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Certification Questions and Answers

This guide is intended to help answer some common questions about the exam process in NRM. These questions and answers apply to alpine, snowboard and Nordic exams. For specific guidelines within each program, please refer to the alpine, snowboard or Nordic certification process.

What is certification?
Is the certification I achieved in another division recognized by NRM?
What do I need to do to keep my certification?
Can I take an exam in another division?
Can I take a prep clinic in another division?
Why are NRM's exams different from other divisions?
How come I failed my exam?
Why do Level II and III exams cost so much?
What is the best way to prepare for an exam?

Leave this page and go to the specific programs:

Alpine certification process : Snowboard certification process : Nordic certification process


What is certification?

Certification is a process that instructors go through in order to become trained to teach various ability levels of snowboard/ski students. Certification is not required in order to work as a snowsports instructor or to be a member of PSIA or AASI. However, most instructors chose to pursue certification in order to learn the most they can about skiing/riding and instruction, and to be able to teach lessons to higher levels of students. Moreover, most snowsports schools offer higher pay rates for certified instructors, and most snowsports schools across the nation recognize PSIA/AASI certification. Lastly, certified instructors are eligible for various professional purchase programs, with discounted pricing on equipment, clothing and accessories.

Is the certification I achieved in another division recognized by NRM?

Yes! That is one of the advantages of certification, as it is nationally recognized.

Once I get certified, what do I need to do to keep my certification?

The process of being a certified instructor does not end after you pass an exam. Similar to other professional accreditation associations, your certification must be maintained with regular education and training (see ed credt requirements for more info), and you must remain a member of PSIA/AASI. The purpose of this is to ensure that you receive continual training throughout your career and that you remain up-to-date on instructional, educational and skiing/riding methods.

If you do not continue your membership in PSIA/AASI and you do not take educational clinics, then you do not meet the ongoing standards to be a certified instructor.

If your membership or educational credits have lapsed, that does not mean that you will necessarily loose your certification permanently. Refer to the reinstatement information for more details.

Can I take an exam in another division?

Yes. Exam results are fully transferable between divisions of PSIA and AASI. However, the exam result is transferable only if the entire exam is successfully passed. For example, some divisions offer exams in modules, or individual components (teaching, skiing/riding). So each of those components must be successfully completed in order for the exam result to be transferable to NRM. If only some parts of the exam have been passed in another division, you will need to take the entire NRM exam

Can I take a prep clinic in another division?

Snowboarders must take the prep clinic in NRM.

For alpine skiers, it is strongly recommended that you take the prep clinic in NRM, as other divisions have different formats for their exams and prep clinics. NRM's prep clinic is the best tool to prepare you for NRM's exam. But if you are interested in substituting another division's prep clinic, then your situation will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Contact the alpine chairperson well in advance in order to determine if another division's prep clinic may be substituted for the NRM prep clinic. At a minimum, the following conditions apply:

1) The prep clinic must have been taken either the same season as your exam, or the season prior to your exam.

2) You must take the written test in NRM, and you must pass the written test before taking the on-snow exam.

For Nordic skiers, the prep clinic and exam is rolled into one event, so you need to take the whole event.

If there are national standards, why are NRM's exams different from other divisions?

The national standards provide a detailed roadmap to what an instructor at a given level needs to be capable of. However, the national standards do not specify exam format, scoring procedures, or any other details of the certification process. Therefore, each division is able to decide on the exam process that best suits their members. On a regular basis, examiners from every division meet at examiners colleges to compare exam formats and discuss scoring and training. These events help maintain the consistent standard across all PSIA and AASI divisions.

What is the use of national standards if I failed my exam in NRM and my buddy, who is not as good as me, passed their exam in another division?

Every day on snow, every skier/rider, every exam and each division is different. There are many variables that can affect exam outcome such as conditions, group dynamics, and an individual's performance on a given day. The national standards set out a common standard of performance at each certification level, but there are many ways of assessing that and many paths to get there. The only way to have an absolutely objective exam would be to have a written, multiple choice exam and no on-snow exam. Of course, this would not fit our purposes whatsoever. So due to the variability inherent in our sport, we must accept a certain degree of subjectivity in our exam process. This does not mean that exams are inconsistent or unfair. But exam experiences, processes and results may vary from place to place, time to time and person to person.

How come I failed my exam? I was the best skier in the group (or best teacher, or nicest person).

Certification means you are able to effectively teach both children and adults through a particular ability level. Level I instructors are certified to teach beginner lessons; Level II instructors are certified to teach up through the intermediate level; and Level III instructors are certified to teach all levels of students. In each case your technical understanding, communication skills, teaching and movement analysis skills, and skiing/riding skills must allow you to teach effective lessons at that level. It is quite possible that the strongest skier/rider in the group may not have the teaching ability, and that the best teacher may not demonstrate adequate skiing/riding skills. Simply put, the examiners are looking for a complete package. If any one component is missing, then the standard will not be met.

How come Level II and III exams cost so much, while the Level I is relatively cheap?

The price of an event is determined by the number of days, the number of examiners and the number of participants. A Level I event is only two days and involves only one examiner, while a Level II or III exam requires two examiners and may be two or three days (snowboard and nordic exams are 3 days). Furthermore, Level I events are often subsidized by one's snowsports school, so your school pays more of the costs and you get a great discount. Lastly, alpine and snowboard Level II and III exams require a prep clinic, which further adds to the cost. Yet without the prep clinic it would most likely take several more tries to pass the exam, which would cost you more in the long run. The bottom line is that Level II and III exams require a commitment from you, including a financial commitment. However, the payoff is proportional to the commitment, in terms of what your will learn, what you will gain, and in your earning potential as a snowsports instructor.

What is the best way to prepare for an exam?

Attaining Level II or Level III certification requires a commitment to preparing for the exam. The value of the exam process lies primarily in the training you put into it beforehand. The exam itself is simply a verification of the preparation you have done. There are many factors that go into forming a successful exam experience, but some of the most important are to:

•  Train regularly

•  Train with focus and direction provided by clinicians or your area's training staff

•  Listen to the feedback you are given

•  Apply what you learn in your training to the lessons you teach

•  Teach a variety of lessons

•  Teach each lesson differently

•  Practice movement analysis (from the lift, with video, in your clinics and lessons)

•  Have a broad training program: skiing, movement analysis, reading, teaching

•  Work with peers

•  Read the manuals and other technical articles, including the children's manual

•  Make sure your physical fitness compliments your skiing/riding skills

•  Be realistic when assessing your strengths and weaknesses

Need more info?

Alpine certification process : Snowboard certification process : Nordic certification process