Please look at the updated version of this post here as a lot has changed since I wrote this overview of instructor qualifications.
As I said in the last post, I am going to look at the various levels of ski (and snowboard) instructor qualification and the letters you might see after people's names. I realise most people booking into ski school don't think about the qualifications of the instructor too much. However, advanced skiers/riders might want to look for a higher level instructor to fine tune your technique.
This is actually more pertinent over the summer months for many people, as this is the time when a lot of skiers and snowboarders book on summer camps on the various European glaciers. Often the adverts these camps have a barrage of qualifications to convince you how good the instructors are. Hopefully the info below will help make sense of things.
In general, there are three or four tiers of qualifications for ski or snowboard instructors. There are also separate schemes for coaching (race or freestyle) and in the UK there are dry slope qualifications as well. Each country has it's own instructors' organisation (or sometimes more than one). In addition, the ISIA exists to oversee the national organisations and allow the exchange of ideas.
Firstly then, abbreviations for the various instructing organisations you may see -
BASI - British Associoation of Snowsport Instructors
CSIA - Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance
CASI - Canadian Association of Snowboard Instructors
ISIA - International Ski Intructors Association
NZSIA - New Zealand Snowsport Instructors Association
PSIA - Professional Ski Instructors of America
Okay, so what are the levels and how do they compare? The following lists start with the most basic qualifications and work up to the most advanced, with Coaching qualifications tagged on the end. The list is not exhaustive, but hopefully it may clarify some confusion over the long list of instructor qualifications in existance. The qualifications listed under each heading may be considered roughly equivalent to one another, although the details will vary.
Foundation Level (able to teach beginners up to snowplough turns, including artificial slope qualifications)
BASI Level 1 Instructor (Formerly Foundation or Trainee), CSIA 1, NZSIA CSI, PSIA 1, ASSI
Instructor Level (able to teach parallel turns and beyond. Requires a good level of personal skiing and teaching)
BASI Level 2 Instructor (Formerly Instructor or Grade 3), CSIA 2, NZSIA 1, PSIA 2
ISIA Level (Internationally recognised standard. International minimum standards. Able to teach to a high level. Requires a high level of personal skiing and teaching. Should include off-piste awareness and a coaching element)
BASI Ski Teacher ISIA (formerly Grade 2), CSIA 3, NZSIA 2, PSIA 3, French Stagiere
ISTD or National Level (Highest level certification. Eurogroup recognition. Requires a very high level of personal skiing and teaching)
BASI ISTD (International Ski Teacher Diploma, formerly Grade 1), French National Diploma, Austrian National Diploma
Coaching Qualifications (Not strictly instructing qualifiacations, these are for race coaches etc.)
APC 1, APC 2, CSCF 1, CSCF 2 and others