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 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.


Season review post part 1

Once again, it’s been a while since I posted but I’m determined to get back on the horse of this. Writing about skiing is quite a cathartic process and helps me get my thoughts in order and focus my energies in the right direction.

In addition, my blog was something of an advert for me but I’ve been so busy with a couple of projects the last couple of years and a whole bunch of personal stuff that I won’t necessarily bore you with (suffice to say I am now a divorce statistic), that I simply haven’t haven’t had time to blog. This is a nice problem to have.

So here we go again, you’ll be hearing from me a lot more often now.

This is something of a review post from July until December. The second one will follow next month. I started my season, like normal, on the galcier of Saas Fee. I missed opening day by a couple of weeks but I was there around the start of August, which for a non-natural skier like me, means I’ve got plenty of time to feel the skis and get my technique in order before the winter starts.

I love this place. Saas Fee Glacier in summer.

This season however, I had a purpose and that was the looming spectre of the Swiss Equivalence conversion exam in November. For those that don’t know, if you have a bunch of qualifications from another ski instructor system, in my case BASI, the British system, you can write to another national body and ask them how the qualifications that you have got stack up against theirs and what level they will give you.

I’ve known for a long time that my future and ambitions do not reside in France, I’m now married to a Swiss, I have a Swiss kid and I just prefer it in Switzerland, you could call it my adopted home if you like. It’s been my ambition for a while to get to where I needed to be to work independently in Switzerland.

The only real reason that many people tend to follow the British system all the way to the end is that it gives you working rights in France. I’m not interested in that and my interest in the British system died a while ago.

Anyway, as is my usual summer, I was in Saas about twice a month training some very, very specific things that you have to do in the Swiss system that you don’t really find anywhere else. I’m planning to detail a lot of this in a separate post but I basically spent the whole of Autumn on slalom skis trying to learn how to carve backwards at speeds much beyond my comfort envelope.

I did some specific training with Tom Waddington of New Generation Ski School in Verbier who should definitely get a mention for running the course and making himself available to be there.

My second plug goes to Ben Shubrook at Optimum Snowsports in Saas Fee who was a great training partner. I spent many days on the Saas Glacier with Ben and his unique sense of humour and you should definitely check out Ben’s Ski School in Saas Fee if you are ever there.

The conditions on the Saas Fee Glacier itself were awesome all the way through the Autumn. They even got the pistes down to Morenia at 2500m open by mid October which was a real bonus to get the ski legs ready for the test itself. I thought this was a sign of a decent winter to come down at our end of the Valais but I was wrong.

The Equivalence test itself came and went, two days in Zermatt with some of the best skiers I had ever seen with my own eyes. I don’t want to reveal too much as I’m saving it for another post but the level of skiing from the demonstrators was out of this world and I learnt a lot on those two days.

The Swiss send the results of this test to you in the post. There is no waiting until the Friday and a nervous chat with a trainer like the British system makes you do.

The results arrived in the post after a two week wait and I was delighted to have passed. I now hold the Federal Brevet in Switzerland and the right to establish my own ski school.

After the course, I had a bunch of work to do relating to coaching football and I was expecting the usual early season big dump of snow to fall in Morgins so we could get going. The big dump came and most of the main piste in Morgins was ready but for some reason, the resort didn’t get going until mid January. An absolute disaster for the ski schools and the businesses in the village.

Everyone was forced to go and deliver their lessons in the French sector and that meant working in Chatel Pre La Joux over the Christmas and New Year period. Whilst it was great that we got some work done, being in Chatel was chaos. So many people skiing on icy, rocky pistes, the conditions were pretty difficult and ‘teaching’ in this setting is more often a case of just keeping clients safe as opposed to getting constructive work done.

I had the pleasure of skiing with the head of Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club’s head of academy so I was able to pump him for some decent answers to my questions relating to football.  The answers I got relating to ‘is Pep actually any good?’ And ‘is there any place in the game for a classic number 10 like Totti anymore?’ were very enlightening.

More about the season in part 2 in a month or so.

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.


