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Tips (First Timer)

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 
Another First Time Poster:

After "lurking" for about 3 weeks here and other forums I've decided to try this community. From what I've seen this forum has the most personality, diversity, and passion for sking.

So for a quick intro - My wife and I have been sking for 8 yrs, started at age of 44 (thats a story in itself). We are both stuck at the intermediates (any thing groomed). I will soon retirer, Jan 8th (after 31 yrs). I found that working interfered with my sking and golf. Unfortunately my wife will continue to work for several more yrs (someone has to pay for the sking). We have attempted to lake several lessons each yr, however, out of all the lessons we have taken only 2 have been quality lessons. Over the past several days I have gotten some good ideas on what to look for and ask for from this forum.

Now for the plunge, being a new skier I generally have more questions than answers, but, like many I have a lot of opinins. Having noted many ski instructors and others that promote lessions I figured this would be a good strting point for me.

What is considered a good tip for ski instructors? Should it be based on the length of the class or the cost? Its easy to know what a poor instructor should receive but what of the instructors that are excellant or the ones that just are adequate. Do instructors expect a tip?

If this has come up before sorry, I couldn't find it in past threads.

Just 6 more days until retirement and 8 days before we leave for a week at Steamboat (first of 4 western trips this winter)

Lookng forward to being and active member on this forum.
post #2 of 27
Can I second the question? With European ski resorts in mind?

I don't tip my doctor, my piano teacher, my plumber or my boss (skilled well-paid professionals). I tip waiters & taxi-drivers (underpaid semi-skilled workers). I reckon ski instructors are skilled underpaid professionals, so not sure which category!
post #3 of 27
Not sure if tips are expected, but I would venture to say that they are appreciated.
post #4 of 27
If you get a great lesson, consider it like great service at a restaurant. It's obvious the instructor cares and puts effort into it. Any on-hill worker without a portfolio (ie., all of us who are NOT Stein Eriksen) could be considered underpaid.

You might not tip your surgeon, but a lot of folks will buy him a bottle of Cognac that costs way more than any tip I've received.
post #5 of 27
Frances, as the European culture is different from North America when it comes to tipping, it is difficult to know what to do.
In the past, if I have had good lessons, I might take the instructor out for a few drinks, or buy them lunch.
Where I've been with friends who have had different instructors from the same school, we might arrange for us all to meet up, and have a few jars and a bit of craic.
If you get to know instructors well, particularly in a resort you haven't been to before, they can take you to different bars etc, and watch out for you on the slopes at other times.

my 2 cents.

post #6 of 27
Hi Sgt21--Welcome to EpicSki!

Yours is a great question, and obviously one dear to the hearts of all instructors. We've discussed it several times in the past here at EpicSki, but no harm in bringing it up again!

First, you should know that instructors ARE paid in the US, unlike waiters in restaurants who are paid only a token and rely completely on their tips. BUT--the amount instructors are paid by the ski school is still appallingly low, especially compared with the amount you pay for the lesson. So, while instructors will not be uncompensated if you don't tip them, they will certainly appreciate any tip, always, very much!

What is considered a "good tip?" Well, there are no BAD tips. I always say that I'll appreciate ANY amount--no matter how large!

Tips to ski instructors vary hugely, literally from zero to thousands of dollars (with zero being, unfortunately, much more common). Yes, it typically depends on the length of the lesson, the original cost of the lesson, and to some extent, the resort. But there is certainly no "standard" amount, and instructors know better than to expect anything in particular.

I know that this doesn't help much. I know that you are asking for more concrete guidelines because you don't want to offend your instructor by under- or over-tipping. (Don't worry about OVER-tipping, if that helps--few of us are that proud!) Here are some VERY general guidelines. For a half-day group lesson, the typical range at a destination resort is probably $5 to $20 per student, although many group lesson students do not tip at all. Instructors may be disappointed, but they won't be surprised or offended with no tip from a group lesson.

For private lessons, $20-$40 is probably "normal" for a 1 or 2-hour lesson, $30-$60 for a half-day (3 hours, usually) lesson, and $40-$100 for a full day. As I said, though, WIDE discrepancies from these ranges are standard! Unlike group lessons, private lesson instructors DO usually expect at least some sort of a tip--not that they necessarily always deserve one.

