Private lessons are one of the best ways to improve as a beginner snowboarder. I’ve seen people go from faceplanting to riding their way down blue runs in a day with a good instructor.
However, lessons are only as good as the person teaching them. So how do you pick a good snowboard instructor?
1) Higher level of certification
Aim for an instructor who’s above Level 1. If you want to be really safe, go with someone 3rd level certification or higher.
In Canada, snowboard instructor certification is called ‘CASI certification’ and it goes from level 1 to 4 and there’s a similar system in the US as well.
Level 1 is kind of an ‘intro to instructing’. You’ll find that most level 1 instructors are very new to the scene and as someone who’s done the instructor’s test, level 1 is really, really easy to pass. You don’t need much more than basic knowledge and very average snowboard ability to pass the level 1 instructor’s test.
Level 2 is where it gets more serious. While it’s still possible to be a newer instructor as a level 2, you can rest assured that they have a decent knowledge of how to teach people by the time an instructor passes their level 2 test.
Level 3 is where highly experienced snowboarders instructors are found. To be level 3, an instructor will usually have had to have a solid amount of hands on instructing under their belt as well as having very, very good on hill snowboard skills.
You won’t find level 3 instructors who don’t know how to teach at a very good to high level.
Level 4 is rare and only held by a handful of people in each area. Most instructors won’t go for level 4 until they’ve had LOTS of snowboard instructing under their belt and a typical level 4 CASI instructor is someone who not only teaches on the hill, but someone who teaches other instructors as well.
To give you an idea of how tricky level 4 can be to attain, my former snowboard coach in Whistler who was a sponsored pro as well as founding and running one of Whistler’s first snowboard camps failed the test and had to really study to pass the 2nd time, despite the fact he was teaching on the hill daily for many years.
2) Find instructors who teach other instructors
Often the best instructors on the mountain are the ones who teach other instructors. They often hold titles such as ‘CASI Course Evaluator’ and other such titles which basically just mean that they are the guys who test and teach other instructors.
It goes without saying that they don’t just let any old snowboard instructor evaluate and teach other instructors. To get to that level they have had to have a lot of experience in snowboard instructing as well as a good reputation as a strong instructor with high level snowboarding skills.
One more thing
Don’t take this to mean that the average snowboard instructor is going to suck just because he doesn’t have the title of ‘Level 3 instructor’ or ‘Course evaluator’.
There are many good instructors who may choose not to advance past their level 2 or become course evaluators/trainers, so don’t hold these 2 areas to be the law on what you have to hold to be a good instructor.
These 2 areas are simply quick ways to find a good instructor if you don’t have any other starting points and need something to narrow down your choices.
I also highly recommend using good old fashioned word of mouth. If you know someone in the industry or someone who took snowboard lessons, ask them if they can recommend anyone.
Every regular seasoned rider usually knows a few good instructors, so don’t be shy to ask your friends.
Have fun and stay safe!