So how is this much different from the professional instructors on the forum encouraging people to take lessons? I'm guessing that many instructors on this forum have made a lot more money personally from having their name and words on here than Phil has ... or whatever the issue is supposed to be.
(For the record, I'm not complaining about either. It's all good, as far as I'm concerned. I can buy skis or take lessons from whomever I want. Choice is a nice thing.)
This is actually an interesting question. First, I'd disagree that instructors have made as much money out of Epic as retailers. How many Epic members of the 34,000 even know who's an instructor, or where you can find them, or what their real name is, compared to our retailers, with their own websites and frequent comments from them or others (like me) to PM about particular models. Yesterday a poster was wondering if there were any 112RP's left and Phil said that he thought he had one pair left. And I usually direct "what-ski-should-I-buy" folks to our retailers rather than outsiders. When was the last time an instructor said to PM about getting a lesson? And what's your margin on lessons? Same as a shop's on skis? Face it, instructors are paid zip for a scarce skill set that took years to acquire, while big box retailers can hire college guys who raced in junior high to sell me $2,000 worth of gear in an hour. Our own small retailers have a lot different financial picture - which is why I keep trying to direct this entire brouhaha away from conspiracy theory and bias, and toward viral models, appearances, and memes - but I still think they do significantly better than instructors from Epic.
Second, lessons are services, skis are goods. The value of the lesson is a variable experience someone else's skill set provides you, like eating out, taking a college chem class, or getting a haircut. And you can ski without lessons, but not without skis. OTOH skis are durable goods, like (as we all know from the endless analogies) a car. So the ski provides fixed potential, no variation from the provider (that's quality control), and its exchange value depreciates by say half after one run. You provide the experience by using the product. Obviously, we want different skis to make us better skiers, despite all the obligatory arrow/archer quips, and we get irritated/disappointed at the ski when it doesn't. So I think we're uniquely vulnerable to skis, in the sense of seeing them as statements about how we ski, how much we know about what's hot, how "serious" we are about the sport. Lot of symbolic baggage. Like our cars. Cultural philosophers call these "narratives," which are little stories about how we see ourselves, or how we want to be seen, rather than just particular symbols, like a stop sign. Will I get the same reaction in lift line if I'm seen on narrow K2's as if I'm seen with instructor A instead of B?
Third, it's the way the "encouragement" is packaged. We all tell everyone who will listen to a) take lessons, and b) get a good bootfitter. Ritualized mantras, and better yet, truth: the fastest routes to better skiing. But so pervasive and vague they're not memes. I haven't noticed a viral blitz to take lessons from Segbrown (you need to work on that ) and we rarely mention a fitter by name unless someone's asking for a particular town or region. But skis, that's another story. Because they have so much narrative value, and we can buy them from anywhere, we're all about lapping up info about them, ready to be infected...