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The 2015 Tipping Your Instructor Thread

post #1 of 264
Thread Starter 

This article which I found on @Sinecure's Facebook wall, is another piece of educating the market that ski instructors appreciate the tips they get and it helps put food on the table. 

Tipping Your Ski or Snowboard Instructor

 

Some of the comments on Sinecure's wall were an eye opener about how many folks really don't know the pay structure of instructors and the reliance on tips. 

post #2 of 264

Long story short... your instructor makes peanuts. If they've done a good job, tip them. 

post #3 of 264

And to make the story longer, here's what a good instructor does, tell me this is not something that should be well compensated for:

 

•  Watch the student(s) ski and evaluate their skills.

•  Determine one or two key things to teach that would help them advance.

•  Create a lesson plan of how to teach those things.

•  Execute that lesson plan.

•  Check for understanding and adjust the lesson plan as needed.

 

Where I teach this is often all done in a 1 hour time slot!

 

It's not like we're given predetermined materials to teach.  Even some University Professors have an easier job than a Ski Instructor as they're just teaching the same thing in the same way over and over from year to year.

 

For us each lesson is unique and a good understanding of each student is essential.

post #4 of 264

Giving a tip for a good lesson applies to group lessons for adults, as well as ski school for kids.  Especially if the kid finishes the lesson eager to get back on the slopes.  Doesn't need to be much for a group lesson, but my sense is that it's  very appreciated.  As much for indicating that the effort by the instructor was valued, as for the monetary value to help cover the costs of being an instructor.  Especially for part-time instructors at smaller ski areas.

 

I'm not an instructor.  I'm an older parent who had a child in ski school for 10 years a few times a season.  I started working on my own skiing in recent years.  Have learned a great deal from the instructors who post in online forums as well as those I've worked with in person.  Bottom line is that I'm having more fun skiing than ever before as a result.

post #5 of 264

What's an appropriate tip for a private instructor?  Someone told me $50 for half-day (3 hours) and $100 for full-day (6 hours)?

post #6 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 

What's an appropriate tip for a private instructor?  Someone told me $50 for half-day (3 hours) and $100 for full-day (6 hours)?


For what cost for the lesson?  There is quite a range between small areas in the flatlands, areas that cater to locals in the big mountains, and destination resorts.  I usually figure the tip based on a sensible hourly rate independent of the cost charged by the ski school.

post #7 of 264
What percentage of the bill do you tip a waitress who provides great service?
post #8 of 264

I must admit that if it weren't for these forums, I would have never guessed how underpaid instructors are even at larger, destination ski areas.  I did have a brief ski instruction career at a small hill in Pennsylvania, where I worked for "not much", but I assumed that at larger areas -- where instructors were living and working full time -- that they'd be paid a reasonable wage.  You don't know what you don't know and all that.  I received all of one tip while working in Pennsylvania; I was stunned as the idea had never crossed my mind.  (I'm still amazed that somebody considered my poor attempts at ski instruction worthy of a tip...).

post #9 of 264

Yeah, I don't like the percentage model.  I don't like it for restaurants, either.  As a result, I tend to overtip at cheap places and maybe shave off a little at expensive places. (If an expensive meal ties up a table and a server for hours, then yeah, tip more.)

 

In ski instruction (camps, groups, and the one private I have taken) I aim for an aggregate tip between me and whoever else is apt to tip of around $20/hour. 

post #10 of 264

I've weighed in on this topic before, but here goes. Caveat -- my own daughter is a snowboard instructor (4 years, certified level II) at a big western resort.  

 

Her "pay" is $11-16/hour, depending on circumstance.  So...resort charges $700/day for the lesson and pays out $128 to instructor -- 18%.  

82% goes to the resort.  Now I know resorts need to make money for snowmaking, lifts, overhead, etc., but really.... 82% profit margin???   

I firmly believe resorts should pay quality instructors a decent wage.  Even if the resort doubled my daughter's wages, they would still make $444/day from every private lesson -- a very reasonable (to me) profit.  

And I don't think it would take doubling her pay to provide her a decent living wage.

 

And....there would be the added benefit that experienced and capable instructors would be motivated to stay and develop their skills as instructors.  To that point, my daughter is the only person left from her hiring year at the mountain; everyone else has found greener pastures.  The mountain is forced to do huge recruiting each year to get new indentured servants - er, I mean instructors.  How good can they be?

post #11 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by tch View Post
 

I've weighed in on this topic before, but here goes. Caveat -- my own daughter is a snowboard instructor (4 years, certified level II) at a big western resort.  

 

Her "pay" is $11-16/hour, depending on circumstance.  So...resort charges $700/day for the lesson and pays out $128 to instructor -- 18%.  

