I originally wrote this overview of ski and snowboard instructor qualifications in June 2007, but as there have been some changes since then it seems worth publishing a revised version.
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. Often the adverts for higher level ski or snowboard courses 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). 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. Currently the ISIA has 38 member states and sets minimum standards for obtaining the ISIA Stamp and Card
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
CSCF - Canadian Ski Coaches Federation
NZSIA - New Zealand Snowsport Instructors Association
PSIA - Professional Ski Instructors of America
ISIA - International Ski Intructors Association
And some non-English speaking organisations for comparison
EFPEM - Escola de Formació de Professions Esportives i de Muntanya d'Andorra
ENSA - Ecole National de Ski et d'Alpinism (France)
AADIDES - Asociación Argentina de Instructores de Esquí y Snowboard
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 existence. 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 1, PSIA 1
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 2, PSIA 2, EFPEM Nivell 1, AADIDES 1
ISIA Stamp 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 Level3 Instructor ISIA (formerly Grade 2), CSIA 3*, NZSIA 3, PSIA 3, French Stagiere, AADIDES 2, EFPEM 2
Note that although the CSIA 3 is considered to be at about this level only CSIA 4 holders now recieve the ISIA Stamp in the Canadian system
ISIA Card/Eurogroup Level (Highest level certification. Eurogroup recognition. Requires a very high level of personal skiing and teaching)
BASI Level 4 ISTD (International Ski Teacher Diploma, formerly Grade 1), French National Diploma, Austrian National Diploma, Italian Maestro de Sci
According to the ISIA, "Snow sports instructors with the highest national training from the following countries already meet the ISIA minimum standard for the ISIA card:
Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain,
Italy, Holland, Spain, Switzerland."
However only the European countries on this list are fully recognised across Europe.
Coaching Qualifications (Not strictly instructing qualifiacations, these are for race coaches etc.)
APC 1, APC 2, CSCF 1, CSCF 2, BASI Development Coach
Updated 12th April 2011