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Professional Ski Instructor Economics: Progress Report?

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Eleven years ago I started a thread in this forum asking a lot of questions around the professionalism of ski/snowboard instruction that I called The Elephant in the Living Room. Then a year later I posted a TEITLR 2.0 thread to check up on the old status quo. 

 

Here are the questions that might be interesting to revisit several years after, but you decide:

 

The word "professional" implies that those so certified are engaged in a career. A career implies that it sustains a life's work, earns a day's bread, and carries health and retirement benefits.

The elephant I refer to is the fact that this profession allows such a small percentage of those who proudly carry the credential to have a career. Only around 23% of the total membership of AASI/PSIA is Level III certified, and only a fraction of the Level III certs work full time in the profession. Many are resting on their laurels while pulling in a steady paycheck in a technical or professional field.

Why? Because they couldn't support themselves, let alone a family, from their career as a pro.

Why do intelligent people continue to pay big bucks for the credential that enables them to join the profession and have the career?

Why do alumni encourage candidates to persist instead of warning them that they will have won a pyrrhic victory?

Why do examiners agonize over their reponsibility to deliver accurate judgments?

Why do we all behave as if certification was a "high stakes test"?

 

And the 2.0 question:

 

Do you agree or disagree that tips are a barrier to ski instruction joining the socially respected professions?

 

I would add a couple more:

How can ski instructors and their associations have a bearing on the economics?

 

How do they influence the "means of production," the ski schools and the ski resort management over them?

 

How do all together persuade the skiing public to partake of their good works? 

post #2 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by nolo View Post

Eleven years ago I started a thread in this forum asking a lot of questions around the professionalism of ski/snowboard instruction that I called The Elephant in the Living Room. Then a year later I posted a TEITLR 2.0 thread to check up on the old status quo. 

 

Here are the questions that might be interesting to revisit several years after, but you decide:

 

The word "professional" implies that those so certified are engaged in a career. A career implies that it sustains a life's work, earns a day's bread, and carries health and retirement benefits.

The elephant I refer to is the fact that this profession allows such a small percentage of those who proudly carry the credential to have a career. Only around 23% of the total membership of AASI/PSIA is Level III certified, and only a fraction of the Level III certs work full time in the profession. Many are resting on their laurels while pulling in a steady paycheck in a technical or professional field.

Why? Because they couldn't support themselves, let alone a family, from their career as a pro.

Why do intelligent people continue to pay big bucks for the credential that enables them to join the profession and have the career?

Why do alumni encourage candidates to persist instead of warning them that they will have won a pyrrhic victory?

Why do examiners agonize over their reponsibility to deliver accurate judgments?

Why do we all behave as if certification was a "high stakes test"?

 

And the 2.0 question:

 

Do you agree or disagree that tips are a barrier to ski instruction joining the socially respected professions?

 

I would add a couple more:

How can ski instructors and their associations have a bearing on the economics?

 

How do they influence the "means of production," the ski schools and the ski resort management over them?

 

How do all together persuade the skiing public to partake of their good works? 

Personally I think it's a good thing that I make more money at my day job than I do for my hobby. I contribute more value in my day job. Skiing is recreation. I paid big bucks for certification because it made me a better skier and a better teacher. As a more effective teacher I get paid (in smiles) more. Who says I don't warn rookies? I agonize over my responsibility to deliver accurate judgments on the slopes every day. Why shouldn't examiners? It's not about the money. Certification is difficult and deserves respect. I disagree that tips are a barrier. The biggest barrier to instructors becoming a socially respected profession (not assuming that isn't) is "Hot Dog - The Movie". Instructors and Associations can help in many ways to improve the economics of the sport. Examples:

- the primary goal of every guest interaction is to increase the pleasure the guest gets from skiing

- pros can help ways to make the school run more efficiently (showing up on time, helping to organize line ups...)

- associations can publish information to the public, facilitate the spread of best practices, can make instructor skill growth more efficient ..

Influence is a direct result of participation. Persuasion is a direct result of quality and effectiveness.

post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for your clearly stated responses, Rusty. Personally, I think the way of the profession and respect in the marketplace goes hand in hand with the way of certification. We have to take it seriously to be taken seriously. I am still torn about having Level I as a level of certification; on the one hand I like that PSIA has a gateway into the organization for those wanting to acquire a baseline of teaching and skiing skills, and on the other hand I don't think it raised our house to put in a basement. 

 

What do you think about PSIA's desire to become accredited as an accrediting body? Will that help professional ski instructors gain respect in the market? 

 

And lastly, something that comes up around here from time to time -- as it should -- do you think it will ever be possible for PSIA to establish and regulate an accreditation program for ski schools? 

post #4 of 10

Respect is a hard thing to earn and an easy thing to lose. We need some science documenting the benefits of certification to guests as well as grass roots stories of those benefits. Personally I'm skeptical that a meaningful quantification can be captured. Will we ever be able to say that it takes X lessons for an uncertified (or lower certified) instructor to do what we can do in 1 lesson? How can we compare two identical skiers with identical Nastar handicaps taking two different lessons? Twins? I think the closest we can come here is through guest satisfaction surveys. This won't be scientific and such things are easily manipulated or miscalculated/misinterpreted. But I'd still like to see a study attempted where an expert observes lessons and rates the results. In the meantime, forums such as Epic are starting to spread lesson success stories for improving "grass roots" communication faster than "lesson horror" stories are spreading.

