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Ski instructor compensation and tipping: a slightly different question - Page 2

post #31 of 44
Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA View Post
your guess on what an instructor is making for a 3 hour group lesson is WAY high.
I'll second that. Also I would say how 1 person vs. 3, 4 or 5 people in a group works out in the long run for the instructor has a lot to do with how the pay structure works at their resort. For me, if I go simply on what I get paid per head (which as you see in a sec isn't a fair way to calculated things), a two hour 1 person group works out to roughly minimum wage. Fortunately, I have a guaranteed daily minimum that bumps it up to above that. Lot's of places don't have that tho. When I get up to 5, 6 or 7 students, teaching can become a pretty worthwhile occupation (that doesn't happen very often. I'd say the average group size is somewhere slightly above 3). I have worked at other places where if I had 1 or 10 I was making the same amount for 1 hours work.

So just another thing to think about.
post #32 of 44
there are resorts in colorado paying full certs a fair and equitable wage.

it is my responsibility to drive/market my private lesson business. today i traveled to a nearby resort to teach an all day private. it was a request and at present i am paid 160% of my hourly base rate for private requests due to the fact that my request rate is high. i have worked hard to market my skills.

the client seemed to enjoy the lesson and my gratuity was over 35% of the private lesson cost. by days end we, and i do mean mean we, had accomplished a few of the things articulated at the beginning of the day as goals. the client worked hard and so did the instructor. it was a partnership.

i had a substantial payday. i received a nice bonus. i know what my client does for a living and i assure you my "bonus" was a drop in the bucket in comparison the their annual bonus.

if you book an all day private lesson with an instructor and at days end you achieve what you set out to do.........then do the right thing and get off the dime.

btw.....all i told them was "right tip right to go right and left tip left to go left"

a hopeless clone.
post #33 of 44
I won't sell. I'm not a salesman. I have worked hard and long to build my skiing skill, my teaching, my ability to see a person's movement and analyse it, and myriad other things. I'm a teacher. I am so very offended by the definition, by resorts, of a "good" instructor as being a good salesman. Selling is unclean, and I won't do it. If the person I'm teaching can't see that what I'm doing is useful to them and good, then that's fine. But I won't sell.

Needless to say, I don't make as much money as good salesmen! I'm not as valued by resorts as a good salesman, either.
Ski instruction is either babysitting, or selling, pretty much. And I suck at both.
post #34 of 44
Hey Ant--I know how well you ski and teach, and how dedicated to the profession you are. And I agree that the few fortunate students who ski with you may realize what a great lesson they are getting from you and may come back for more. Certainly, by far the best sales pitch is an outstanding lesson that meets and exceeds the needs and expectations of your students.

But consider that many more may be missing the opportunity to experience your excellent teaching, simply because they don't know about it, simply because you haven't helped them realize that opportunity exists. Even those who do ski with you may miss an important opportunity if you don't let them know what other great things you can help them discover--what you might explore with them tomorrow (if they ask for you).

Selling gets a bad rap, and certainly some sales people deserve it. I agree with your distaste for the sleazy tactics that sometimes count as "selling." And I'm a pretty poor salesman too.

But when it's a question of informing people who wouldn't otherwise know of an opportunity for something they want or need, you could argue that, as a good professional, you owe them a little sales pitch! That's what great and successful instructors do, and I don't think it's the least bit sleazy when done in this spirit. It's not like they're selling snake oil. It's really just the natural extension of a good instructor's genuine desire to help people. You can't help them if they don't ski with you. If they don't get the benefit of your teaching because they don't know what you can do for them because you didn't tell them, you have done them a disservice. If they ski with a lesser instructor because that's whose card they picked up somewhere instead of yours, you've let them down!

So keep teaching those great lessons. But don't keep your services a secret. Get the word out. More skiers will be the better for it! (And you'll deserve the improvement in your bank balance.)

Best regards,
Bob Barnes
post #35 of 44
Vail lists it's full day lesson @ $625; they don't even publish an hourly rate for a private and indicate that it's on a walk in basis only.

Aspen would be $540 for an all day.

The Pocono Palace , lists the all day rate as $425 or $80 for an hour private.

At the "Pocono Palace" the average instructor would make about $62 gross for that day.
post #36 of 44

selling and tipping

To quote Bob Barmes "Selling gets a bad rap, and certainly some sales people deserve it. I agree with your distaste for the sleazy tactics that sometimes count as "selling." And I'm a pretty poor salesman too"

to this follow up to Ant, I agree.

As I transitioned out of full time ski instruction and tennis instruction, I realized one of the basis for being successfull at these things is selling ourselves. Maybe a computer programmer doesn't need these skills, as they are not "on stage", but you are in front of people teaching them something AND entertaining them. If you are "good" at these things, you are selling yourself. from then, creating a lesson plan for the rest of their life... " "...another private next week and then we'll do this and then some milage here and here, then back for a half day to see howt his is going and then this next step..." you create the road map for success and you are part of it. if you don't believe you can do that job, don't ask for it.

