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Requesting Vail instructors

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
I had a problem at Vail this season and wonder if anyone else experienced the same thing. I usually take lessons with a friend of mine who teaches there. Normally I book through the Vail Ski School and everything is fine. But this year on three occasions they said he was not available, then I later found out he was. The instructors I ended up with were much less experienced and it was obvious. My friend does a lot of request and has been teaching for many years, so he is probably one of the higher paid instructors. Does Vail just have a problem with their scheduling program or are they trying to make more money using cheaper instructors?
post #2 of 22
I'm only part time at Vail so maybe VailSnowPro or ManFromOz want to chime in, but here is my assessment.

There is no collusion. When you submit your request to the SkiSchool they first look to see if he is booked and then contact the instructor to see if he will be there that day. If everything is ok then they book you and the instructor for that day.

If he is booked that day then they provide the option of letting the instructor refer someone else (they pay a small bonus for this). If all else fails they assign another instructor.

It is in the instructor's best interest to do as many request privates as possible as it increases his points and he is paid a higher rate.

When I get a call I always accept the booking unless I am already booked. I get the name and phone number of the client and if I can't make it for some reason I ask the client to request another instructor I recommend.

There are differences in pay grades, but not as much as you think. And, the instructor is paid a higher rate for request privates so there would be a small incentive to play games but I sincerely doubt that that is the case.

You might just place a call to the Private Lesson Supervisor and ask the question. At Lionshead the person to call is Mark Harrison.
post #3 of 22
the paying public always notices in the end .....
Does Vail just have a problem with their scheduling program or are they trying to make more money using cheaper instructors?
V\BC has a core crew of excellent instructors and I believe the SS management trys as hard as possible to make the whole system work for everyone with a primary focus on the clients.

Alas there is a huge problem of supply and demand. The core of the real V\BC Ski Pros have way too much work and the SS talent pool just drops vertically from there.

Book early, work directly with your prefered Pro and tip well is my advice.

OZ [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ March 19, 2003, 04:59 PM: Message edited by: man from oz ]
post #4 of 22
That reminds me. I am always afraid of undertipping a good instructor. Is there such a thing as a "normal", "customary", "fair" amount of tip? Does it vary from resort to resort ?
post #5 of 22
Sorry to hear you had difficulty with your booking.
I have heard this issue surface once or twice this year.
Most of the experienced Vail private instructors handle their own bookings, so your best bet is to make your booking THROUGH your friend - since the V/BC Ski School has 1400 instructors keeping track of them all can be like air traffic control for the desk at times, especially during busier weeks. This is definitely not an issue of an attempt to profit at your loss.
If your friend tells you he's busy that day, ask him to set up an appropriate referral for you.
If you have a quality issue with a lesson you've taken, the management will definitely appreciate your feedback. Marc Harrison at Lionshead is one guy to call.
Good luck and let any of us Vail Bears know if you need any further help.
post #6 of 22
Hi Novice-

Welcome to EpicSki! Hope you enjoy your time as a part of this community! It's really alot of fun.

Also sorry to hear about the scheduling SNAFU at Vail. Unfortunately, some of our indoor staff are not quite up to speed. I had an indoor person earlier this season tell one of my clients that I didn't work here anymore. Imagine his suprise when I was standing there, not working, when he came to meet another instructor. That indoor staffer was educated rather quickly.

As per Oz, Vera, and WV Skier, I would suggest that in the future that you book directly through your friend. But in the meantime, please contact either Lance Wellbaum, at Golden Peak, Steve Holland, at Vail Village, or Marc Harrison, at Lionshead. These 3 individuals are the Private Lesson Supervisors for each of those pods. Explain to them the circumstances of the snafu, and allow them to rectify it.

As you will find on many threads, there has been a lot of discussion regarding the quality of instrs out in the workplace, alnog with suggestions of how to locate some good ones. And if you'd like to have a truly wonderful learning experience, (shameless plug here!) try the EpicSki Academy, next season.

Good spring skiing to you.

