or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Elephant in the Living Room 2.0
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Elephant in the Living Room 2.0 - Page 3

post #61 of 112
Originally posted by nolo:

NSAA should promote a Rusty Guy Award. Guys like you keep them in business as usual.

Yesterday one of my students shoved a wad of cash at me yesterday, sort of furtively. I said, "Oh, you don't have to do that." She kept pushing it toward me, "I want to." So I took it.

We were both embarrassed about the transaction and proceeded to act like it never happened. Why is that? Why does the "act of tipping" make us feel uncomfortable like that? I think the emotions reveal the ambivalence on either side of the exchange.

Keep in mind I freely admit that years of law enforcement have made me paranoid. That's what kept me alive, however, there seems to be a note of derision in your comment.

I have felt the same way about tipping for some time and this thread has been somewhat cathartic. I had a first time student the other day who offered "to leave something at the desk for me". I told her no in a firm way and requested she invest the money in a future lesson. I figured it was six of one....

We'll see if my little gamble bears fruit. It is the end of the season. I don't think tipping does much for "professionalism" I'm not sure I have ever fully understood that term. What is unprofessional behavior? Perhaps a different topic, however, I would argue it's just something someone else doesn't like!

Speaking of "professionalism". Would one walk of a plane and hand the captain a twenty for a nice job in a thunderstorm?
post #62 of 112
Originally posted by PinHed:
In response to that LM, I think that giving back to the community by way of discounted lesson prices to those who can't afford to ski would engender an even more heroic image of the instructor/guide. I'm all about lifting up the image of ski instructors.

I'm going to duck now because I think there are instructors out there ready to inflict harm. :

Seriously though, I know this already happens through Urban youth programs and others like it. I have ride school and ski school friends who gave up paid teaching time to give back to their community through free lessons for under-priviledged youth.

But this isn't the end-all to correcting the low pay wage of an instructor. Maybe more levels of certification and along with it more variance of pay scale would be a step in the right direction. For example, I think level 1 and level 2 are too close to the elusive level 3 but too far in skiing and teaching skills of the same level 3 cert.
A noble idea indeed, but this is what happens everywhere else in society. The super rich can afford anything. The underprivleged get entitlement programs.
What about your basic working stiff that earns less than 6 figures?
post #63 of 112
Thread Starter 
Ski schools are profit centers, expected to net between 40-60% profit on revenues, which is then funneled into general operations. With these numbers in mind, let's re-examine the commonly held belief that management sees ski schools as a "necessary evil."

As someone remarked in this thread, ski school and food and beverage bring in an equal amount of revenues, on average. F&B presumably has higher costs, so cannot post as large a profit.

If SAM regards ski school as a "necessary evil," the necessity appears to be the infusion of green ink to offset general operational costs and not to serve ski area customers, both new and returning.

The "evil" appears to be the advantage the company takes of the people employed their ski school. We can rationalize that this is made possible by our passion for the sport and the fact that the line of aspirants behind any employed ski instructor is long enough to cushion the defection of seasoned pros from the profession.

We can rationalize that higher rates of instructor pay would be picked up by the customer anyway, so why not have the customer provide tips as a form of incentive pay to deserving instructors? It's a slick rationale, but it takes away the ski school's ability to reward and recognize performance. Instead, all instructors in a category (usually cert level plus years of service) are paid the same rate, regardless of performance, and the customer recognizes and rewards performance. On the surface, this appears to be fair, but as LM points out, some customers are more able and or willing to provide this incentive than others. Ultimately, tipping is a random reinforcer, which means that it reinforces nothing in particular.

Do we want the ski school to operate as a team or as a collection of individuals out for themselves? A tip-dependent economy undercuts the team. It also makes some customers more equal than others, which undermines the service ethic--and lacking ethical purpose means no chance for excellence, in my book.

In conclusion: 1) I think tipping is a necessary evil in the instructional economy, but that doesn't make it right nor does it necessarily reward excellence. 2) The necessary evil of ski area operations is that the ski school can be exploited to brighten the overall financial picture. Because it can be, it should be. That's sound fiduciary management that no board of directors is going to dispute, especially in view of the low to nonexistent margins in other departments. The part is exploited for the betterment of the whole. The part is rewarded by being skiing employees, which is an intangible of great value to the employment market.

