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The Elephant in the Living Room - Page 4

post #91 of 229
VSP, last season, a few disgruntled locker room Mammoth types started up again. From what Julie B said at the managers meeting at convention last weekend...once they got together they had very diverse ideas about what they were there for! The resort listened, came back with some solutions...kissed and made up!
Turns out the biggest issue for the old timers was a change in policy about "line cutting" privileges!
At my previous post, we had twice annual "charettes" where a facilitator was elected, no supervisors admitted....charts and blackboards...2 hours later they emerged, WITH SOLUTIONS!! Most of our best practices, policies and procedures came from the line....made my job easier and was very cathartic for them....people just like to be heard occasionally.
post #92 of 229
Professional .... mmmmm

Does this mean someone who works part time for 4 months a year or someone who travels the world gaining knowledge and applying it to his\hers chosen profession ??

Does professional mean listening to all commers ideas or keeping discussions inward looking and local?

The SS industry is majority staffed by part timers posing as professionals .... and they get real upset when the real travelling pros get work or some new local guy comes along and actually successfully produces alternate SS programs.

Oz [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #93 of 229
Thread Starter 

It is a strategic concept, a metaphor you might say. But don't treat it as just an elephant gun--it can hit small targets too, such as losing weight, quitting cigarettes, learning a musical instrument...


Why take it off-line? The more the merrier, I say. Bring it on!

Ideas are just ideas. Actions, on the other hand, are proprietary. There are lots and lots of ideas, and lots and lots of talk about same, but ACTUAL IMPLEMENTATION is a whole 'nother thing, and so rare that I do not worry that an idea of MINE (which as Weems reminded us, is not really mine but originated out of a horse's ass around the time of Julius Caesar) is wandering free for the taking.

Ideas WILL be free, whether we want it that way or not. Instead of worrying about who had the idea, we should worry about having enough ideas to choose from, don't you think? Execution is what separates the romantics from the realists.


When I say that it is good to remove the emotional veil and look at things as they are, I am saying that we need to remove our emotional attachment from the thing in order to really see it. Accurate assessment of the present state is critical to change. You can always reattach the emotions after you have completed your assessment.

We ski instructors would love to be able to impart this to guests, and examiners to candidates. We must detach from (remove the emotional attachment to) (whatever) in order to change it. All change, large and small, involves the death of something you hold dear, whether it is a particular technique, belief, mentor's advice, goal, ego-identity, etc.


You inspire me. I will check the web site. You know that thing I said about transparency (SCSA, pay attention now), well you got it. It takes a lot of internal fortitude and I admire that quality greatly in people and aspire to it in myself.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 16, 2002 08:52 AM: Message edited 2 times, by nolobolono ]</font>
post #94 of 229
OK, everybody, if all is right and everybody is happy we don't need high powerd negoatiaters or a union.

I just brought it up as something that one of you approached me with 15 years ago, and I say to you now what I said then.

If you can possibly arrive at a mutual satisfactory agreement, there is no need to organize. But if not....?....

Are there written contracts with each instructor spelling out the working conditions (and trerminating conditions) between the company and the instructors so each understands what is what?

If not, are you sure each instructor understands completely what the terms are?

Just curious...

post #95 of 229
Your Highness,

Thinking about other people's business has always made mine that much better.

So I'll stay in. But, at some point, for me anyway, there must be an action. Just typing about greatness doesn't do it for me. I really need to see something materialize.

Every great effort starts with text. Even 200 years ago. Somebody wrote a letter then it got delivered by horseback. People read it, wrote their words, sent it back - by horseback. Eventually, action took place. And you're right. The action is what's proprietary, not the idea.

So the beginning is here.

I'll check in later.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 16, 2002 09:39 AM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #96 of 229
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Vail Pilgrim:
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." .... <HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

post #97 of 229
I think Oboe and I must be cousins or something! I too come from a "union family", but back in the 1970s, when the, when the Teamsters Union tried to organize health club instructors, my parents threw a fit!

It never happpened, but shortly thereafter, we starting getting health insurance, as well as a few other benefits.

The real changes did not start happening until IDEA http://www.ideafit.com stepped in and took an active stand in educating management as to why it was important to hire certified instructors, and why such instructors should be paid highly enough in order to afford their continuing education.