82% goes to the resort.  Now I know resorts need to make money for snowmaking, lifts, overhead, etc., but really.... 82% profit margin???   

I firmly believe resorts should pay quality instructors a decent wage.  Even if the resort doubled my daughter's wages, they would still make $444/day from every private lesson -- a very reasonable (to me) profit.  

And I don't think it would take doubling her pay to provide her a decent living wage.

 

And....there would be the added benefit that experienced and capable instructors would be motivated to stay and develop their skills as instructors.  To that point, my daughter is the only person left from her hiring year at the mountain; everyone else has found greener pastures.  The mountain is forced to do huge recruiting each year to get new indentured servants - er, I mean instructors.  How good can they be?

 

You're right about the retention piece. And it doesn't have to be a huge increase, either. I think average hourly for a 4 year Level 2 at my mountain would be something around $15-$17/hour... which depends on class type and class size, but that's a general ballpark. Our staff retention rate is 85% On the other hand, its only that rate when teaching. Get cut, no pay. Training, you get a much lower hourly rate. Doing morning check in, hill set up, etc... much lower base rate. Even the best of our instructors are pretty happy if they clear $10k over the course of a 5 month season. 

post #12 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by tch View Post

 

Her "pay" is $11-16/hour, depending on circumstance.  So...resort charges $700/day for the lesson and pays out $128 to instructor -- 18%.  

82% goes to the resort.  Now I know resorts need to make money for snowmaking, lifts, overhead, etc., but really.... 82% profit margin???   

 

I go to Northstar --- big Tahoe Resort.

 

I usually tip $50 for 3 hours ($550) or $100 for 6 hours ($765).


Wow, that's criminal how much the resort cut is!!!!  I had no idea!  

 

Lemme know if you know of any good kid ski instructors :)

post #13 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post

What percentage of the bill do you tip a waitress who provides great service?

 

 

How much do you tip your dentist, plumber, auto mechanic, or investment advisor?

 

These are professionals who's time is billed out at a professional rate, so a tip is unexpected.  I'd like to think that ski instructors are professionals - their time is certainly billed out as if they are, yet the resorts stea^H^H^H cream off most of it and leave little for the instructor. 

 

So, like the waitron who is dependent on tips to make a living, a tip is expected for the ski instructor. It shouldn't be that  way.  I can't really do much about it, other than complain on the internet.

 

And, yes, I always tip my ski instructor.  I also make sure that any private lesson I take is a request so that the instructor gets a bump. (Don't know who to request?  Find the picture board and pick one!)

post #14 of 264

While I appreciate tips, I do not feel it is the job of my customers to make up for what the resort does not pay me.

post #15 of 264
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by tch View Post

 

Her "pay" is $11-16/hour, depending on circumstance.  So...resort charges $700/day for the lesson and pays out $128 to instructor -- 18%.  

82% goes to the resort.  Now I know resorts need to make money for snowmaking, lifts, overhead, etc., but really.... 82% profit margin???   

 

I go to Northstar --- big Tahoe Resort.

 

I usually tip $50 for 3 hours ($550) or $100 for 6 hours ($765).


Wow, that's criminal how much the resort cut is!!!!  I had no idea!  

 

Lemme know if you know of any good kid ski instructors :)


Our very own @dookey67 is an amazing kid instructor at Northstar. 

@Sprinkless works at Squaw but I think he's a team coach so not sure if he teaches outside of the teams. 

post #16 of 264

I typically  ALWAYS tip people I know are earning less than the regular minimum wage and have to claim tips as income on their tax returns.  Even if they don't get tipped they have to claim/file taxes like they did most of the time... 

 

Some highly specialized home furniture and appliance installations will garner a tip from me if the workers show respect for our home and property, wiping their feet cleaning up after themselves, etc..  I'll usually give the cash to the foreman but be sure some other workers see that I am tipping the crew.

 

Tipping ski instructors was pretty unheard of when I worked as one at a midwest dump in the early 80s.  That said, I'll usually toss in a ten or twenty for a one hour private with my kid if they skied the whole time with them and not succumbed to the whining to go inside.  Also will tip if a group lesson turns out to be a private or semi private.

post #17 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post


How much do you tip your dentist, plumber, auto mechanic, or investment advisor?

These are professionals who's time is billed out at a professional rate, so a tip is unexpected.  I'd like to think that ski instructors are professionals

We try to perform professionally, but we have no say in what is billed for our services and/or what part of that sum becomes ours.
post #18 of 264

Inquiring minds want to know.. what kind of accounting standards are maintained by the ski schools for this gratuity income these days?  Are even 50% of the cash tips claimed by the instructors as income?  Waiters have to claim everything, sometimes more than they actually got if they got less than 10% of their food and drink sales for the pay period.

post #19 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post

 

Wow, that's criminal how much the resort cut is!!!!  I had no idea!  

