After the recent on-slope arrests and continued confusion over what is required to teach in France, we thought it would be best to get the lowdown on what exactly is needed from someone who has recently been through the system. Barry Parker is a qualified instructor teaching for Real Snowboarding in Morzine; here's what he had to say:
So Barry, first of all congratulations for just qualifying.
What level are you at now, and is that enough to teach in France?
I'm now level four in the BASI system, which also is equivalent to the ISTD or the International Snowsports Teaching Diploma. It's the highest level in the BASI system which means with that you can apply to teach in France.
I have applied and have received a Carte Professionnelle which is the required legal document to teach on the mountains in France.
You've chosen to go through the BASI system, are there other ways you can go about it?
Yeah, as far as my understanding goes you need to have the highest qualification in your own country as long as it is part of the ISIA (International Snowsports Instructors Association) and they then equate all the levels. For example, a level three in the German system is equivalent to a level four in Britain, which is enough to apply to teach in France.
Skiers have to do a speed test to prove their ability, in snowboarding we have to gain a certain amount of Olympic FIS points in either freestyle or racing.
One thing our readers seem to want cleared up is the extra procedures; at no point in the process did you have to do the French speed test (a timed slalom run where to pass the students have to get a time within 10% of professional racer)?
The dreaded speed test... No I have not had to do it, it's different for skiers compared to snowboarders. Skiers have to do a speed test to prove their ability, in snowboarding we have to gain a certain amount of Olympic FIS points in either freestyle or racing. I did mine through boardercross races.
Was there anything else you had to do as part of the program?
The hardest part of the instructor program was the BASI level three as it teaches a technical teaching component, a common theory course, a mountain safety course, the ability to teach another discipline (I can now also teach skiing), a second language and a written project, similar to a thesis at university. Once you have all of that you can start on the level four which includes the European Mountain Security, which is an off-piste guiding qualification. With that you have to log at least six tours of over 1000m vertical ascents and then during the three day assessment at the end of the course that is taken into account.
Is there any freestyle element to the training?
How does that work? Like, do you have to be able to do a three?
It's a one week course at it's more to do with your coaching skills than your own ability; being able to see what someone needs to do to progress. Obviously the coaches of the best freestylers in the world can't do what they're teaching, but they can coach it. To be a good coach you don't have to be the best of riders but you gotta have a really sound understanding of how it works, so it helps. At this level you are expected to be able to do tricks like 540s off of reasonable sized jumps, but it's not essential.
So you're able to teach in France, legally, how long from start to finish would you say that's taken you to achieve?
I did my initial level one in 2009, going on to do my level two in 2010. After that I didn't initially consider going on to do my levels three and four because with that you can teaach anywhere in the world. Except France. It didn't seem like I needed to do all that after the first effort, but I did want to keep on learning and progressing my own riding and that was a great way to do it. So now from passing my level two it's taken four years to become fully qualified to teach in France.
I'm sure people can do it a lot faster, but for the majority of people the cost involved causes it to take a little bit longer.
If you love teaching and snowboarding and it's what you want to do then do it; it's a stoker, it's sweet.
Would you hesitate a guess at the total cost? Or would that be too depressing?
**Long pause** I don't think I'd want to know. £8-9,000?
All in? That's not bad when you compare it to the cost of university these days. I'd say that's a bargain for a course that leads straight into a job
Yeah... That's for the courses and accommodation on those courses. I was lucky enough that I didn't have to resit any exams. You also need to get experience whilst you're learning so you need to be out snowboarding as much as possible; that doesn't include the cost of holidays or winter seasons or all that jazz. That all stacks up too.
Lastly, would you have any advice for anyone wanting to teach snowboarding as a career? Specifically in this case in France, is it worth the hassle or should you just go to Austria?
Haha! It's pretty tough in Austria as well! If you love teaching and snowboarding and it's what you want to do then do it; it's a stoker, it's sweet. Since I've been teaching in France I've really enjoyed it; the snow is unbelievable here, you get great clients and the pay is worth it, it makes it all good.