So there are some guidelines, since you asked. BUT--DO NOT FEEL OBLIGED TO TIP YOUR INSTRUCTOR AT ALL! I feel strongly about this--other instructors may disagree. I feel that instructors are not ENTITLED to tips--they (we) MUST EARN THEM. So the real answer to your question is to tip your instructor the way tips are really intended--to show appreciation and gratitude for a job well done. Realize that instructors are very poorly paid, but that is hardly your fault, and simply being underpaid does not entitle someone to a tip! If you feel that the instructor did a good job, offer a decent "average" tip. If you feel that the instructor did a GREAT job, went beyond "normal" expectations either in effort or talent, or both, then tip accordingly. But if the instructor put out only minimal effort or seemed not to care about you, then you are not obligated to "care" for him or her either.

If you DO want to show your appreciation for a ski instructor (and again, I may not speak for ALL instructors), remember that, while they may appreciate a beer, or a bottle of cognac, it's hard to pay rent or buy groceries with anything but cash. And paying rent is a big issue for many instructors.

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In a separate, but related, issue, you can also help instructors, students, and (ultimately) the ski industry itself, by expressing to resort management your shock and dismay at the dismal amount they pay their instructors. You pay a lot of money for a ski lesson, but VERY, VERY LITTLE of that goes to the instructor.

Half-day group lessons typically cost in the neighborhood of $50 per person, PLUS lift tickets. So a 6-person group lesson brings the resort AT LEAST $300. It is unlikely that even $50 of that will go to the instructor--$25 is not uncommon. That private lesson that you pay $300 for will probably pay the instructor $50-$75. (Again, there is quite a range, and the instructor usually makes a bit more if you ask for him/her by name, rather than having the ski school assign you an instructor.)

Remember too that, out of this paltry "wage," the instructor has to buy his own expensive equipment, possibly pay for his own uniform, and pay for PSIA membership, training, and certification (optional, usually, but important for both professionalism and for the benefit of you, the student). Rent in ski resort areas is exorbitant. And instructors get paid NOTHING if they aren't actually teaching--they can show up as required and be available all day long, and go home empty-handed. Hard to pay for even ramen noodle soup when you've got nothing!

Top instructors at major resorts eventually get to the point that they can support themselves if they are frugal. But to get to this "comfortable" point usually involves extraordinary talent, dedication, education, and many years of struggling. Top pros may make a living at it, but compared to professionals in other fields with their level of expertise (and their potential to make money for their company), their income is still appallingly low.

To bring it home, this is not only the instructor's problem. It's YOURS, as the paying customer. That so little of your dollars goes to the instructor assures that the quality of the average ski lesson will remain dismal. With many notable exceptions, it is highly unlikely that you will get your money's worth, at most ski schools in this country.

The very best "tip" you could possibly give your instructor would be to help change the industry itself. So complain to management about the price of the lesson, or about their exploitative profit margins, or both. Tell them that you want a $300 product when you pay $300--not a $50 product.

AND tip your instructor in the mean time, if you can afford it (and if he earned it), to make up for the difference!

Personally, I feel that for the price you pay for a lesson, the instructor ought to be able to make enough money not to need a tip on top of it. What you pay should be more than sufficient to assure that you ski with a highly skilled, well-trained professional. That is far from the case, however. The reality is that what you pay for an instructor goes a long way toward lining the pockets of the resort executives, while the instructor barely subsists. (After a record season, Adam Aaron, CEO of Vail Resorts, accepted 4.5 MILLION dollars--that's $4,500,000--worth of stocks and stock options as a personal bonus last season, while signing on to a wage freeze for all Vail Resort employees-!) We instructors are powerless to change it. It's up to you!

I hold out my hat and humbly ask...PLEASE HELP!

Best regards,
Bob Barnes

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 02, 2002 10:50 AM: Message edited 2 times, by Bob Barnes/Colorado ]</font>
post #7 of 27
Good rant, Bob,

I have to agree with you, totally. A number of years ago, I worked as a race coach/instructor at a small Southern California ski area. I was a weekend person, with a few evenings thrown in. I don't remember what the wage was, but it was substantially lower than my real job. It just about paid for my fuel and food. I had a travel trailer.

Today, I am working for a small Colorado area. I have a PMTS Green accreditation. I get paid the same as a PSIA Level I. Once again, the pay covers fuel and part of my overnight lodging. There is no consideration as to equipment or outside training. There has been no training since opening day. If I had to depend on this for a living, I would still be in So California, where I was making $30 per hour, five years ago. That was before retirement.

Now that I am retired, I have the time and the money to do pretty much as I want. So in the winter, I teach skiing. I find it rewarding and challenging. I spend a lot of time learning to teach. I find information wherever I can. Every class teaches me something new. Because I am doing this because I want to, my attitude is I want to be the best that I can be. And I care about my students.

I have received tips in the past. Not a lot. Nor very often. I have gotten to the point that if I get a tip, I am pleasently surprised. I think the tip that stands out in my mind, was a woman gave me a kiss on the cheek. And I will remember that one for quite a while.
post #8 of 27

I'm glad that I don't do this for a "real living".

