A View of The British Association of Snowsport Instructors (Basi)
by Andrew Lockerbie, Chairman
Reporter: Alan Brown
Andrew Lockerbie waited patiently for our AGM to finish before giving us a very personal and interesting insight into the World of BASI.
He started with a brief personal CV. In his younger days, he had been part of the UK race squad, managed the dry slope at Wycombe and worked as a trainer with Snowsport England. ( He claims to be able to say "Not bad for a fat lad" in three languages!) Since becoming 'mature' he's been instrumental in the development of the Chill Factore, has been chairman of BASI since 2004 and acting CEO since 2007. He's now working with David Sterland again on further slope projects both here and in North America. Some CV!
Andrew confided with us that BASI manages to fight well above its weight. Although, for the headlines, he can claim that BASI has 5,000 instructors working in 24 countries, the reality is that they are a drop in the ocean of ski instructors in the major skiing countries of Europe. Despite this, their relative size makes no difference when it comes to breaking into that holy grail: the French ski school.
As background, we needed to know the structure of BASI's qualification.
Level 1 Allows work on UK's dry slopes
Level 2 Allows some work on snow. Generally suitable for part-timers
Level 3 Getting serious. International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA) qualification (Incidentally, if you Google ISIA, don't be confused by Ipswich and Suffolk Indian Association !!) which allows you to teach in North America and 54 other countries.
Level 4 Allows teaching anywhere. Internationally renowned ISTD qualification which includes the infamous Eurotest where those who are successful must ski a giant slalom course within a margin of the racer's time. For the likes of the Lewis's and Harrison's of this world only.
Andrew described a view of European ski schools which was very interesting. The Swiss allow our Level 2 instructors to work there, Austria allows Level 3, but France is only really interested in our Level 4's. This he supports!
He explained that the French are the only alpine nation where a ski instructor is really valued: there they command a good salary on which a family can live.
Elsewhere they are a poor relation where the job is generally transitory or part-time. As BASI Level 2 instructors, Switzerland is an excellent training ground, and an essential step on the way to the top.
In his opinion, France is rightly protective of its exclusivity and quality. The Eurotest is the bit we all know a little about (only 40 out of 4,000 hopefuls pass at any meet) , but they are also very strict on the other parts: a candidate can only attempt any module three times, and they only have three years in which to complete the course.
Andrew finished by describing how ski schools are finally coming round to the American 'the customer is right' philosophy. 19 years ago, he was working in the stratospheric Vail as a young upstart foreign instructor and had little hope of landing work when up against much more experienced local people. He was surprised to get assignments, but quickly realised that it was because the school was matching client needs to specific instructors. Not sure what kind of need Andrew satisfied back then, but it worked for him! He believes that Europe is now getting this message which might explain why the French Ski Schools, ESF, want a BASI instructor in all 250 of their schools this season.
Well done Andrew for achieving this recognition, and thanks for an unusual talk: we might have him back to talk about instructing another time. I learned a lot about international ski instruction. And I shall certainly bow even lower next time I meet Giles or Phil - or Gavin or Ben for that matter!