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The Elephant in the Living Room - Page 2

post #31 of 229
Vailsnopro almost inadvertently (but I suspect not quite) stumbled on what for me is the essence of the professionalism: CRAFT.

I first learned this from a Swiss pro who used the French word "metier". As in, "This pro has the metier of ski teaching."

Since then it has been the word which determines the difference for me.

For some it's a job, for others it's a craft. I offer Ott, Vailsnopro, and Nolobolono as enormous examples of approaching the craft rather than the job.

When I interview potential pros, I always look for signs of craftsmanship--the authenticity of the applicant.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 14, 2002 06:19 AM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #32 of 229
I'm drawing an interesting comparison between this topic and the other heated topic posted by Vail Sno Pro about PSIA. The last comments he made were about the "gang" uniform worn by those who work for PSIA in exams and clinics. I know from these PSIA pros that their pay is approximately 50% during these clinics than teaching their clients on their home mountains.

So, the question arises, why participate in training your fellow instructors if it's for half the pay? Several answers, I'm sure, from the super ego - sure putting on that particular uniform has clout, as well as being touted "the best of the best". Something tells me that wears off pretty quickly, since I'm aware sno pro has had that particular type of uniform for, what, 20 years or so? And Weems? Bob? And my examiner, I'm sure has had his for about the same length of time.

So, that being said, all I can think is that the do it because it makes them feel they are contributing to the standard of professionalism. And they still agonize over their candidates, because, as my examiner said, that he truly wants ALL of us to pass. Now, THAT is a professional!
post #33 of 229
Thread Starter 
I am enjoying this very much. I just had a flashbulb go off in my head, on reading VSG's latest post about why examiners would work with candidates for 50% less pay than working with the public. Her remarks about the growing, widening, and deepening of (dare I call it) LOVE are just right-on!

Reminds me of Whitehead's three stages of (professional) engagement: Romance, Precision, Generalization. First you fall in love; then you put yourself through a self-improvement regimen to be more worthy of having that which you love; and finally your identity is inseparable from that which you love.

VSG's contribution is layered onto Weems' very astute and timely comparison of the job and the craft/metier.

This leads me to the notion of transparency, that an accomplished instructor who is a master of the metier has incorporated the best practices into his/her nature and being: like a force of nature, masters are completely un-self-conscious and authentic. Not many people can be ski instructors when they wear bathing suits, but these people can. Transparency is beyond self-confidence, because it is beyond self-concern. Guys like VSP, Weems, Ott, and of course Bob, can't help being master pros because it's in their nature. Their excellence requires no effort on their part, other than to let themselves shine through. Lesser pros will have some vestige of show or acting or self-promotion in their "front management," which is what we do when we want to manage another's perceptions of us.

The first-rate pros do not need to manipulate others in order to walk away with a good review. Socrates tells us that the one thing that unites all humans is our ability to recognize the Good when we are in its presence.

This leads me to a metaphor: the P in PSIA represents the professional pathway we share as members of this organization, all of us navigating it in our own time, place, and speed. The first part of the path is as wide and well-built as a super-highway, but as we continue it starts to resemble a secondary highway, then a country road, then two tracks in the grass, and then nothing but vastness where no one has gone before.

The pathway never ends; people just stop walking.
post #34 of 229
Beautifully said! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #35 of 229
I was in a presbyterian sunday school class this morning led by a rabbi! That was different. He was leading a class on "eldering". Something he said about eldering, being an elder in any group, and the elderly hit home.

He said none of us like to leave a task unfinished. We want to complete projects.He said this is often a major concern of any individual facing death.

It made me think about certification and our various levels of certification. We have "three levels", hence, we seek to finish the task.
post #36 of 229

AMEN. AMEN. AMEN. and again- AMEN!

I believe the soul is healthy! As long as we have people in our industry who DO care, we will always have growth.

Your last post was incredibly well thought and written. And that is why you are one of the keepers of the flame!

Thank you!
post #37 of 229
Thread Starter 
Thank you!

I consider this fine work by an ensemble cast.

(In case you were wondering, SCSA played the role of Mrs. Malaprop...)
post #38 of 229
Your Highness 1

post #39 of 229
Thread Starter 
Your Highness 2
post #40 of 229
Perhaps, similar to the way Bob Barnes says "Carving is an Intent--not an Event", "professional" is an intent to pursue a craft, and not necessarily a series of events by which we make a living.

"Professional" makes a statement about how instructors relate to class students, private clents, peers, ski school managers, other resort staff--and themselves. Whether the total compensation (monetary and non-monetary)makes the game worth the candle is highly subjective and individually unique.

To me it seems like the echo of my long-ago physics professor comparing the Second Law of Thermodynamics (Entropy)to a desperate poker game: "You can't win, you can't break even, and you can't quit the game." Our pay will always lag behind the cost of resort living, there will often be the temptation to go for the $$ in the "real" world, but as long as we find personal value in sharing our love of skiing with others, we can't quit the game. Is this intent to walk the road less travelled what "professional" means?
post #41 of 229
What a great opening post Vail Pilgrim.

