Originally Posted by SkiMangoJazz
Perhaps out West hourly rates are higher, I don't know, but I think $60/hr for a private is a reasonable price, and I think if ski instruction paid $30/hr. SAM would be able to find qualified instructors easier.
The last time I checked, the big boys were offering $11 (level 1) to $22 (level 3) starting pay. I've seen smaller western resorts, especially day resorts vs destination resorts offering similar pay scales to Eastern resorts. Compensation for request privates varies greatly. Last year in the East I made $45/hr for a request private.
Economics for instructors are going to vary greatly. I travel 100 miles round trip every day working at the resort. At $0.50/ mile travel cost, that's $50/day cost. Add in my PSIA expenses for dues and clinics and wear and tear on gear spread out over the hours that I work in a typical season and my total costs per season might be equal to my income if I my average pay was $30/hr. My estimate is that teaching is a hobby with a net cost for over 1/2 the instructors at my resort. For us, it would take 5-10 times the current pay scale to make teaching economically competitive with our day jobs. If I was to go out West to teach over spring break I wouldn't make enough to cover my expenses, but if I was living cheaply in a resort town and working full time things would be very different.
One year, my school raised pay $0.50/hr across the board - to better compete with McDonalds. Over 20 seasons I've seen a dozen different attempts to increase instructor pay at just my own resort. None of these has been successful at attracting more qualified instructors. Clearly a large portion of our staff does not teach primarily for money. One could argue that the pay scales would have to be increased significantly more and over a longer period of time in order to have maximum effect, but the risks for taking this approach are higher than other investment opportunities for the resort (e.g. advertising or new lifts and the direct return on investment is nearly impossible to calculate.
In theory, any increase in the pay scale makes it easier for SAM to find qualified instructors. In practice most resorts find enough qualified instructors to get the job done and don't see a return on investment for significantly increasing instructor pay scales. The reality for instructors who want to make 3+ times the going rate is that they can either do so by cultivating request privates or relocating to one of the few resorts that offers premium wages. If making more money was a driving factor in the instructor business, there would be more competition for these opportunities. Until vast numbers of people like me quit teaching or there is a huge increase in demand for highly skilled instructors, there won't be enough of a supply shortage of qualified instructors to justify a significant increase in pay scales across the industry. The resorts that are offering premium lesson experiences through better compensated staffs are not driving a significant enough increase in lesson volume to justify greatly expanding the supply of premium lesson experiences. What I see (like SkiDude's Blackcomb story) is niche filling vs a working model for evolutionary change.
Proposals to increase in instructor compensation and cause increased profits for resorts must include a business plan that allows management to measure costs and results. Without a specific business case that defines precisely how higher quality lessons will directly result in increased prices or skier visits and measurement systems that can prove the results, very few resorts are going to take the risk in increasing instructor pay and most that do are going to do that on limited basis (e.g. Hunter, Aspen). If you want to help change the status quo, devise new ways of measuring how quality lessons increase skier visits (there are some surveys showing this, but the results are not earth shattering) and help to drive cultural demand for better lessons (i.e. find and spread success stories). Or just drive people like me out of the business.