Learning a foreign language, advanced mathematics, or how to fly a plane are difficult tasks which most of us would agree should be taught by a qualified professional. Learning to snowboard is no different, yet I never have to look very far on the slopes to see some hapless boyfriend, fiancée, or husband attempting to teach their significant other how to ride. Forget all the technical mumbo-jumbo, the games, drills, and other teaching techniques I've learned as an instructor. The number one thing I've learned over seven years of teaching people to ski and snowboard is never, ever, ever attempt to teach your significant other to ride. The same adage often holds true for parents and children, but the boyfriend/girlfriend combination is almost always more explosive. It's a recipe for disaster that, fortunately, is easily avoided by taking a lesson with a certified professional instructor. That's where AASI (the American Association of Snowboard Instructors) comes in.
AASI's "Go with a Pro" campaign, ostensibly designed to enhance the enjoyment, efficacy and safety of learning to snowboard by encouraging folks to request a certified instructor, may also be designed to save relationships across snow country. By taking a lesson from a true professional (as well as a complete stranger, at least to start), the new snowboarder will receive quality instruction in an environment devoid of the mental pressures that come along with any relationship. The focus in AASI's lessons is solely on progressing at a comfortable pace, without having to worry about appearing inadequate or silly. It should be fairly evident right off the bat why this initial reason is a good thing, but what else does an AASI certified pro offer that others don't?
Certification Makes the Difference
Knowledge, for starters. Whether certified level I, II or III (denoted by bronze, silver and gold pins, respectively), AASI pros have gone through many hours of training and passed rigorous examinations that ensure they are qualified to represent their organization. Once certified, instructors are given access to an online library of teaching materials, member forums, and opportunities to attend further educational clinics. AASI constantly sees to it that their instructors are qualified to teach in much the same way that the PGA continually ensures their golf pros are up to snuff.
The real value of learning from an AASI certified pro, in my opinion, is knowing the lesson will be very similar no matter where it is taught. While it's true that almost every resort offers training to their own instructors, the quality of a lesson taught by a non-certified instructor may vary widely from mountain to mountain. Not so with AASI, which has standardized its teaching techniques nationwide. A lesson taught by an AASI pro at Vail will be very similar to a lesson taught by an AASI pro at Ski Mount Southington, regardless of the fact that Mount Southington possesses less than 1% the acreage of Vail. The real value of "Going with a Pro," so to speak, is consistency.
At this point, readers might be wondering if anyone has ever successfully taught their significant other to ride. The answer is, of course. I'll leave you with this thought, however - despite having used the line, "I can definitely teach you to snowboard. I am a certified snowboard instructor, after all!," countless times in bars across snow country, I have never taught a significant other to ski or snowboard. Never. I've offered tips and advice here and there, but only after they had been taught by an impartial, certified third party. Even those instances have been few and far between. My girlfriend is herself a certified ski instructor who dabbles in snowboarding, and while we've often joked that I probably could teach her to ride without the two of us trying to kill each other, we've still yet to go through with it. And why would we? As a seven-year veteran instructor, I know several hundred qualified, certified professional snowboard instructors. I let them handle her instruction!