Welcome to Epicski..
post #42 of 229
Wow, vp. Here, here.
post #43 of 229
Greetings, Pilgram, your search has ended...for the best ski forum on the internet! Awesome post, and welcome! [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #44 of 229
Thread Starter 

I wonder if you agree with what Weems said a few posts up the thread?

"I believe that the notion that the ski area companies take advantage of the emotional connection of the pro is a little far fetched. There are simpler, less conspiratorial, market driven forces at work."

And Weems,

Could you explain a few of the market forces at work?
post #45 of 229
Vail Pilgrim-
Welcome aboard! Nice for you to show up!
post #46 of 229
Yeah NB

Prices, customer base size and type (the competiton for leisure market share with say, cruise ships or golf), operational costs, labor costs, marketing costs, insurance costs, worker's comp costs, amortization costs, development costs, and the need for profitability. On this last issue, somehow, in order to invest in skiing, a company has to make more money than it would investing in CD's!

In order to keep operating at the level we're all used to, everybody ends up giving a little. How much they give up, varies from season to season.

I wish we didn't have to be profitable in the school, because I believe that we would ultimately benefit by producing more life long customers. But maybe not. What's to say paying instructors, say 90% wouldn't bring seniority and entrenchment instead of the dynamic love of the teaching we have seen in this thread?

I really don't know.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 15, 2002 06:04 AM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #47 of 229
Thread Starter 
Interesting that you do not say anything about supply and demand. I think many of us in this profession believe supply and demand is what hurts us. In other words, all those part-timers who don't need the dough are the ones hurting our pocketbooks.

Care to comment?
post #48 of 229
Ouch, Nolo!

As a part-timer, there is no doubt I fill a crucial part in the ski-school food chain. Otherwise, full-timers would be working 150 days per year, 6th toes would be a moot point since 7th toes would be peering out through their shells!

As a part-timer in Vail, trust me, I get "penalized" for the position. I don't accumulate any points like the full-timers do (and Pilgrim is on the very top end of the point pile). I don't receive health benefits, and get work last.

On the other hand, don't get my wrong... I am part time by choice (sort of). I asked to be full-time this year and they wouldn't let me "up-grade" after 9/11. I have to tell you, though, I loved the ski time with my gal pals, training, etc. I've been doing the full-time debate for next year, and haven't committed either way.

Howdy, Pilgrim, glad you took the bait...

And, what was that little Subaru in the parking structure yesterday sporting epicski.com bumper stickers?

Lifts are shut, I'm happy to have some free time. On the other hand, I've got a case of the post-season blues. What IS there that can replace my love for the boards when the weather's warm?
post #49 of 229
Thread Starter 

I merely relay a perception I have gathered from chatting with other pros, that "supply and demand" is THE issue that holds us back from a living wage.

I am a part-time instructor, I guess, if you don't count all the time I instruct in my bathing suit. I am referring to my earlier comment about some people who "ski instruct" as an avocation and others who are "ski instructors" as a natural fact. I might argue that, being the second sort, everything I do reflects that natural fact, and that I am a full-timer in the fullest sense of the term.

How about you? Could be this relates to the P as well.

Still, I am interested in this group's perception of the validity of the S&D view: that as long as there is a ready supply of cheap, eager labor, wages will be lower than in a comparable industry without this labor supply.
post #50 of 229
nolo said: Still, I am interested in this group's perception of the validity of the S&D view: that as long as there is a ready supply of cheap, eager labor, wages will be lower than in a comparable industry without this labor supply.

Almost there nolo. You are missing the "demand" part. Demand for ski instructions is not high enough. Most people who can manage a few turns see no need to pay exorbitant prices for instruction. Of course the high price of instruction reflects the low demand. Couple that with a cheap supply of labor and voila - ridiculous pay for instructors.

The fact that "labor" in your industry is commonly regarded as "play" does not help either.
post #51 of 229
One of my friends here is a rare animal: a fulltime instructor for many years, and an American! He gets very frustrated with people we work with, who are retirees or semi retired, and are quite happy with the way things work, a free pass and lots of free training, and a bit of work.
This guy got his full cert in the US, and then got his full licence in France as well, no mean feat.

I believe it is possible for fulltime, year round instructors to get by, the trick is finding the resorts that pay and have guests who want to take lots of lessons. my last hill were very upset at the numbers of us foreigners who refused to come back, but at 8.50/hour, we jsut could not afford to work there. When you factor in that huge airfare we have to pay every year, just "loving the job" isn't enough.
post #52 of 229
Hello Nolo--

Weems is probably right: market forces predominate. But about a decade ago I attended a PSIA-RM ski school management meeting where VG (then the manager at Steamboat with oversight of ski school?) pointed out to the assembled directors and supervisors that for many instructors the "non-monetary compensation" was important. His topic was the use of incentive-based pay for instructors, but he seemed to be saying that most of us would work for less than market. So whether or not resorts actively figure this in to pay structures is diffcult to know, but they are aware of it.

(BTW - these "management seminars", usually pre-season, are interesting to attend, and unless the door has recently been closed, have been open to any PSIA-RM member--not just managers.)

