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The Elephant in the Living Room - Page 6

post #151 of 229
Man from oz-

I'm going to take exception to a couple of things you've said in your last few posts.

On several occasions, you have made mention of the imports (visa instructors) coming in to do the job, because they are career instructors. Let's evaluate that statement-. And since you and I work in the same locker room in Vail, let's use it as the example.

The main reason we have so many imports is simple. We don't have enough instructors making themselves available to work for us. (HINT HINT to anybody reading) We are required to hire all qualified applicants prior to the issuance of any visa's. Surely pay is a primary cause of the shortage, both short and long term. But let's be honest- are all of the imports exceptional, career minded instructors? Not even close.
Sure they are in for the season, but do they have any loyalty to the school they are working for, or our industry here in the US? Heck no , less than 10 % ever even join PSIA. They apply for their visa's and work here on the strength of their home country certification. Most come over for 1,2,3, or sometimes a few more seasons than that, but then they burn out without a rest period, and we never see them again. And given the exchange rate between the US and most foreign countries right now, they turn the US$$$ they make into significantly more than they would make in their own countries. So to most of them it is still a financial issue.

The imports are the first ones you hear complaining when the work is thin. Then you hear the domestics start complaining about the imports getting work "because they need to survive". It can get vicious, and I know you are aware of it. Don't get me wrong! There are some incredible instructors , d-teamers, examiners etc, who have come here to play with us. WOW, what a ski school I could create with just those in my locker row! But there are many more just punching the clock. And their willingness to come over and bolster our ranks, doesn't that play right back into the supply and demand issue?

I have also worked overseas, in both Europe and the SH. I am quite familiar with the feelings of the domestics regarding imports. When I was working(11seasons) in NZ, I was required to join the NZSIA, as was every foreigner working for us. I even got involved enough to become an examiner there. How many imports do that here? Or even give training within our own school?

Another point of contention. You made an observaton regarding the standards of those instructors working with children. Though they may not be the most experienced on our staff, I will be the last one to ever doubt their professionalism. Go spend day after day with the 3-6 or 7-14 program. You'll learn more about yourself than you'd probably want to know! I try to support those instructors as much as possible, and I know you do to , after being on CH15 while injured. I saw you helping them out. In fact- I don't think we take nearly good enough care of them. After all- aren't they developing our future skiers? And look at many of the imports- uncertified to teach, with barely any skiing skills, but we get them visa's based upon their child education skills.

I realize that the issue of imports/domestics is a sensitive one, on both sides. I'm not trying to fan the flames, but let's keep the role of the imports in perspective.

Hope you are healing quickly, and enjoying a little beach time before the snow falls!


[ April 17, 2002, 09:34 PM: Message edited by: vail snopro ]
post #152 of 229
Thread Starter 

I am trying to understand you. Are you saying that I personally am smug or that AASI/PSIA is a smug organization? I personally am not AASI/PSIA you know. It would be most inaccurate to ascribe my opinions to that organization.

So, help me out about PMTS. This is an organization that is stealing our customers, eh? What is their membership? How many do they certify? How many resorts have thrown aside AASI/PSIA for PMTS?

I think it's great for HH that he has a column in the major media, but does the PR translate to more consumers demanding the product?

I am asking specific questions about this competitive situation, not arguing the principle that the weak get eaten. I ask the questions because I am skeptical about the threat that we have been warned about for -- how many years has it been now? -- four, five?

I have news for you. The answer to "unlimited growth" will not be technical. It will not be a new "school." It will be a WAY OF BEING that enables its followers to know fulfillment. [See thread: fulfillment.]
post #153 of 229
Wow- did you open a can of worms! This whole thread (despite it's wanderings) has really lived up to it's name!

post #154 of 229
Thread Starter 
Oz, You make some good points in your answers. I especially like that you point out the folly of trying to run a school like a sausage factory, where success is turning out more sausages this year than last year. I like that you are thinking of market segmentation, and wondering why we seem content to let the DesLauriers, Egans, Coombs, Reichhelm, Jeannie Thorens, Claudia Carbone, Ellen Post Foster, and yes, Mike Dempsey, take our upper end business out from under our noses.

Do you think that maybe what these "competitors" have to offer does not compete with the products ski resort schools offer, but actually complements it? I'm sure Whistler-Blackcomb benefits because Dempsey built a pipeline to Oz to bring fresh talent in to Canada to earn their CSIA Level I/II and apprentice in their ski schools. I believe that the existence of destination resorts in Colorado (for instance) makes skiing and snowboarding at a small midwestern resort (for instance) more enticing. I have a student who takes 10 weeks of classes from me and a ski week at Taos every year. It's good for both of us to get another teacher in for a consult. We aren't in competition--I have my niche and Taos has theirs. This student believes she is getting more value with the combined approach--and she knows her skiing has vastly improved.

