Written by Isla Marsh, BASI Alpine level 3 ISIA
So, having completed my ISIA (International Ski Instructor Association) Alpine Level 3 qualification, I decided I’d recap it each module at a time, mainly for those who aren’t in the ski world and don’t really understand what I’m doing with my life, but also for those who are at the lower end of the BASI system and may or may not decide to continue to a higher level.
The ISIA qualification contains eight different modules that are mandatory which are; Technical, Teaching, 200 hours, Second Discipline, Second Language, UKCP Coach level 1, Common Theory, Mountain Safety.
There is no specific order you have to do the modules in, the only rules are that you must have completed your 200 teaching hours between the Alpine 2 exam and the Technical and Teaching module. You can’t take the Tech or Teach without having finished the 200 hours.
Below, I’ll explain more about each module and what I did to complete it.
- 200 hours- For me, it made sense to start with the 200 hours as I completed my Alpine 2 with SnoworksGAP before the winter 12/13 had started. That season I completed over 400 hours of teaching. I think this is one of the most important modules because you could quite easily just get the bare minimum and scrape through but the more hours you get, the wider variety of lessons you will experience and your knowledge of teaching will be more extensive. You just have to remember to keep track of the amount of hours you have done and get them signed off by your manager so you can prove to BASI that you have done them.
- Common theory- This is based at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore in Scotland. It is a 5 day course about; Strength and Conditioning, Biomechanics, Injury Prevention and Screening, Nutrition and Hydration, Sociology, Tourism, Culture and History of British Snowsports, Sports Psychology, Physiology, Gym session and Ski specific circuits. The rumours about this course being boring aren’t necessarily true, it’s always what you make it! We had a great group of us on it when I did it and our week was more focused on the after-lecture entertainment! BASI provide some inspiring people with infinite knowledge to give the talks. The fitness sessions are done by ex and current Olympians and Paralympians to give an insight to elite training. The course gives you the chance to meet lots of fellow ISIA students and gain a little more knowledge on many subjects related to skiing. Helps you out on alcohol training for winter too!
- UKCP Alpine Coach level 1- This is a three day course that you can do in a snowdome or on snow. It’s aimed at coaching kids age 5-12 in slalom and GS. You plan coaching sessions and deliver them to your peer group. I found that this qualification helped me distinguish the difference between teaching and coaching which really helps when you have more advanced clients. Once again, most people on the course are working towards their ISIA.
- Second Discipline- You can opt to do either; Adaptive, Nordic, Snowboard or Telemark. It will be a five day course whichever one you choose. BASI don’t specify that you have to complete your 35 hours of shadowing after the completion of the course, but if you plan on using the qualification at all, I’d advise you to. I did Snowboard as my SD and really underestimated the level I would need. Doing your SD in a snowdome is the easiest way to go because the hill is always the same and you only have 5 turns per run to try and not mess up! After doing my L1 SB, I have ridden a lot more and have started doing park on the board.
- Second Language- You can do your SL in many modern languages but BASI advise you to do it for the country you expect to be teaching in. Also, a note for those whose end goal is to teach in France- if you do your SL in French, you won’t have to do a French test to get your Carte Professionale which is your French equivalence. They ask you basic conversation you may have with a client, something to do with ski lessons (it will be in the central theme) and accident procedures, so maybe a scenario and you have to explain what has happened. Lots of people put this off until the end because it may seem a bit daunting. It’s really not that bad- it’s a 15 minute conversation.
- Mountain Safety- This is the most un-BASI module out of the lot! You will do 4 days of training with a Mountain Guide and then the following 2 days will be assessment with a different Mountain Guide. You get assessed on; Avalanche awareness, Transceiver search, leading a group off piste, basic navigation, personal performance off piste, personal fitness, mountain awareness and skinning. They are hot on NAV skills and finding your transceiver in under 4 minutes with a method. It’s great fun and you’re off piste all week, skiing powder if you’re lucky with snow! A great addition is that it’s combined with the snowboarders so it allows you to change it up a bit and branch out from the ski crowd.
- Teaching- This is a 5 day course. You spend the first day doing little imrov sessions and getting into what is expected of you. The other four days you are given lessons to teach. One day will be piste strands, one central theme and one any of the strands. Day 5 is an opportunity to do extra if anyone has mucked up the past 3 days, in my teach this didn’t happen, so we did something a little different. We each got given something written on a piece of paper first thing and had to base our lesson around that. My word was rainbow and the task was to think outside the box. I taught the following lessons; range of movement in short turns, how choice of line affects the rhythm in bumps and matching skis in plough-parallel.
- Technical- This is also a 5 day course and BASI provide pre-course training for it but it isn’t compulsory. You get assessed on shorts, longs, variables, bumps and steeps. The main thing to watch over the five days is that you don’t over-exert yourself in the first few days so you can’t perform at your best when it really matters on the Thursday and Friday. It’s also good to break up the week with some socialising on and off the hill, some laughter between the serious video runs never hurt anyone, and I’m not saying get drunk every night during the course but a couple of après drinks after a tiring day was a nice way to wind down mid-week.
Like all exams- if you’re ready for it and you’ve prepared yourself, they are a breeze.
The hardest parts for me were; making sure I had the technical words correct in French for my SL, NAV down to a tee for MS and being able to stand on a board without falling over for my SD.
I had great fun on every module and didn’t dislike any of them. If I had to choose my favourite it would be Mountain Safety simply because off piste is my favourite type of skiing and learning more about the snow conditions and the mountain environment got me really hooked on snow science.
I heard rumours that the tech and teach were the hardest going into ISIA, but if you’ve done your hours then the teach should be a walk in the park and if you have prepared yourself and trained hard for the tech then it will just feel like another training week.
BASI don’t give you any real guidelines on the order to do the modules in. I chose to do them in the following order; 200 hours, Second Discipline, UKCP Coach 1, Common Theory, Tech, Teach, Mountain Safety, Second Language.
I trained with both Snoworks and BASS Morzine this winter to get my skiing up to a standard I was happy to take the Tech with. If you want more information or want to ask any questions about ISIA exams, feel free to contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org .