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Increasing instructor pay: How will it change the ski industry?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
Related to the "Elephant in the Living Room" thread, if ski schools started paying instructors a wager that was more consistant with their training level and worth, how do you think the ski industry change?

[ March 28, 2003, 11:47 AM: Message edited by: Prosper ]
post #2 of 20
Well, a lot of places would re-do their runs to take advantage of the morning sun coming from the west, and of course we'd be arguing about how many trees should be cut for groomers in Hell.
post #3 of 20
Very interesting way to phrase this question, Prosper-

Hmmmm. It seems to me, in that unlikely event, a couple of things would happen.

It would imply that the areas have respect for the profession, and the individuals in it. They would have to be treated as professionals. But with that respect comes obligations.

Here's the rub-. The instructors would have to start acting as professionals. They will be responsible for the success and/ or failure of the ski school. For it will be only themselves that will be selling their service. And those that don't contribute, should be cut loose.
They would have to be willing to extend themselves beyond what the average instr does today.

Most instrs today want the money, but are they willing to put out the extra effort that is commensurate with that pay? This would include training, certification, cross discipline training (ie- alpine to snowboard), etc.

The true pro's will, for they already do. But for second rate instr's, it will be a learning experience, to become a pro.

I'm going to continue thinking about this, and will add more later!

post #4 of 20
Many more would stay. This would provide a stronger overall base for instruction.

By the time the clothes are purchased, the jacket leased, gas to get to the hill and skis and boots are replaced, I DON'T MAKE A DIME.

Each year at this time it always comes up ....... "hell, why don't we buy a season pass next year?".
post #5 of 20
The profession would grow by generations. The tree becomes stronger as the trunk becomes larger. Currently people leave after a few years to return to the “real” world and the tree never quite is fed through the generations. The profession does very good by their clients considering the meager existence of its full time instructors. [img]graemlins/thumbsup.gif[/img]
post #6 of 20
VSP's words ring true!

The lower end instructors, the ones there to get the ski pass and no interest in really "teaching" would have to "pay their dues".

RANT Warning
I don't get it for some of our current instructors, they come in the morning, bitch about the weather, complain about this and that, but don't seem willing to do anything about it. Everyone needs to help out with putting up the ski school signs, someone needs to cut the stairs in the ice to the locker room, someone needs to shovel off the deck or magic carpet after a snow. For some reason it's alway the same people or it doesn't get done. Often I am putting out the ski school signs and the other instructors ski up, dump their packs, skis/boards in a big mess around the ski school meeting area and go get coffee or breakfast. If everyone picked up one sign it would get done in 1/10th the time.
Also I don't know about your locker rooms but it's part of our place of business, and shared space. It would be so nice if people picked up after themselves. I come in and there is almost always coffee cups, and garbage all over the floor. ACT Professional if you want to be treated as such!

End rant.

I've only been doing this 2 seasons now and I still find the thrill of a big smile or hug from a child the best reward and worth coming back the next year. I guess I'll have to put up with the "children" in the instructor ranks and hope the pay begins to catch up with the "professionals"
post #7 of 20
Dchan: You were hired as a ski instructor ..... not a member of the maintenance staff.

Example ..... the boss sold me a cool pair of leather gloves. the next day, I left my old beat gloves in the truck and wore my brandy-noo ones. My assignment that day ..... "go pull fence, roll it and cart it down". New gloves are not in shreds but after one day, they aren't quite new.

BTW, I have done all that they have asked without bitching openly, but there is so much that goes unsaid.

I have spent a day on the race program without pay doing labor, pounding posts and running line but that's my choice to help out the program and I knew what to wear ..... older beat stuff.

You wanna get rid of the litter in the instructor room ...... ? No instructors under 35 need apply!
post #8 of 20
Four questions, and finding the answers to each would be most useful:

(1) Who care's?

(2) Why?

(3) Who DOESN'T care?

(4) How come?