One thing I have learned: once they have had a taste of ambrosia, you can't keep 'em down on the farm, but if you have given good guidance in the past, they will come back from time to time for a tune-up.
post #155 of 229
nblno says: The answer to "unlimited growth" will not be technical. It will not be a new "school." It will be a WAY OF BEING that enables its followers to know fulfillment.

(I can't figure out how to get those quotes up on the screen like you folks do!!??)

I like this, and I think that this is what we're trying to do down on our farm. It's complex though--as fulfillment takes so many forms--some of which are mutually exclusive.

[ April 18, 2002, 05:33 AM: Message edited by: weems ]
post #156 of 229
Your Highness,

A few more clues, then you'll have to figure it out on your own. After all, you're professionals, right?

There's xx gang members at HH's pin party. A few of them, highly esteemed. I been talking to them. Uh, let's just say you're not on their Christmas card list.

Here's another clue. The head cheese of the the big show locker room wants to have a pow wow with the leader of the movement. Seems this leader guy has some real good ideas, and likes to talk about the collection of dead presidents. At the big show, they like folks who talk about collecting more dead presidents.

Then, a few of the gang members at HH's pin party, who really love this movement thang, are pushing real hard for the movement at the big show. One of them dines with the Chief of the big show. He's gonna tell the Chief that the movement is where it's at. And like I said. The leader of the movement really knows how to talk the Chief's lingo - the collection of dead presidents.

And, there's a few entrepreneurs in the movement. Not just from the Tree House, but from all over the world.

Your Highness. All that's left to ponder now is who's gonna turn out the lights.

post #157 of 229
A few more clues, then you'll have to figure it out on your own. After all, you're professionals, right?
Careful man, that vein on your forehead must be popping out again.
post #158 of 229
Thread Starter 
Well, it certainly sounds like YOU, SCSA, have a bead on this MOVEMENT.

And I take it on your authority that there is a groundswell of support for this MOVEMENT, which is "gang-related."

(When I first read the word MOVEMENT in your post, I confess I thought you were referring to a biological function...Do you mind if I use this parens to check for understanding?)

It's all very interesting, and reminds me of home, where conspiracies abound. There's this guy in Kalispell who had a conspiracy to take over the world that involved kidnapping some local officials--well, it was a pretty far-fetched plan and it never really got off the ground because he had LOOSE LIPS.

Loose lips sink ships.

[ April 18, 2002, 07:27 AM: Message edited by: nolobolono ]
post #159 of 229
SCSA, have you ever had a meaningful contribution to a discussion? Your posts seem to drag many worthy discussions into the gutter.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. Come on, you seem like a smart guy, why can't you be part of the solution?
post #160 of 229

I am no wordsmith so please do not take exception to my mangled sentences. I do not mean any personal malice to anyone but rather am freely discussing the big issue of PROFESSIONALISM in SS as well as all the side topics of better pay\conditions, more clients, more innovative instructors and ski school programs.


Let me clarify that I am not knocking kids instructors at all (or anyone else). I was using the example of the lack of qualified kid’s instructors leaving openings for one season college break people, to use an example. It is a walk up SS scenario unique to the US. This "desperate for staff" scenario detracts from the PROFESSION of ski instruction overall. No we are not nearly taking enough care of our kids instructors (and many others, especially the really good local full timers .. my mentors this past winter). Why … well due to the nature of SS currently they seem to be beautiful, wonderful BUT expendable.

The main reason we have so many imports is simple. We don't have enough instructors making themselves available to work for us.
This is indeed correct. The question is how to address this issue on a local level so that the imports are not blamed for the shortage but rather seen as a extension to an all ready strong and vibrant SS mix (as you noted). It is impossible to purge dead wood from an overloaded & understaffed ship. Misguided hostility on all sides breeds contempt and contempt breeds complacency not PROFESSIONALISM

I suggest local scholarships, better SS marketing, more attractive conditions, PAID TRAINING, raising the standard of instructor skills. PROFFESSIONALS know no country boundaries; they are world, big picture people.

Increasing cliental.

I suggest niche marketed programs, (possible franchise) a more outward focus beyond “PSIA rules”. THE current PSIA learning tools encompass many alternate-teaching methods BUT IMHO they do not differentiate and so dissipate real centred knowledge. Making instructors more visible and creating a "must have" atmosphere of learning is important. Make becoming a qualified Ski Instructor more challenging and increase the rewards for qualified instructors. (Removing the dead wood)

Thanks for asking about my health. The kidney has been cleared and I am back in the surf, working construction and hanging with my boys. I had a fantastic winter and it was mostly thanks to all the wonderful pros and management in LH.