VSG, warmest congratulations on the gold--you worked hard for it and deserve it.

Have you considered that if you hadn't been part time this season and hadn't so many opportunities to train, you might not have got it? As you noted, part time status has rewards as well as penalties, and it is a matter of choice. Maybe what Nolo is seeing is the large number of part timers who aren't as motivated and dedicated as you. Many seem to want to trade a few days for a uniform, a locker, season passes for themselves and their families and the uniform. The passes, at about $1700 each (Vail sticker price) are significant compensation (although they cost the company little). They really help meet the demand on Easter Sunday when the church is overflowing; they are a significant factor in meeting guest demand and contirbute much to school profitability. Important to observe is few depend on what meager pay they get--they have "real life" careers and "real life" incomes. But their availability contributes to the typical take-it-or-leave-it pay offers that full timers get.

My fear is that full time, "professional" ski instructors who work hard at jobs they love for four or five months each year are dinosaurs. Without a trust fund, the pension from an earlier " real life" career, or a spouse with a "real life" career, it's damn near impossible. (Especially the way our guests have driven up the cost of living near our resorts.) But we keep trying, and our resorts take some adavantage of our willingness to settle for less in the paycheck than our talents and efforts might command in another career.

It comes back to choices--full time, part time, or another career? Staying in the resort community and making a contibution year-round, or becoming a seasonal commuter? And often, having more time, or having more things?

VSG, pack your child and your blues and drive a few hours west into the red rock desert. There, as Edward Abbey recommended, "sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space." After a while you'll know why we do this job.
post #53 of 229
Skiing full time is a very difficult road, but then - the most rewarding things in life are rarely easy.

And one only has to compare the health and smiles of our ski pros compared to office jockeys to understand that the rewards transcend the financial!
post #54 of 229
As far as demand and supply goes,there are different needs in different areas. Take Boston Mills/Brandywine,Ohio, two areas owned by the same people and run out of the same ski school.

There are no fulltime instructors though there are instructors, many level-3, who are there all day every day of the season.

During a weekday a couple of dozen instructors would be enough. But from 3 pm to 8 pm thousands of schoolkids come to each area and by contract they are given a one hour lesson each.

All of a sudden the need is for several hundred instructors at the same time, most get two or three hours. 50 or so fulltimers just couldn't handle it. So the areas have near 400 instructors, each with family passes after the first year and free lifelong passes after 20 years continuous service.

And the pay has always been better than the western resorts, jeez, I was making $13/hour 25 years ago!

So part timers fill a supply, willing to work when there is a demand.

post #55 of 229
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the ungilded lily. I have been waiting with bated breath for us to get past the opacity of emotion to the Real Story.

It seems we have a paradox. Neils Bohr said about the paradox: "The opposite of a profound truth is another profound truth." I would take it further and say "The opposite of a profound truth is the same profound truth looking back at you."

It's paradoxical that what frees us from the tethers of ordinary life (desk, monitor, mouse) is also what tethers our profession to a predictable future on the murky margins of the capitalist system.
post #56 of 229
Thread Starter 

I'm with you on the demand side, not that I think we've plumbed the topic of the supply side.

I will say that to affect demand would seem to require an unflinching assessment of the supplies on hand, and of quantity vs. quality in the general business strategy.

Frankly, it seems that there is very little variation in the instructional school business model in the U.S. I think it's a "manage by doing whatever your competitor does" kind of philosophy. This philosophy is familiar to me, because this is how aggies manage their ranches and farms. (Ever wonder why agriculture has such a high rate of injury? From gawking at what the neighbor's doing while driving down the road at 70+ MPH.)

Innovation has a tough row to hoe when it deals with the herd mentality in both types of (seasonal) businesses. I bring up the seasonality because having just 5 months to make the hay tends to make a conservative out of just about everyone.

Still, I believe there is a WAY. God did not give me this will if there was not a way.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 15, 2002 10:13 AM: Message edited 1 time, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #57 of 229
Hmmm - fairly uncool generalization about 'aggies'. I've got friends who farm thousands of acres who may fit that stereotype more closely, but also friends and family who farm with horses and do everything by hand and who that does not fit at all.

And remember to never make fun of a farmer when you have a full mouth!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 15, 2002 10:31 AM: Message edited 1 time, by Todd M. ]</font>
post #58 of 229
Thread Starter 
Hey, Todd. I am a farmer.

Can't you tell?
post #59 of 229
Enough smoke and mirrors around that its tough to really tell anything for sure! If you are a grow pro and were commenting on the dark side of the profession, then that certainly would make sense. And if that is so then you'll understand and I hope forgive my sensativity to farmer generalizations . . . as you well know, there is unfortunately no shortage of idiots out there who speak down about farming, but don't see the irony in the fact that their grocery store shelves are stocked!

Pretty much every other profession on the planet could disappear and we'd still at least survive - except that one!
post #60 of 229
Thread Starter 
That's nice to hear, Todd, because this thread applies even more closely to the profession of farming than instruction--talk about a bunch of cockeyed romantics!

It's always next year...
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