Swiss Snowsports International Equivalence Course – part 1

Since I successfully converted over from the British Skiing members organisation (BASI) to the Swiss Snowsports system, a lot of people have people have asked me about the process and the content of the practical conversion course that you have to pass.  Some people have one eye on Brexit and the implications of that.

I am one of 5 people in the group of 7 that took and passed the course in November 2016 so the information that follows is up to date and a fair reflection of what to expect when going through the process of converting over your qualifications from any other national system to the Swiss Snowsports system.

For those of you non ski instructors reading this blog, this may get a little nerdy.

THE PAPERWORK

The first part of the process is to fill in the form demanding an assessment of your qualifications.  This form can be found HERE and it’s in French , German or Italian.  If you can’t speak a second language and you cheated your way through the second language module in your home instructor system, you might struggle and I have no sympathy for you.

The Swiss Snowsports system has levels as follows (the kids instructor is optional);

Kids instructor > Aspirant > Instructor > Brevet Federale

In terms of the qualifications that these equate to, I can only relate you to the British system.  BASI 1 and 2 are worth nothing to the Swiss, the level isn’t good enough.  If you have the British level 3, that equates to the ISIA stamp which is what the Swiss get when they get the Instructor qualification.  If you apply with less than ISIA stamp, you will probably be asked to do the aspirant exam.  The Swiss give the ISIA Card with the Brevet Federale, the British give it on completion of the Level 4 because of their ties to the Eurotest countries.

Once you have submitted your request, Swiss Snowsports will give you their decision and ask you to pay 270frs to see it.  If you are happy to pay, they will send you a dossier with where they consider that you stand in their system and what to do next.  Most people who are applying are ISIA qualified as a minimum and will be asked if they wish to book onto the International Equivalence course.

Depending on the qualification that you hold, you may have to attend a tourism and law course and maybe 1 day of the off-piste mountain safety course.  Both of these will be in French, German or Italian.  Normally these and the practical tests will be sufficient for the Swiss to issue you with the Instructor qualification.  Sometimes this is called the ‘Patente’ but this is a Valais thing only and has a different issuing authority.

If you wish to continue with the system and get your Brevet Federale which allows you to teach off-piste and gives you the right of establishment of your own ski school then you have to go to Bern and sit a written test in French, German or Italian as well as defending a dissertation in front of a panel of experts, that you wrote and submitted previously.

In part 2 next week, I will outline the skiing tests, passing grades and skiing level needed in the International Equivalence course.

Back from the brink.

So it’s been a while.  The last written blog entry date was in December 2014.  That’s a bit too long but to be fair, I’ve been caught up in a lot of things.

Moody weather over Morgins

The short list of what I’ve been up to basically runs as follows.

  • Take a year off from BASI ski instructor exams to rediscover my love for skiing and partying
  • Get divorced
  • Start a business
  • Become sober
  • Get back on the ski instructor exam trail

There is a lot more too it than that but those five small items have taken up a lot of time and I want to strike a balance in this blog between content and privacy.

In all this time that I haven’t been blogging there have been two major ski related experiences that have changed my perspective on skiing.
The first was a day in the season off of BASI where I got up early and went to see my good friend Ali McGrain in Courchevel. Ali has been working in the US for years but was in Europe also doing his own exploration of the BASI system with a view to becoming full cert over here.  Ali is a full on ski geek like me (and won’t mind me calling him that) and we had a fantastic day bombing about the 3 valleys, talking shop.

I’ve read in a few books here and there that when you let go of skiing in your head and stop thinking technically, that’s when you start to make the real discoveries.  This was a day like that.  Because of the nature of the ski runs in the 3 valleys, long cruisy reds with seriously big distance in between lifts, you can really get into a groove and experiment with different things.  It was here that I found a freedom of movement in my hip joint, a proper discovery that has transformed my skiing.

The second experience was actually on the BASI level 4 technical exam that I only managed 3 days of last time.  To be fair, at the time this was a in full marriage breakdown time so it was difficult to concentrate.  However, this time, I had trained well and was in a much better place mentally for my trip to Val D’Isere.
I had a great trainer in Giles Lewis who was inspirational as a person and also a skier, especially in moguls.  I was skiing really well on the first two days and was feeling super confident I until the last run of the second day when I ripped a massive hole in the bottom and edge of my favourite pair of skis.

It turned out that were beyond help and the only other pair of skis that I had taken with me as a spare were a set of 185cm GS skis which I despised.  A measure of how confident I felt at this point though, after a very strong two days on the exam, I said to myself,

‘do you know what, I feel confident, I’ll take these shitty skis I don’t like and ski the bolllocks off them.  I’ll show you all.’

I didn’t quite work that way and quite who I was going to ‘show’ was unclear.  Often, I wasn’t going fast enough to get the ski bending properly and it was just way too long to be that effective in quite short ruts in the moguls we were skiing.  Over the course of he week I gradually felt the exam slip away from me until on Friday afternoon, I was told that I wasn’t good enough.  By that point, I just wanted to go home anyway and headed back north to a warm bed and some good food.

Although on the face of it, this was a negative experience, it many ways it was positive, and also meant I got to buy a new  pair of skis which I absolutely love.  If I had been on the exam on these skis, I know I would have passed.  I spent many lift rides with trainers on that exam, chatting about life in general and the journey to full cert and I know it’s not a rush.  I’ll be back, better than ever but for now I’m looking at alternative instructor systems more aligned with where I want to be in the future.

Plans for the summer I hear you ask?  My summers are mainly spent  plotting for the winter.  Saas Fee opens mid-July and I’ll be up there training for my next project.  I’ll also be running a ski camp for some kids that I work with, also in Saas Fee.

