The world, and the ski industry, was a very different place when I started teaching in 1984.
Cairngorm had over 20 ski schools, Glenshee had 3 full time ski schools and Anoch Mor at Fort William hadn’t been developed.
There were literally hundreds of BASI instructors working in the 4 Scottish ski areas and most schools, at least the big ones, had all levels of BASI instructor working for them, including BASI Trainers.
Scottish skiing was a large, vibrant industry and the vast majority of BASI instructors worked at the Scottish ski areas, or, on UK dry slopes.
We all know it is no longer anything like that. Many years of inconsistent and unreliable snow, plus other economic factors such as low cost air travel and the arrival of the winter Snowsports package holiday changed the Scottish resorts forever. Although there are still many ski instructors working in the Scottish ski areas I suggest they now have to be multi disciplined or have other incomes, there are very few who base their career on ski teaching in Scotland.
So, what has this brief nostalgia trip got to do with the Interski Congress in Argentina?
The demise of career opportunities in Scotland led to a shift from BASI instructors working at home to BASI instructors looking for work around the world.
As we fast forward to current times, it is noticeable that BASI is in a unique position. We have credibility and respect from all nations and have become a major player on the world stage. We share a platform with the Alpine Nations and our voice can be heard at the top table rather than having to shout from the back rows with other ‘lowland’ nations.
We have been able to influence, to create international and global recognition for BASI qualifications. BASI now has members working in 38 countries around the world. We have moved on a long way from the days of a focus on teaching in Scotland. There are job opportunities in Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia. I know of BASI instructors who have worked in Africa so the only continent I have not heard of BASI members working in is Antarctica – and I am happy to be corrected.
So, how did we change from being an inward looking association providing instructors for our home industry to being one of, if not the, biggest exporter of ski instructors around the world.
I can trace the tipping point back to 1995, and the Interski Congress in Nozawa Onsen, Japan.
There had been a lot of work done in the background, in fact a huge amount of groundbreaking work, and the 1995 Interski Congress was when a new approach was first presented to the rest of the world.
What was developed then still forms the backbone and basis of everything that we do now.
BASI had set about seeking what the performance of a skier looked like and approached this from a biomechanical insight. They took a top down perspective, seeking what every skier has in common, regardless of where they were from or their performance level. World Cup racers, recreational skiers, the similarities were identified. They stood back, looked at skiing in its context and environment and broke skiing down into its component parts. These component parts became what is now known in the BASI syllabus as the Fundamental Elements.
BASI recognised that skiing takes place in a very open and changeable environment and that the environmental factors impact on performance. They recognised the significance of emotional factors and not just technique and the relationship between the inputs and the outcomes.
The Performance Threads were developed and the concept of “The Strands” was introduced. Open environments replaced advanced techniques, skiing steeps replaced short swings, skiing bumps replaced compression turns.
BASI had created the basis of the tactical skill based driven system that we still adhere to now.
But there still needed to be a guideline for trainee instructors to take learners on their journey. It wasn’t practical to just rely on the ‘Fundamental Elements’, there was too much variability for trainee instructors to take on board. So, a simple progression was developed that allowed all the Fundamental Elements to be developed equally in a natural, logical and progressive manner. The “Central Theme” was born.
As well as massive shifts in technical philosophy, the teaching side changed unrecognisably with the introduction of the teaching tools and techniques we use today.
At Interski in 1995 the core of this new approach was presented. It was such groundbreaking stuff that the rest of the world stood up and took notice. We were no longer an insignificant lowland nation, but a country that was punching way above its weight. Franz Hoppichler, the Interski President said “You have changed your skiing and approach significantly, and we like it.”
At subsequent Interski Congresses we have reinforced that BASI is an Association to take note of. We had a massive attendance to our workshops at the last congress in St Anton with representatives of most countries coming along.
Attendance at the Interski Congress is a large investment for BASI, and it would be fair to acknowledge that from some perspectives, it is quite hard to see any direct, tangible benefit to attending.
However, without having strong representation at previous congresses, without sending strong messages to the rest of the world about the quality and depth of our training and philosophies there would not be the recognition for the qualifications, nor the job opportunities that are currently available to our membership.
Even in the modern world of high tech communication there is still no substitute for physical handshakes, eye to eye contact and developing (or reinforcing) personal relationships. Without Interski we would not be as well recognized and respected around the world as we are currently.
Your futures and your careers as ski instructors, depends on the nations around the world understanding BASI and our qualifications. Sending a strong delegation and continuing to put ourselves on the world stage, is essential to maintaining the level of respect we have enjoyed, and maintaining and increasing the opportunities for BASI Members of all levels to work around the world.
The Interski Congress is a major part of BASI presenting who we are, gaining recognition for our qualifications and providing the opportunities for our members to work around the world.
As part of the 2015 Demo Team, I look forward to representing you all and working hard on your behalf in Ushuia.