But here's the problem you guys face. IDEA was able to convince gym owners that the instructors were an essential part of the customer relations and loyalty.

Can you say that at the mountain. Perhaps this is true for the average epicski particpant, but what about the rest of the country?

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ April 16, 2002 01:16 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Lisamarie ]</font>
post #98 of 229
Lisamarie, as long as 90+ % of ski instructors in this country, certified or not, are considered independent contractors, the ski resorts need not take care of them except offer them work when it is available.

Of the over 500 ski areas in this country there are about a dozen which offer instructors health coverage, on or off the job, a 401K, a paid vacation or any of the things other contractural workforces receives.

That it is seasonal and not worthy of such is just an excuse. There are many other seasonal businesses which give full coverage and pay a decent wage, just ask the folks working in the amusement park industry up north here.

If unions work WITH management it makes it a lot easier for the company to structure wage and benefit packages, you wont have individuals come in all the time demanding a raise because they have learned something new or they think they are worth a couple of dollar extra an hour because they are so much better than the next guy.

The company is still in the position to give perks or merit raises to deserving individuals. And if the contract is written, as ours at the paper is, then not performing up to the standard, which is the average of the whole, is a firing offense. (As is insubordination, meaning refusal to do a job assigned, and theft).And you don't have to call it a union, call it a guild or a partnership or a gang.

post #99 of 229
So how would the ski school union thing work in Pacific Northwest? We have multiple ski schools at a lot of our ski areas. I think that not every ski school would unionize. The ones that unionized would probably become too expensive and lose business. What about people going to Canada if you they wanted a week of lessons.
post #100 of 229
Thread Starter 
If we're brainstorming, we don't want to rush to judgment, only get the idea on the table.

We should note NTB's "con" to Ott's idea in favor of unionization that the PNW presents an obstacle because concession schools operate on a shoestring budget.

I guess since we're putting ideas on the table, I will go ahead and be an advocate for a moment for an idea that is the polar opposite of a union.

I have long thought that ski schools could improve their performance by adapting the system used by brokerage firms. Here are two articles I wrote a couple of years ago, in the rah-rah days of the stock market bubble, but I think they may be worth our consideration.

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts.
post #101 of 229
What a stimulating one this is turning out to be!

Instinctively I go with Ott on this: I've been in the UK's National Union of Journalists since the days before Mrs (sorry, Baroness) Thatcher - your Mr Reagan's best friend - unravelled a century's-worth of workers' rights in the 80s.

And I know from personal - very personal - experience that a unionised workplace is a happier, more confident, better paid and more stable workplace than it's de-regulated, demotivated, and often bullied and exploited cousin.

However, I also know that there were gross and unforgivable abuses of union power in the late 1970s - I saw them daily in various national newspapers, the most closed and corrupt of closed shops. That it was often a pas de deux with management is beside the point - it helped justify a draconian crackdown that put employment rights back a decade or more.

We've now emerged from that dark age and my union (among many others) is regaining its negotiating rights in media outlets across the UK. And it's happening remarkably quickly - a whole generation of young journalists who were at school when Maggie was doing her thing is signing up, recognising that collective bargaining does indeed offer a wide range of advantages and protection.

But would it work in a ski school? I'm really not sure, though I'd like to think a 21st century union capable of intelligent lateral thinking could succeed.

However, two recurring themes in this thread seem to be a) there's always a supply of folk willing to teach just to get on the hill; and b) it's an industry that relies heavily on part-timers who are also not necessarily primarily motivated by cash.

How do you get past that?

Off on a different tangent: the prospect of a McDonalds-style globalised supermultinational standardised teaching model from Alaska to New Zealand to Austria to Chile is too horrific to contemplate! Would they all wear the same uniform too?

(They would obviously all be paid the same crap wages... which perhaps takes me full circle - yup, I think I'm still with Ott...)

post #102 of 229
OK, I'm not from a pro-union background, in fact, I would probably be more anti-union, BUT...
If the other option is a McD/*bucks global operation, then I will support unionisation.
And my reasons... NoLogo

I guess part of it goes back to my rights/responsibilites thing, that I go on about all the time.
If workers accept and fulfill their responsibilities, then they deserve certain rights.
Likewise, if management accept their responsibility to workers, they can also expect certain rights.
If either of these fail, then you have an out of control situation.

post #103 of 229
<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by nolobolono:
I have long thought that ski schools could improve their performance by adapting the system used by brokerage firms. Here are two articles I wrote a couple of years ago, in the rah-rah days of the stock market bubble, but I think they may be worth our consideration.