 

 

 

I don't think most people do.  One would think that for a group lesson where 8 people pay $50 each that the instructor's cut of the $400 would be more than $15 or $20, but one would be wrong.

 

And the instructors only get paid if there's a paying lesson - you can show up for lineup on time, in uniform, ready to work, but if there's no lesson you don't get paid.  And if you get hurt while on the job (but during the unpaid time between lessons) by some out of control JONG running you down there's no workman's comp.

 

I guess there are worse jobs, but seems to me that  the ski hills give the instructors a raw deal.

post #20 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post
 

 

 

I guess there are worse jobs, but seems to me that  the ski hills give the instructors a raw deal.

That's a fact for sure.  And that's why I'd rather try to be a patrol nowadays if I lived close enough to a resort to ski that often.  Instructor compensation and benefits used to be way better than it is today.

 

As for no pay for line ups that don't work out in a paid lesson, I used to consider the free skiing as compensation for showing up for the line ups and clinics.... and getting to wear the cool jacket..

post #21 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post
 

Inquiring minds want to know.. what kind of accounting standards are maintained by the ski schools for this gratuity income these days?  Are even 50% of the cash tips claimed by the instructors as income?  Waiters have to claim everything, sometimes more than they actually got if they got less than 10% of their food and drink sales for the pay period.

By federal law, all tips and gratuities must be reported as income.

 

That being said, no mountain I have ever worked at takes any role in accounting for an instructor's tips. It's up to each instructor to keep track and report. 

post #22 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by freeski919 View Post
 

 

I appreciate the 

By federal law, all tips and gratuities must be reported as income.

 

That being said, no mountain I have ever worked at takes any role in accounting for an instructor's tips. It's up to each instructor to keep track and report. 


I'm a hundred percent sure I wouldn't have reported any tips received in any occupation if they weren't also tracked by the employer like what usually happens in the restaurant and bar industry most places. 

 

I'd be a liar if I said I never received an extra cash tip on a job that wasn't reported on my tax return....  Just saying that is why tips are way more optional for people where we can be relatively certain they are being paid the federal or state mandated minimum wage (not the restaurant one) for the hours they worked with me.  Again though, if I'm happy I always tip the instructor just because I remember the BS that they sometimes have to put up with.  Just don't feel it should be mandatory or even really super common for everyone to feel obligated to tip.

post #23 of 264

I am a part-time ski instructor, and I have seen a significant decrease in tipping activity in recent years. In times past, I received consistent tips in what I would say are "normal" levels as described below. Now, I see far fewer general tips in groups and privates, complemented by more frequent individual large tips (over $100) from time to time. For educational purposes, I'll share how I approach tipping, when family members or I personally take ski lessons...

 

To put things in perspective, a ski instructor needs to earn about $100 in tips daily to create any chance of full-time work pay. One of the challenges with the ski instructor pay system is that generally ski instructors are only paid their hourly wage, when they are actually teaching. For most ski instructors, this maxes at 5-6 hours per day, even though they are likely arriving at the mountain at 730am and departing after 430pm, essentially working a full day. The tip monies are critical to balancing the fewer paid hours of a ski instructor.

 

Hourly Privates: Here's the problem with an hourly private... the ski instructor is only being paid for hours booked. If you book for less than a full day, the instructor may or may not get other paid work. Generally bookings go out morning and afternoon. However, it is frequent that instructors on the private team are paid for only a couple hours of work and are essentially, working all day. Thus, consider the following when tipping privates:

1-hour Private: Tip $40+, please consider always booking a 2-hour+ private to keep your instructor employed!

2-hour Private: Tip $40+

For each additional hour: Tip $10+... thus an all day private should be $80+

 

Group Lessons: Instructors need tips in Group Lessons too. Although there are fewer gaps in work as the day is generally half or full, there is still a lot of down time since many half-day lessons only run a couple hours and class handling requires a lot more lesson creativity. When I'm tipping in group lessons, I look at the length of the lesson and number of participating students to determine the tip amount. Often when I'm a student, I'll approach other group members and "pool" our money for the lesson tip. This not only ensure getting the group to an appropriate number but also educates newer participants on the etiquette.

Half-day Group: Tip $10+ each, with the goal for the instructor to receive a $50+ tip for the lesson.

Full-day Group: Tip $20+ each, with the goal for the instructor to receive a $100+ tip for the lesson.

