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Snowsport Scotland Summit 2019 - a review

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

Snowsport Scotland (SSS): The National Governing Body (NGB) for Snowsports in Scotland held their 'Summit' last weekend, the 21st & 22nd of September, with day one at Cairngorm Mountain and day two at Glenmore Lodge (The National Outdoor Training Centre). This short blog is a review from the perspective of Derek Tate, Parallel Dreams Coach and long standing tutor for SSS.

Excellent keynote presentations

The highlight of the weekend, for me, were the two keynote presentations at the beginning of each day. I would like to congratulate SSS for organising these very interesting and useful presentations, which were relevant to coaches, tutors, parents etc. not least because it encourages everyone involved in snowsports to think beyond the narrow field of the specific sport and learn from other organisations. I will briefly summarise the presentations below:

Building a stronger workforce - Mark Nicholls

Youth Racing Manager at the Royal Yachting Association (RYA)

The RYA is a very large NGB in comparison to SSS and consequently has a large budget with a great number of coaches, participants, competitors, parents etc. based all around the world. Therefore, managing such a large workforce is a big undertaking. Some of the take-away messages from this presentation were;

Everyone is leading and one of the aims is to enable others who are the experts. The overriding goal is to have 'non-dependent creative competitors' which also means non-dependent thinkers who are independent learners. Deeper learning and ownership come through allowing coaches autonomy and not just giving the answers. While 'giving answers' might be more time efficient this is short term fix rather than a longer term solution. So, whether is is management to coaches, coaches to competitors, coaches to parents, parents to competitors the goal is to create an environment that allows freedom and autonomy while still being aligned to the organisations aims - a challenging task!

Snowsport Scotland Summit presentation day one
Mark Nicholls presenting on day one of the SSS Summit

The questions that followed brought about some excellent discussion. One of the most interesting topics centred around when athletes should 'specialise' and to what extent the NGB encouraged the participation in a wide range of sports. This whole issue of 'specialise of generalise' will be covered in one of my forthcoming blogs as it is very topical, at the moment, not just in sport but in many life domains. The RYA's response to this was that children are encouraged to participate in many sports as this produces more rounded athletes. At the age of 15/16 children should be moving from participation to performance however, that does not mean they should give up other sports. There was, of course, a recognition that there are only so many hours in the day and that a great deal of 'practice' is required to develop mastery. And it is this 'time pressure' that often leads to parents pushing their children into specialisation too early!

Decision making under pressure - Dr. Tony Westbury

Napier University, Edinburgh

This presentation was, not surprisingly, one that was of great interest to me because of my recent studies in Positive Psychology and how I have applied that to the sport of Alpine skiing.

While the title of the lecture was 'Decision Making' Tony was quick to point out that this is just one element of performance and consequently the presentation moved through a range of topics including practice, skill acquisition, learning; linear and non-linear approaches, explicit vs. implicit learning, mastery & ego orientation, growth & fixed mindsets, perfectionism, thinking and decision making!! Clearly there was a lot for people to take on board and Tony's approach was to blow away a lot of myths along the way. Rather than try to cover each of these areas (far too much for this blog) I will simply highlight a few memorable things that Tony said:

"Pressure can reverse the skill acquisition process"

"The key thing is not about teaching but about learning"

"Set up practices that stress people and makes things break down"

Listening to Tony's talk and some of the myths that he blew out of the water e.g. the 10,000 hour rule, and the emphasis on implicit learning and non-linear approaches was not only reassuring personally but also fits with the idea of matching learning to more open skilled sports like snowsports and backs up articles that I have been writing in recent times.

UK Snowsports Qualification Framework

As I mentioned, at the outset of this blog, I have been involved with SSS for many years (plus BASI and IASI) and have therefore not only seen but been involved with many attempts to align and bring together the UK snowsports qualifications into an easier to understand and simpler process that is recognised across the UK. I am delighted to report that what has been produced to date is a great improvement and does achieve the aim of bringing Snowsport Scotland, Snowsport England and Snowsport Wales together with the new UK Snowsports qualification framework. Essentially there are fours strands: Instructor, Development Coach, Off Piste Leader and Performance Coach. The areas that were of most interest to me were Instructor and Off Piste Leader hence I have only covered these in this blog.


The instructor pathway has two levels; Foundation Instructor and Instructor. The total number of training/assessment days to complete both levels is six, making it very comparable to both IASI and BASI Level 1, with the idea that those who want to progress to instructing around the world would have the option to move into IASI or BASI should they wish. There is also the option to do an additional mountain induction assessment day to move beyond the closed environment of the artificial slope into the Scottish mountain resorts.

Off Piste Leader

These new awards: Sidecountry Leader, Backcountry Leader and Mountain Leader have been designed by Glenmore Lodge staff for use in the Scottish mountains. While they have considerable cross-over with the mountain safety awards offered by IASI & BASI they are very much about the specific nature and challenges of Scottish mountains (weather, snow pack, avalanche etc.).

The challenge now of course is getting all of these qualifications/courses up and running and there is still lots of work to do with the finer detail.

Much of day two at Glenmore Lodge was spent in optional breakout groups that focused on the different strands within the new framework.

Glenmore Lodge National Outdoor Training Centre

Once again congratulations to Snowsport Scotland on a great weekend, in a super location with an excellent mix of content. As with all these types of events it was fantastic to catch up with friends and colleagues from my many years in Snowsports. Wishing everyone a brilliant season ahead and especially SSS with implementing the new qualification framework.

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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Derek Tate
Derek Tate
23 sept 2019

Brilliant thanks Bruce for adding your feedback

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Bruce Cranston
Bruce Cranston
23 sept 2019

I too would like to congratulate SSS for a very informative weekend, it helped me to see clear avenues for my coaching philosophy to go down. It helped me consider what i am trying to help my athletes achieve in the gym and on the slope in preparation for the winter.

I am delighted to see Skill Quest being taken on around the Scottish ski centers and i believe this can give us the base line to build up from - working towards the well-rounded robust technical snow sports athlete.

It helped me to think these are ideas i already use, i just need to commit to them a lot more.

Also great opportunity to catch up with old friends…

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