Kate Clabeaux on Instructing and Working Towards Her Alpine Level III

Squaw Valley instructor Kate Clabeaux, a recent recipient of the Nancy Oakes Hall Women’s Scholarship, discusses how it is helping her attain her Alpine Level III certification, and the importance of a professional instruction community.

Congratulations on passing your Alpine Level III Ski Exam, what did it take for you to reach this goal?

Thank you, I am very excited to have completed my Level III Ski exam. When I joined PSIA-AASI, I never thought I would be capable of skiing at the Level III standard. Around four years after completing my Level II, I felt like I was stagnant. My skiing wasn’t improving on its own. As a young female children’s ski school instructor, I was intimidated to join clinics heavily dominated by the adult school instructors. I wasn’t sure I had a place there.

Another female instructor encouraged me to show up, so I did. I made going to clinics a priority and started putting personal ski time into training. I also started meeting other like-minded instructors and forming a community. I made connections with mentors and began to ask for personalized attention. I have dedicated my past two winters to earning my Level III and I am very excited to have accomplished part of my goal.

Any tips or insight you would like to share with other instructors who would like to achieve this certification?

Going for certification takes a lot of time and hard work. Build yourself a community to support you and support them in return. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to make a place for yourself. And don’t forget to have some fun.

The Nancy Oakes Hall Women’s Scholarship helped support you in your certification costs. What made you decide to apply for this scholarship?

Pursuing certification is costly. Besides the exam fees, there is the time taken off work to train and take the exams as well as the travel expense costs. The financial costs have felt worthwhile when I’ve passed my exams, but have added another level of disappointment when I did not. This was my second attempt at Level III. After the resources I put into my first exam, I wanted to make sure I was really ready for my second try. I applied for the Nancy Oakes Hall Women’s Scholarship so that I could focus on my skiing and not have to worry about the costs. Receiving the scholarship meant I had every reason to retake the exam. It gave me the kick I needed to sign-up. I am very grateful the scholarship exists as a resource to women in the industry.

How did other women in your professional community support you on this journey?

I feel very fortunate to work at Squaw Valley, California where we have many amazing women in leadership roles. Not only is it inspiring, but it also shapes our resort culture. When I ask for help or ask to participate in new ways, I’m welcomed into the community.

I’m also fortunate to have female peers that are part of my Level III training group. I love how we are able to support each other and cheer each other on.

What is it about instruction that is so interesting to you, and where would you like to take your career in the future?

I love being an instructor because it is about more than just teaching folks how to slide on snow. There is nothing more satisfying than providing someone with the skillset to tackle a new goal as well as the self-confidence to attempt it. Beyond becoming a better skier, learning a new skill creates the opportunity for self-discovery and personal growth. What I enjoy most is seeing my long-term clients develop as skiers and humans. It is amazing to see young skiers grow up to be ripping, thoughtful adolescents.

This season, I have begun to work as a trainer. I have immensely enjoyed the opportunity to mentor new instructors and serve as a resource for them. I would like to continue to move my career in this direction.

What can we do to continue to encourage women to pursue a level III certification?  

The Women’s Initiative Task Force recently released the Women Belong on the Mountain report. The report shows there is a gap between the amount of women with the level II and level III certifications. For alpine, women make up 21% and men 71% of members with their Level III. The gap is even larger on the snowboard side where women make up 13% and men 74% of members with their Snowboard Level III certification. Knowing this, we can do more to support women to achieve higher levels of certification.