It comes down to this question: What's a ski school for? NSAA needs to wrestle with this one, because the answer they arrive at determines how they view the instructor--as an important ally in generating profits for the organization or as a necessary evil.

[ March 31, 2003, 08:57 AM: Message edited by: nolo ]
post #64 of 112
So I think you quys have the problem well defined: Depending on tips to suppliment a pitifully low wage environment degrades the professional status of the instructor and potentially the quality of the product. So where lies the solution to the problem?

My observation is you have two options:

1) Accept the situation for what it is, a cool job that allows you to ski for free and enjoy the status associated with the instructor title that many people envy and wait in the wings to replace you if you become frustrated enough with the pay aspect of the job to call it quits. This behavior of just accepting the situation and smiling for tips to make up the difference is what instructors have done for years.

2) Or you can devise a means of turning the tables. The ski resorts will not change on their own, they have have no motivation to do so because the present system is working great for them and any instructors who don't like it can easily be replaced. Competition with other areas who are offering new concepts and products to their customers is not a consideration because such competition does not exist, they most all use the same basic outline. You must find a way to break that firm power hold they have if you ever want to have a chance of changing things.

Off the top of my head I can think of a couple ways you might be able to do this. One would be to form a nation wide instructor union. The concept of being susceptable to the sudden loss of their entire instructor pool might be enough create some employee leverage. My other idea would be to create ski schools independant of the mountain and serve as a sub contractor for the area. Many resorts have such arrangements with their food service contracts already.

Other than doing something proactive to force change your only other option is to just bend over and take it because its sure not going to change just because you think it should.
post #65 of 112
I wonder what has kept PSIA from Unionization. Could it be that resort operators would be willing to can PSIA and start their own school/system?
post #66 of 112
Originally posted by nolo:
Tell me again why I can't call myself a learned professional just like you?
insecurity is evil, and explains much of mankind's poorer decisions and actions.

BTW, I don't call myself a "professional" -- I leave such self-naming to those who doubt their worth in the world.
post #67 of 112
At a hill I used to work at, management brought in a gang of kids from Argentina. They were fed and housed and, made money.

Were they good skiers? No, they were about as bad as the directors secretary (see other thread on PSIA) ..... read "solid wedge turners".

Did they do damage? You betcha! As long as they were around they were used to teach. There was no dividing of lessons among us as a group. It cost management $0, to make me stand around at lineup and wait for 45 minutes.
post #68 of 112
first principles.

anyone remember them?


* why did you become a ski teacher/coach?

* does "getting paid for your work" automatically make you "professional"?

* what does it matter whether your $$ comes from tips, salary or bonuses?

Rusty Guy makes the best point of all when he discusses his prior choice to become a policeman.

If you want to teach skiing, DO IT. But don't come complaining to me that you aren't getting rich. I didn't make you choose that job.

Neither did anyone else in here.

If nolo's theory is upheld, the Culture of Victimhood has won another skirmish - ski teachers are victims of their own choices, and deserve to be paid better for having made those choices.

tigers chasing their own tails rapidly turn into butter then ghee

would anyone like some clarified butter?

[ March 31, 2003, 02:22 PM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #69 of 112

GONZ ..... have you alluded to "Little Black Sambo"? :

Are you trying to tell us somethin Massa G. ? :
post #70 of 112

You need to turn this around and put yourself in the situation of wanting to purchase a product (instruction) and finding that the product generally does not match the price demanded UNLESS you decide to pay an extra tax (tip). In my last SS scenario the extra tax just gets you access to the original advertised product (hopefully) NOT a value added product.

Do we want the ski school to operate as a team or as a collection of individuals out for themselves?
After experiencing both scenarios the TEAM scenario definitely works in favour of the team members, those buying the product as well as those selling the product. A team works together to WIN the game and attract supporters to thier style of play.

A collection of individuals usually ends up picking a carcass until all that is left are bones for the remaining few. The rebuilding of a TEAM usually begins when the carcass is bare and members of the pack are starting to starve or leave in search of "greener pastures". (Current situation)


[ March 31, 2003, 02:50 PM: Message edited by: man from oz ]
post #71 of 112
Thread Starter 
What's my theory, Gonz? I am just hosting a naked lunch.

At the end of the season, it behooves us to look at what's on the end of our fork. How is the industry doing? How are we doing in the industry? Are changes or improvements needed? How might they be brought about?