#1. Instructors are only paid for the time they are actually teaching the lesson and do not go "on the clock" when they arrive.

#2. Equipment costs and "uniforms" will far exceed what I will make all season.

#3. The average pay is about $6 to $7 per hour.

#4. Benefits .... you get to beg for a ticket for a family member on occasion.

Before I became an instructor, I used to tip about the average cost of a lodge lunch and a beer ($7 to $8) ......
post #9 of 27
As usual, Bob Barnes has stated things in a polite and well-reasoned manner... and as usual, I agree with him -- especially regarding the "tipping is NOT mandatory and should NOT be expected." When you reward mediocrity, you get more mediocrity in return. On the other hand, stellar teachers & coaches rarely get the pay or accolades they deserve.

Bravo, Bob!
post #10 of 27
Bob said it well. I appreciate a little something at the end of a lesson. I make $15.00 per hour for a private lesson. I would say, on average, folks who do tip give $10.00/per person/per hour. Do I expect a tip? No. It sure is nice after putting your heart and soul into a lesson.

As an aside. I am getting many more tips this year than last year. The economy is bad, folks are out of work.....go figure.
I work hard, and as stated, I put my all into what I do. I'm a bit surprised.

Are others experiencing the same thing?
post #11 of 27
I haven't taken any privates - I started out with group lessons that came as part of a beginner package, and I want to practice a bit what I know before I take another lesson. That plus can't afford it at present.

In my 3 group lessons, I tipped once ($5). The other 2 times I didn't really feel comfortable tipping.

I think that getting a good lesson from someone who knows their stuff, and more importantly, can get it across in a way that benefits you, is a great service. Good service in a restaurant ends with that meal. A good lesson has the potential to give you a lifetime of enjoyment on the slopes, and is thus much more deserving of a tip.
post #12 of 27

Welcome to Epicski.

As noted in the rest of the responses we have talked about this many times. I have always tipped for good lessons (group or otherwise) and try to be discrete about the tip (I don't want to "embarass" others into tipping) but I will not tip and will complain to the ski school director for poor lessons too. As a new Instructor, I am learning how much passion it takes to be an instructor (thank goodness I have other sources of income) I feel that another part that helps instructors keep going is seeing their students progress. I found great satisfaction in watching my first students skip lunch and brave the rain to keep skiing with big smiles on their faces because I was able to get them started. I saw them later in the day while teaching a second class and they smiled and waved to me as I helped load my new student on the lift.
post #13 of 27
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the responses to my question the info will help

Between the responses to my question and "Good Teachin, Bad Teaching" thread I got a good back ground (and shock) on what some ski instructors go through to work in a field they are committed to and enjoy.

It would appear that not only a tip would be appreciated but a word of praise given to management (for the ski instructor) when deserved. We sometimes are quick to complain and forget the other side of the coin when someone goes beyond what is expected.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 03, 2002 03:29 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Sgt21 ]</font>
post #14 of 27
Hats off to Bob, Sgt21, and the rest of you. I hope Adam gets the time to read this. I am one who got that wage freeze. I think you are a brave man Bob Barnes. If you wouldn't mind making some turns with a one planker, we will have to get together some time.
post #15 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Sgt21:
It would appear that not only a tip would be appreciated but a word of praise given to management (for the ski instructor) when deserved.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Or even better post their names here and next time one of 2000 folks reading this board is in the their area, they may get asked for a lesson. Hopefully that is Ok with AC. :
post #16 of 27
Just a few questions to see what people think ....

In Bob's examples

Example 1
6 person group lesson
Ski school income = $300
Instructor Income = $25 (ca 8%)

Example 2
Private lesson
Ski school income = $300
Instructor Income = $50-75 (ca 17-25%)

Should the overall cost of the lesson be higher or lower?

What percentage should the instructors be paid?

My own personal views are ....

a) I find it hard to believe the ski school over-heads (up to 92%) are justified costs and profit margins. Does anybody know what the overheads really are?

b) The lessons should be cheaper.

c) If you pay peanuts you get 'monkeys' and if the boss doesn't pay his/her staff enough (because his profit margins, management bonus etc are too high) then its his problem (and his cost if I'm not satifised).

d) Instructor wage increases will help all instructors (good and bad). A culture of increased tipping will promote the better instructors.

e) I'm thankful for all the instructors that teach well despite the pay conditions; but am still jealous as hell for all the snow time they get.

f) There must be some journalists out there that can educate the rest of the skiing public.

post #17 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by dchan:

I have always tipped for good lessons (group or otherwise) and try to be discrete about the tip (I don't want to "embarass" others into tipping)


Just my 2 cents,

My son takes lessons (group and private) at least once a week. At the group lessons I make sure the other parents see me tipping the instructor. I think that most people don't know that they should tip the instructor. Nor do they know how little the instuctors are actually getting paid for all the work.