Anyway, I got back into teaching in a ski school again this year for the 1st time in 8 years.. sundays , privates... and in my 7 days so far this year I've totaled over the $1000 in tips that someone said a good instructor makes in a year. (not vail or aspen either, where the good ones should and are making much more) If people feel they are getting something great for a great value, they will compensate. maybe i'm just sleazy by selling myself well? i don't think so, I still think ski instructors are way underpaid. if i could make half of my income of my desk job, I would gladly go back to teaching full time.
I also believe that is why tips may be low...because many ski instructors expectations are low. we make what we feel we are worth.

So prosper, from your point of view, tip what you feel the instructor is worth that works with you budget. I don't tell my clients what to tip, and nobody should tell you. just realize that the tip is key to the living of the pros.

post #37 of 44
also, this goes against what i just said about not telling people what to tip, but here's a version of what i think...

Yuki said "Vail lists it's full day lesson @ $625; they don't even publish an hourly rate for a private and indicate that it's on a walk in basis only.

Aspen would be $540 for an all day."

i'd guess if the guy or gall was good, $120 to $150 tip for vail and $100 to $120 for Aspen's rates.

post #38 of 44
Ant - you must have been reading my mind. I have used those exact words to both my supervisors and to my clients who ask when to get their kids into Ski School.

Bob - I give out my cards and chat up about our products and otherwise drop tactful seeds, but still most of the time I get a smile, a handshake, a big thank you and some emails. This is OK if it is sincere. It's my choice.

For better or worse I have chosen to do this. It drives me deep in my soul. If it were about $ I am quite sure that I would've chosen a different path.

At my resort, it seems the business model we follow leaves assigned privates as the lowest on the payscale, unless we roll it to an extension or a follow up the following day. My history is riddled with families that are fueding, disgruntled first timers who have no acclamation to the environment, incongruent friends, and all manner of other not rollable situations. Consequently I have chosen to do only request privates or groups. Consequently my tips suck. Am I disgruntled - no. Do I give less to those in my classes - no. This is my choice.

I think the tip issue, whether it be in our industry or restaurants or any other service business, has gotten misunderstood. We should not EXPECT a gratuity. We can not do justice to our student(s) or feel good about ourselves if this becomes a motive to augment our meager salaries.

The travesty is, as Propser suggested in the original post, the mind set of the instructor getting a better percentage of the fee is eroneous. It has been decades since the instructor has been properly compensated. The deterioration of our renumeration is commensurate with the corporate take over of the industry. Thus, the discussion of "professional" becomes very different than whether to tip or how much to tip.

Sorry to vent, but I am absolutely passionate about what I do. However, I hate my job!!!! Know what I mean?
post #39 of 44

Why you should tip as well as you can. . .

So prosper, from your point of view, tip what you feel the instructor is worth that works with your budget. I don't tell my clients what to tip, and nobody should tell you. just realize that the tip is key to the living of the pros.
Well said, and a great post, Holiday. I'll just follow it up with a little insider information, from the perspective of another instructor. The jist of what I'm about to write is--if you want service above and beyond from top instructors, don't overdo it and don't create a finacial burden for yourself, but above all, don't be cheap. The best instructors give generously of themselves to their clients, at a level far, far beyond that of the "average lesson." Make it fair--return in kind, according to your own abilities and means.

Instructors should never expect tips, or feel entitled to them (as wait staff in restaurants are, at least in the U.S.). Nor should students feel obligated to tip. Tips are earned through superior service, and tips are given through free will, generosity, and appreciation. Instructors appreciate good tips immensely, but should never expect them without delivering superior lessons.

That said, students should be aware of the reality of what instructors get paid, as well as the realities of how the very best instructors make their living. Instructors know how expensive private lessons, in particular, can be, and they generally understand if skiing with them stresses your budget. They aren't looking to create financial hardships for you. Few full-time instructors could afford the lessons they teach, much less a generous tip on top of it. But they aren't stupid, and they do have to make some choices. And, while they do what they do out of love for the sport, the profession, and for helping people, they must make a living.

Many skiers can easily afford to tip well. If that's you, consider tipping generously. Few instructors would hold a small tip against you if it reflects your financial reality. But cheapness from those who can easily afford more offends instructors who have worked hard to develop their talents to a high level and who give their all to you.

Tips are in your best interest. The very word means "To insure prompt/perfect/priority (whatever) service," and the clients who get the best service from their instructors do tend to tip well. Top instructors bring a wealth of knowledge and talent to the game, and they will go to extraordinary lengths to help their best clients. If you want one of these rare, top-shelf teachers to go out of his (or her) way to fit you into his schedule, to show you the best "secret" runs and powder stashes, and generally to treat you like a Class A "preferred client," tip well. His other clients do. The best instructors can afford to be selective, and you are competing for their services. If you manage to arrange a lesson with one, and if you hope to do it ever again (or with any of the top instructors in that resort--word travels), show 'em you're worth it. Tip according to your means--don't create a financial hardship for yourself, but don't be cheap! In big destination resorts, the best clients are legendary tippers, and they get the best lessons.

