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Private Lessons--what is/isn't allowed?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I've got several questions about how the whole "private lesson thing" works.  I have taken a private lesson or two in the past (never prearranged, just went to the mountain services desk and asked), but I am considering seeking more focused instruction for the upcoming winter, and I want to know how things work and what my options are.

I ski on the East Coast.  I do 90%+ of my skiing at Gore Mtn., MRG, Sugarbush and Whiteface--in that order.  So, if things vary significantly from mountain to mountain, let me know.

1.  If I go and sign up for a private lesson at my home mountain, they assign me an instructor and off we go.  My understanding is that a portion of the price I pay for the lesson goes to the mountain and (hopefully the larger share) goes to the instructor.  Am I right about how this works, or are most instructors you get from the mountain salaried employees?  I've always thought that the mountain was acting as more of a "middle man," linking people that want lessons up with an instructor and taking a cut.

2.  Is my instructor expected to share any portion of the tip I give with the head instructor, or with the person who schedules the lessons (or with some other person I haven't even though of)?

3.  Are PSIA instructors permitted to get their own clients (say, through an ad on Craig's List), meet them at a designated mountain, give a lesson and get paid, and go on their merry way?  Or, are there rules that prohibit PSIA instructors from giving a lesson at a mountain they do not work at, or that require them to inform the mountain that they are giving a private lesson and to share a portion of the lesson fee with the mountain? 

4.  If you find an instructor you like (who works at/for the mountain), and want to sign up to take a series of weekly or bi-weekly private lessons with that instructor, is it usually possible to negotiate a lesson rate that incorporates a "bulk discount" (even if it doesn't say so on the mountain's web site)?  Does this vary from mountain to mountain?

Thanks in advance for your responses.

STE
post #2 of 12
1. The mountain takes most of this fee and pay the instructor the least they feel they can accept. It's usually more than a group  rate but not necessarily so

2.You tip the instructor . How he handles his money is his business. Try to understand most instructors don't make very much for their time and most clients don't tip .

3.Your lessons given are ran through the ski school desk . Anything else would be poaching on their territory and would require permissions . It's good business for an instructor to build his clientele in any way he can as long as the requests are ran through the ski school.

4. At my school rates are set and there are deals for multi-week lessons or lessons in  series.In any business there might be a possibility of bargaining but the norm is posted, set rates.

This is how it's done where I work .  If most instructors had to live off of what they make teaching they would starve.
post #3 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski the East View Post


4.  If you find an instructor you like (who works at/for the mountain), and want to sign up to take a series of weekly or bi-weekly private lessons with that instructor, is it usually possible to negotiate a lesson rate that incorporates a "bulk discount" (even if it doesn't say so on the mountain's web site)?  Does this vary from mountain to mountain?

Thanks in advance for your responses.

STE
 

That is certainly possible.

Winter Park is offering a substantial discount this month for clients who book a lesson this month. The lesson does not need paid for.....you merely need to pick a date to enjoy a 10% discount.

In addition we will "negotiate" a lower price for customers who book multiple lessons in advance.

I incentivize my business further with a small rebate for my clients who will take multiple lessons. In essence I reduce my margins depending upon the number of days a client is willing to book.

When all is said and done the typical savings are about $100.00 for my clients
post #4 of 12
 One other thing to know is that if you request an instructor by name they get a much larger percentage of the cost of the lesson at most mountains.  At our mountain we get a very low hourly rate for a private lesson, but if it's a Requested Private we get 1/2 the lesson cost.

No discount for repeat lessons, but if the Instructor has the time after the lesson and it's a Requested Private, and if you've tipped them before - you'll probably get more then the hour you paid for.
post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thanks all.  It appears from your responses that:

1.  You need to book an instructor through the mountain/ski school he/she works at. 

2.  Asking for a particular instructor by name will (hopefully) result in a more reasonable split of the lesson proceeds between the instructor and the mountain. 

3.  If there is no posted discount for scheduling multiple private lessons, the mountain may or may not be willing to offer a discount if you book multiple private lessons in advance (can't hurt to ask).

STE

post #6 of 12
My advice for booking private lessons is to assume nothing. Your assumptions about the nature of the ski instruction business are mostly untrue. Unfortunately, those assumptions are fairly common, and don't help those of us who instruct. First off, instructors are mountain employees, not free agents. We are paid an hourly rate. Depending upon the lesson, we may get more than our base rate, but don't assume that. I worked at Okemo, and the only time we got a rate boost was when we were specifically requested by the client. Otherwise, we were being paid our base wage. In many states, an instructor giving 'freelance' lessons can be interpreted as a theft of services, and the instructor can potentially be terminated and even prosecuted (it will only ever happen to an instructor who is REALLY on his director's sh**list, but it is legally possible). My best advice, find an instructor you like, request him/her specifically, and tip well.
post #7 of 12
Everything above is spot on.