What do you do in summer? – an open letter to Misplaced Person

Dear Christa

Loved your last blog entry, goading the collective ski related bloggers for their inactivity.

Since I regard the 7 months of summer as little more than an extended wait until the 5 months of the year here when everything is covered in snow (except last year of course), I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the trivialities of my existence when it’s not ski season.

Also, being an capitalist at heart, I don’t usually write unless I’m getting paid for it, hence the ski related topics of my efforts this season. That said, I often trawl the other blogs that I find amusing/racy and am also disappointed by the lack of activity.

Since you asked though, here’s a rough list in no particular order of all the stuff that I’ve been up to since the snow went;

1. Coaching football

Now my main job in the months from late April until December. Somehow, I’ve become a football coach working for a company that does after school football and summer camps. Compared to ski teaching, it’s much more difficult due to the lack of ‘dead time’ that you don’t have. By dead time, I mean time on lifts, time chatting theory, time spent skiing from one place to another. With the footy coaching, it’s full on and the summer camps in particular have been pretty draining, especially in 35 degree heat. Frankly, the last thing I want to do after getting home from coaching is write and normally I detour to the pub – see point 4 below.

2. VTTing

I admit to twice having been mountain biking and I still don’t get the attraction. Perhaps it’s because like any sane and normal person, as soon as I got a car when I was 17, I sold my bike and never looked back. I actually used to race VTT’s when I was younger and I know I’ve still got all the old skillz BUT, it just looks like a money pit and potential injury minefield to me and I’d rather spend time on point 4 below. The first time I went, we went to Les Gets and did a load of downhill stuff which I admit, was rather fun. I then stupidly got all excited and signed up for something called the PassPortes du Soleil, which is essentially 70kms of uphill biking round France and Switzerland, cleverly marketed as riding round France only going downhill. Never again and if you are reading this and thinking of doing it, consider yourself warned.

this VTT for the PassPortes – knife to a gunfight mate

3. Playing Vets football

And I don’t mean playing football with M. Jacob the vet from Abondance, I mean a bunch of 35-years + French ski instructors, Butchers and Pompiers running about on a Friday night and generally thrashing the pants off other local sides like Morzine, Brevon and other obscure towns you’ve never heard of. The great bit about Friday night football is that it’s played on better facilities than I’ve ever played on in my life (for some reason Chatel has an unused UEFA B standard floodlit pitch) and the whole game is played in French. There are a couple of other English chaps that play (well, actually 2 are from Yorkshire) and we seem to be working our way into the team on merit, with myself falling back to my old favourite role of number 5, generally kicking strikers and cheating, with the others bossing midfield and creating numerous chances up front. For the team, it’s also quite social and everyone goes to eat together afterwards and sink a load of beers (see point 4 below).

4. Drinking (& BBQ’s)

Now we’re talking. Pretty much since the tourists left at the end of April, there has been a lot of drinking going on and in many ways, I’m a little bit over the remorseless drinking culture that has permeated the summer over the course of the various village fetes, happy cow competitions, birthdays and god knows whatever else we have celebrated this summer. The lack of work at this time of year leads to many of the usual suspects (of which I count myself) constantly in a state of, or topping up last nights drunkenness . This said, in many ways, there is little else to do so you’ve got to be a little disciplined and me working summer camps this year has meant that I’m out of town for 4 days of the week which leaves me the weekends to either go do something different or watch the test matches in the Avalanche and get pissed. A pleasing development though was the Chalet that some friends are renting just by the river which has a most excellent garden, river fridge and oil barrel BBQ, meaning a whole new (and cheaper) way to get wasted.

river fridge – surprisingly effective

5. Pitch and Put golf

A interesting development this one, given the presence in the village of a European Tour caddy that plays a little bit, as I did when I was young. Ever since we found out that the course record for the Golf de Loy (6 holes – par 18) is 17, old man Chris and myself have been hammering the golf looking for a new record. We are not helped by appallingly kept greens and a fiendish 5th hold which is only 30-yards long. It completely proves my point though that regular golf is at least 12 holes too long.

