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private lessons outside of Ski School?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Good lessons bring more people to our sport so I'm all for more instruction.

I take golf lessons from a PGA pro at an old line country club for $60 per hour - about 45 minutes of real lesson. In our city good (senior) teaching pros make a little more per hour at a popular driving range. Can you work a deal directly with a teaching ski pro? Does a ski area have some type of restriction on instructors working directly with students instead of thru the ski school? Seems like a waste of money to a middle-man to deal with ski schools but I usually do.

Second thought on a related subject. Ski lessons are expensive yet only available in half day and full day blocks. Each block usually includes some fun skiing and rest or break time. Wouldn't it be more efficient to cut out the rest, fun skiing and bathroom breaks and have three two hour lessons, 9:00-11:00, 11:30-1:30, 2:00-4:00. I know some folks don't want this type of lesson but I know that some do. Every time my lesson starts with "We have three objectives today, "Stay Safe (which is a given) - Have Fun - Learn something". Can you imagine a football coach setting having fun as an objective for a  practice session.  I sure wish "Learning Something" was a higher priority.

What's the chance of moving instruction more toward building skills for those who want them and less toward having fun?

post #2 of 28

I've seen instructors out of uniform here clearly instructing.  However, I'm pretty sure that they could lose their job.  

post #3 of 28

I've worked with colleagues while out of uniform. From the lift, I'm sure it looks like a lesson because it more or less is, but the SS wouldn't have a problem with that. The tougher part comes when out free/social skiing with friends. I never give input without a specific request, but I'll take 5 minutes to point something out or toss a trick their way if asked. No money is involved. Part of a run and done sort of thing. I don't think the SS would have a problem with this either.


Edited by markojp - 10/14/13 at 6:14pm
post #4 of 28

Resorts in some states can have people arrested for free lance instructing on their property.  They want a monopoly on that cash cow and have lobbied legislators to protect it.  There are plenty of decent ski schools that will work with you and are flexible and quite responsive with regards to giving the pupil/customer the kind of instruction they are looking for.  Privates shouldn't be any kind of cookie cutter product.  If they are you should ask for your money back.  Some people want that though, just someone to ski with their kid/spouse for awhile so they can get some solo time or time with other friends.  Others hire a private instructor just so they can cut lift lines.  Regardless, ask the ski school if they can set you up with the right instructor to match your objectives for the day.  But, be very wary of trying to hire a stranger that is unaffiliated with the resort.  It is against the resort policy at 99.999999% of the places I've been to.

post #5 of 28

Hi Steve,  Those are some good questions, I will try to answer from my perspective.

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by steveturner View Post
 

Good lessons bring more people to our sport so I'm all for more instruction.  Couldn't agree more!

I take golf lessons from a PGA pro at an old line country club for $60 per hour - about 45 minutes of real lesson. In our city good (senior) teaching pros make a little more per hour at a popular driving range. Can you work a deal directly with a teaching ski pro?  In most cases, not legally.  I think it comes under "defrauding an innkeeper" or something like that.

 

Does a ski area have some type of restriction on instructors working directly with students instead of thru the ski school?  Yes they do, most ski areas operate on USFS land & they regulate which snowsports school can operate there.  If the resort is on private land then I am sure the owners have final say on who may conduct business or run a concession on their property. 

 

Seems like a waste of money to a middle-man to deal with ski schools but I usually do.  Seems that way doesn't it.  Kinda seems like the school & area only act as an agent for the instructor & their cut is way out of whack!  For private lessons this may very well be (there is another thread about that if you have a few days to read it :rolleyes), but also consider that the instructor is working under the umbrella of the areas worker's comp & liability insurance (ain't America great!).  Instructors also receive training from the snowsports school trainers which ideally creates a better product for you, the guest.

 

Second thought on a related subject. Ski lessons are expensive yet only available in half day and full day blocks.  In my experience, I don't think this is the norm, I know my area will sell 2 hour blocks & even 1 hour in special circumstances. 

 

Each block usually includes some fun skiing and rest or break time. Wouldn't it be more efficient to cut out the rest, fun skiing and bathroom breaks and have three two hour lessons, 9:00-11:00, 11:30-1:30, 2:00-4:00.  It is your time, you should be able to break it up any way you like.  I have seen it happen that the guest will sometimes break up the time in a way that it does cut into the instructors ability to teach during the between time therefore costing them.

