- I worked all day (i.e. no much free skiing)
- I grossed $98.00 with some tip. I assume that people out West get more tips and, perhaps, they could double their gross to $150/day with tips. Maybe if I were to take out the old rich ladies I may get some extra $'s (the Aspen Extreme flick showed so!.
- If I could do that 7 days a week: $150/day x 30 days is $4500 a month gross: not bad but not great either..... My friend, a former instructor at a famed resort in the Rockies, laughed at me when I asked him if it is reasonable to expect to make ~ $4,000 a month on pay and tips and told me to assume $3-400 during a good week-end, and comes what comes during the week-days.
The ski school grosses much more. Small Midwest resorts ask easily $40/hour. Big resort ski schools ask $50/60. Clearly, they have fixed costs
(ski school directors, few instructors hired on a seasonal base to run certain programs, some clerical workers, a rent, maybe,...)
The clients complain. One asked me why ski lessons are so expensive. He told me that he would like to hire me for the day, but cannot kick out $200 a day (Midwest!.. at Rockies resorts that does not gain you much instruction these days) even considering that it is this guy, his wife, and two kids. Just buying the lift tickets was not minor achievement for his family. I explained to him the pay structure for PSIA and he thought he was paying big $$$$'s, but did not know for what since I was getting just $... And asked me if he could hire me outside of the ski school for $26/hour instead. I politely declined the offer (yes, I did, I have a corporate job after all and do not want to break any rule, although the temptation...)
So, here we are: we are called "pro", we are certified, we talk big words, they fail us if we don't ski well, we don't teach to their liking, but if we pass all their certs we get $13/hour (gross, no insurance, no ret. benefits, etc..). Hardly the way of life of a "pro", in my opinion, maybe you would disagree..
In these days, I also received the visit of a friend of mine from Switzerland. He is also a ski instructor back home. He is actually a snowsport instructor, since in Switzerland it is mandatory to show mastery of two "tools" to become a certified instructor (he is a skier and a snowboarder, but some are skiers and telemark skiers, or alpine and nordic skiers, etc..). He was also quite surprised by how much ski lessons or snowboard lessons cost over here (not to mention the lift-tickets, easily twice the cost in Europe) and by how little goes to the ski instructors.
Now, the way somebody explained it to me makes a long story short:
- there are bunch of kids or young adults who skip 1-2 semesters in college to teach ski/snowboarding.. they work almost for free if they can ski/snowboard free during the time off. So there, PSIA "pro's", you have your own outsourcing of jobs.
- PSIA acts important and, undeniably, some PSIA pros are excellent skiers and instructors albeit when a pro is paid $13/hour gross, it makes me laugh to call him a pro, but does little for their associates. My father was a carpenter, nobody ever called him a pro, just a carpenter; but thankfully for my family he was making more than $13/hour and got some benefits too.
I think that PSIA should explain whether ski schools could do without PSIA, and/or if resorts could perhaps do without ski schools or not. If the ski schools business is good for a resort, then perhaps PSIA should play a better role for its members, in particular when the fees we pay to get certified, keep up with our credits, etc, are not on a PSIA-"pro" pay scale. Plus, we need to buy ski, boots, equipment which are not sold for peanuts.... at least not to me.
I am starting to feel that PMTS and their recent statement about creating pros to work outside ski schools is perhaps the way to go. It may be hard to get lessons without the structure of a ski school, it is true, but the web is an amazing tool: "build it and they will come" .. to your website. Sure, there would not be a PSIA patch to gurantee the guy/girl you are hiring has any skills, but they cost you 1/3 and you may like to try. Plus, if they really suck, you can clearly refuse to pay, after all.
I believe that PSIA should certify us, but we become real pro, we work on our own. Unfortunately, if I remember correctly, you need a Ski School director or something like that to sign a few application forms in order to attend a certification exam.... which shows how much PSIA, Ski Schools are going around the ski instructors.
Why do I say all this? Well, I am a manager, fairly well paid, I could take 1-2 years off (it may not help my career afterwards but, then, one never knows...) and use my money to leave comfortably out West and teach. But, if I were not that lucky how does one live out West and perform as a ski instructor? Part-time jobs? Sharing a small apt with other ski instructors? (you know, when you get a little old you'd like some privacy and not sharing a humble apt with noisy kids, some likely of questionable hygiene perhaps, ...) and if I get to drive, because clearly they will not let you leave cheaply by the slopes, it would be nice to have a reliable car and not a 20 year old tank or a new Geo Metro. So, to cut it short, it seems to me that the current pay scale is totally out of touch with reality, we get cuddled, given patches, make the brochures of resorts, but when it comes to what really matters (how much we are worth) we always come out short. Sure, I could be a bartender at night and go to teach sleepy and groggy, or sleep around with old ladies to make some extra (if those ladies still attend ski resorts nowadays), etc.. but all these seems not acceptable when you are called or want to call yourself a pro.
Something is fishy with all this business. Maybe I spent too much time abroad and saw that over there ski school professionals are exactly that.
They make a living, not great but adequate, out of teaching. Or, maybe, I just think of PSIA and the ski instruction business as something it is not and never was meant to be....
I hope you can share your opinions/ideas with me.