Ski resorts should start using lessons to get more people motivated to ski and improve, not just be out for the fresh air. The thrill of improving is quite intoxicating. Ski areas have to do better at getting people into lessons, instead of just using it to pull more money out of the skiers: they will have more repeat customers spending more money.
Lessons are very expensive: if I was skiing with a very skilled instructor, I would expect to pay around $60/70 an hour (private), the same as a very skilled bootfitter charges. Of which, the instructor should get $30/hour. Aren't privates around 2x that price? And, you may not even get a up to date level 3 who is skilled at teaching. Paying $400/day for a clinic with 4 people per group just seems outrageous, but that is what many clinics charge. Resort pulling in $1600/day, instructor getting maybe $200/day: what the heck is going on?
People will want to ski more if they are skiing better. Whether it means skiing off-piste more capably, or just with less effort on the groomer, they will feel a sense of accomplishment and be willing to spend more money. Look at triathlon: the sport of the middle aged Type-A professional. These people buy $6,000 bikes, $2,500 wheelsets, fly around to races all over the country, and are basically just weekend warriors, not skilled athletes. Why? It isn't to get "a bit of fresh air" or "have a good time with buddies", but instead because they are there to improve, set a PR, push themselves. They see improvement, and it hooks them on the sport: they want to keep improving, keep placing better in races.
I disagree with the premise that you can "get better on your own" without lessons. To an extent, that is true, but unless you picked up the sport at a very early age, skiing isn't exactly intuitive. To ski well, you have to trust yourself and throw yourself down the fall line; many movements that need to be learned, ones that are just not seen in real life standing on a non-slippery surface. People who "have never taken a lesson" probably grew up next to the mountain, and were around good skiers, and therefore learned by emulating good skiers. Tons of kids grew up skiing with Mity Mites, or in a race program: they all learned the skills at an early age, it comes easily to them. Perhaps I stand to be corrected, but I don't know any good skiers who picked up the sport late in life that didn't have a ton of instruction to get there: where it was formal "taking lessons" or informal "ski with other goods skiers, glean what you can" they all had to learn technique somewhere. The problem with trying to learn by just skiing is that once you can ski something decently, you tend to plateau. Hey, I can get down that black diamond run without killing myself; it might not be pretty, but I don't know how to ski it more cleanly. And, that run isn't the place to practice.
I liken it to golf: I started playing at around 11 and was competing at 13, and developed a solid swing through lots of practice. Even though I can almost never afford to play anymore, let me hit a couple of buckets at the range to get my swing loosened up, and I can break 80 as often as not. My coach when I was kid told me that no matter what happened, I would always have the ability to step back in and play well, due to learning the sport at an early age. At the same time he was telling me this, he says "hey, look at Clyde over there (older guy teeing off). He picked up the sport 5 years ago, plays 18 holes every day, but is 63. He will NEVER be a good golfer, no matter how much he plays: his swing is too mechanical, he learned the game too late, and there isn't much I can do to help him. It is a big gift to learn golf at a young age".
I will tell you that I was getting pretty bored of skiing a couple of years ago before I went to an ESA clinic. I even considered not buying a pass the following season, and climbing at Smith all winter, instead of skiing. Since that time, my skiing has improved (at least it seems to me) exponentially. Despite breaking my leg, I have improved more in a year than in the past 5 combined, and I was skiing 50 days/year each season. The difference now is that I know what to do, what not to, and how to correct problems. Once I learned the correct movement, it is much easier to replicate it than fall back into a bad pattern. Before, I was making bad movements, and knew it, but didn't have a good move to replace it with.
For me, continually learning in this sport is incredibly important. Then again, if I am going to do a sport, I am the kind of person who wants to do it well, and get the most out of my time. Not everyone approaches skiing with that attitude, which is OK, but those people obviously aren't as much of a candidate for lessons.
Lessons are too much of a crap-shoot. You never know who will be in your group or if your instructor knows what the heck they are talking about. Most of the instructors at Bachelor are laughable, and this is "the Northwest's Premier Resort". They burn up all their good instructors, run them off, and replace them with $9/hour kids who learned to ski last month. I don't blame people for not taking more lessons.