This may sound harsh, but it reflects the reality of life, business, and relationships in general, whether we like it or not. The best instructors have chosen their career, forsaking other opportunities, and they must make a living. They are talented, skilled, knowledgeable, and generous. You can't even compare an experience with them to the "average" lesson, even though most resorts charge the same amount for all private lessons, regardless of the instructor. Yes, they also get paid a little more than less experienced and less talented instructors, but only a fool would make try to make a career from an instructor's wages alone. Great instructors are an endangered species. Protect them, if you want them to stay around and play with you!

Best regards,
post #40 of 44
I have a question for the instructors.

There are times when a group lesson just doesn't go very well because there is one student who is in need of an inordinate amount of attention. In my experience in this situation, the "lesson" becomes a whole lot of skiing ahead, waiting for "Skier X" to make it down," listening to instruction about what "Skier X" needs to do to improve, and repeating. The biggest benefit of the lesson for those involved, except for Skier X, is the shorter lift line. 120 bucks for a shorter lift line for 3 hours is kind of tough to justify. Makes a tip even tougher to justify.

In that instance, what is the instructor to do? For that matter, what is the student to do?

And if your answer is "pay for a private lesson," that's fine, but there are plenty of lesson takers that are as financially imbalanced as lesson givers.
post #41 of 44
I'm not the first one to make this point, but ski resorts are making lots money from their top-notch instructors, and in my opinion they should be paid what they're worth. I don't tip my doctor, my (college) students don't tip me, and that's because doctors and college professors are exploited much less than ski instructors. I resent the fact that some amazing professional full-time ski instructors are paid so little and I resent the fact that I have to tip them because they're getting so screwed over by the resorts. (It's *not* that the instructors aren't worth it.)

Now that I think about it, I'm probably paying ski resorts more per hour for private lessons than I pay for the same amount of time from my doctor. It's at least worth doing the math....
post #42 of 44

split happens

What a good instructor does is teach multiple lessons at the same time. You give easy tasks to Student X to get them down quicker and give harder tasks to the rest of the group to make them ski slower. It's the job of the instructor to give out equal attention to all members of the group, but sometimes it is not very easy.

It's the supervisor's job to "smell" possible group splits and either assign a more talented instructor or send an extra instructor in case one or more can't keep up or one or more are too fast. It's the ski school management's job to structure the support environment to so that a pro can get help when needed. But this side of it is even harder than handling the split.
post #43 of 44

Another consumer's view

Just got back from several days at Stowe. I managed to get some (brief) time with Skiswift....
Did I tip him? You bet! Why, you ask?

He's the best instructor I've ever had.
As Bob Barnes says in his posting, the top instructors are dedicated to their craft, constantly working to keep current, or ahead of the curve, in their knowledge and teaching theories. That takes time and money, and, I feel, should be supported and encouraged.
I feel when I am skiing with the best instructors that they are deeply involved in my progress, and are invested emotionally in my improvement.
I know they get paid a pittance....that, however, is their choice, they know the rules when they put on the jacket.
I agree with Ice Queen that the resorts do exploit them, however, they choose to BE exploited.
We, as consumers, should absolutely insist on fully certified instructors for our private lessons. Many's the time I've paid $100 for a 1 hour private, to be confronted by an inexperienced, uncertified novice....I'm mad as hell, and won't take it anymore!!!
I know, I know that "many full certs. are bad teachers, and many lesser certs. are great teachers"......that is the pap which so many instructors peddle, mainly because they do not have the ability to reach the highest levels.

If my tipping can keep a good instructor in the profession, I consider it a small investment in my enjoyment of the sport.
I want to reward excellence...we deal with so many time-servers that truly exceptional performance is rare.
I just wonder how many top instructors are "not available" to lousy tippers??

Look, just in raw financial terms, I make more in a few days than even the best instructors make in a season. It is a sad comment on how the ski business is, that the front-line, customer-contact workers get paid such a small percentage of the income they earn for the resort.
post #44 of 44
Chuckle, Ziggy, I'm the same! In fact, I usually forget to give out my cards. I think that, when people pay all that money and get a good lesson, they just think that good lessons are pretty-much automatic. by the time they discover this isn't the case, them and I are at differerent resorts.

I often even forget to learn names, I'm so fascinated by analysing their skiing, and listening to what they say and working out how to give them what they want and need. The successful instructors schmooze them, and slime all over them, and use their names every time they open their gobs. Yuck. Sorry. I thought they wanted a lesson. And some enjoyment out of skiing.
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