 

Tips are of course a personal choice, but please keep in mind that ski instructing is a challenging profession. Many instructors are certified, which takes time, talent, and dollars to achieve. The more highly certified your instructor or the more challenging the student, the higher you should tip. Also, consider how your instructor personally impacted your day... getting over the hurdle to progress your skiing, the special local's knowledge to enhance your stay, equipment needs recommendations, personal experience like access to private areas of the resort, extending lesson time into personal, non-paid time, and of course having fun! Ski instructors can elevate your day, and you should reward them when impactful:)


Edited by ssm949 - 1/22/15 at 6:55pm
post #24 of 264

As a total aside, is there a way to hire an instructor "outside of the resort"?   It'd be cheaper for the student and more beneficial for the instructor! 

post #25 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 

As a total aside, is there a way to hire an instructor "outside of the resort"?   It'd be cheaper for the student and more beneficial for the instructor! 


This will get both the teacher and student banned from the resort and possibly arrested for soliciting or loitering faster than anything imaginable.  The staff is looking for people doing this all the time.

post #26 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 

As a total aside, is there a way to hire an instructor "outside of the resort"?   It'd be cheaper for the student and more beneficial for the instructor! 

 

As I understand it, most resorts prohibit any formal instruction by anyone outside the ski school. An instrcutor who tries to "bypass the middleman" will be fired.

 

Sometimes an independent ski school or ski club is allowed to teach on the hill, but my understanding is that this has to be approved by ski area management.

 

Agree that things would improve for everyone (other than the resort) if the monopoly was broken and market forces were allowed to work their magic.

post #27 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 

As a total aside, is there a way to hire an instructor "outside of the resort"?   It'd be cheaper for the student and more beneficial for the instructor! 

 

Personally, I would question the integrity, capability of any instructor that agrees or solicits for pay work in this way. There are strict guidelines within resorts on such activities, for which any instructor should be readily aware. Sure, I personally "instruct" friends and such outside the system from time to time, but I never collect monies for such work and rather engage in such activity as a true gift. If you are a private, registered school some resorts may permit you to operate on their terrain for either a daily or percentage fee. Still, many resorts will not permit this, and the overriding fee structure frequently outweighs any potential benefit to the business model.


Edited by ssm949 - 1/22/15 at 4:22pm
post #28 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by pj415 View Post
 

As a total aside, is there a way to hire an instructor "outside of the resort"?   It'd be cheaper for the student and more beneficial for the instructor! 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by crgildart View Post
 


This will get both the teacher and student banned from the resort and possibly arrested for soliciting or loitering faster than anything imaginable.  The staff is looking for people doing this all the time.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post
 

 

As I understand it, most resorts prohibit any formal instruction by anyone outside the ski school. An instrcutor who tries to "bypass the middleman" will be fired.

 

Sometimes an independent ski school or ski club is allowed to teach on the hill, but my understanding is that this has to be approved by ski area management.

 

Agree that things would improve for everyone (other than the resort) if the monopoly was broken and market forces were allowed to work their magic.

But this whole idea is very questionable. What if ones brother or a close friend is an instrcter or either of them are just very good skiers and want to teach that person. Why shouldn't you be able to go to a mountain, buy lift tickets and ski together and have instruction given to that person.  I taught my wife to at least learn to ski years ago. I also years ago sent my kids for lessons at very first but then I spent very many ski days teaching them afterwards. Why shouldn't anyone be able to do those things and that to me is not much different from one paying someone to come to a mountain with them and teach them. You pay for your ift tickets, spend money at the lodge, etc... why should you not be allowed to learn however and by whomever you want. No one is skiing for free. The resort should ban you from the resort? and lose your money and patronage forever? If one wants to take a golf instructer along for an instructional round, he doesn't have to be from that golf course.  You pay greens fees and head out with your instructor and that's it.  As long as you and the one teaching you pay to use the slopes is all that should matter.

 

now if your talking about an instructer who works for the resort taking cash for uncharted lessons then that's a diferent thing and he probably wouldn't or shouldn't be working there after that happens. But even then if he were there on his own tme and was teaching a friend or family member that shouldn't matter either imo. 

post #29 of 264
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kneale Brownson View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walt View Post


How much do you tip your dentist, plumber, auto mechanic, or investment advisor?

These are professionals who's time is billed out at a professional rate, so a tip is unexpected.  I'd like to think that ski instructors are professionals

We try to perform professionally, but we have no say in what is billed for our services and/or what part of that sum becomes ours.


When I ran a septic tank pumping/sewer cleaning business our service men were tipped on a regular basis.  My employees were paid far better than most ski instructors I know. 

post #30 of 264
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post


When I ran a septic tank pumping/sewer cleaning business our service men were tipped on a regular basis.  My employees were paid far better than most ski instructors I know. 

But they had to put up with all kinds of crap on a daily basis...
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