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Nolo - here's your answer about ski instructor pay...

post #1 of 120
Thread Starter 
I don't know if you saw this or not:


In my opinion, this is the only way ski instructors (as a group) are ever going to be treated more equitably by ski area management.

I would have to say, however, that the hourly wage for new starting patrollers at Steamboat isn't going to pay a lot of bills in a resort town.

post #2 of 120
Bob, this relates to the suggestion I made in Nolo's previous thread in which I offered the idea of unionizing as one of the possible ways to correct the low pay situation.

Now the question is if instructors were to unionize, what would the effect on the ski industry be. I would think higher instructor pay would mean higher lesson costs, which would result in less students, which would mean less revenue for the resort and a reduction in the necessary number of instructors. If the union was strong the reduction would be through elimination of new hirers and attrition. Turn over rates would reduce and new candidate selectivity would increase.

All the above would tend to suggest that lesson quality would increase while total number of lessons rendered would decrease. Is this good or bad? Would this decrease in financial accessibility to lessons affect the number of skiers coming into sport, or new skiers enthusiasm to remain in the sport? From the instructor perspective would you really care? :
post #3 of 120
why don't all the instructors and coaches who gripe about the pay just move on to another line of work?

come on, folks. skiing is a sport and hobby. if you choose to work with the skiing ACTIVITY (and not the reprehensible BUSINESS of skiing) you aren't going to make much. it's that simple.

maybe artists should unionize and demand more money for their "products" (use of a business term is highly tongue-in-cheek)... uh, I mean, work?

waaaaah! we get to ski all day and we're underpaid!

waaaaah! we get huge discounts on ski equipment and don't have to pay for lift passes! we're so underpaid!

waaaaah! some of us also get health benefits etc. we're so underpaid!

good god, folks.

don't you realize that you are LUCKY to be able to make ANY income while skiing?
post #4 of 120
Thread Starter 
Originally posted by gonzostrike:
why don't all the instructors and coaches who gripe about the pay just move on to another line of work?

come on, folks. skiing is a sport and hobby. if you choose to work with the skiing ACTIVITY (and not the reprehensible BUSINESS of skiing) you aren't going to make much. it's that simple.

maybe artists should unionize and demand more money for their "products" (use of a business term is highly tongue-in-cheek)... uh, I mean, work?

waaaaah! we get to ski all day and we're underpaid!

waaaaah! we get huge discounts on ski equipment and don't have to pay for lift passes! we're so underpaid!

waaaaah! some of us also get health benefits etc. we're so underpaid!

good god, folks.

don't you realize that you are LUCKY to be able to make ANY income while skiing?
Jeez, Gonz. You've really got a burr under your saddle on this topic.

While I agree that there are (or *appear* to be considering that I'm an outsider) a lot of side benefits to being a ski instructor, it sure ain't all peaches 'n cream.

Instructors *don't* get to ski all day.

They get to stand around in lineups morning and afternoon. They get to hang out on the hill while one after another of their students skis down completely ignoring whatever drill or exercise they've tried to demonstrate. They get to tense up and hope that the 275# unguided missile in their class remembers that he's supposed to try to stop *below* the instructor and students instead of above them. They get to watch from the groomed blue-greens as their non-instructor friends track up all the new snow.

When I worked for a ski school, I intentionally chose not to try to become an instructor *because* of the fact that most of them don't get to just "ski" everyday.

I'm certainly not saying it's a crap job with no perks, but I also don't think it's the waltz through the daisies that you're making it out to be. Many of the instructors I know do it - in large measure - because of the joy they get from seeing their studens have fun.

I don't think there's anything at all wrong with instructors trying to figure out a way to make more money. Every "profession" you can name struggles for ways to do exactly that. I know for a fact that a lot of people make a very lucrative business out of teaching members of your profession how to increase their billable hours or zero in on better-paying practices.

