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Mountains of online learning: Innovation of snowsport instructor education

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Over the past year or so there has been a revolution taking place within the world of online learning and an acceleration of innovation for educating people. This has been happening across all industries, due to the COVID pandemic, including the domain of snowsports and more particularly the education of snowsport instructors. Of course, there is only so much that can be achieved 'online' but this post takes a look at what has been taking place across the snowsports industry and some of the positive developments many of which may well become a regular feature of our post COVID world.

We have all heard the expression, “if the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”. Perhaps in our current predicament this should be more like, “if we cannot go to the mountain then the mountain can come to us – online!”

Let's take a look at some of the innovation that has happened, over the past year or so with regard to online education/learning for snowsports instructors. Some of this content has been aimed at continued professional development (CPD) so that snowsport instructors can keep their qualifications up to date. In some cases, the online delivery has replaced off-snow classroom-based sessions from different modules. And some of the online offerings have included a social element with the aim of maintaining motivation and connection between colleagues. What I have included, in this article, is education and learning that I have noticed, participated in or been involved with delivering. I am sure there are many more examples than what is included here but my hope is that this will demonstrate how much has been achieved and motivate instructors to participate in such opportunities in the future.

Performance analysis

The British Association of Snowsport Instructors (BASI) have been running some very popular performance analysis CPD sessions. They have courses aimed at Level 1 & 2 and at L3 & L4 for Alpine plus a Snowboard option as well. Courses run over 2 x 2-hour sessions with the aim of giving instructors a systematic approach to performance analysis. For more info click here.

The Snowsports Channel is a really interesting and innovative new website developed by Craig Robinson, James Bennett and Gareth Shelbourne that encourages users to interact, learn and connect. They have a series of ‘coach me’ FREE lessons available where they look at different technical issues such as stance, posture and turn symmetry and then analyse performance and provide solutions. Each lesson gives you the user the opportunity to take on the role of ‘coach’ and choose from a variety of drills to fix the issue. To take part click here.

Coaching Conference

Last September (2020) Snowsport Scotland ran their annual coaching conference over a number of weeks with a variety of lecture presentations/topics available. These were provided free for members who were also able to use them as CPD for their coaching qualifications. The presentations included keynote sessions aimed at all disciplines plus more discipline specific options that members could choose from. I was delighted to deliver one of the keynotes on the Psychology of Snowsports Coaching: Flowing with mindfulness.

Other sessions can be viewed on the Snowsport Scotland YouTube channel

Lecture series

The IVSS which is the international snowsports organisation responsible for Schools and Universities has been running some really interesting FREE online seminars. The first of these, which I attended, took place in March 21 with a session from Ron LeMaster on rethinking movement analysis. The slides from this session are available by clicking here.

Weekly meet ups

Ali Smith of Ski Definition organised a very popular series of weekly meet ups on Zoom with lecture presentations and discussion covering a variety of topics including a number from Mark Shaxted. These sessions not only provided valuable information, but they were a great way of keeping people motivated and connected during lockdown. To view these sessions you can subscribe to Ski Definition’s YouTube Channel And to see some of Mark’s presentations have a look at his YouTube channel – Professional Development for Ski Instructors.

Instructor prep

Stuart Bernard at Ski Focus has been super active over all the lockdowns running remote prep courses for BASI Level 1 & 2 qualifications, a Focus your mind 30-day challenge group and weekly Zoom coffee and chat session. Check out Stuart’s Facebook page here.


Between August 2020 and February 2021, I ran a series of popular online workshops over Zoom with the assistance of Bernadette Callanan covering topics such as flow and mental health. Right from the off it was so interesting to have people on the sessions from different parts of the world. I recall one of the very early sessions including USA, New Zealand, France, Switzerland and the UK. These workshops were very popular external CPD for both BASI & IASI members. They have now been superseded by our new online schoolmentioned towards the end of this post.

Blended approaches

Blended approaches are very simply a mixture of face to face (in many cases on snow) and online learning.

The Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA-AASI) have adopted a blended approach to their National Team Selection process whereby potential team members have been required to present topics over Zoom instead of their normal classroom presentations. This has challenged candidates to develop and use new skills that this environment requires. You can read all about this by clicking here. The announcement of the new team will be made on Thursday April 22 via YouTube.

The Irish Association of Snowsports Instructors (IASI) have done a tremendous job of keeping courses running through the pandemic by adopting a very flexible delivery approach. A great example of this is the IASI Coaching Theory module which previously ran as a three-day face to face course off-snow. This season it has been running as a two-day face to face course with the third day on Psychology in Snowsports being run, by myself, on Zoom over 2 interactive sessions. You can learn more by clicking here.

Alex Leaf at World Class Training has also adopted this blended approach to first aid training which has been a great way of coping with the pandemic and ensuring that instructors can keep their licences current and up to date. You can read all about this here.

In addition to the specific courses mentioned above many associations have been delivering their on-snow training and then moving the off-snow classroom sessions to an online format. I suspect that this is one aspect that could become the new norm!

The future

So, what does the future hold in store? I guess that rather than talking about post COVID, in reality, we are learning to live with, and manage, COVID and that means that many of the innovations we have seen (as mentioned above) will continue to some degree or another. And that is not a bad thing as the pandemic, while creating many challenges, has helped organisations to be more flexible in their approach to training delivery. It has also made some courses much more accessible to people from all over the world and, of course, reduced our carbon footprint!

For me, personally, it has meant looking carefully at how I deliver courses and coaching, and this has led to the birth of the Parallel Dreams Coaching Academy Online School via Teachable. This has been a natural follow on from the workshops (mentioned earlier) and now provides a bigger range of self-paced courses on topics ranging from flow to sport psychology, positive psychology, mental health and more. Like many people the COVID pandemic has prompted me to change, to learn, to be innovative and to be more flexible in my delivery. I cannot wait to get back to face to face ski teaching, but I am certain that online learning will continue to be part of what I offer and believe that the future will be a mixture of on and offline, or, as has become a new buzzword, a blended approach.

Thanks for reading and may you all find some fantastic learning whether that is online, on-snow or a blend of the two.

About the Author

Derek Tate is an author, coach and teacher and runs Derek Tate Coaching. His mission is to help others to flourish and get more out of life through better mental, emotional, and physical health. He offers mental skills coaching, alpine ski coaching, online courses and workshops and writes self help/psychology books.

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