Not just "do instructors care and why" - but rather "WHICH instructors care and why? . . . and what would cause the others to care?"

Not just "Doesn't ownership/management care and why not?" - but rather "What is it that would cause them to care?"

. . . and of course, let's not forget the customers, both actual and potential - who cares? who doesn't? how come? how to change?
post #9 of 20
Formula for change:

"David Gleicher’s formula for change, DxVxF>R, offers a simple yet profound guide for change in organizations. It states that when we multiply the dissatisfaction with the present situation (D), times the clarity of the vision or positive picture of what is possible in the future (V), times the clarity of the first real, achievable steps people can take toward reaching the vision (F), the product must be greater than (>) the resistance to change (R). If any one of the values of (D), (V), or (F) is zero (missing) or approaching zero, the product of the three will also be zero or approaching zero, and the resistance to change will not be overcome (Beckhard & Harris, 1987)."

[ March 29, 2003, 08:48 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #10 of 20
Thread Starter 
I certainly don't have any clue as to what would happen but thought this would be an interesting thing to ponder. I'm wondering what would happen from a business standpoint. If instructor pay increases, ski resorts will either just make less profit (not very likely) or try to increase revenue through another avenue (increasing lesson prices, lift ticket prices, concession prices, parking prices). In short, the consumer would be paying the increase in instructor pay. As skiing is already a very expensive endeavor this would likely drive people away from taking lessons and cause people to ski less. It would certainly make less people willing to try skiing for the first time.

In an ideal ski world, however, one would think that increased instructor pay would lead to increased overall quality of instruction which would lead to increased number of lessons taken which would increase ski resort revenues. Hopefully some of the increased quality of instruction would also lead to increased interest from the non-skiers to try skiing and that would lead to the golden calf to increasing ski resort revenues, increasing the total number of skiers. Any thoughts?
post #11 of 20
When I began working in the fitness industry 30 years ago, we were paid $1.85 an hour! A good deal has changed since then, but it has been a constant battle.

Initially, there was no requirement for certification. When certification was first iniated, the certifying bodies began to exert subtle pressure on the fitness industry to pay professionals their worth. With the improvements in pay scale, the idea of taking continuing ed courses became more feasible. And this feasibility lead to more CEC courses. Conferences, workshops, online programs, etc.

While come instructors became continuing education junkies, there are still some hold outs, who would prefer to simply whine about their low pay rate, as opposed to actually doing something about it.

But there are some gray areas. Some instructors have an exceedingly high degree of energy and charisma. They often do very little, in terms of professional development. But, like an inane prime time TV show, they often have huge followings, and thus may recieve a higher pay rate than a more qualified instructor.

But as instructor pay rates and education improved, it was ineteresting to see the research involving the mental and physical health benefits of exercise increase.
It was almost as if people thought that anything you could learn from someone earning $1.85 an hour could not have much value. People who earn more, financially, in turn earn more respect.

While there is some research involving the benefits of sport participation, specifically snow sports, it is not all that prevalent.

Ironically, the more cutting edge fitness professionals are trying to encourage sport participation. The "vanity" awards of fitness can be fleeting and intangible. Sport skills are more concrete.

I am still waiting for someone to do a study on how recreational skiing can prevent syndromes such as Seasonal Affected Disorder, winter weight gain, over all balnce skills, etc.

Perhaps when instructors are paid better....
post #12 of 20
Prosper, I remember, about forty five years ago, a ski school that had brought over Austrian, German and Swiss instructors. Not only were they full time, but the ski area paid their travel costs from Europe, provided free housing plus a discount on food. They worked under a contract proving them with a guaranteed ammount of money, well worth it, since they could make as much here in a seasonas a year's work at home.

The ski school was top notch, much better than anything that could be found at the time at other areas.

But it was small. Though the instructors worked every hour the area was open and the lesson charges were double at what other areas charged, the classes were full. All day.