I've always felt that the percentage of the overall lesson bill that goes into the pocket of the actual instructor is outrageous. This is *not* a free-enterprise system. The ski area corporation owns a monopoly on who will be allowed to teach on that mountain and under what circumstances. While it's apparently pretty healthy for the ski area, it's not a healthy arrangement for either the potentional customers or for the instructors. If instructors want to try to find ways to improve that, I'm all for 'em.

post #5 of 120
I don't think there's anything at all wrong with instructors trying to figure out a way to make more money. Every "profession" you can name struggles for ways to do exactly that.
Are you assuming that I agree with this endless greed, this inability to learn to appreciate what you have instead of coveting what another has? If you are, you are wrong.

I know for a fact that a lot of people make a very lucrative business out of teaching members of your profession how to increase their billable hours or zero in on better-paying practices.
And you assume I approve of that? Wrong again.

This is a "burr under my saddle" because everyone is playing the victim. Poor ski instructor! Gets paid for doing his hobby and wants us to pay him more!

Give me a break. If you love teaching skiing but need more money, be a weekend instructor. It's that simple.

Doesn't anybody question the drive behind the whining for more money, the ignorance of the extensive PERKS, and the fact that compared to most jobs, being a ski instructor isn't really work.

I'm disgusted by the whiny attitudes. Grow a spine, you victims!

JohnH, where are you when I need you?
post #6 of 120
I gotta agree with Gonzo but probably not as strongly

Ski Instructors knew what they were getting into when they took the job. They traded high pay to do something they love. No one, that I know of, has reduced their pay, have they? Meaning, they didn't lure the instructors to take he job with $40/hr salaries and then drop them to $9 did they?

Reminds me a lot of people who live in LA and buy a house near the airport because they're so cheap and then sue the airport about the noise.
post #7 of 120
Scarier than collective bargaining.....TENURE!
post #8 of 120
[quote]Originally posted by gonzostrike:

This is a "burr under my saddle" because everyone is playing the victim. Poor ski instructor! Gets paid for doing his hobby and wants us to pay him more!

compared to most jobs, being a ski instructor isn't really work.



Gonzo, yes there was some purposeless whining going on in prior threads on this topic but this thread seems to be a more proactive approach to the situation. Trying to extract as much financial return as possible from ones employment is a fundamental element of a free enterprise market economy and really nothing to condemn. I don't believe in this case with the employer having so much power and the employee having so little that the question of what the market will bare has truly been tested. Give these quys credit for desiring to pursue a Capitalist American tradition!!

And the pleasure of the job has never really been the ultimate determinant for the level of financial compensation. Professional athletes with multi million dollar salaries are testimony to that. Heck, even your own profession provides you the opportunity to pursue lucrative financial reward doing something you love to do: ARGUE!
post #9 of 120
I want to make something VERY clear for EVERYONE who has been working under a COMPLETELY FALSE assumption.

Although I have a law degree and serve as an in-house attorney to a private company,

1) I am not rich

2) I am not "well-off"

3) I am not financially secure

4) I am not monetarily comfortable.

So please discard all your wives' tales about how all attorneys are rich, love to argue, are a$$hole$, are sharks, whatever.

I am distinctly NOT greedy and while I enjoy a good debate, I don't generally like to argue. There's a difference. Argument involves emotion, debate does not.

I do not seek out clients to fabricate claims that will make me rich.

I do not try to help my employer get rich off the backs of others.

Whatever other evil deeds you suspect I may perform (or have performed, or am going to perform), I rather seriously doubt that I have done any ONE of them, much less the entire catalog that runs through your respective brains.

If you guys think I'm bitter over this subject because I sit in financial comfort while ski instructors eat dog food, you're wrong. Why don't you all try to remember back about 3 months to when I didn't appear at the Academy because I didn't have the money?

pyss owf
post #10 of 120
maybe artists should unionize and demand more money for their "products" (use of a business term is highly tongue-in-cheek)... uh, I mean, work?
Uh, lots have. There's a union called Equity, and one called ACTRA (the American acronym has temporarily escaped me). My brother's a professional actor, and a lot of the hooey [or insert other more rude word here] that's been spouted about skiing teachers here is constantly (see above quote) said of actors and other artists.

Personally, I am completely in favour of anything that gets ski instructors paid properly. The range of instruction I've had has varied ENORMOUSLY, and I'm convinced this is because, generally, there is no incentive for the good ones to stick around.