I am very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Brokerage firms build up their customer base and their relationships with those customers for repeat business. How often does a student (who's normally on vacation) go back to the same ski school let alone the same Ski instructor?

People want some recognition for what they have done (Instructor and student alike - e.g. Ott's Badges). Martial Arts have growing popularity over boxing, one of the reasons is because in Martial Arts you get a belt. I did a mountain leadership course some years back and we had to keep a log of mountains climbed etc, we had to pass navigation tests etc and were awarded levels.
It was always good to put a new entry in the log book. Why couldn't something similar be done in skiing where people keep their lift passses and take defined tests much like the Instructors do etc? Focus on the customer and motivating him/her to get back on hill. I know skiing is an art not a driving test but a badge, belt, log book or certificate can mean a lot to people - it's a symbol of achievement.

It would probably need a lot of co-operation from the management and ski-instructors across America. Maybe even a national register of learners. This would also help the ski school to assign the right student in the right group with the right instructor. It might even motivate people to sign up to the ski school before they get to the resort.

post #104 of 229
Thread Starter 
Does everything always have to end up being about money?

Actually, yes.

I happen to think that we would be better off to look to GROWTH rather than REGULATION, but that may just be me, having been brainwashed in Maslow's religion.

We might do better to think of the ski school as an enterprise instead of an organization. Enterprises GO somewhere. They have critical missions that give everyone a purpose and a stake in the outcome. Organizations, like anthills, tend to be in a constant state of reorganization, but stationary nonetheless.

I do not see the leverage for profound change to reside in the relationship between parties within the enterprise, but in the relationship between the enterprise and the market that is out there, beyond its walls, silos, and closed meetings.

It's not that there's this "mean management" withholding from us; it's that the overall profitability of the average ski area has declined even in cases where gross revenues increased.

Another dictum of change dynamics is: solve the problem at the level of the problem. The level of the problem is quite obvious to me. While we (professional and business interests) have been debating about internal matters, we have not been thinking about our customer. We have been thinking about how to recut the pie, not not about how to build a bigger pie pan. Our actions imply that we think our capacity to bring in customers is a constant. This point of view has dulled the entrepreneurial spirit.

Here are some clues about how to get bigger:

Get close to your customer.

Market to the ONE.

Women make 80% of the buying decisions in the world today. Even in Afghanistan.

People are motivated by rewards. The way to get babies to eat their spinach is to give them a taste of the applesauce too.
post #105 of 229
>>Women make 80% of the buying decisions in the world today. Even in Afghanistan.<<

Maybe, but they can get tortured and killed for *reading* there!
post #106 of 229
This has really been an interesting thread.

There's obviously still a lot of fire and dedicated passion in the hearts of you working ski pro's. That's a good thing.

As corny as it sounds,though, the real value of a ski teaching career just can't be measured in dollars. Pursuit of money is a whole different deal. To get dollars you simply go where the dollars are and do whatever it takes. My guess is that if ski teaching were a big bucks operation, most of you wouldn't even be there (And you most likely wouldn't like the people who were there).

Emotion, relentless pursuit of higher certification and longevity within the clan are all noble and noteworthy accomplishments, but have very little to do with the real economics of a ski area.
post #107 of 229
Unions only seem to work when one or more of three conditions are present:

1. The work force is regulated (licensed) by a government, e.g. airline mechanics, lawyers, plumbers. If you don't have a license, you can't get a job.

2. A closed shop allows a union to restrict jobs to union members.

3. The workers share cohensive, nearly homogenous interests.

Ski instructing is not regulated by local, state or Federal goverments. Many states where skiing is a significant activity have open shop laws, allowing anyone to work, union member or not. Instructors do not share cohensive interests, as several contributors here have noted.

VSP referred to an abortive attempt to unionize Vail/Beaver Creek instructors. That meeting showed the part timers wanted to work whenever it was convenient, the full timers wanted to restrict part timers to peak periods. The foreign instructors wanted their visa status guaranteed, the American instructors wanted to curb abuses of the visa system. Underachievers wanted a fixed wage, top performers wanted to expand the incentive system. The UAW organizers were doubtless relieved to go back to Detroit.