Seldom could a walk-up get into a class, classes were booked way in advance and they were highly valued by the skiing public.
Customers knew all the names of the instructors, jostled to get to sit on the same table at lunch, and for month dropped names as having had a lesson with Klaus, etc.

No one gets into a good restaurant at dinner time, see a doctor or hairdresser, or almost any professional without an appointment.

I'm not a golfer, but I'm told by my friends who are that they cannot get a tee time without an appointment and walking in and demand a lesson from a pro, in your dreams.

The ski industry would change if ski pros could make a living that included paying off a house and sending their kids to college and the ski school would only hire well educated pros who paid to get that education, no learning on the job.

If getting an appointment for a lesson were a privilege instead of a 'right', more respect would come the instructor.

As an alternative, seperate the schools from the area. The Snow Trails ski are in Mansfield Ohio for thirty years was a seperate entity, the director was only required to have enough instructors for the demand. He set the charge for a lesson, the pay for the instructors and kept the profits.

The only problem was that he was the only ski school at the area, competition from another school certainly would have improved the quality of instructors, not saying it didn't have high quality.

Anyway, as I sipp on my Manhatten, I forget what I was going to say, I think I said enough.

post #13 of 20
The four factors and the formula set forth by nolo require concrete knowledge:

WHO is dissatisfied, and WITH WHAT are they dissatisfied?

WHAT do the dissatisfied want the future to look like?

WHAT can the dissatisfied DO to achieve the desired future?

and finally, about the "resistance" - WHO is resisting?

Are ski areas dissatisfied with low pay for instructors, or might they have some other dissatisfaction which can be overcome with Ott's vision from the past?

Are ALL instructors dissatisified, or just some? It does appear to me that many instructors find the status quo, including tipping, hunky dory. Is there any form of . . . please excuse the expression . . . solidarity among the instructors?

Teachers. Public school teachers. They complain about low pay and lack of respect. Both of my parents were public school teachers, that was a long time ago, so please don't tell me about low pay for educators. Today's teachers don't now what low pay IS. In those days, there were no teachers' unions - it was what it was. My father and mother always came home from the public schools at which they worked and gave music lessons in our home until dinner time. Until I was sixteen, my father always worked - WORKED - during the summer vacations. He was the only hod carrier with a masters degree. He was the only gas pump jockey and assembly line worker with TWO masters degrees. Eventually, he actually worked summers at teaching music in a summer program our town had developed.

Policemen. When I was a prosecuting attorney - MANY moons ago - my office was located in the police station and I got to know what that way of life was about. There was no union at that time. When they weren't on duty, almost all cops had other work - many still do.

So are we talking about low pay? Are we talking about a more effective system? Are we talking about the "recruitement and retention" of skiers?

If one were to wave a magic wand and suddenly ALL ski instructors were paid more . . . I mean, MORE . . . what would happen? Would ski area ski schools spend the same by paying more to fewer? Would ski areas want to "contract out" the instruction work? Why do areas even HAVE ski schools? What if all the instructors didn't show up for work? Just what IS the market for ski instruction? Do you recall picking up Ski or Skiing magazines and seeing any marketing for SKI INSTRUCTION as such? Is there ANY organization of ski instructors which exists for ski instructors and their economic and general well being? How many ski areas actually market themselves by touting their ski schools?

Enough. It's not the Manhattens, it's the beer. AND my curiosity, and my obsession with skiing and ski learning and ski instruction.
post #14 of 20

It appears that each hill has a "core staff" of senior instructors who are a bit pampered. They always work and they always get the best lessons. They have earned this through seniority and paying their dues over time. I don't begrudge them the honor ...... however, the result of this is that it gives management the relative luxury of dragging in "fodder" to teach the crammed intro classes. The consumer doesn't have a clue.

It's pretty rough waiting in line ten years to be treated with a minimum of respect from management. Instructors often cycle from area to area looking for a greener pasture.

