members – not carved but grippy, speed control, aesthetics (body management), longer turns carved but influenced to avoid being too wide.
Understanding the French Alpine Ski Progression
The next topic we moved to was the French national progression of ski teaching. Unlike our BASI system, their levels take you from complete beginner (débutant) all the way up to instructor assessment levels (Classe 4). Off-piste and competition elements are also brought into their progression around Classe 2 which is the equivalent of a parallel turn or the end of our BASI central theme progression. The French levels can be broken down in the following way:
|French Level||Performance Outcome|
|Classe Débutant||Progresses from gentle plough turning up to a basic plough parallel turn
|Classe 1||Develops the plough parallel turn to match the skis towards parallel before the fall line. These first two stages showed less movement and a wider stance than BASI aim for in the central theme. All the other elements of these phases were very similar including development activities and additional skills.|
|Classe 2||This is when the base turn is introduced; a long parallel turn much like our own featuring a pole-plant, but using a lot of vertical movement through the turn. This class also teaches a braquage type short turn to introduce upper and lower body separation. Basic off-piste, competition and freestyle techniques are taught from this class onwards.
|Classe 3||The long and shorts turns are now more advanced, the stance is narrowed but the edges are still not very angulated.|
|Classe 4||Known in the French manual as a ‘virage moniteur’ (instructor turn), this stage has high performance long and short turns and is evaluated during instructor exams and tests. By now, freestyle, competition skiing and off-piste skiing are all heavily featured to a high level.
The experience demonstrated to us that there are many similarities between the BASI Central Theme up to Classe 2 in the French system. The biggest difference for us was how much more emphasis of the vertical movement was used by the French – compared to our more subtle stretch/flex of the legs. BASI’s Central Theme also aims to narrow the stance earlier in the progression too.
As BASI has a skills-based progression, our progression doesn’t go any further than the Central Theme parallel turn because we believe, that if taught correctly, our instructors (as well as students) have all the tools required to ski beyond the Central Theme without it being laid out in a marked progression.
The French progression starts with beginners and finishes with instructor exams. The BASI progression is setup to get learners ready to explore more of the mountain, but our BASI instructor progression is a different pathway altogether.
Reflecting on the differences, I believe they exist because of a number of key historical factors based around each nation’s environment and domestic industry development. The government organisations and sports structures responsible for snowsports are different. In the UK our national snowsports structure is managed at a regional level by the home nations while the French system is more linear and centralised. The domestic industry starting points are different; in the UK we have indoor snow domes, artificial ski slopes, roller mats and five mountain-based resorts. French participation is largely resort based making our participation numbers, learning experiences and environments very different. This in turn has an impact on how each sport is organised politically in each country and how the public access snowsports.
Most French instructors will come through their local Club des Sport as youngsters and into the instructor pathway following the end of their competitive careers. In the UK we do not have the same volume of Club des Sport participants. Unlike France, in the UK we need to attract instructors who can teach and deliver for our UK slope environment and the volume of instructors required is not fed by the ex-competitors in the sport. The UK rely on attracting enthusiastic, passionate instructors from higher level recreational participants rather than those who have retired from competition. Both systems meet their domestic market needs and one of the benefits of the UK system, I believe, is we have a high volume of instructors who are truly passionate about snowsports and are successful at “selling their sport” to the British public. This “passion” for snowsports is why Britain is the second largest exporter of recreational skiers beyond its national boundary and BASI is an instructor export success story.
To give you a reference on skier numbers, ENSA has a total of 26,000 Diplome instructors, attracts over 3200 trainees per year and presents on average 350 diplomes per year. BASI has just over 6000 members in total, delivers in the region of 3,000 student places across 4 levels every year and presents between 6-10 BASI Level 4 ISTD Alpine qualifications per year! This modest number of ISTD’s came as a surprise to the ENSA team and hopefully reassures the French that despite what the media headlines say, only Level 4 BASI qualified ISTD’s are legally permitted to work autonomously in France* (we have fewer than 500 Level 4 ISTD members at the time of writing), but we have hundreds of thousands of recreational participants taking their snowsports holidays in France. BASI was able to shatter a deep-rooted myth, that we flood the French market with British instructors. This is simply not the case.
Both nations have different setups but the rationale for the setups is justified when you understand the national context of each nation’s snowsports industry and how it has evolved.
*Instructors holding the BASI Alpine Level 2 or 3 ISIA Qualification that have passed the Test Technique can work as a ‘stagiaire’ within an approved ski school in France. Instructors choosing to do with will have entered the French system as a stagiaire.
Talking politics, the MoU and life beyond Brexit
Off the hill, we were hosted for lunch by , Marc Vernier (the French representative for foreign citizens’ declarations) and Roger Mure-Ravaud and Eric Gravier who represented the Syndicat National des Moniteurs du Ski Français (SNMSF) and the Ecole du Ski Francais (ESF). The lunch meeting covered a broad range of European issues including; the MoU stamp, Brexit, the ISIA and the delegated act.
