99 things to do to prepare for YOUR exam

So, as a PSIA-NW Alpine Examiner and the Ski & Snowboard School Training Manager at Mt. Hood Meadows on Mt. Hood, Oregon – where we have about 75 full time and about 300 part time instructors – I get a lot of questions about how to prepare to be successful at exams. During my tenure as an instructor, trainer, Divisional Clinic Leader, Examiner, Assistant Coach of the PSIA-NW Technical Team – yada, yada, yada – I’ve accumulated a pretty good list of things to do and advice for instructors seeking certification.

When I heard that Natalie Grummer (PSIA-NW Alpine DCL, linkedin) had also started a list I asked her to send it to me. I compared my notes to her list, stole her document and took the list of 70 she sent me and upped it to 99 things – ‘cuz 99 is a good number. Her list was pretty darn good however I amended some, scratched off a few, tried to make it discipline agnostic and added some new ones to create the list as it stands today. It is a work in progress, so if we’ve missed anything please shoot me an email and I will update it!

As a side note, as you start your career as a snowsports instructor, there is so much “local knowledge” that gets handed down from the “elders” to the new hires. And with this in mind, it is my opinion, our newest instructors and those seeking their PSIA-AASI Level 1 certification need the most guidance and assistance navigating their awesome new life as an instructor, information about PSIA-AASI membership and all this job has to offer. In so much that I tend to focus on this group quite a lot. They need a solid foundation from which to build upon as they continue to grow as an instructor. That’s what I received teaching for John Mohan and The Ski Acres/Northshore Ski School back in the day.

In this regard, I tend to spend less time with the highest level of certification candidates – the PSIA-AASI Level 3 group – as these individuals have been through many years of skiing, riding and teaching, such that I would expect them to be checking off many items on the list. If you are in this category I’ll bet you can check off quite a few of these, and attending your ski and ride school’s certification prep clinic is only one of the 99. At the same time, as you review this list, maybe there are one or two (or ten), that you haven’t thought of just yet.

Keep in mind too, the PSIA-AASI Level 2 is a big step from the Level 1 and the Level 3 certification is the highest level of certification that is awarded to PSIA-AASI members. Successful demonstration of on-snow performance, teaching and professional knowledge for the level of certification you are seeking is required. It’s no wonder certification can be difficult to attain, so don’t be discouraged!

And for fun, just keep checking off items on the list and let me know when you’ve completed all 99! Maybe there will be a certification for that!