Like a couple of others have mentioned, it never occurred to me to tip ski instructors until it was mentioned on this forum, simply because (1) I've never tipped other types of sports instructors (personal trainer, dance teacher, Pilates teacher), and (2) I was paying the other folks a hell of a lot less, and I was naive enough to think that the actual instructor was receiving a reasonable chunk of it. It's mortifying to hear the kind of pay ski instructors are really making. One of the most aggravating things is realizing how the money you've paid is being split. Crazy.

Anyway, more power to the terrific teachers on this forum, and to other great ski instructors who are suffering in silence.

post #11 of 120
delta, I think you might be pushing this discussion into a proper direction (IMHO of course).

as to actors being artists, I might debate that with you. I think they're entertainers, which is a quasi-art category in my mind. however, I'm sure most actors think themselves artists, and would be pyst at me for saying they aren't.

The questions of how the instruction fee gets split, and whether ski areas take serious advantage of the instructors they employ, are VERY good questions -- and one on which I might well agree with nolo et al.

If the ski area is returning to the instructor only a tiny percentage of the instruction fee, that is something we ALL can and should be concerned about, because we pay lift tickets that are supposed to help the ski area run its lifts and other operations. I always considered a ski school to be a potential gravy train for a ski area - easy profit can be made, while still paying an instructor handsomely. I suppose my view reflects the huge infrequency with which I (fail to) take lessons.

Aside from unionizing, I would suggest doing everything that falls just short of forming the union. Gather collectively and protest salary/work conditions. Threaten to walk out, and time it for a hyper-busy day. If the ski area doesn't make reasonable concessions (meaning - YOU TOO will have to concede something, instructors), then walk out. plain and simple. put your friggin' money and talent behind your words, and ACT on your threat, turning it into a promise.

Actual unions are the scourge of our economy. I shudder when I think of how the Mafia have gotten fat off the backs of union laborers.
post #12 of 120
Suffering In Silence?

Please. My staff and I skied all day, got sunburned, ate Brats on the Ski School deck, and made ZERO dollars. Not one lesson today. Skunked. And the only complaint I heard was "I can't believe Sunday is our last day!"

I'm not about to get into the Schite that is flying around on this forum lately, but I will say this one thing and then I'm done with it.

Ski and Snowboard instructors can make a decent hand doing what they do for a few months out of the year. Sometimes even year-round. With bennies and everything! Yes. It's true and I'll tell you how.

1) PUT IN YOUR TIME. Just like any other job. You start in the mail room, and work your way up. Get certified. Keep showing up on time. Be a good employee and you'll get noticed. Hey maybe you'll get a little more responsibility with some extra dollars tacked to it. After a few YEARS, you can be a Level III or Trainer or Director and make some money. BUT YOUR LEVEL OF COMMITMENT MUST REMAIN HIGH. Both intellectually and physically.

2) HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN FOR SUMMER. Chances are, you aren't going to be working at the ski area in the summer... Unless... Hmm. You can cross-train in other departments. Snowmaking. Golf Course. Food and Beverage. Lift Maintanence. Marketing. Hotel, etc. etc. etc. Look around. After a while you transcend the role of "Ski Instructor" and morph into the thing ski areas WILL take care of... a "VERSATILE, MOBILE, MUST-HANG-ONTO EMPLOYEE". IF you are willing to take on this role and THEN the ski area doesn't handle you properly, you can take all of your hard-eaned experience and tell the area to stick it. Another one will scoop you up quick. (It's been done) If you aren't willing to do these things (reasons I hear: Doesn't pay enough, too hard, I'm too good for that, this is stupid, blah blah blah), then maybe the resort life isn't for you and you should put your degree to work for you and get a "real job" that is more to your liking.
OH, and I didn't say it would happen instantly, or be easy. (refer to #1) What? Your area closes in the summer and there is nothing available? You knew that when you signed on.

3) ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CANNOT CHANGE. BE INTEGRAL TO THE PROCESS OF CHANGING THE THINGS THAT NEED CHANGING. BE WISE (or quiet... both work) ENOUGH TO SEE THINGS FOR WHAT THEY REALLY ARE. I'm not saying the system is perfect, or even universal. Some areas pay very well, some don't. Some areas charge too much, some too little. Certainly, improvements from place to place could be made. It's called GROWTH. We try to use the mistakes of the past to improve from year to year. Does it all happen (snap) NOW? No. It's a process. Is the pay system for instructors designed specifically to keep Management's foot on the neck of the lowly instructor? I think not. And most of you know better than that as well.

This easy to follow, three-step system is guaranteed not to chip, chafe, or scratch. It holds up well in inclement weather and is stain-resistant. If you order now, we'll send you this free, gigantic, wooden cross. Made from actual wood! That way, every time someone makes an educated decision to sign on for a job, and then later regrets it and feels "underappreciated" or "overused"... they can climb on up there and nail themselves to it.

Spag [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

PS. I love my job, but it's never easy. I hope it never is. I wouldn't want to take it for granted because without it, my life would be amazingly boring and Sh***y. No amount of money draw mw away from it. If I could afford to, I'd do it for a season pass and nothing else.

I once knew a man who used to teach for the pure love of it. He has since passed on, but I kid you not, he never saw a paycheck. He had arranged for every dime of his earnings to be sent to an orphanage in his homeland Poland. (He taught me a really cool Skier/Gangsta handshake that I still use all the time.)
post #13 of 120
Spag, that's a voice of realism that I thought I might never hear.

BRAVO! [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #14 of 120
Hold up Gonz. I'm not saying I agree with anyones' veiw on this. I'm not taking the stance that the system is perfect as it is and that no one has anything to gripe about. It's tough out here, man. I agree that some changes need to be made so that Ski Instruction can endure and be a profitable venture for people who wish to do it, and keep up with the times. What those changes are and how they should come to pass is a bit above my head at the moment. You'll hear everyone's opinion on the subject and the changes that "need" to be made, sure, but once all the mud has been waded through, you may only find about %5 of what has been said to be actually helpful. While I appreciate your support of my rant, It wasn't aimed at everyone. There are certainly some deserving individuals out there. Truth be told, they are probably doing well and would just assume stay out of any of this tripe because they are happy where they are.

I also believe that there are some doom-sayers out there who compound the problem by immediately pointing fingers at management, when sometimes it is in fact the instructors themselves who have backed management into a no-win situation. Who profits from this? Certainly not the business of skiing, I think. And definitely not the skiing public. How would more money to instructors affect the ski industry? Not at all. The problems don't lie in finaces. They lie in the process.

Spag :

I too find it very "interesting" the way money is split throughout the different departments when a package lesson is sold.

[ April 04, 2003, 05:28 PM: Message edited by: Notorious Spag ]
post #15 of 120
There's an interesting difference in approach here.
Spag, I'm getting from you the idea "to get ahead, give 110%, get outside your box and make yourself useful around the shop. Don't bellyache, the world doesn't owe you a living." Which is very good advice for life. The contrasting approach--from Bob's article--is strength in unity, solidarity, insist on a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, pride in craft or skill, all of the push buttons of successful unionization.
When you put them this way, both are admirable. Of course, in the abstract, the expressed ideals of the Republicans and the Democrats, or most country's liberal and conservative parties, sound pretty good. (Let's put the Shining Path, the Khymer Rouge and the Baathist party off to the side for the moment).
The devil, as they say, is in the details. When the rubber hits the road, what works?
This website isn't of much use for instructors who want to follow Spag's route. But if you are looking to build strength through solidarity, epicski could be a communications tool for that purpose.
If you guys want to do that, you're going to have to resolutely ignore the heckling from some members of this community who don't have any skin in the game. And if you want to get anywhere, you'll need to move from complaining to organizing at some point. But if you do, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised at how receptive some resort managements are. Front line supervisors (the people running the ski schools) may be uncomfortable with it, but there can be advantages to working with a unionized workforce.
post #16 of 120
It's really nice to hear Bob and delta come to the aid of ski instructors. It's great to get the acknowledgment. What Bob says about skiing, the sport and the business, carries a lot of weight with me.