 

I know some folks don't want this type of lesson but I know that some do. Every time my lesson starts with "We have three objectives today, "Stay Safe (which is a given) - Have Fun - Learn something".  Well I don't know who you have been having lessons with, but you sure won't have any fun with me...  Just Kidding!  I think the Safety, Fun & Learning thing does get a little overplayed at times.  The concept is that if you trust the guidance of your instructor & that he/she isn't going to scare the crap out of you, it will enhance the learning experience.  If the process is enjoyable & positive, you will probably be able to trigger a repeat performance on your own.  If you are comfortable with the environment & relaxed with the situation, you will most likely anchor some of the desired outcomes.

 

Can you imagine a football coach setting having fun as an objective for a  practice session.  I sure wish "Learning Something" was a higher priority.  I have done my fair share of coaching & being coached as well.  A good coach will sense what brings the best results from his individual athletes & conform his style to get the most out of them.  Maybe "fun" is the wrong word for you.  To me winning is fun, exceptional performance is fun.  If it came too easy & without some effort. it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.  Maybe "Reward" or "Challenge" is a better word.

 

What's the chance of moving instruction more toward building skills for those who want them and less toward having fun? One of the things that helps me as a coach/instructor is the initial interview & your ability to be forthcoming with your wants & needs.  I have students who want to be led with a firm hand & stern critique, yet others want to be guided with kindness along with positive feedback.  Each individual has their own learning styles, it is up to both the instructor & the student to form a partnership that allows you to cut to the chase in the most efficient way to be as effective & productive with your time as possible.

 

JF


Edited by 4ster - 10/15/13 at 7:11am
post #6 of 28

Good pros will talk with you early on to find out your goals, but sometimes this gets overlooked or an instructor makes the wrong assumptions.  Make it clear early on that your idea of having fun is to work on building skills.  With private lessons (like you do with your golf pro), this is really easy to accommodate, but good pros will be able to do it in a group setting as well.  Best of luck.

post #7 of 28

Yup, a well trained pro understands the lesson content and terrain need to be appropriate for the student. They also understand that excessive risk taking during that lesson serves no one. That is in a nutshell why S comes first in that SFL mantra. The fun factor has become more important since studies suggest the mental and emotional state of a student profoundly affect what a student learns and retains. But in the end the SFL mantra is meant to help the instructor design a better lesson and avoid putting their class in harms way. Perhaps the best way to express the idea would be to speak about how we will be challenging the students to try new things but in the safest way possible.

post #8 of 28

Private lessons are what you make them. Don't want to have fun? Tell the instructor. Just want to have fun? Tell the instructor. As instructors, we emphasize fun because we realize that skiing is a recreational activity for the vast majority of participants. If you're not having fun skiing, then there typically isn't much reason to do it at all. But if that's not your bag, just say so. That's the great part of a private lesson, its yours to dictate.

 

As far as privates outside of ski school, (just realized how innuendo laden that previous phrase is) it is almost always prohibited by the mountain, if there is money changing hands. If I'm teaching my wife how to snowboard while out of uniform, that's fine by the mountain, they could care less. If I'm giving buddies pointers and they buy me a beer(s) at the end of the day, whatever.  However, if I'm arranging a private lesson for a fee without going through the resort, I'm begging to be fired. If an independent instructor not affiliated with the mountain is conducting his own lessons, he is looking at having his pass pulled, and likely being prosecuted for theft of services.

 

There are exceptions to this, but they narrow exceptions, and always happen with the mountain's blessing. PSIA conducts instructor clinics with its own examiners on member mountains. Obviously host areas are welcoming of such events as PSIA member schools. A race program (high school, college, masters, etc) will have its own coaches, and has an arrangement with the mountain for use of the slopes. Ski clubs may have an ongoing relationship with a mountain in which it provides instruction for its members as part of their club dues. Again, with the blessing of the mountain. Non-sanctioned independent instruction for pay just doesn't fly at American mountains.

post #9 of 28
I'm thinking of keeping a secret diary about what happens with my lesson series this year... For release at season end. Don't want someone logging in and saying, hey that's me!
post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks to everyone for their input.

 

I guess the answer to the first question is an individual instructor can't give lessons at most, maybe all, ski areas in the USA. That may be a good business model for ski areas. I guess they're making a lot of money off of Ski Schools.

 

"As instructors, we emphasize fun because we realize that skiing is a recreational activity for the vast majority of participants."

 

I hear this too. I just come from the camp that I ski for fun and I take lessons to improve my skiing that will make my skiing (not the lesson) more fun. Guess I'm in the minority - as usual.

 

I've hired ski guides in Europe. Sounds like Instructors are often expected to fill the Guide function in the USA.

post #11 of 28

Let me provide some points from the management perspective (I'll probably put myself in hot water here, but so what).