some big numbers on this card

6. Ibiza

The less said about this the better but I went to Ibiza with the Essex boys for 4 days and destroyed myself to the point that it took me 3 full weeks for my digestive system, sense of smell, cuts and bruises to recover fully. I’ve been on boys holidays before but this one was so far off the scale of what was normal and so hedonistic that it will be interesting to see exactly how much larger we can have it next year when it’s actually a stag do and not just practice. It was wonderful though to get back to the home of dance music and actually hear some proper stuff in its proper setting.

the only photo that made it back from IBZ

7. Cricket

They play cricket in Switzerland just so you know. There’s actually a league and everything, so much so that I had to get my cricket bag sent out here. Swiss cricket is heavily Asian influenced so there is limited room for a Chris Tavaré type player like me here. Most of the time, the Indian and Pakistani boys just tee off from ball 1 and I’m getting used to seeing some very big totals to chase. Luckily, I seem to be in the side for my wicket keeping, which for those that know me, will indicate very well the level of one of the best clubs in Switzerland….

8. Boxing

Slightly coupled with number 6 and the gradual realisation that I’m getting on a bit, last week I started at the local boxing club here in Chatel. Not quite sure what my aims are for this, other than getting slightly fitter and learning something new but if it means that I’m more confident getting my shirt off in Ibiza next year then it would have served its purpose. (we all know that ski instructing doesn’t keep you fit)

9. Summer skiing

The skiing you know about from other blog entries but this may drop off a little now that I’ve had to cancel my ISIA exams in November to accommodate football coaching work. The massive benefit of summer skiing being so close is that if you can be bothered to drive the 1h45m it takes to get there, you can have a great time and feel like you are in another world, if only for a day. I’m actually going there tonight. (see point 4 above)

So there you go Christa, that’s what I’ve been up to (unless you want to hear about how amazing my new Kindle is and my brother’s wedding). Told you it wasn’t very interesting but I consider myself chastened and I will attempt to blog more, if only to keep you from slitting your wrists about your various cat related troubles..

Yours in blogging

Dave xxx

Chatel, August 2011

Back in Saas.

So I’m back and so is the ski season. The summer ski season that is. This summer, I’m going to be making regular trips up to Saas Fee to prepare myself for my BASI Level 3 exams in Zermatt in November.

Atomic SL’s – Surprisingly good in the pow :))

The technical level of skiing for this is a lot higher than the Level 2, so I need to be ready and a one week pre-course warm up in Zermatt just won’t cut it as far as preparation is concerned.

It’s been really cool being back in Saas Fee. This time last year, I spent 9-weeks one a gap course with the Warren Smith Ski Academy in Saas Fee which lead me to my current life of teaching skiing in the winter and teaching football in the summer. Being back in the toytown village of Saas with the electric cars and familiar faces from last summer has been great.

The journey up to the summer skiing on the glacier takes about 45-minutes, 2 cable cars and a funicular train before you emerge at 3800m gasping for breath. There are about 40kms of piste to rip and a great park with masses of kickers, rails and a pipe to keep the park rats happy. The Glacier opens at 7am (!) and finishes at 1pm when it gets super slushy so it means plenty of early starts.

I’m here working on the technical elements of skiing, things like refining short turns and making them more dynamic, as well as hammering long turns and bumps. One of my coaches from last year, Scouse, had a look at my skiing and kindly mentioned that it had improved massively after a winter of skiing which is reassuring and has given me extra confidence that I’m heading in the right direction.

A happy benefit of having been here before is that I’ve been able to stay at a friend’s place here in Saas. The friend in question is Maria Ramberger, Austria’s top ranked SnowboardCross racer who is also here training for the whole summer. It’s been great catching lifts and catching up with her and generally blasting around Saas glacier at high speed. She also cooks a decent pasta.

It’s been a refreshing few days here, almost like a mini holiday and it’s been great to be on skis again. That said, I’m a complete convert to summers in Chatel, which I never expected. I was expecting summer in the Alps to be one long wait for winter but in many ways, the scenery, the sunsets and barbeques are even better than the skiing and drinking of winter. With summer skiing less than 2-hours away it seems I’ve got the best of both worlds.

Online here at Mad Dog Ski.