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 
Wow, thanks for all the great advice! I am sorry to hear that the really good instructors don't make that much more than the inexperienced ones, maybe that is why there aren't more of them.
It is not really fair to us customers paying the same high rates for second rate lessons. You instructors with a good clientele should form your own school and start earning what you are worth.
post #8 of 22
Incompetant desk staff seems to be an issue with many ski schools throughout the country. The first time I tried to get a session with Todd, 7 of my phone messages were left unanswered. Couple that with the fact that calling the ski school is almost never a toll free #! As resorts complain about how they are not making enough money, perhaps they need to take a look at which employess are causing them to lose money.
post #9 of 22
You instructors with a good clientele should form your own school and start earning what you are worth.
many an instructors happy dream ....

In Oz it actually states on the lift ticket ... no instructing or the ticket will be revoked, and somehow that is legal ... sheesh.

See VSP or Vera they will look after you in Vail.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
When I ski in Vail I don't have to stay at a Vail property, and I can choose the level of quality I want. I wouldn't be happy paying for a five star hotel and getting a motel 6 room. I hope Vail management is smart enough to see the benefits of having all the other lodges, now they just need to apply it to instruction. I'll be looking for the "Real Pros Ski School" somewhere in the town of Vail soon, good luck!
post #11 of 22
This is for alex g. There was an entire thread on tipping about a month ago. Search proper gratuity in the general skiing forum.
post #12 of 22
Yeah, that desk problem can be pretty amazing. it's like they don't bother to TELL them how it all works. After talking a guy down Schoolmarm at Keystone, me skiing backwards holding his poles for safety (it's 4 miles long), and wondering what the HELL he was doing in the Parallel Breakthrough class, it traspired that teh desk woman was recommending it to Level 2's, people who hadn't learned to stop or turn in their first lesson. ye gods.

They would go crazy at us instructors, wanting us to be perfect, and yet these people who were right under their noses, they could HEAR them, could do stuff like this!

I got complaints from guests about their rudeness, too. Bloody incredible.

Some guests left me tips in envelopes at the front desk during the season; I didn't get them until the last day when they were cleaning out the safe etc. and I just happened to be in there looking for someone. I could go on...I hate incompetance!
post #13 of 22
Not sure how related this is, but when an instructor is double (or triple or quadruple) booked, they will invariably ski with the biggest tipper.

If the instructor you're after is very popular, the standard 20% tip may just not cut it.
post #14 of 22
300 real pros in a haystack of 1400 ... beautiful teaching mountain ... but for many on the books it ain't about skiing

[ March 21, 2003, 01:37 AM: Message edited by: man from oz ]
post #15 of 22
In the Vail system, once an instr is booked as a request, it may not be changed to accomodate to another client. First request in gets the instr. Not even the instr can change it. On the other hand, if the lesson is an assignment, it may be moved to another instr if the first instr gets a request.

This is why many of the top pro's in the Vail system have gone to what we refer as "self-scheduling". This means no booking can be taken by the ski school for that instr, until after a certain date, usually Dec15. Up until that time, only the instr can place bookings on their schedule, so they can manage their schedule. In this way, the instr takes care of their return clients first. Most of those top pro's are 80-90% booked for the season, by that time.
How the instr determines who they will ski with is up to them. As OZ said- " to some, it isn't about the skiing".

To some of us- "it isn't about the money"! I have turned away good tipping students, because I found they had no soul for the sport. All they wanted was to be recognized and to be coddled. They had no real passion for skiing. I'd rather ski with someone who doesn't tip, and have a really enjoyable time, than with a big tipper who brings down my enjoyment level. (but of course when the former does tip.....!)

With the various aspects of what I do, I must prioritize my time accurately. I make sure my clients are taken care of first, then my obligations to PSIA, then the ESA, then if there is any time left (haha), I will set aside some time for myself (ie- Masters racing, the odd day off, etc). If I didn't manage my own schedule, it would get WAY too crazy, and fragmented.

Maybe this gives some insight to the inner workings of a larger ski school. The skier who walks in the door, and asks for a lesson? They'll get whomever is the next instr on the list. That may be a full cert with many years of experience, or a fairly inexperienced pro, just brought on to the pvt book for the day because they were short instrs. Unless you are specific about the qualifications of the instr, it's going to be a crap shoot.