Plus teaching a group of young children is like hearding cats. I admire a good instructor that can keep them all on the same page.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 04, 2002 10:38 AM: Message edited 1 time, by coldfeet ]</font>
post #18 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by eug:

Or even better post their names here and next time one of 2000 folks reading this board is in the their area, they may get asked for a lesson. Hopefully that is Ok with AC. :

I'd DEFINATELY go for that. I'd love to take a lesson (bumps/short turns), but have had some truly miserably useless lessons in my life (and one lesson that just about turned me from intermediate to advanced overnight).
post #19 of 27
I'm definitely with Bob on the 'cognac doesn't pay the rent' front! If I were a ski instructor I would infinitely prefer money to someone buying me a drink that I may not want. I think we give people gifts instead because we're embarrassed about giving something as sordid as money!
post #20 of 27
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Bob Barnes/Colorado:
So a 6-person group lesson brings the resort AT LEAST $300. It is unlikely that even $50 of that will go to the instructor--$25 is not uncommon. That private lesson that you pay $300 for will probably pay the instructor $50-$75. <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

Wow Bob; that is stunning! That pay is way out of line.
post #21 of 27
Those pay scales sound very high.

Most destination resorts were advertising last year for PSIA L-1's at $10 to $15 per hour.

Our feeder hill starts at a whopping $5.15 .... with my L-1 they are now paying $5.50.
post #22 of 27
Hi Sgt21,

I think you inquirey was about taking ski lessons. Ok, tipping a good idea, if indeed the instructor earns it, ie. you enjoyed the lesson, he or she didn't "brow beat" you or your wife, and you feel better about your skiing.

If you go into a restaurant, and 4 of you spend $200.00 on a meal and tip 15% that's $30.00.

If you take a $60.00 ski lesson and it was so, didn't learn that much, the instructor talked more than you skied, and you probbly wouldn't want to take another lesson from that instructor ever again, then you can tip nothing or about 10% which is $6.00 or give him or her a tip of appreciation or about $5.00. Maybe you liked the lesson, then $10.00, and if you really liked the lesson, your skiing has become inspired, and you would definitely want to take another lesson from this person, then a tip of $15.00-20.00 would not be unreasonable.

Finally, two suggestions to help you and your wife brake out of the intermediate rut. First, I am assuming that you both are on shaped skis, with properly fitted boots including footbeds, with custom made being the best, and you have had your alignment checked. If not, this needs to be done first, starting with the boots.Poor and outdated equipment, will interfer with making significant progress.

Second, a book recommendation: It is "Breakthrough on the New Skis," by Lito Tejada-Flores. It can be purchased from for about $18.00[ that's an inexpensive lunch for two at Steamboat ] including shipping and handling.

In order to help out with the funding of this web site[ it won't cost any more to do so ] please access by going to the home page and scroll down the left side and click on ski shop.Then scroll to and click.

I think using Lito's book, which is a very easy and understandable read, along with ski lessons, you both can make tremendous progress in your skiing this winter.

I hope the above helps you and your wife get more fun and enjoyment from a great sport.
post #23 of 27
I would second recommendation regarding Lito's book. I actually like videos even better.
post #24 of 27
Wear the fox hat ?,

Like Bob said, we can't pay the rent or mortgage, buy food or just pay bills in general with a beer and a sandwich. : A nice thought, but if that's the tip, I'll take the cash. --------Wigs
post #25 of 27
I agree with you Wigs, but I was making suggestions for Europe, where tipping in general is not done as much.
Tipping is part of the North American culture, and most of the service industry would recieve tips, but over in Europe, we rarely tip, and when we do it would be smaller amounts.
I guess it's just a cultural thing. When in Rome, do as the Romans.
When in North America, tip. And if they deserve it, tip well.

post #26 of 27
To eug,

I believe they do have a video based on the "New Skis," and there are plans to have another one more closely based on the book next year. may have more accurate information.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ January 06, 2002 06:22 AM: Message edited 1 time, by wink ]</font>
post #27 of 27
I think I get minimum wage while teaching plus $2.65 per student, a little more for private lesson/student. Lessons are $30 for group and $35 for private. Is this the lower end of average or lower?
I guess they all get away with it because they know we love to teach. We do it with "both hands and a full heart" and concerned more with the quality of our work than our pay. Wish we could have both.
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