My advice, is research the instructor's first, so at least you will improve the chances of getting an instructor who knows what they are doing.  You will be amazed at the spread in caliber from the best instructor to the worst. 

Basics: 
  1. Look for certified pros....the higher the cert the better.  Sure there are some guys out there as good as the cert guys who just havent gotten around to it, or dont want to.....but that is rare.  (I know some readers (ie the ones who are uncertified, or have a low level of cert) here will strongly disagree with this, but it is true.)
  2. Book the lesson in advance, and then let the instructor know, and what you want etc.  There is nothign wrong with this, even better take you intstructor for a coffee/beer ahead of time to discuss your goals etc.  This will give the pro a chance to prepare for the lesson, and usually for the price of a free coffee, beer, he/she can give you tips for preparing for the lesson (ie tune your skis, get ski boots that fit, other equipment reccomendations, some reading....).  Depending on the amount of info you get, maybe buy em breakfast/lunch as the case maybe.  It may only cost your $10 but the advice is well worth it, and the pro will love you.
  3. Book the instructor by name...yes in almost all cases this improves the split, but they still only barely scrape out a living.
  4. If the lesson is good...tell your friends!


Good luck!
post #8 of 12
The above is pretty good advice. Ski instructors at most mountains are not salaried employees but hourly workers who are paid not for the full day they must be available for work but instead for only those hours they are selected for work.  Basically they are required to report for work and be available throughout the day. The number of hours they work varies according to demand for instructor services. Most ski areas will keep many more instructors on hand than they actually need in order to be able to meet sudden and unexpected demand and to satisfy demand on those occasions such as holiday periods when demand is expected to be high.  This is fairly easy for them to accomplish since it cost very little to assemble a sizeable ski school and the ski instructors aren't actually being paid anything unless they are making money for the ski area. Some states require businesses to pay their employees minimum "show up pay" regardless of whether they actually get work that day. This is intended to prevent employees from being required to show up for work and outlay their own expense to do so without actually making any money. As you can imagine this causes the work to be spread out a bit so that very few instructors are paid for not working. Everyone works a little. This system works out rather differently depending upon how busy the resort is throughout the season. Busy resorts can actually provide their staff with fairly full employment and a viable income offset somewhat by the high cost of living in such places. Most eastern ski areas are no longer resorts in the classic sense though. With the advent of inexpensive air travel the skiing public figured out that for very little more they could jet out to Colorado or somewhere else in the West and have a week of better snow on a usually much larger mountain. Your average eastern ski area has seen the ski weekers dwindle and so there is comparatively little demand for ski instruction on typical non holiday mid weeks which means little work and little pay for full time ski instructors.
.
By now you're beginning to wonder how ski areas manage to staff their ski schools with competent people and that is a good question. Fortunately ski teaching is a wonderfully healthy occupation with the rewards that come from sharing something you love with others and the challenge intrinsic in pursuing mastery of skiing and teaching and there are a fair number of retired people and those with independent incomes and those who are just crazy enough to spend a chunk of their lives doing something they love for little money.  Even so you might reasonably question whether ski schools are uniformly stocked with highly skilled and qualified people. With little income opportunities and the work being spread out among larger than needed staffs you can begin to imagine the situation. I'm not going to say more on this subject except to recommend that you seek out instructors with PSIA certification.  PSIA provides what is arguably the best training and educational systems around for ski instructors. Their standards for certification are high and help to insure that certified instructors have the knowledge and skills required. Requesting certified instructors just helps to raise the bar in the profession as well since it encourages ski schools to do whatever is required to staff their schools with qualified people. Do your instructor a favor and request him or her by name once you've found someone who works out well for you. Most ski areas give their staff a bonus for a personal request.  Bearing in mind what I've said above about the nature of the ski teaching business in the East it shouldn't be a surprise that some of the best will turn out to be part time weekend ski teachers with other professions. You should also know that your ski instructor is likely making only a fraction of the cost of your private lesson so any tip you can provide will help to insure he or she continues to be available for ski teaching.
post #9 of 12
Finally.....a thread on Epic where everybody agrees on something.

100% accurate information.

A realistic view of something.

EXCEPT.....

Once you reach the top of the instructor pile.....with MANY years of experience.....a great customer base....and several certifications....and an "OK" summer job.........you may not starve
post #10 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Louie View Post

Finally.....a thread on Epic where everybody agrees on something.

100% accurate information.

A realistic view of something.

EXCEPT.....