Some of the most interesting discussions came up about the International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA). The ISIA was originally an idea created by the French (so we were told) to open channels of exchange with like-minded countries. Sadly, when the French started to regulate things like equivalence through the delegated act and the MoU stamp, what started as a co-operative initiative broke down as nations began to defend their own qualification standards. The ISIA wanted to bring in their own speed test that would take over from the Eurotest (they do currently have an ISIA speed test). The current French government position is it will not recognise any other form of test other than the regulated Eurotest and the Euro-Security exam. The ISIA actually went on to sue the French, a costly affair for both parties which resulted in the French withdrawing from the ISIA and why we will not see France represented at World Interski 2019
The European MoU stamp has also been a political hot potato over the last few years. The MoU stamp is actually a temporary arrangement (until an EU delegated Act comes into being) whereby the MoU stamp is issued to BASI Level 4 ISTD qualified members as part of the EU mutual recognition of qualifications. It is only issued to holders of the highest level of qualification – in BASI’s case this is Level 4 ISTD.
BASI and the UK government have been consulted on the delegated act and BASI is a signatory to it (regardless of what happens post Brexit). However, the delegated act has been slow in evolving into adopted EU legislation. Just as it was all ready to be signed by countries including the UK, Italy and Austria it had to go through the EU parliament processes for approval. The proposed act came back with new edits that a number of nations believe changed its original meaning and intention.
BASI remains focused on trying to establish clear working rights across the EU for all levels of BASI qualified instructor. Regardless of what happens with Brexit we will continue to work with other countries at a bi-lateral level in a positive manner to secure working rights for BASI qualified members.
Our French hosts did want to reassure us that, although procedures are heavy (and slow), they are for life. We were also informed at this meeting that our establishment rights will stay in place until 2022 by which time UK citizens will have had to conform to whatever requirements are put in place. Marc Vernier finished the meeting discussing the workload that his Grenoble office are currently dealing with and asked our members to use the https://www.arquedi.sports.gouv.fr/ website if they wish to make contact.
It was an honest, mutually respectful meeting and I felt both positive and proud of the professional support and recognition demonstrated between the two nations.
Explaining BASI’s pathway.
Wednesday gave us the opportunity to present the content we had prepared on behalf of BASI. Our team delivered a teaching and review session based on a BASI Level 4 teaching course. We chose this topic to demonstrate and explain how our TIED model works.
We focused on the learning outcomes and answered questions the ENSA trainers asked us about our teaching courses. They were very interested in the different roles our instructors take on during these courses and how fulfilling roles like “reviewing” builds a deeper understanding of the teaching methods.
We also presented our skills based Central Theme progression and how we build those skills beyond the Central Theme. They noted that our technique has been influenced by other alpine nations like France, Austria and Italy, which we openly acknowledge.
Poor weather closed the resort, but we continued our planned session down in Les Houches where we compared BASI’s Euro Mountain Security syllabus with the French in the off-piste – through the trees!
We ended the day back at ENSA where we presented all levels of BASI’s instructor pathways and the modules of the Level 4 Alpine programme; detailing the assessment criteria, course contents and Performance Indicator Analyses.
BASI’s relationship with the University of Edinburgh was explained and how it has improved our quality assurance process, our CPD process and made us more accountable. The alignment process was also explained.
The ENSA trainers were particularly impressed with alignment of BASI qualifications through the University of Edinburgh and liked the idea of working with an independent third party to ensure quality and consistency as well as the opportunity it affords for further educational recognition.
We enjoyed comparing our manuals, progressions and resources with one another. ENSA kindly gifted us a copy of their manual, the ‘Memento’, and showed us their online version. This is worth a look at as it is very rich in video content and resources. It can be found at www.mementoski.com.
We also viewed their older site dedicated to off-piste at www.horspiste.net There is work in the pipeline to link this site to the “Memento” site once it has been updated. For all their EMS students they also recommend some of the content found on www.data-avalanche.org. The day was rich in exchange and full of new knowledge for everyone involved.
Safety in snow sport instructor training sessions.
The exchange finished with a long descent from the Plan de l’Aiguille cable car. This off-piste route gave us the chance to talk about how to handle security in ski instructors’ training sessions, as well as enjoying some skiing together. We had lots of time throughout the day for some more informal chats about our two systems and the day was wrapped up with a debrief in the ENSA trainers’ room.
Overall, there was not one negative moment in the exchange trip with ENSA. It was a completely positive and inspiring few days and amazing to get such an insight into the French Diplome and ENSA itself. Roy, James, Jas and I all went away with some amazing memories and new friends.
BASI has extended a return invitation to ENSA to come and observe BASI courses. We will make sure to report back to you on how we get on.