Paraphrasing Ryan, ski instructors aren't like heart surgeons or divorce attorneys or mechanics to which one owes one's life or one's way of life. But I cannot imagine my life without skiing. In fact, I think skiing will extend my life. By extension, I think that instructors who help people get into skiing do a service that may put those more terminal services of physicians and attorneys into perspective.

When I teach, it's not going skiing. It's teaching. That's the point that's missing in all the wranglings about the worth of ski instructors. They teach people to ski. This is a wonderful thing. Just as those who teach people to play a musical instrument or how to paint are helping to grow a whole person. They are giving people tools to deal with the scourges of modern society such as depression, anger, and the biggest scourge of all--stress. This is good for society. If everyone skied, there would be no wars, said Hannes Schneider, who escaped Austria when the Nazis came. He was the Great Father of United States ski instruction. You can bet your bippy he saw it as a profession.

I don't want a union. That's a road to mediocrity if I ever saw one. Collective bargaining is probably a good idea though. Right now I've got to call the economic split pretty one-sided.
post #17 of 120
nolo sez: I don't want a union. That's a road to mediocrity if I ever saw one

Isn't that what we have now?
post #18 of 120
So many traits of ski instructors have been aired in this and so many other threads, but one in particular, has been missed.

Ski instr's tend to be very independent. We enjoy working around others, but we want to work by ourselves. We don't want bosses/sup's looking over our shoulders, constantly judging the effectiveness of our work. We are content to let our students be the arbiters of that determination.

So- why did I bring this up?
Several years ago, the Vail / Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School did have a union organizing effort. One of the primary organizers had a friend, who had a cousin, who heard of a guy... that had something to do with unions. You get my drift.

So, meetings were scheduled, and the information war started. Union info was photocopied and put in every locker. Management did the same thing, claiming the info the union gave was false. Scare tactics were used on BOTH sides of the process. But once the process is started, management CAN NOT make any offers, for that would be construed as tampering. But management did hold their own meetings, to convince the instr's that being union didn't benefit them.

Interestingly, the union which set the meetings was the UAW. How laughable. Two guys who looked like they just stepped out of a B grade movie, neither with more than a 3rd grade education, came to discuss the union option. They had no clue who we were, or what we did, or what levels of skill and education it takes to be successful at our job. All they saw was 1500 potential new members. You should have seen the look of shock on their faces when they found out we were SEASONAL employees! DUH!

At the largest meeting, right about 135 instr's showed up. Of course the union claimed it to be over 200. BS- I counted! And suprisingly- many of the attendee's were foreigners. Everyone in attendance was asked to fill out a union card, to force a vote among the staff. Once it was found out that the majority vote only had to be of those voting, not of the entire school, things really started going down hill.

Very tough questions were put forward to these two guys, which they had no answer to. Sorry, but that's not how you entice independent thinkers to buy off on something- with no answers. Within a very short time, it went from being a very serious meeting, to a union organizer fry. These guys had their feet put to the coals again and again and again. The only thing which created more wind than the BS coming from those organizers, was the opening and closing of the door as instr's left.

Needless to say, the union didn't happen. If it had- the shockwaves would still be pounding throughout the industry. You can bet that NSAA, SAM, PSIA, and all the other alphabet soup organizations were watching very closely to see what we would do. For if Vail/BC had gone union, so would many others. And it certainly is not in the best interests of the resort companies for that to happen.

After the dust settled, Vail/BC made a reasonably generous increase in pay, benefits, etc. It was the first significant pay raise in more than a few years. But it was also our last raise of more than "COL". But since then, the cost of lessons, both Pvt's and group, have gone up in excess of 35%, while pay rates have gone up a mere 12-15%. With the local cost of living escalating faster than the rate in Denver (the number used by the company), we have taken a slide in effective earning power.

