Ok, now we're getting more real.
I'm sure you're a good instructor technically, btw. Remember, ski INSTRUCTING, rather than coaching, is however a sales job. You acknowledge that you see other people getting tipped more highly, and have made a conscious choice to not do what they do. That's fine, but it's your own decision, and not a resort issue. We could get real micro here and even ask if you practice smiling and good posture in the mirror every morning, or do some of the other things that seem little but can have a big effect by the end of the year.
MAYBE we can criticize Vail for poor sales training here, but maybe not. That's different from criticizing either their pricing or their pay. Since you even see some of what is working for others and choose not to do it...I don't know. Have you sat down and said you'd like to earn more tips and asked for help and honest feedback from others? My recommendation would be to create an action plan this season, and track your compliance with that plan and its individual factors at the end of each day over the season. If at the end of the season your tips are still at $5/hr, that may just be where you're gonna be given your personal style, but you already acknowledge that others aren't stuck at that number.
From my experience, a majority of private lesson clients DO tip while a majority of never-evers don't UNLESS the instructor somehow solicits tips. With that said, I have had completely satisfied private lesson clients who have extended their booking, but not tipped. I've also had some who have tipped less than what you claim.
I have known and heard about instructors who:
tell clients what they get paid and more or less tell them they expect to be tipped,
put a $10 or $20 bill on their clip board at the end of the day as they check students out
talked about the tip of the ski pole (or ski) and drawn a $ sign in the snow
I enjoy instructing and feel that clients already pay a fair price for my services in the form of a lesson fee. I agree that by not doing the above that I have cost myself some potential tips as virtually all my students have been happy with the job I've done. I'm ok with that but think that the resort should either pay us a reasonable % of the lesson fee or make clear to customers that we only receive a small % of the lesson fee and/or that the resort views tips as a major component of instructor compensation.
People on EpicSki tip more than the average skier because they are more informed about the system. From http://www.epicski.com/t/125872/tipping-etiquette-for-ski-instructors/30
If it wasn't for EpicSki, I would never have realized that even full-time instructors get paid diddly-squat and I would never have realized that tipping instructors is considered "normal".
Or maybe I'm just totally out-of-it, which would not be the first time that I have deduced that.
Ok i had to sign up just to respond to this post. I have been lurking for a long while but this kind of hit me. I now feel like a complete D-bag for not tipping the instructors. I always tip reall well at restaurants, etc. but it just never came to mind to tip the instructors. So for those who I have slighted by not recognizing their service...my apologies.