I am not saying you personally are smug BUT your instant dismissal of alternate teaching methods in favour of the status quo indicated to me a certain corporate complacency and lack business astuteness.

I have news for you. The answer to "unlimited growth" will not be technical. It will not be a new "school." It will be a WAY OF BEING that enables its followers to know fulfilment
A nice quote indeed. It was the FULFILLMENT factor that relates specifically to my posts. Fulfilment of the clients needs beyond their expectations and fulfilment of instructors needs to their expectations. Fulfilment will be achieved by looking hard at all options and dismissing none. An attractive WAY OF BEING will be the outcome of all encompassing reform.

You mention a big list of SS alternates. Why cannot mainstream SS encompass the niche marketing principles of these leaders? And market them aggressively. It is not so long ago that the SS was promoted as a reason for people to come to a resort. Now it seems SS is secondary and the resort primary. An excellent, PROFESSIONAL, FLEXIBLE, UP TO DATE & EXCITING SS can make an average hill attractive. The reverse is not the case.

Loose lips sink ships …. Ummm I think I will forget that post. Do not let SCSA get you hot under the collar, rather engage him and I think you will find it refreshing…. And challenging of course. If you ever get to ski with him you will have a fun day, just do not give him any ski pointers untils he pays up and tips.

Thanks for listening.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]

[ April 18, 2002, 09:28 AM: Message edited by: man from oz ]
post #161 of 229
Thread Starter 
I was badgering with that comment you choose to ignore. I am completely in the dark about whatever he's trying to convey, but it did remind me of this buffoon in Kalispell. An Aryan, wouldn't you know. Badgering is a weakness, I know, and I appreciate the reminder.

I will take your advice about dealing with SCSA, but I confess that I seldom find narcissists very interesting. In fact, they truly are "all the saME." It's all about ME, ME, ME.

We are in violent agreement about fulfillment being the VISION.

I believe I have found THE WAY, but now I'm hesitant to share it. Maybe THE WAY is my road to fortune (I don't care about fame, I am far too introverted to enjoy it). Maybe SCSA is RIGHT!!! I should hoard my intellectual assets, keep them under wraps, and plot behind closed doors to TAKE OVER.

Or not.
post #162 of 229
Violent agreement.

That's Cool. Sounds like rigorous sex. (Or at least vigorous head-nodding.)
post #163 of 229
Thread Starter 
Cataclysmic sex.

But I digress. Sorry.

I didn't coin the term violent agreement. I heard it from a friend and adopted it.

It's the sincerest form of larceny.
post #164 of 229
Oz, your passion is your virtue. However, coming from the "trenches/line" and being both a Director and an "imported professional", I will tell you that most enlightened SSD's are instructor centered, staff advocates who understand that a happy pro=happy guests=happy beancounters. I have personally put my job on the line for my staff and will continue to do so. I fully understand Todd, Bob and others returning to the line...pays about as good and reinvigorates our raison d'etre.
Vailpro you are right on with your assesment of imports...we all know WorkUsa types leave skidmarks in February, in spite of their pleadings otherwise. Yanks get charged for a work visa in Chile...as a Canadian I did not.
Most of my PMTS/PSIA cert. friends in T-ride, left over from HH's foray there, suffer from the same pin-anonymity that we all do. Bubba just don't care.
As I revisit day area operation, I am frustrated by Part-timers for all the same reasons. Scheduling, consistant training and "not my real job backlining", but we could not survive without them. I love the grumbling FTimers, but don't forget the PTimers are working 7 days a week, their motivations are different, social and self-fulfilling.
At my last post SSD at a destination, there were no exclusive job descriptions. We had core kids and adults, but we supplied the demand and trained for maximum utility. NO us and them. One school, one mission, and everyone got privates. Tenure meant less than productivity and returns in the pay matrix. Many seperate schools pay kids kore more...almost as an apology than creating a culture of grassroots teaching and fun.
Lots of ways to skin a cat...start by fighting for the professional development, recognition and compensation for your staff, let the the dysfuntional lockeroom family flourish in it's inevitable way and respect your common passion.
post #165 of 229
Thread Starter 

I love how matter of fact you are about it, as though, Duh!!! Doesn't everybody do it this way?

Nope. I won't get specific because I don't want to hurt feelings, but every school (all two of them) that I have been in valued the dull workhorses more than the star performers, valued predictable mediocrity over mercurial blazing talent, valued control over empowerment.