Now, to be honest, no one comes into this industry with the expectation of making a huge fortune. But, for the effort we put into it, and the amount of revenue generated for the companies, shouldn't the average instr be able to make a living?

post #19 of 120
Kudos to spag- the voice of reason. I would give anything to be a ski instructor at any resort. If I made enough money to live(aka keep a car going, house/apt. payment, food) then I would be ecstatic. You see, I live in flatlander paradise(Lake Ozark MO)and would jump at the chance to live out there.
post #20 of 120
I'm with gonz... Honestly, everyday I coach, no matter how late I was up the night before, or how bad a mood my students are in I have a great time. I can't believe how lucky I am to get paid to do what I love. I've spent six years of my life completing an engineering degree, and I can assure you that working a "real" job as an engineer hasn't even approached the level of satisfaction I have gotten from working as a ski instructor / coach. My motto has always been: If I can find a way to get paid to do what I love to do most, than I have nothing to complain about. And I know it's been mentioned already, but if you're not happy with the arrangement you have as a "professional skier" than perhaps you should search out a new line of work...

post #21 of 120
Oh yeah.. IMHO, Unions have no place in the ski instruction profession.
post #22 of 120
Have I missed the boat?

What percentage of lesson cost to the student goes to the instructor?

In my field, in which I am no longer practicing, the industry standard is 3 times pay rate. The idea is 1/3 labor, 1/3 everything else, 1/3 for the owners. Doesn't quite work that way because of unbillable time. That unbillable time might be training (read clinics), might be vacations, holidays and oher paid time off. Might actually be---god forbid, unproductive work time! OH MY___is that possible?

Is maybe 20% to the owners a reasonable return? I don't know, depends on the owner.

I'll leave you guys to do the math. Tell me what a reasonable pay rate is?

Apply that principal to ski instruction. What would I pay in Vail? Vailsnopro--care to fill in the blank?

Nolo, what do I get charged at your home area? I assume I get a larger billing rate, if I ask for your services? I assure you, I would ask----and pay whatever the rate was! That is not the point here!

Lates see what IS fair pay!

Would anyone object if I stated the neutron Jack (Of GE Now retired)is BY FAR the most productive CEO of the century? Am I too far off in that assessment? Any one care to guess what his expecteed Rerturn on sales was??

post #23 of 120
ski instructors actually work very hard (try teaching\skiing for 30 days straight) BUT there was a day when they also had to be competitive on the hill AS WELL as the locker room ......
post #24 of 120
>>>Is the pay system for instructors designed specifically to keep Management's foot on the neck of the lowly instructor? I think not. And most of you know better than that as well.<<<

Spag, it may not be designed specifically, but it sure works that way. The ski areas, in the treatment of instructors compesation, are unfair compared to all other employees at their area.

A ticket seller at the window gets paid whether someone is there buying a ticket or not. The food handlers, charlift attendants, rental shop workers, et al, stand around when no one is there BUT THEY GET PAID FOR THE TIME THEY PUT IN, it isn't their problem that it is a slow time.

But a ski instructor can hang around the desk or wait in line ups and not get a lesson. He has put in his time like the others but he doesn't get paid.

Area management tells us that ski instructors are independent contrators, yet when they try to assert the right any other independent contracor has, namely to do when, where, how and if, he is told he must keep himself available WITHOUT PAY. That doesn't apply to the ticket taker, though.

post #25 of 120
Originally posted by nolo:
I don't want a union. That's a road to mediocrity if I ever saw one. Collective bargaining is probably a good idea though. Right now I've got to call the economic split pretty one-sided.
I'm confused about the intent of this statement. Collective bargaining requires a "bargaining unit" and a "bargaining agent". Whether the "bargaining agent" is called a "union", or a "guild", or a "banana" ( ), it's all the same thing. Employees may choose whomsoever they please as a "bargaining agent", whether it is an ad hoc purely loal group or a national organization.

But nolo, you obviously intended to make some sort of distinction between a "bargaining agent" and a "union", so I'm wondering if you'd expand on this.

There are no black and white answers to this. In a legal career of over thirty-six years, I have been involved in labor and employment law for only the last twenty-five of them - on behaf of management. In some cases, unions have published "informational" material identifying me by name and labeling me a "union buster" - and that resulted from a string of consecutve cases in which I was hired to negotiate a first contract and after a year of that, the employees voted to get rid of the union (go figure).