 

Personally, I too would rather see level 1 certs referred to as registered members versus certified instructors. But this is a complex issue. With the low level of certification recognition of the public, the harm of confusion caused by mixing certs into one basket is small. Is this a catch-22 where the low value of level 1 harms the growth of recognition of the value of higher certifications but we need level ones to grow the pool of higher certs? Let's assume that there is a measurable difference in quality between an average uncertified instructor and an average level 1 cert. If you look at what lessons a ski school teaches, beginner lessons constitute somewhere around 40-75% of their lessons. Now it becomes easy to argue that having level certs is at least valuable to a ski school and should have measurable results in terms of guest satisfaction. Does a level 1 cert increase the effectiveness of marketing PSIA membership to an uncertified instructor? Does a level 1 certification increase the growth rate of pros into level 2 certs? Is an instructor wearing a level 1 cert pin a net positive for PSIA? Is PSIA a stronger organization because of level 1? I suspect the answer to these questions is yes.

 

I am unfamiliar with PSIA's desire to become an accrediting body. Info?

 

School accreditation is one of my pet interests. Unfortunately, my (cough) "test marketing" of this idea has encountered 90% negative reaction for a variety of reasons. I've been trying to package this idea as a win-win for schools and instructors. The primary idea here is to systematically document ski school metrics and best practices to provide a path for increasing guest satisfaction, ski school profitability and instructor job satisfaction. It will be easier for resorts to invest in ski schools if they have a reliable means for determining return on investment. It will be easier for schools to implement programs for improvement if they have yardsticks to measure their progress. But these ideas are going nowhere until a lot more details are put down on paper, an implementation model is shown to be financially workable, a formal proposal is made to a division and some guinea pigs are found. This idea will not work until we can get resorts to divulge confidential data. PSIA, as a neutral third party, can play a vital role in protecting proprietary information. But resorts are going to have to weigh the costs of having their own data help competing resorts develop a better product against the benefits of having other resort's data improve their own product. The good news is that they do this today with NSAA. The bad news is that that data is no where near as detailed as what this effort needs to succeed. My thinking now is that this idea needs to start out as an effort to share best practices and can grow into an accreditation program once the benefits become well documented.

 

Here's an example of a school accreditation test. Measure school profitability per guest visit, instructor pay per hour worked and guest satisfaction net promoter score. If all values are x% above the nationwide/regionwide average, a certain certification level is achieved. It's easy to increase profitability at the expense of pay and/or satisfaction, but if all 3 are going up then clearly someone must be doing something right.

 

I think regulate is a bad word for a school accreditation program. PSIA's traditional approach to the industry is a "carrot" vs "stick". The goal here is to make the industry more successful by making schools more successful. We can't force schools to be more successful. We want to help them be more successful. Why do they need our help? How can we help them?

post #5 of 10

One of the great idea's that the CSIA came up with was to carry the liability insurance for certified instructors. This ensured that resorts only hired certified instructors.

post #6 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by lokie View Post

One of the great idea's that the CSIA came up with was to carry the liability insurance for certified instructors. This ensured that resorts only hired certified instructors.

 

Insurance is hugely important to mitigate risk. But... 

 

Personally I think that an instructor organization granting insurance for teaching for approved ski schools only is a load of crap and a clear example of conflict of interest in the CSIA. Clearly it's not related to risk management, as instructors don't carry any further danger teaching independently than teaching for a ski school, so I can only infer that it's a protectionist move. I would hope if the PSIA offered insurance, they would offer it for instructors regardless of who they're teaching for, and not for ski schools. It's my view that an instructor organization should serve the instructors rather than ski schools or resorts. 

post #7 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

 

Personally I think that an instructor organization granting insurance for teaching for approved ski schools only is a load of crap and a clear example of conflict of interest in the CSIA. Clearly it's not related to risk management, as instructors don't carry any further danger teaching independently than teaching for a ski school, so I can only infer that it's a protectionist move. I would hope if the PSIA offered insurance, they would offer it for instructors regardless of who they're teaching for, and not for ski schools. It's my view that an instructor organization should serve the instructors rather than ski schools or resorts. 


They do.  The CSIA does not insure you, or anyone, or anything....rather they use money from your anual fees (about 50%) to purcahse insurance for you, on your behalf.  I understand doing it this way results in a better rate for all.  Your insurance then covers you, whether you are teaching for a ski school, privatley, or where-ever.

post #8 of 10

SD, I think you're saying that freelancers are covered; I wish that were the case. From the site's insurance section: http://snowpro.com/en/membership/membership-information.html

 

 

 

Quote:
The CSIA policy will also not cover CSIA members' freelance teaching activities.
post #9 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Metaphor_ View Post

SD, I think you're saying that freelancers are covered; I wish that were the case. From the site's insurance section: http://snowpro.com/en/membership/membership-information.html

 

 

 

 

 

Quote:
The CSIA policy will also not cover CSIA members' freelance teaching activities. Other coverage is available for this, and the CSIA strongly recommends that members engaging in this kind of work secure independent coverage. For more information on insurance coverage for Independent/Freelance Instructors or for snow schools and/or ski camps, please contact Frances Dion at the CSIA Head Office at 1 800 811-6428, Ext. 231.

 

Interesting - I didnt know that...I always thought I was covered no matter what I did.  Seems you can get extra coverage for freelance thou.....

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by lokie View Post

One of the great idea's that the CSIA came up with was to carry the liability insurance for certified instructors. This ensured that resorts only hired certified instructors.

PSIA has a deal for insurance too. It's $185/yr. I didn't see any restrictions on free-lancing in the high-level stuff, but I did not check the fine print.

 

I don't use this because my ski school covers my liability and my day job covers my health care. 

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