Here’s the list…

  1. Get a specific season-long training partner.
  2. Plan out steps you need to take to be ready for an exam this season.
  3. Join PSIA-AASI and take advantage of all the member benefits.
  4. Download and read your Division’s Certification Guide PDF – here is a link to the PSIA-AASI NW website – then look in the Certificationtab.
  5. Attend Indoor exam prep and/or MA clinics.
  6. Read the Alpine Technical Manual and highlight every time any of the 5 Fundamentals are referenced.
  7. Attend the PSIA-NW Immersion event.
  8. Ski/Ride with a Divisional Clinic Leader – here’s a link to PSIA-NW DCLs: Alpine, Snowboard, Telemark, Cross Country and Adaptive.
  9. Have someone video you doing the specified tasks listed in the certification guide for your discipline.
  10. Use YouTube to find videos and practice movement analysis.
  11. Make exam note cards to carry in your pocket with information to reference during your exam (such as task/exercise options per skill, a list of the task/versatility exercises and their descriptors, MA info, teaching prompts, 5 Fundamentals, etc).
  12. Compile your collection of 32 Degrees, NW Snowsports Instructor and Ski Magazines as bedside (or elsewhere) reading materials.
  13. Attend the PSIA-NW Winter Blast with National Team Members.
  14. Watch videos on MATRIX.THESNOWPROS.ORG.
  15. Schedule specific days to go ski and work on specific tasks on your own.
  16. Attend the PSIA-NW Fall Seminar indoor event in October.
  17. Practice talking and presenting in front of your peers.
  18. Study biomechanics; see Juris Vagners and Ron LeMaster
  19. Know, understand and use the Visual Cues for Effective Skiing/Riding and Movements.
  20. Ski/Ride a minimum of 30 days per season.
  21. Attend as many school clinics offered you can – not just certification based clinics.
  22. Self-assess your skiing, professional knowledge and teaching against the National Standards.
  23. Compile all of the study materials in a binder and bookshelf.
  24. Email your clinicians with questions you encounter as you study
  25. Maintain a teaching log recording what you did in every lesson you teach including what went well and what you’d change.
  26. Assemble a group of exam candidates and take turns teaching one another while providing each other feedback.
  27. Take a mock exam led by your Division or school.
  28. Add a copy of Ultimate Skiing by Ron LeMaster to your library.
  29. Ski/Ride 50 days per season, instead of 30.
  30. Ski/Ride with those who have the certification level you hope to achieve.
  31. Practice in the most challenging snow conditions you can find.
  32. Get and read the Teaching Handbook for your discipline.
  33. Get and read the Technical Manual for your discipline.
  34. Ski/Ride at the resort where the exam will be held, on your own time, prior to the exam so as to get to know the terrain.
  35. Start and maintain a workout program to improve your physical conditioning; ask Jenn Lockwood for more info.
  36. See a custom boot fitter to dial in your stance, alignment, canting and flex – maybe go see Bob Olson.
  37. Choose and practice on the best tools for the exam tasks and performance outcome expected during the exam.
  38. Download, print, read, highlight and understand the PSIA-AASI National Standards PDF.
  39. Set realistic goals for yourself, then include a timeline and plan to reach them.
  40. Register for the written exam and take it no less than 30 days prior to the on-snow modules (per your Division).
  41. Attend the PSIA-NW Divisional Academy event held in March.
  42. Know, understand and use The Feedback Model developed by the PSIA-NW Technical Team.
  43. Sign up for your exam modules via the website well in advance of the module(s) you will attend.
  44. Ski with a PSIA-NW Technical Team Member.
  45. Forgo free skiing/riding days and use that time to train on blue and green terrain.
  46. Ask clinicians at Divisional events for direct feedback regarding your skiing/riding.
  47. Teach diverse lessons with students of different levels, backgrounds and ages, including children and first timers (yes!).
  48. Attend the PSIA-NW Symposium event in April.
  49. Learn another discipline – it’s humbling to be a beginner again.
  50. Shoot video of yourself teaching a lesson and review or post on Youtube. Here’s one I posted and here too.
  51. Document (write it down) the feedback you receive in clinics you attend.
  52. Print out a pocket reference card with The 5 Fundamentals listed and use it to help you formulate your lessons.
  53. Ask your school’s trainer to shadow a lesson you are teaching and provide feedback.
  54. List of your top 3 core beliefs on what is good skiing/riding.
  55. Get a Children’s, Freestyle, or Senior Specialist Accreditation.
  56. Read Core Concepts for Snowsports Instructors.
  57. Read the Children’s Instruction Manual.
  58. Study, know and practice the steps of Movement Analysis (Observe, Describe, Analyze, Prescribe).
  59. Ski/Ride 80 days a season, instead of 50.
  60. Have your school’s Training Director sign your exam paperwork signifying you are ready for the exam.
  61. Study the physics of skiing or riding- see Juris Vagners eBooks here and here
  62. Teach a season in the southern hemisphere (like Michael Birch-Jones, Robin Barnes, Jonathan Ballou, etc.)
  63. Shadow a lesson of an instructor who inspires you.
  64. Attend the PSIA-AASI National Academy in April – this is an incredible opportunity.
  65. Spend 5-10 hours a week studying and practicing.
  66. Go up to the mountain on non-work days to attend clinics.
  67. Take notes of every clinic you attend and how you’d use that information in your own lessons.
  68. Get and read the Children’s Teaching Handbook.
  69. Know what to expect on exam day by speaking with your trainer, a DCL or examiner.
  70. Get and use a mentor for developing your craft.
  71. Study the history of your discipline and PSIA-AASI.
  72. Help your peers who are a level below you prepare for their certifications – you’d be surprised what you’ll learn.
  73. Make sure you are current on PSIA-AASI dues & CEUs – you don’t want any surprises when you sign up for the exam!
  74. Set up a short meeting with your training director, discussing your readiness well in advance of the exam.
  75. Write out logical progressions, from simple to complex, appropriate for the skill level of each student and relevant to task and desired outcome.
  76. Challenge your core beliefs about skiing/riding – like, “Skis maintain contact with the snow.” – that’s one of my favorites!
  77. Try teaching a beginner lesson with a new approach – I’ve had huge success with this.
  78. Talk about your lesson successes and struggles with others in the locker room.
  79. Identify a skier or rider on Youtube who inspires you and why – like this guy.
  80. Try a variety of different skis or snowboards so you know how they each perform and why.
  81. Develop your teaching vocabulary that is easily understood.
  82. Take a day off from skiing to allow your body to rest.
  83. Evaluate your diet and monitor when you feel your best – it can be different for each person.
  84. Perform the skiing/riding tasks outlined in the certification guides so that they seem easy to do – if they’re not easy there’s a reason. Find out why.
  85. Develop a plan for internal and external cues for performance enhancements.
  86. Ask to attend a trainer specific clinic as a shadow.
  87. Ski or ride as many days as you can in the summer (Timberline, Mammoth, Whistler, New Zealand, Portio, etc.)
  88. Socialize with your fellow instructors after lessons are over – you may learn something even at the bar.
  89. Look at other country’s system for snow sports instruction i.e. CSIA, NZSIA, BASI, etc.
  90. Compare and contrast USSA with PSIA-AASI.
  91. Read and contribute to the PSIA-AASI Community Forum.
  92. Join the Elite Skiing Facebook Group.
  93. Visit another snowsports school and observe their operations, get their teaching manual, talk to their staff, etc.
  94. Submit an article for consideration to be published in your Divisional publication and/or the National 32° publication.
  95. Ski or ride at another mountain other than your home area.
  96. Ski from top to bottom without stopping.
  97. Obtain and read the Freestyle Technical Manual – great info in here.
  98. Study more – flashcards, notes, practice written exams, etc.
  99. And last but not least, attend your school’s Certification Prep Clinics.

You can also download it here:
99 things YOU do to prepare for your exam (older version – not as up-to-date as the list above) PDF

Super Duper Admin99 things to do to prepare for YOUR exam
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