 

Every ski area in the country either own or lease their land so despite the thought that they are on public lands, they do have a legal right to restrict what activities occur. Case in point, this is why Burton, or for that matter the whole snowboard industry, has not tried to sue for access to Mad River, Deer Valley, and Alta (the 3 remaining resorts to not allow snowboarding).

 

Almost every ski area in the country provides a free season pass as a benefit for working there. Many argue that you need the pass to work so it is not a benefit, but I have heard that Deer Valley has gone around that by providing passes on days when instructors are working and if they don't work they have to go to their manager to see if they can stay on the hill (Deer Valley does restrict the number of skiers per day that can visit so if they are sold out and somehow you are not working, well your headed to PC or Canyons for the day if you want to ski).

 

Every ski area in the country carries the liability insurance that covers the ski instructor. I have, personally, looked into personal liability insurance and it is not cheap especially for a "high-risk" activity like skiing.

 

My last point, at least at my area, we provide a lot of free hours of training to our staff. They don't have to pay, but the ski school does pay the trainers (who are also the highest paid instructors) so there is another benefit cost. You could also start to factor in other benefits like, at my area, passes for family, food discounts, retail location discounts, many equipment companies will only sell, at pro form, to ski school staff, worker's comp if injured while working, locker room space, free parking (yes this is a benefit at some areas), free tuning equipment and wax and I'm sure we could all think of a lot of other stuff.

 

Then there is the marketing question. Was it really your stellar instruction that drew the client to the resort in the first place, or did they come because of another reason?

 

All of this adds up to a lot of upfront cost that instructors don't have to deal with. And I don't know an instructor out there that isn't taking advantage of almost every benefit they get, it's how we afford it. The biggest factor, for me, is the liability. I just don't think it is worth it nor do I think I could get paid as well.

 

 Does off the books happen, sure. I could name 3 people at my area, not affiliated with the ski school, who give private lessons. The smart ones only teach kids and pawn it off as babysitting with a little skiing. Really the impact is so little, especailly with a kids ski school the regularly sells out, that we don't give it much mind. I can name a few part-time staff members who teach off the books to clients they have had forever and it annoys me, but I have bigger fish to fry. I, myself, have skied with staff from other ski schools, at my mountain, for a burger and a beer trade.

 

As I always like to say, this is just my perspective.

post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveturner View Post
 

Good lessons bring more people to our sport so I'm all for more instruction.

I take golf lessons from a PGA pro at an old line country club for $60 per hour - about 45 minutes of real lesson. In our city good (senior) teaching pros make a little more per hour at a popular driving range. Can you work a deal directly with a teaching ski pro? Does a ski area have some type of restriction on instructors working directly with students instead of thru the ski school? Seems like a waste of money to a middle-man to deal with ski schools but I usually do.

Second thought on a related subject. Ski lessons are expensive yet only available in half day and full day blocks. Each block usually includes some fun skiing and rest or break time. Wouldn't it be more efficient to cut out the rest, fun skiing and bathroom breaks and have three two hour lessons, 9:00-11:00, 11:30-1:30, 2:00-4:00. I know some folks don't want this type of lesson but I know that some do. Every time my lesson starts with "We have three objectives today, "Stay Safe (which is a given) - Have Fun - Learn something". Can you imagine a football coach setting having fun as an objective for a  practice session.  I sure wish "Learning Something" was a higher priority.

What's the chance of moving instruction more toward building skills for those who want them and less toward having fun?

At Torrey Pines (a golf course in California), there's a sign at the range indicating instruction from non-Torrey Pines instructors is prohibited. It's rare to see the official policy posted, but the policy is not unique to the ski business and it is widespread. The reality is that the profits from instruction are no different than the profits from greens fees/lift tickets. Your ski lesson fees help pay for the interest on debt, snow making and lifts as well as the management and training. Allowing someone to teach on the mountain for profit is the same as allowing someone to wheel a taco cart into the cafeteria or someone to stand in the golf pro shop offering cheaper gear to golfers looking at clubs. But third party instruction does happen on the golf course and ski resort both over the table and under the table. Under the table instruction usually is no problem until it becomes visible above the noise level (e.g. the ski school desk gets complaints about the third party instructor). Over the table happens for things like "camps", "demo days", large groups and special events where the resort is aware and has approved of these activities. When they hold tournaments at Torrey Pines, you know the competitors are going to be using their own coaches at the range. When they hold races at ski resorts, the competitors have their own coaches. 

 

I don't know of a resort that does not prohibit its ski school staff from working "off the books" teaching guests for money. This is usually a fireable offense. I also don't know of any experienced instructor who has not been approached by a guest with a request to work off the books. Consider the idea that a skilled instructor would always turn down such an offer.