I did as VP advised and built my brand, filled my appointment book, and ran my own show. But you know all this. For me it was a matter of survival. I do miss the social opportunities at line-ups, but I don't miss standing around.
post #166 of 229
A pro like you would never be standing around in any school worth it's salt...of course here, you better be a crossover!
I suppose my naivity keeps me a believer! I thought we were all in it for the same reasons. My heart has never left the line and the lessons learned there became the driving force of my business model. Happy, loyal guests, motivated, growing professionals and a respectable bottom line are not mutually incompatable or exclusive.

[ April 18, 2002, 10:55 AM: Message edited by: Robin ]
post #167 of 229
As a new instructor I have to admit maybe my motivations are different than say a FT but I find it sad that SSD's would have to think of them as a "necessary evil". Unfortunatly I can understand why and based on the attitudes of several of my co-workers I feel for the SSD and front line supervisor that has to deal with some of them. I watched as instructors gathered in the meeting area before line up and just stand around and chat. They talked about where they were going to go if they didn't get work or they were bitching about not getting work or getting "stuck" with level 1 or lvl2. It was often like being on the outside looking in a window. All this time of course things like putting up the signs and fences needed to be done. "not my job" was always the response.

Lots of people were late to lineup and then would get upset when we gave their walk in private lesson to a different person. (sorry but guest centered school should be just that, Guest centered.)

good article

There was also a lot of "Why are we not having more training" instead of "Can InstructorX take us on short clinic before the next lineup? I want to work on .... "
post #168 of 229
You guys could sell beer and cigarette ads on your uniforms like the NASCAR roundy-rounders.
post #169 of 229
Don't laugh, it happens in Europe and S. America.
post #170 of 229
Yeah, no kidding, Audi was on the skischool Lech jackets, and Oberlech had Dockers among others including beer sponsors. I asked if they have a ski sponsor, and they don't. It seems like that would be a pretty powerful argument in favor of one brand or another. The number of Atomic 9.22s on instructors feet had me thinking.
post #171 of 229
As an SSD I always remembered, and as a trainer I continue to try and focus on, the fact that I was/am not the one directly serving the customers, and making money for the mountain. Its the instructors who make the money and serve the guest.

I think the big problem here is a misguided view of the business structure as a whole. In this industry (like most industries), its viewed as a pyramid - with the instructors/workers at the bottom, and then each layer above them narrows until you get to the top person, the director (who of course actually answers to others too). This viewpoint is primarily an ego centered view.

I see it as a pyramid, but an inverse one. The SSD works FOR the people above them, trying to arrange things so that they are set for success. Sometimes the things the SSD has to do for the instructors, the instructors themselves will not like, sometimes for the good of the school as a whole - the SSD has to fire people. But the ultimate goal is to create success for the people above the SSD - the instructors.
post #172 of 229
Thread Starter 

Your inverted pyramid is what I would call Servant-Leadership (Robert K. Greenleaf). In his pamphlet, The Servant Leader, he writes:

The best test of servant-leadership:

Do those served grow as persons?

Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?

What is the effect on the least privileged in society? Will they benefit or at least not be further deprived?

"For the person with creative potential there is no wholeness except in using it."

Ever heard of Occam's Razor?
post #173 of 229
Guess I independantly reinvented Servant-Leadership then! I won't pat myself on the back much though, seems like if you are truly looking out for more than just "#1" its an obvious conlusion to make.

Who *hasn't* heard of Occams Razor?

[ April 18, 2002, 01:43 PM: Message edited by: Todd M. ]
post #174 of 229
yeah, who hasn't?

[ April 18, 2002, 01:45 PM: Message edited by: ryan ]
post #175 of 229
My last day at Angel Fire (I was let go for refusing perform a heinous personnel "remedy") I gave a teary-eyed lineup, short speech (in which I quelled a revolt) called my last "wrap".
A supervisor came up to me afterward and said, "in the emotion of the moment you had a revealing slip...you said it had been a pleasure working for you all" I guess I always felt that way.
post #176 of 229
Thread Starter 
Oh. Then I guess very few apply it.
post #177 of 229
Occams razor?? Whew!!!!, Next time someone says I intellectualize too much..... [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #178 of 229
Occams Razor is used to both 'prove' and 'disprove' the same points by people in opposition. Therefore, if it seems that people are not using it - that might be true, or they might just not be using it the way you see fit.
post #179 of 229
Thread Starter 
I guess that one passed you by, LM.

Occam's Razor is an argument for not making things more complicated than they need to be.

I would call that anti-intellectualism.
post #180 of 229
Actually, it did not pass me by at all. It is probably the absolute most overly intellectualized way to state the "Keep it Simple" concept that I know of.
Sorry, but I just love irony, and was just trying to add a wee bit of levity.
I'll shut up now! [img]tongue.gif[/img]
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