Other projects include nutrition and health coaching certification which means lots of study and a language camp that starts next week.

Skiing dates are already starting to come in and my diary for 2016/7 season is starting to look busy already.  Get your bookings in soon to avoid the rush 🙂

Chat soon

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Spring has sprung

So May has come and gone in the Alps and by and large, it hammered down with rain for the whole month. I’m pretty sure it’s always like this in May but because it was freezing cold as well, it snowed and there were plenty of videos being posted of people still skiing well into late May and even early June.

This has really pissed off the bikers who are itching to get out and do whatever it is they do on their incredibly expensive machines (where else do you see adverts in the supermarket for €2000 bicycles ffs). I’m often asked if I’m into biking and whilst I’m sure that it’s something that I could be interested in, I just don’t need another expensive activity in my life right now. I just dropped another load of money on skis and various other equipment that I’m going to need this coming season.

Talking of burning money, I recently had to go to Aviemore in Scotland to attend the BASI Level 3 Common Theory Course. For me, based here in the French Alps, this meant a trip to the Swiss capital, Berne to get a new passport (mine expired in January and I forgot), a flight to Amsterdam, a connecting flight to Aberdeen, a 2 hour drive across Scotland and the same in return. Immense amounts of travel and cost which is why I left this course until last.

Scotland - moody

Scotland – moody

I’m not going to bitch and moan about why the course cannot run in Europe as it was interesting to see where the BASI system all started. I met a bunch of interesting people and learnt some stuff too.

The course itself was mainly classroom based for about 2.5 days, with one day of orienteering/going for a walk in the hills around Glenmore and a day in the gym. The classroom stuff was a mixed bag, with some interesting topics like Psychology and Sociology and some stuff that was less interesting. As mentioned, I met a load of really nice people and got to spend a week chilling with old mates in a nice apartment in the Scottish hills.

back to school - BASI style

back to school – BASI style

Once the Friday of the course came and went, I had completed my ISIA Level 3! Looking back on the planning that I had done and the season that had just passed, 4 exams passed, 3 weeks of specific training, a load of teaching and finally, it’s all over.

Actually, it feels like a bit of an anti-climax because inevitably, I’m now planning to get on with the level 4 ISTD. I’ve done the work for one of the modules so far and I’ve planned which exams to take next year over a 2 year plan to get my full certification.

A large part of going through the system seems to be belief in your own ability and I still don’t really believe that I’m a good skier compared to some of the people that I see around me. I wonder sometimes how I’ve got to where I am now. Perhaps that belief will come if I pass the technical skiing modules for the level 4 this coming winter. I still hate walking up stuff so I am leaving the European Mountain Safety exam until next season..

All that for this..

All that for this..

So this starts now really with a planning process to get stronger and technically better at skiing. I’m planning to spend a bit more time in Saas Fee or on glaciers in general this summer, race training in the autumn, with the first exam in Zermatt in December. I’m not rushing as I thought the two years I spent working towards ISIA was time well spent but I can see the top of the pyramid now and it’s only natural to want to climb towards it.

Some of the people that I met on the Common Theory Course are now already in New Zealand and are skiing and teaching in the southern hemisphere winter. I have to admit to being jealous as I’m ready to ski again now. I’ll have to satisfy myself with glaciers and gates until then.

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Rememberance Day Trip to Saas Fee

It’s mid-November here in Chatel and there is still no sign of the long awaited snow. A lot of people here are getting quite edgy about this but as I keep pointing out to them, I arrived about this time last year and it didn’t snow meaningfully until the start of December.

my piste.  mine.

In a bid to beat the Movember blues (and the tragic-ness that is my moustache attempt), Irish Matt, French Miche and myself took a day trip to Saas-Fee on Friday as we had heard that conditions were good. Additionally, it was a day off in France for Remembrance Day but crucially, not in Switzerland as they don’t celebrate it, so we were sure of the place to ourselves.

What a day it turned out to be. A 6.30am start in Chatel as well as a few stops for coffee, fuel and breakfast, meant that we were heading up the familiar lifts to 3500m by 9am and we were greeted at the top by fresh powder lines and immaculate pistes.

As is my style, I took the wrong equipment and was struggling to get my GS skis to float in the flatter sections of pow, so I couldn’t hit the fresh snow like my snowboarding mates but we were still having an absolute ball nevertheless.

The only issue at Saas-Fee when you are up on the glacier is looking out for crevasses that have been covered up with new snow. I was feeling a real sense of foreboding the times that I was skiing off piste and I didn’t stray too far into the deep. I’ve learned to recognise and listen to my 6th sense on days like this.

I thought that we would be skiing the glacier all day but it turns out that snow had fallen all the way down to 2500m and that you could ski all the way to the middle station. The pistes were in incredible condition and at the sort of gradient that you could really get your carve on. I was now loving my skis, using them for their true purpose but by the end of the day, I was skiing back with cramp in both legs after making the most of the super grippy snow. You can really feel the difference between real snow and snow cannon snow when you’re trying to get everything out of a stiff ski.

We went for a total of about 5 hours in the end with only a short stop for coffee (CHF27 for 3 Irish coffees – wow!). The lift ticket is steep at CHF68 but with the instructor licence, it was only CHF41 for me! It takes about 1h45m to get there from Chatel and is only a 5 minute walk to the lifts from the car park.

We had a short moment at 11am to remember those who died making our way of life possible for us all and when I think back to how I used to spend the 11th day of the 11th month in the UK, a day enjoying fresh snow in Saas-Fee strikes me as a much better tribute.

online here

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