 

My small resort teaches mostly 1 hour and 90 minute lessons. One reason larger resorts teach 2 hour lessons as the minimum is logistics. If it could take 30 minutes to get from the lesson meeting area to the terrain to be taught on and another 30 to get back, a one hour lesson does not work. The thing to do is ask the ski school desk for a 1 hour option. If it makes sense and enough people ask for it, they might offer it. We had enough people asking for 2 hour privates, that we added it to the menu.

 

It's a lot easier to teach a lesson when students tell us precisely what they want. When we have to guess, we have to start with things that have been proven to work better on average. We know that tired skiers are more susceptible to injuries and don't learn much. We know that because we ski more efficiently than 99% of our students, we have to be alert to them getting tired before we do. I teach according to the safety, fun and learning method. Emphasis on the "and". I want as much learning as possible to occur in the time allotted that just happens to be safe and fun even though safety and fun have priority over learning. That's a long term recipe for success. But if you want a lesson where you get your ass worked, I'll have a lot of fun giving it to you. Fast or slow, steep or flat, tiring or easy - I can pump it out however you want it as long for as long or short as you can take it. The "chance of moving instruction more toward building skills for those who want them and less toward having fun" is zero in general, but 100% for you personally if you can get a skilled instructor. Some of us might have a bit of trouble taking the fun out of the lesson without taking some learning out as well. Personally, I'm having a hard time getting rid of the visualization of me with stripes on my uniform sleeve yelling "Get more edge angle you Maggot!"

post #13 of 28

 I like the people who are in the chain of command at the mountain I teach at.  They treat me well and they promote a contagious environment of professionalism and excellence, along with respect for us as employees.  They also expect us to treat each other with respect and courtesy, and do the same towards our guests.  It is a great place to work.  I work in a ski school full of happy people.  They are happy out on the hill.  We also have a ski school with a very high level of PSIA certification at all levels.  We are just as serious as anyone about good teaching, and we have fun doing it. It's serious fun.  People who are happy and relaxed are usually more receptive to learning, and more able to successfully complete their tasks and achieve the desired outcome. 

 

I clinic regularly with senior instructors as part of our ongoing training.  The best clinics for me are the ones where we are doing lots of skiing, we are working hard on a task, we all support each other, and (yes) we are having fun. 

 

I could be fired for teaching off the books and that is quite clear.  I have been approached about off the book lessons..  I say no quickly and without reservation. My choice.   

 

The mountain is out to make a profit, but not all of it is about filthy lucre. 

 

It is my belief that there are enough good instructors out there at most mountains that you would go to who could give you the kind of instruction you are looking for, and do so within a ski school environment.  My mountain does a lot of one hour privates.  You can get a lot of good intense work done in an hour.  A good pro will leave you with enough to do for the rest of your ski day on your own.  It is not simply a matter of learning a new movement pattern.  After that you have to drive it into muscle memory by repetition, repetition, repetition.  The best teachers don't overteach.  More is not better.

 

Surfdog

post #14 of 28

I have the dubious honor of being pulled over by an Aspen police officer on Snowmass mountain for suspected poaching during one of our ESA camps.  He was wearing a badge on his parka too!  Charlie MaCarther came to my rescue and all was cleared up with the office but none the less it was an interesting occurrence.  

 

On another note, instructors ski with friends all the time and instructors can't help themselves to be talking about skiing or offer a tip or two to their friends.  How can a resort differentiate from non paying friends and pirating lessons from the ski school short of stopping the skiers and asking point blank?  I ski with my ski shop customers all the time. They purchase boots and other ski equipment and alignment services from me.  When I ski with them I look at their alignment and offer feedback and friendly pointers....am I poaching?  I don't think so.  No resort owns me or my skills and I am not selling lessons in their parking lot or taking business from their ski schools. 

 

An instructor who teaches on the side and collecting money from the student, especially a past student from the resort ski school system, should lose his or her job.  A past or current instructor who is skiing with a friend or friends and offers free advice is not doing anything wrong in my book.  An instructor doing this for a stranger is a fool.

post #15 of 28

The "middle man" has been demonized along with business owners.  They provide the training, marketing, and overhead necessary to provide the product.  It's a symbiotic relationship between employer and employees.  Sure there are bad employers and there are bad employees but neither should be demonized.

post #16 of 28

I can see how golf lessons would be more competitively priced than Ski Lessons. Just due to the fact that there are more places to get golf lessons than ski lessons.