Fragmented, individualistic interests are not the only problem. Instructors are seasonal employees, and after the season ends, their employment is terminated; the resort doesn't have to rehire any particular instructor next season. The UAW guys had no idea how to deal with that issue.

Changing the legal playing field is not an option. The resorts have far more political/legislative clout that PSIA and all its members could possibly muster. What would help is branding: PSIA could strive to convince skiers that they'll get a better lesson from a certified instructor and thereby increase consumer demand. While we're waiting for that miracle, Nolobolono is on target with the idea of staying close to your customer. Be the best that "professional" means, and make them want more of your teaching. Your teaching, not just a lesson at Mt. Snows-a-lot, not just a lesson from a PSIA certified instructor--your teaching. Teach them something useful and make them glad they spent their time and money with you. Create your own brand. You don't need to organize, you don't need to legislate, you don't need PSIA or your resort to create demand. Just be professional, stay current and teach every student one useful thing every day.

They'll come back--and they'll bring their friends.

[ April 16, 2002, 06:56 PM: Message edited by: Vail Pilgrim ]
post #108 of 229
Thread Starter 

You speak my mind on this matter. Be your own brand. Build your own clientele. Create your own schedule, student-teacher ratio, learning environment.

I believe that would be self-actualization.

Or as the guru said, "It's not what you do. It's who you are" that makes you an effective person, professional or otherwise.
post #109 of 229
Amen, as well, Vail Pilgrim. This is what our best folks do, and they are wonderful at it.

NBolono, I read your articles and found them interesting and thoughtful.

The whole impetus for me is, yes, you have to build a whole new business model. I don't know if we can. I think we're already trying.

But tell me your thoughts on these questions:
1. The broker model is based exclusively on sales. How do we get those that are interested only in the beautiful art of sports teaching (and damn good at it) to focus on sales? And how do we get the salesfolks to focus on the art?
2. If we adopt a different pay method (from wage to commission) as the pro grows, do we adopt a different price structure as well? Cheaper prices for less experienced, more expensive for the "uberpros"?

For those who haven't read the articles, in a nutshell she offers the stockbroker model as an example of another business model that is out there and that is worthy of our examination. The brokers' rewards are exclusively built on sales, and as they go through the levels, they leave the world of wages for the world of commissions.

[ April 16, 2002, 08:03 PM: Message edited by: weems ]
post #110 of 229
Very interesting.

But, it's time to raise the ante.

If the industry is really serious about adopting change, and wants to see plans for a new model, then they need to submit an "RFP". Submit an RFP to sites like this one and hyperchange.

Sure, I'll pen a plan, but not for free or without incentive. See, that's part of the problem here. Too many people who are responsible for change aren't getting paid, or if so, it's no more than "beer money". There's no money so nobody really cares. And, there's no incentive for entrepreneurs to arrive on the scene - no rewards, no finish line, no dead presidents. So, why bother?

"Would you rather work and get paid or think and make money"?

Raise the stakes, and you'll see some real creativity rise to the top. Until then, the IRS calls what we're doing a hobby.


[ April 16, 2002, 08:31 PM: Message edited by: SCSA ]
post #111 of 229
You're sort of right SCSA, and sort of wrong. More creative guys putting their heads on it, may work it out

However, there are quite a few people in the senior staff who get paid a lot and some of them are smart and studious and dedicated and creative. We don't have a shortage of people who can't believe the opportunity to work in the ski world and make a good corporate living. And there are others in the rich corporate world, who are supposed to know what to do, who are morons.

Some of our guys are terrific "loose cannon" thinkers. And they try this, then that, and the other, and we're holding our own, but it's a hard scrape.
post #112 of 229
I love this thread! Some great answers here. But . . . what is the question? How can you have an answer unless you have a question? How can you have a solution unless you have a problem? Perhaps I missed something, but I don't think so. While I do love the zen here, can we work on, "What is the question to be answered?" and "What is the problem to be solved?" Is this a search for more money for instructors? Is this a search for more skiers on the slopes? What's the objective? How can you hit a target until you know what the target is? How will you KNOW that you hit the target if you don't know what the target is? Hm?
post #113 of 229
We're searching for more skiers who want to get better so we can teach them and then pay the pros better and make more profits for da boss and make people better people because they ski and have all that huge fun, because otherwise I could be flippin' burgers in Elko, Nevada.

