Wearing a face mask is a thing, and communication is more challenging this season. Here are some tips to keep in mind: 

Removing additional barriers and background noise is even more important. Move your students away from the tops and bottoms of lifts, find quiet areas to speak. Try to set meeting spots even farther away from crowds and noise, or use big hand gestures to show “follow me”, “stop here”, and “look up/be safe” to safely move your group before talking at all. 

Direct your voice. Now, more than ever, is the time to be aware of grouping your class so they are all within the direction of your voice. Those off to the side may struggle more to hear you.

Mask type matters. Try different types of face coverings to find the one that muffles your voice and interferes the least with your speech. Masks that create some distance between face and fabric are less likely to get caught between your lips and teeth as you enunciate your words.

Enunciate your words. Take care to form the shape of each sound with your mouth.  This will make your words clearer and just slightly slower without losing the natural cadence of speech. Try to imagine lip-synching to an audience, or mouthing words across a hockey arena.

Get expressive! The lower half of our faces is used to show mild emotions and signal social acceptance, whereas the upper half of the face expresses more intense emotion (ie: the eyewatering squinting of a real laugh, the exasperated eyeroll shared between close friends).  Explore the range of upper-face expressions available: wrinkle your nose, move your brows, widen and squint your eyes to add expression and punctuation to your words.  

Practice your ‘smize’. “Smizing” is the art of smiling with your eyes, and takes practice!  Think of trying to keep your eyes open while crinkling only your lower lid and lifting the muscles of your upper cheeks. Practice in a mirror, selfies, or with friends. Done right, it offers that extra warmth and welcome of a smile, and mastery will have others “synchro-smizing” with you.CASI instructors are masters of communication and if these tips aren’t anything new, then use them as your checklist of awesome.

Have some other tips?  Get in touch over social media and leave your tips in the comments.



Gasping for air behind your mask? Here is a (physiological) reason why:

Breathing rate and the urge to breathe is controlled by the amount of carbon dioxide (CO₂), not the amount of oxygen. Because face coverings trap some exhaled air, the concentration of CO₂ is slightly higher (normal air is 21% oxygen and only 0.04% CO₂) respiration rate and urgency to breathe increses, even though there is still plenty of oxygen being breathed in.It may not help you breathe any easier, but it might give your peace of mind if you’re gasping for air after a long, run of short turns. You’re getting enough oxygen – even if it doesn’t feel that way.

Interestingly, this is what poses a problem with breathing at high altitude. Thinner air means both less oxygen and less CO₂, so not only is there less oxygen per lungful of air, but also the urge to breathe is less strong resulting in slower breath rate with less urgency: completed the opposite of what is needed.


Mellen Jay
CASI Level 4 Instructor & National Technical Team Member