My guess is that the Golf Pro makes more than the ski instructor? Or is it the other way around?

post #17 of 28
Golf pros don't make much. Same deal - folks get into it because they love the game. Lots of folks competing for the positions keep wages down. For the record, I'm not a golf pro but have researched it in the past.
post #18 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsman View Post

Golf pros don't make much. Same deal - folks get into it because they love the game. Lots of folks competing for the positions keep wages down. For the record, I'm not a golf pro but have researched it in the past.

 

 

Not necessarily true - depends on where you are teaching and who you are.   Golf instructors at Po Dunk Public make a lot less than the pros at Pebble Beach.  Ski instructors at Sun Valley make a lot more $ than instructors at Silver Mt. Idaho (actually they lose money).

post #19 of 28
Agreed, but your first job as a pro isn't at Pebble, its at a small country club or muni. Ditto ski instructor I would presume.
post #20 of 28

Related to the topic, do golf courses ban people from teaching on the course that aren't on staff there?  Can I book a tee time for myself and some free lance pro and go play 18 holes with them?  Can I go hit buckets of balls with them at the (any or most) driving range(s) while paying them to give me pointers? 

 

Limiting the places available for pros to teach at helps keep labor costs (instructor pay) down while limiting the options for students seeking instruction keeps revenues (lesson prices) high. 

post #21 of 28
I'm not an insider, just active golfer but no, I expect most courses, at least private courses, would frown on someone not on staff giving instruction. A driving range will probably depend on whether there is a teaching pro on staff. If not, the management probably welcomes instructors to sell more buckets if balls. Like most analogies, the comparison breaks down if you push I too far but there are similarities in the two sports not only in instructing, but the challenges acing the industries due to the high costs - and gofl is cheap relative to
post #22 of 28
Mobile bit me and hit post by accident.

Golf is cheap relative to skiing if you play a muni.
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsman View Post

Mobile bit me and hit post by accident.

Golf is cheap relative to skiing if you play a muni.

 

 

You are making overbroad all emcompassing statements that aren't necessarily true.   Season pass Lookout Pass ski area $89.00 ski usually about 30 times a year, this is a heck of a lot cheaper than golf.  I don't know anywhere I can play 18 holes 30 times for $89.00.   So, sorta depends on where you live, Northern Idaho skiing is way cheaper than golf.

post #24 of 28
A I said, analogies break down when you push them too far and there we always exceptions. I can play 18 holes for about $18 at the local muni. It costs me $5 in gas to get there and while I have nice clubs, I could play with a $200 set from a big box if chose to. It is a 2 hour drive to the closest hill, and that's close for most of the US. Result is $50 gas round trip. My season pass was $350 early bird. I own gear at $1,000/set plus cold weather gear. Could rent for $40/day which will get you 18 holes at many decent courses but it's easily a $100 day with gas. I pack lunch so I'm not counting that.

Again, analogies break down. I started because someone asked about salaries of golf instructors and like skiing they can struggle with low pay because of the number of people interested in the job and that too many think thy dont need instruction. Golf pros do have the advantage of a 12 month a year job.
post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sportsman View Post

Golf pros do have the advantage of a 12 month a year job.
Not in the places most of us live. Very small demand for golf instruction when there is 2 feet of snow on the ground, and very few indoor places employing pros during that time.
post #26 of 28

What we are losing here the cost of operation of both ski resorts and golf courses. It costs a lot more to run Stowe Mt. Resort then it does Bolton Valley. Similarly is costs a lot more to run Pebble Beach then the local muni. None of the places charge the the instructor to operate there. Stowe costs more to ski then Bolton. That is done on purpose because, like it or not, folks make an assumption of quality based on cost, but the resort has a responsibility to live up to or surpass that assumption. Stowe attracts more people then Bolton providing more opportunity for work and pays better then Bolton so that the coaches are motivated to provide the higher level of service. The pay isn't awesome, but it is enough to live off if you make smart choices. Not being a golfer, I expect the same is true of golf.

post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post
 

  Can I book a tee time for myself and some free lance pro and go play 18 holes with them?  Can I go hit buckets of balls with them at the (any or most) driving range(s) while paying them to give me pointers? 

 

One thing that I'm surprised doesn't come up more often in the free lance instruction threads is lift lines. As far as the golf course is concerned you and your free lance pro look much like any other two or foursome. If you are skiing you and your FLI also look much like every one else. One critical difference. You may play through or get played through by another foursome on the golf course. At the ski area on a busy day you and your instructor are are talking in the lift line while my client and I are going to the front of the line (at my resort privates even get priority over group lessons). A good pro will figure out useful ways to use even the time standing in line, but over the course of a couple hours on a busy day l will get in from 1 to 5 more runs even when I do talk to much.

post #28 of 28

^^^People book privates on powder days to cut lines all the time. 

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