Is it too much to ask to make some money? With gas at $1.75 a gallon, my "break even" point is if I get to teach two hours. I usually get to log about three. Most of us don't take advantage of our cafeteria discount because it puts us in the red for the day.

Now deduct PSIA dues, PSIA event and travel, toss in the jacket rental and if I have made money at the end of the year it will be amazing. My skis are paid for by working nights at another job.

If it had cost your parents money to give those "Oboe" lessons ... well, you might have been an instructor since they couldn't have afforded law school now could they?
post #15 of 20
I find it interesting that places like Sugarloaf Maine have instructors who have been teaching there for 20-30 years. They are not making more money than instructors at other New England resorts. Private lessons there are slightly less expensive, even though most of the instructors are highly experienced. Group lessons are included in your lodging package.

What is management doing right in this sort of place, that retains their instructors for exceptionally long periods of time, despite low pay rates?
post #16 of 20
Well, yuki, I hear you whine loud and clear, and here's about my parents: If they actually lost money giving music lessons when they got home from their main employment, they wouldn't have done it. So, since you say you lose money at this ski instruction business . . . why are you doing it? I mean, no one's forcing you, right? I presume you feel you're getting something out of it. You say that the old regulars get treated better, but is it possible that the existence of a huge pool of willing part timers actually makes things more difficult for the full time professionals?
post #17 of 20

That is exactly the point. That pool of part timers with a high rate of attrition.

Why do I do this ..... ? Fortunately, I'm very much aware of why I bother.

When I was eighteen, I got hired at a small local hill staffed by the "old Austrian and German corps". I was on cloud nine. That was in 1968. About this time I also got a letter from Uncle Sam ......... #32 in the lottery : (hiss-boo). Four years later the hill was closed, gone, kaput! This, for me is reclaiming (but not a reasonable facsimile thereof), that period of my life.

When my kid got into a race program, I was spending so much time at the hill that it seemed like a good idea.

My heart goes out to the locals that could use the money. I saw many of them leave the instructors course at the end. They paid money to attend, only to find out (at the end) ... that this was not a money making "job".
post #18 of 20
I'm not "casting aspersions", as it were, yuki, I'm just interested in exploring the issue. I suspect that not all ski instructors have the same stake in the issue.
post #19 of 20
Increasing instructor pay: How will it change the ski industry?
It won't.

It is the "part time" nature of the industry that is the root of all its failings, not the actual pay scale. Secondary is the "desperate" situation of "making budget" at all costs. "Making budget" means "anyone" is hired to ensure that all comers are catered for with a ski lesson "on demand".

What message is "all comers can be ski instructors" sending to those who may want to take the job "seriously"?

Maybe the question should be; What would happen to the ski industry if the entry level for instructors was raised to an internationally respected standard?

post #20 of 20
Ott's story reflects in part what the professional instructors here can expect. The employer takes responsibility for treating instructors who are highly qualified with a full package, not just a flat hourly rate IF they are allocated work.

The latter arrangement to me is very much like a holiday job for school kids. You turn up, pick onions for 2 hours, and get 2 hours pay.

Over here, the minimum legal wage for anyone is a living wage.
As a US level 2, in my 4th season, my "award" (government set legal minimum wage) was just under $20/hour. Although we don't get extra for generating request privates.

We are still paid only if we get work, but the more qualified people are offered contracts with good guaranteed minimum hours. All fulltimers get some guaranteed hours in their contracts. Some resorts do good subsidised accommodation too. People returning on fulltime contracts often get a payment for their overseas travel (that is for foreign and domestic instructors; it's assumed they teach 2 seasons a year).

And if your ski school wants you to do stuff like setting up fences, you are on teh clock, by law.

Instructors do have a higher level of respect here, and generally the standard of personal skiing is high, although I've seen some new instructors the last few years that do not quite make it as "good" skiiers. They are not meant to free ski in uniform at some resorts. In fact, some resorts will set in writing what runs you may ski in uniform, depending on your level of certification!
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