Originally Posted by TheRusty
Corruption involved? Probably. Is it significant to the discussion? Probably not. On one of my ski trips to France when I checked out of my hotel, the proprietor asked "How many nights did you stay?". Then he asked "How many meals did you eat?". Then he quoted me a price. I pulled out my travelers checks (it was a while back) to pay. He then said "Oh, you pay cash! Do you need a receipt?". When I said no, he then cut the price 15% and said something about VAT. There are some who would argue that in the US the customer would have lied about the number of nights and meals and the proprietor would have just pocketed all of the tax. I'm simply going to argue that there are things in the ski industry that are different in Europe than the US for a reason. On my trips to Europe I've noticed that their seasons are longer, the tree line is lower (less money spent clearing trails), you have to pay to get rescued if you are hurt out of bounds, there's less snowmaking and fewer expensive lifts. How many people pay for ski guides in the US? Over the last 50 years how many resorts in Europe have gone out of business versus the same in the US?
In the East, there are plenty of resorts on private property that don't allow competitive ski schools to operate (maybe even all of them). There was one resort (Hunter) that had a concession school (and no resort owned school) and stopped that about 10 years ago in order to make more money and provide better service to the guests (e.g. via package deals that included lessons) by running their own school (I know the guy who was the SSD of that concession school). There is one resort in the West (Snoqualmie) that currently has competitive schools and operates on USFS land. If this business model was a superior way to do business over here, it would have succeeded.
The bottom line here is that USFS ski resort leases are the least of the reasons for the relative lack of on resort competitive ski school offerings in the US. If one wants to operate a competitive ski school there are currently two common methods in the US for doing this: via "camps" and via ski clubs. To the extent that these offering are superior to resort run ski schools, they will grow to become a stronger force in the industry. There's no need for corruption to explain any of this.
Wrong on most ( not all ) points.
First, as you admit, your "experience" occured while back, during the "golden" era of travelers checks. Things do change everywhere and Europe is not immune to it.
Second, you are stating that ski season in Europe is longer. I do not think so, resorts are generaly lower, snowfall is less than in most US resorts. Exception mght be few "higher" altitude resorts ( Val D'Isere or Val Thorens or Cervinia).
Third, treeline is lower, you are correct on this one.
Fourth, less snowmaking... Val Gardena has one of the largest (if not the largest ) snowmaking in the world, from my experience and it is more recent than "travelers checks" era, snowmaking is just as good if not more advanced in Europe, given their erratic snowfall it is essential to invest and operate state of the art snowmaking system.
Fifth, less advanced lifts ? Please, have you had a pleasure of riding a "subway" style trains that whisk you to the top of the mountain in matter of minutes ? Check Funival or Grand Motte Funiculair in Val D, Galzig gondola in St. Anton just examples. Plenty of high speed detachables. There are lot of those surface lifts, but they serve their purpose in windy days. I wish there are more of those in the US.
Six, yes one does have to pay to be rescued but only when off piste. And even then, it costs only $3-$5 in addition to super cheap pass ($35-$45 day) and that is covered. Once in the hospital, that bill would be multiple times lower than the bill in the US. Yes, they get you off the mountain cheap here just to be stuck with astronomical cost that emergency room charges.
in short, things are not that bad in Europe as you are trying to portay them to be.
The problem is here in the US where private lesson cost you $800 and instructor gets $80.
$20/hr with bonuses (L2 or L3, years of service, number of private requests etc.) seems fair to me given all of the "unique" circumstances of ski business in the US. But I also agree if instructors are willing to work for less why would business voluntarily pay more?