Once you reach the top of the instructor pile.....with MANY years of experience.....a great customer base....and several certifications....and an "OK" summer job.........you may not starve

From my experiences 85-90% of instructors don't do it for the money at all.  It's a decision based soley on the passion for skiing and drive to encourage others to enjoy the same experiences we've had with the sport.  Whether it is a stranger that drove 150 miles to "try out skiing" or a family member.  Most all instructors that i've bumped into have a well paying job that they have put off to the side for a good part of the winter to instruct, sacraficing the money.

I'm a ski instructor out east and i welcome the pay cut every year to leave my normal job (which i do enjoy a lot) and teach.

The other 10-15% of instructors are there most likely for the bennefits of being an instructor  i.e. seasons pass, free tickets.  i'm sure the're other reasons as well. 
post #11 of 12
When I was an Instructor I used to try to be the "middle man" in communicating between the client and the ski school desk. I wasn't sure what new desk employees were working at any given time and if they would know what to do so I always tried to be part of the booking procedure to make sure it was a request private and they didn't get pushed onto another instructor if I wasn't scheduled when they wanted. I would flex or add to my schedule as needed. I was there to 'approve' any bookings when I wasn't scheduled. So, if you have a new to you instructor that you want to keep going with you can always ask them to accompany you to the ski school desk if they are available.

We weren't allowed to negotiate or discuss pricing with clients so I always referred any money questions back to the ski school. For my repeat privates I would sometimes try to book them at a time when I didn't have to rush back to line up so I could give them a little extra 'value' and to get them booked again if needed.

We were paid more for request privates, but it also helped build "street cred" among the peer instructors and Director & Supervisors.
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by oisin View Post

The above is pretty good advice. Ski instructors at most mountains are not salaried employees but hourly workers who are paid not for the full day they must be available for work but instead for only those hours they are selected for work.  Basically they are required to report for work and be available throughout the day. The number of hours they work varies according to demand for instructor services. Most ski areas will keep many more instructors on hand than they actually need in order to be able to meet sudden and unexpected demand and to satisfy demand on those occasions such as holiday periods when demand is expected to be high.  This is fairly easy for them to accomplish since it cost very little to assemble a sizeable ski school and the ski instructors aren't actually being paid anything unless they are making money for the ski area. Some states require businesses to pay their employees minimum "show up pay" regardless of whether they actually get work that day. This is intended to prevent employees from being required to show up for work and outlay their own expense to do so without actually making any money. As you can imagine this causes the work to be spread out a bit so that very few instructors are paid for not working. Everyone works a little. This system works out rather differently depending upon how busy the resort is throughout the season. Busy resorts can actually provide their staff with fairly full employment and a viable income offset somewhat by the high cost of living in such places. Most eastern ski areas are no longer resorts in the classic sense though. With the advent of inexpensive air travel the skiing public figured out that for very little more they could jet out to Colorado or somewhere else in the West and have a week of better snow on a usually much larger mountain. Your average eastern ski area has seen the ski weekers dwindle and so there is comparatively little demand for ski instruction on typical non holiday mid weeks which means little work and little pay for full time ski instructors.
.
By now you're beginning to wonder how ski areas manage to staff their ski schools with competent people and that is a good question. Fortunately ski teaching is a wonderfully healthy occupation with the rewards that come from sharing something you love with others and the challenge intrinsic in pursuing mastery of skiing and teaching and there are a fair number of retired people and those with independent incomes and those who are just crazy enough to spend a chunk of their lives doing something they love for little money.  Even so you might reasonably question whether ski schools are uniformly stocked with highly skilled and qualified people. With little income opportunities and the work being spread out among larger than needed staffs you can begin to imagine the situation. I'm not going to say more on this subject except to recommend that you seek out instructors with PSIA certification.  PSIA provides what is arguably the best training and educational systems around for ski instructors. Their standards for certification are high and help to insure that certified instructors have the knowledge and skills required. Requesting certified instructors just helps to raise the bar in the profession as well since it encourages ski schools to do whatever is required to staff their schools with qualified people. Do your instructor a favor and request him or her by name once you've found someone who works out well for you. Most ski areas give their staff a bonus for a personal request.  Bearing in mind what I've said above about the nature of the ski teaching business in the East it shouldn't be a surprise that some of the best will turn out to be part time weekend ski teachers with other professions. You should also know that your ski instructor is likely making only a fraction of the cost of your private lesson so any tip you can provide will help to insure he or she continues to be available for ski teaching.

Pretty accurate portrayal, except for your characterization of eastern resorts being less of resorts than before. If anything, the major mountain resorts have become more resorts than ever before. Okemo, Stowe, Loon, all of them have seen major expansions and additions to their lodging capacity, because they need the extra capacity to keep up with reservation demands. While working full time at Okemo, we had a very healthy midweek customer base, some of it local, but much of it week long vacationers.
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