Most people don’t realize that their ski or snowboard instructor is not just someone who is good at the sport, but a master of their trade. So when you take a lesson with a certified Pro, you’re getting far more than just a few casual tips.
It takes about five years to become a fully qualified snowsports instructor, according to Jonathan Ballou, training manager for the Ski and Snowboard School of Aspen/Snowmass. During that time, the Pro is not only learning about skiing and the latest teaching techniques, but is studying sports psychology, methodology, and much more.
“A qualified ski or snowboard instructor has gone through a measured process to understand their product,” says Ballou. “We’re creating the learning environment to shortcut the learning process and be able to do the sport faster.”
Think about it as any degree program or credentialed trade. You can do a few courses, get an associate’s degree, or pursue a higher level of certification. At Aspen/Snowmass, when someone is hired by the Ski and Snowboard School, they’re getting the job as an apprentice. And the goal is to get them as fully certified as possible, says Ballou.
Teaching standards and certification processes are not developed in a vacuum. Snowsports instruction is governed by PSIA-AASI — Professional Ski Instructors of America and the American Association of Snowboard Instructors — as well as an international governing body.
The process for becoming certified is long and arduous, says Ballou. In five years, a Pro will have gone through a minimum of 27 days of measured and tested education and up to 300 hours of training.
Having as many certified Pros as possible is a priority for Aspen/Snowmass — and a point of pride.
“Our school has more examiners for PSIA than any other school in the world, and more qualified instructors than any other in the world,” he notes. “It’s why we can stand behind our products with a guarantee of quality.”
But don’t let all that technical knowledge fool you. Aspen/Snowmass Pros are also well trained in making sure the learning process is an enjoyable one.
“We study interpersonal relationships and sports psychology so we can communicate better and have greater rapport with our guests,” says Ballou. “We’re certified masters at creating fun learning environments.”