Some employers want the union to stay the #u(k out or, if the union is already in place, they can't wait to see it go bye-bye. Others, strange as this may seem, actually like having a union - they bargain with one agent, the deal is in writing, and that's the end of that. If employees want to bitch about it, they bitch to the union.

From what VSP has described, and from what I have seen locally, it would be easier to herd cats that collectively organize a bunch of ski instructors. At my home hill, 85% of the instructors are part time and have a "day job" other than instruction. Like many who have posted above, they're just happy as all get out to be there, consider it an honor, and don't mind the free skiing for the family, the proforms, and the opportunity to become ever better skiers with all of the training they get - for FREE.

One of the problems I've seen in these threads regarding instructor pay scales, tipping, and the like, has been: Defining the problem with particularity. What exactly are the particular problems to be solved? What are the goals and objectives? . . . and, for WHOM? After all, the interests of full-timers and part-timers are not the same . . . or are they? Rather than trying my own hand at it, I'm asking the professionals here to take a shot at that. There's no doubt in my own mind that they are, indeed, professionals, and I hope we don't continue to fish for that red herring. Insulting the profession as such would accomplish nothing more than . . . insult.

So, what do you think?
post #26 of 120
Skier_j, You would pay the same for me as for a Level I.

Despite how well I do, I will progress up the pay scale at the same rate as everyone in the school. The things that get you more pay are 1) new level of certification and 2) returning the next year. The reward for returning is the same whether you are uncertified or a superstar. The percentage of hourly wage of this reward is quite a bit higher for new people than for old hands.

The current system seems to follow a communist model. That's why it tends toward mediocrity.

I strongly believe that the only way to get on an excellence track is through cooperation between management and workers. First they would have to agree on one thing: who pays the bills. (The customer pays the bills.)

If you want to make more money, look to the customer. What would the customer like to buy? Provide it. As it is, there are very few organizations that gather intelligence on what today's customers desire in a skiing experience. Mostly we extrapolate from our assumptions about them.

One assumption is that people are motivated to take lessons out of desperation rather than aspiration. The desperation motivation dissipates as a skier improves. If the instructor fails to light that skier's aspirational flame, the ski school will not see that person after he/she learns to turn right, left, stop, and ride the lift. They're off and running, ready to stand on the tails of the skis and swivel their hips from here to eternity, or until they become bored with the limitations of their skiing.

I prefer a cutthroat capitalist model. Reward the producers--instructors who go out and sell their services--rather than treating them on a par with instructors who are content to wait at line-up for assignments to be handed out. The motto should be "sell up or move on." Less producers would be A-OK with me. I like Ott's idea of requiring people to book lessons ahead of time. I like the idea of encouraging instructors to build a book of customers whom they serve, instead of setting up a system that regards all customers as "quickies."
post #27 of 120
I have alluded to the fact that Robin put in place a very good pay plan at Eldora. I piped up at lineup yesterday and said something to the effect, "you know Robin.....you can make some real money here if you work hard".

Robin got a sick look on his face and confessed he is feeling a little heat because his labor rate is up and revenue is down.

I have a couple of thoughts. I don't pretend to suggest I have any answers.

I don't want any part of a union. Eldora has always been a great place to work and I have always found "management" to be fair, kind, helpful, and......in all honesty......generous. After being stuck at the resort for three days and being paid fairly for the hours we worked, a "tidey bonus check" was stuck in my last paycheck with a note of thanks from the GM. This was an incremental check. Do I need a union? I don't think so.

After three years of teaching I'm being paid $14.75 per hour, plus ticket pay, plus other incentives to help folks discover skiing. Fischer gives me skis and clothing. I sold thirty pairs of skis to pros and got a 10% or more commission from each sale. I ski for free at a dozen or so resorts in Colorado and my kid can join me for about ten bucks. If I don't like that I can always go sell insurance, sell cars, work in a factory, be a telemarketer, work as a security guard, or cut grass. I have to pinch myself at times because I feel so fortunate.

I have gotten in trouble with my peers at Eldora in the past for suggesting we have marginal skiers on the staff at the resort. I'll now "gun" for more trouble.

I will add another thought. With all due apologies in advance to my peers in the locker room who are skidding their tails in the wrong direction through life, we have marginal instructors on hand at our resort AS DOES EVERY RESORT IN THE COUNTRY.