How do we do that?
post #114 of 229
Thread Starter 

You want questions? I've got questions.

How can snow pros unleash their potential to be catalysts of a renaissance in snow sports instruction?

How does our present business model hinder this objective?

How do our systems contradict and even sabotage this objective?

I believe I posed a more fundamental question this morning: Is dissatisfaction with the current state sufficient to inspire a vision for the future? What would that vision be? What are the decisive first steps that would be most likely to lead us toward our Vision?
post #115 of 229
A simple scenario:

Resort A decides to create a primary marketing focus on learning and improvement. Perhaps not exclusively but a major commitment. They build a highly qualified and motivated coaching staff. They create innovative programs beyond what currently exists ("take a free analysis run with a pro ", season long camps that repeat and where you can pick up where youn left off, etc.). I don't think this can be an Aspen, Vail, Whistler, etc. These resorts have such a diverse customer base that to invest and focus narrowly like this doesn't pay off. Let's assum resort A becomes successful in their endeavor.

Resort B, another small to medium size resort follows in the path of Resort A and is successful.

Soon I think you would see an increased focus on learning and improvement at larger resorts in response to the successes in these smaller resorts.

As a result there are now a larger population of skiers who are making continued advancement in their skiing and they go to the bars and parties at home and wax endlessly on the joys and fulfillment of skiing.

People start to read in the magazines about how some resorts are focusing more and more on coaching and instruction and helping to bring in NEW skiers who are quickly advancing and enjoying aspects of skiing it used to take years to achieve.

OK, perhaps I'm naive and idealistic but I really think this is possible. Just gotta find the entrepreneur who's willing to commit and take a chance to start this ball rolling. With the kind of commitment and caring I see from some of the instructors who post here I doubt it would be difficult to recruit a few good men and women for this risky adventure.

One thing for sure, I would want to find people who could build a general concensus about and implement a common approach to instruction and coaching. That's not to say that there could be no individuality, only that consistency would be a key factor.
post #116 of 229
Seems to me that LEARNING and IMPROVEMENT pretty much sound like WORK to most people. People go skiing on VACATION where they want to RELAX and HAVE FUN. Look to the boom in the service of creating EXPERIENCES (lodges, eco-tourism etc.) for a new model perhaps
post #117 of 229
Originally posted by Wear the fox hat ?:

I guess part of it goes back to my rights/responsibilites thing, that I go on about all the time.
If workers accept and fulfill their responsibilities, then they deserve certain rights.
Likewise, if management accept their responsibility to workers, they can also expect certain rights.
If either of these fail, then you have an out of control situation.

Which is why unions can play such an important and constructive role, particularly in larger organisations.

Which is easier for management?

Negotiating a personal contract with each and every employee, even though the majority may be working under the same terms of employment?

Or working with one or two experienced union negotiators to establish benchmark pay levels and conditions across the board?

What's really interesting right now is seeing managements who came of age during the Thatcher years - and so enthusiastically embraced the "freedom" of personal contracts - now sighing with relief as they achieve in days with a union what once took months.

And collective bargaining does not - and this is a common misconception - preclude management from rewarding individual endeavour in any way they wish.

In my now not inconsiderable experience, having a union to offer protection and support greatly reduces workplace bullying and discrimination by managements. This in turn cuts staff turnover and leads to an office full of very much happier bunnies who are more likely to go that extra mile.

But how to apply any of this to the ski industry... mmmm, still working on that!
post #118 of 229
Thread Starter 
If there was an instructors' union -- and maybe it could be a union established strictly for instructors and not Teamsters or UGW, what have you --

Would there be a need for AASI/PSIA?
post #119 of 229
Don't AASI/PSIA have an education role rather than a union role? Don't we lose some of the effectiveness if we dilute that role? I question at times whether even the marketing function that PSIA tries to take on doesn't sometimes dilute the educational role.
post #120 of 229
Thread Starter 
Another astute observation, Weems, about dilution of focus away from education.

By the way, I agree.
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