Don’t Just Blindly Book Your Snowboard Lessons

Learning to snowboard is something I like to write about on this blog, and a key part to the discussion is the snowboarding lesson. Given that myself, and friends, have paid for one or two lessons that haven’t been very good – I’ve had in mind to put forward a few things that you should look for when booking a lesson. A kind of check-list, or tips.

But I think it’s simpler than that: you want a good instructor. If the instructor is good and you need some guidance, you’re going to get it and you’ll probably improve. What you want to avoid, is a bad instructor. I don’t think you need a check-list for this, you just need to know what you’re getting…

Snowboard instructors: France

The crux of this warning comes from personal experience and the experiences of friends, the majority of which is based on lessons in France. When it comes to French snowboard instructors, two things spring to mind:

  1. ESF is everywhere
  2. France has some crazy rules for being qualified to teach snowboarding

This isn’t a bash on ESF: many snowboarders have had great lessons with ESF. For example, I met a really good instructor in Chamonix. Three of us had a good freestyle lesson, rode some powder, and when the lesson was over he offered to guide me down an off-piste run back to the town. Sweet. But you can get bad lessons with them too. And because ESF is a big ski/snowboard school, with lots of instructors, you might not know what you’re going to get…

As for the rules, this isn’t really my area, but I’ve picked up the following (please use a comment to correct any mistakes). France has a qualification for snowsport instructors – they don’t have separate ski- and snowboard-instructor qualifications. Part of the test to be a snowsport instructor, is a speed test, on skis. So your snowboard instructor might not be much of a snowboarder – more of a skier. They just happen to be someone who can be paid to teach snowboarding…

I haven’t written that to put a cloud over every snowboard instructor in France – far from it! The key point is that if you don’t ask, you don’t necessarily know that you’re getting a snowboard-specific instructor.

Some suggestions

If you’re getting a lesson in France, make sure the instructor has a snowboarding-specific qualification, rather than the general, snowsports qualification. This isn’t a blanket rule, but I’d rather be taught by someone who’s been snowboarding for the last 10 years, rather than doing 1 snowboard lesson to every 4 ski lessons…

Look for: BASI, CASI or NZSIA certified instructors. These are examples of governing bodies that have snowboard-specific qualifications, so the instructors have been trained accordingly. If you’re interested you can look on their websites to find out more about the different levels of Instructor.

You’ll find these instructors all around the world, but perhaps less so in France. I understand that at the moment, BASI Level 4 instructors can apply on a case-by-case basis to have their qualification recognised in France. I assume other associations can too? I don’t think it’s as prohibitive in other European countries…

Don’t just pick the big school. A smaller school may well provide a much better service, and you’re more likely to find a company with a snowboard-specific approach.

Get get someone’s opinion, experience or review. Just like if you were buying a new snowboard, find out what others are saying about the instruction from the school that you’re looking at. Forums can be great for this because there are loads of snowboarders willing to share their thoughts. There’s a good chance you’ll find someone who’s used the school you’re considering…

Some good snowboard schools…

To provoke some thought, maybe get the ball rolling, here are some examples of snowboard schools that people have given good praise to. If you know of others, please add them in the comments.

Related posts

On the subject of snowboard lessons, here are some other posts and pages that may be of interest:

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Comments
4 Responses to “Don’t Just Blindly Book Your Snowboard Lessons”
  1. K says:

    Had the worst experience with ESF Val Thorens…, never again!!

  2. Gavin says:

    Tried anyone different since? What was the problem, bad organisation, bad tuition? And was it a beginner lesson?

    Cheers,
    Gav

  3. kevin says:

    It was highest class freeride: stated to be off-piste including safety equipment. First day: no equipment and didn’t leave the piste.
    This was last December (2010), so haven’t had the chance yet to try anything else since.

    -K

  4. Gavin says:

    Hey Kevin, thanks for the update. That really does suck. It’s one thing to have an instructor “not be the best” – but for a course to be nothing like it was stated as being, is just shoddy!

    Good luck with any future freeride stuff!

    Cheers, Gavin