We have folks teaching old stuff

We have folks teaching bad stuff.


Here is my point at last. I need to teach a great lesson to succeed. In addition, my peers need to teach a great lesson as well. If I do that, and those around me do that, everything else will take care of itself. People will come and a reputation of excellence will grow.

It is a quality control issue. It is no different than the auto industry in the seventies. I'm not suggesting mass production nor am I suggesting a "cookie cutter" approach. I am suggesting a sound product that does not shake or rattle one thousand miles or steps down the road.
post #28 of 120
Hi All,
interesting views.

IMHO, some of the differences of opinion here are due to instructors being in different positions in there life. I put this forth because I've been through a what I'd consider phases of this arguement. The stop whining, you greedy bastards aguement is one I represented through a majority of my career. As a young ski instructor, it's easy to take this positon. Even instructors who have been around for awhile, long enough to be full cert and have some teaching skills, may still be in this camp for awhile.

At some point, I respectfully suggest that these same instructors start to see the writing on the wall. You pick up some finacial book and think, what's my retirement? What if I tear up my knee? How can I pay my resort town mortgage? What about braces for my daughters and that college fund to put my girls through the school of their choice. Is it greed to want these things? I don't think so. So as this position developes, you start to wonder about ski instruction as a viable career. Most of the aformentioned instructors who think just being able to ski and get good deals on gear never make it to this point. They, like many of the instructors who have posted above, will be gone before a lot of these things become an issue. Others will go through it. Consumate pros like nolo and bob barnes decide to try to make ski instruction a viable career, and that is where this forum comes in. (I'm not sure if they have that ever prominent money pit of kids, but the others are surely a concern).

In my case, all these questions of stability first pushed me out of the resort. I picked up a client that pays me very well by ski instruction standards and I've worked on contracts from 5 at first to 3 days a week for the last 5 years. As a private guide, the grey/black market can be more lucrative. Most may skip this step and realize that braces, stanford, and retirement are not happening as a ski instructor and move on to something else earlier. Some keep fighting for a viable career. My friend Chris Fellows started his own business, NASTIC, and travels as national demo team member to try to allow ski instruction to support his family. My mentor and occasional employer, Eric Delauriers also started his own business (all mountain ski pros) to try support a family through ski instruction. These are a few of the latest attempts to live the dream of ski teaching. Nolo, weems, bob b. and others here have their own stories.

I've added selling houses to be able to answer some of the questions of longevity and stabilty. Many of my counterparts try construction, spec building, or move back to the city for other jobs.

The question I hear Nolo and others are asking is, Does that have to happen. When these very real and not greedy money questions rear up, is ski instruction a dead end.

Gonzo seems to say yes. As do others.
The problem with that is that the student looses. I'm sure those younger, screw the money, I'm living the life, ski instructors are great, but the cream of the crop are the ones that are weighing whether it's time to get out. Gonzo, if you were a level 9 looking for a lesson, wouldn't you want a pro like Bob B. or nolo or Eric D. Someone who's made a life out of making skiers like you better and has all the tools neccesary to do so. If we want to keep this talent and experience around, we have to find a way to make ski instruction more balanced. Life happens and not all of it comes cheap, especially in the resort environment.

One of the benefits of this forum is that it allows instructors from all over to discuss these topics. With others in similar positions as a sounding board, new ideas may be able to surface. The experience from the non-instructor world is invaluable as well. The voices calling us greedy bastards are not seeing the big picture.

Anyway, for someone who doesn't who like to write or type, this has been incredibly long, so I better go.
Thanks for attending to my perceptions of this debate.

Cheers, Wade
post #29 of 120
[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]

Thank you, Wade. I count on your voice of reason around here.

For the record: I have to work 60 hours to pay one month's health insurance premium for my family. Rusty Guy makes more per hour than I do.
post #30 of 120
I feel obliged to say....that is wrong (to have to work 60 hours per month to pay for health insurance) and I am sorry (that I am paid more per hour after three years than you are having far more experience) it is the case!

Robin has done a great job in terms of our pay scale
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