post #16 of 22
anotherskidad: thank you.
post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 
During busy times of the year, it can be take what is available. The problem is they won't give you the option to pay less for an inexperienced instructor, so you take the lesson and realize it wasn't worth the high price you paid. Maybe if they had two price levels deluxe and super deluxe, all those customers who are not really into skiing would just pay the lower fee for a buddy and guide to help them cut lift lines.
post #18 of 22
So novice, building on what VSP said about specifying what you want, you can do the following: ask for a Level III certified instructor (which isn't an ironclad guarantee but tightens the loop a lot in terms of what you may get relative to experience and quality); specify your goals for that lesson ---bumps? back bowls? new terrain? patience for a more fearful skier? or perhaps someone equally adept teaching children and adults if you are bringing your family for an all-day private---
Frankly, we'd all like it to be better, but the ski instruction business is no more or less fair to the consumer than most others in America which charge the same price for varying delivery at times- wouldn't you rather always get the most experienced mechanic in the garage? the best stylist in the salon? the most savvy doctor at the clinic? I sure would, but it doesn't always happen until I employ a little research and some good word of mouth.
Like I said before, feel free to PM one of us Vail types if you need further assistance.
post #19 of 22
Thread Starter 
"the ski instruction business is no more or less fair to the consumer than most others in America"

I think there is a big difference, for most services I can choose how much I will pay from providers that have different levels of quality. This isn't possible in skiing, there is only one ski school and a set price. If I don't like the price or quality of a Vail owned lodge I can go to many other lodges in Vail. This isn't possible with lessons, there is no "Real Pros" or "Discount Instructors" available in Vail to be an alternative to the Vail owned school.
post #20 of 22
novice, I'm sorry if I sounded flippant or dismissive of your very valid concerns regarding price vs. varying levels of quality. That was not my intention, as you made some good points.
It indeed would be great if at least two financial alternatives for instruction were available under the same roof at every resort, most pros particularly experienced ones banter this about but somehow it doesn't seem to happen. If it does, it's on a miniscule basis: someone goes maverick at their own area (with a big consequence if they're caught).
Why aren't there alternatives? read below for some info which may help you understand why I shortcut to the solution with you. Know that I'm a pro at Vail and not management, by the way. If you aren't interested, read no further.
Most ski resorts are run by a company which runs a company school (or, like the last ski area I worked at contracts out to one entity). Vail operates on public land under a permit for which it pays revenue relative to use figures. Interestingly, some might say the federal government's permitting practices at times can fly in the face of free market capitalism because the Forest Service frequently limits permits to grandfathered businesses with proven use and new permits are so difficult to impossible to get, particularly for entities seeking to do any kind of volume. The answers lie in partly in land management philosophy and practices involving use quotas and resource protection.
This whole situation kinda reminds me of Mount Rainier, where only one guiding service is permitted for operation. It sure does irritate some of those other aspiring companies.
Yikes! Huge liability insurance costs also stifle entrepreneurial ambitions along with all those other startup cost issues.
So, novice. I don't even go there but shortcut you to solutions instead. I hope the above explains why better but please know that I apologize if you feel like your complaint was not heard.
Your real-world choices really are three, following a possible experience of less than adequate instruction for a premium price:
1) complain and get resolution as you hopefully would with any service business. For a premium price you should get a quality experience, no doubt;
2) ask your friend to refer you and reserve early during busy times, if he's been there for a long time he should have a good list of instructors so you'll never be caught short. Know that private instructors are encouraged to handle their own bookings for extra personalized service so this is a legitimate expectation and request on your part; or - THE BIG ONE -
3) Go elsewhere. You might pay 2/3 to 3/5 just down the road although again you need to do a little research to find the quality you want. Try 1 and 2 first though, if you have truly been provided a substandard product that is not the company's intent by mission and it should help you.
Frankly I AM curious about how often this (unsatisfactory lesson) has occurred for you. And also why your friend has not done your booking as it sounds like you are a good customer.
Good luck.
[img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img] :

[ March 24, 2003, 01:09 AM: Message edited by: vera ]
post #21 of 22
Good Luck
post #22 of 22
Thread Starter 
Vera: Thank you so much for for such a detailed answer, and at such a late hour! I book directly with my friend now and it is working fine. I only had the problem a few times and was wondering if it happened to anyone else. Being the shopper I am, I have always wondered why there aren't other ski schools. Sometimes I really just want a guide and would use a cheaper less qualified instructor if one were available. That would leave the real pros for students that want a more serious lesson. I don't see why resort managers don't view other schools as a plus, all the other lodges, restaurants and ski shops helps their total business. If I start going to another resort or just skip a lesson because I don't want to pay the regular price, that isn't helping Vail's business.
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