If we don't ask these questions, we are mindless drones who just want to go zig-zag.
post #72 of 112
we are mindless drones who just want to go zig-zag.
is that from a management perspective?
post #73 of 112

the tale of tigers turning to butter originates in Asian Indian folklore, hence my reference to ghee.


I'm not against evaluations aimed at improvement -- NOT AT ALL. I support that type of evaluation, and practice it myself continually. I see no point in a laissez faire approach to one's work.

my question continues to be this: what is it that makes anyone else responsible for YOUR choice to teach skiing, or for YOUR level of income resulting from that choice?

do you think we should have to pay you more on the basis that you believe yourself worth it? if so, then work for yourself and set your own fees. nobody's stopping you.

I think I should be making 3x what I make. I'm not kidding. But I'm not complaining to everyone that buys my employer's products that they should get ready to pay EVEN MORE for those products in order to accommodate my estimate of my own worth.

a market economy has a sound basis. when things are artificially deflated or inflated, I'm eager to rectify the errors.

I'm still trying to figure out why any of us should shoulder the burden of responsibility for YOUR choice to be a ski teacher.
post #74 of 112
Thread Starter 

This thread is not about me. I thought you had that pegged early on:

If I were in your position, nolo, I would not be theorizing about how to make ski area/ski resort-based instruction more lucrative.
I would be busy setting up an academy of sorts.


...aren't you already doing that?
I also said that I don't have the answer(s). Please do not put words in my mouth. My intent is to get people thinking and talking and to spur debate. I'm not advocating anything but close examination of the unintended consequences of the current way of doing business at ski resorts. See what's on the end of our fork, speaking metaphorically in the cases of "our" and "fork."
post #75 of 112
Two things come to mind...

First, in the east it is quite common, heck it's happened 100% of the time, that in a PSIA educational event, a clinic or workshop (not an exam), at the end of the session (usually two days) they pass the hat to give the clinician a tip. Most of the time the clinician is an examiner or examiner trainee. Ten to twenty bucks each is the norm. I am quite uneasy about this practice.

Second, regarding passing the client off next year if they're not good tippers. As I stated before, the solution to that is to share a large amount of the lesson cost with the instructor. Rather than give the instructor a bump in his/her hourly pay as many ski areas do, why not give the instructor 30, 40, 50% of the cost of the lesson. That would incent the right behavior.

I learned a long time ago, especially when I managed sales organizations, that people are basically coin operated. Put the coins in and they do what you want them to.

post #76 of 112
nolo, thanks for the clarifier

so then I guess my Q is, what is the issue eith tips?

is it that they are felt an obligation due to "underpaid" status? - here "underpaid" reflects small base pay with expectation of tip supplement

is it the more immediate thought of the "why don't we just get this amount figured into our pay?" sort?

I've worked tip-supplemented jobs before and never really gave it much thought, so please forgive me if I don't quite get it.
post #77 of 112
Can you even imagine a client giving you a tip? Pay attention, this is a test.
post #78 of 112
oboe - you know that our line of work makes receipt of tips especially thorny, and implicates a potential ethical issue.

as I said, I've worked tip-supplemented jobs before and happily accepted tips because they are what make the pay seem more reasonable. I gladly tip the pizza delivery person, the folks who roll burritos for me, the woman who cuts my hair, waiters and waitresses (or in the neuter, "waitrons") who do a fine job, etc.

again I ask,

what's the problem?
post #79 of 112
Thread Starter 
Another question then, Gonz: Do you tip your instructor?
post #80 of 112
Please identify with specificity the ethical issue you see in accepting from a client a voluntary gift beyond the amount billed.
post #81 of 112
oboe, I'm not teaching an ethics CLE in here. too much effort involved, not enough pay. let's just say it heads toward contingency fees that in some cases could be impermissible. feel free to doubt my rationale, I don't mind.

nolo, I would tip a ski coach if the lessons were beneficial. I "tip" Yoda in every way he lets me - which ends up being simply helping him with calf branding.

Let me posit my position in yet another way, nolo.

It strikes me that the impetus behind seeking better pay and/or tip elimination has more to do with a person's feelings about pay and tips, and less about whether the pay is sufficient or the tips too big or small. In other words, it seems you are seeking a systemic fix for a personal issue.

Have I misunderstood? Or are you just doing your usual excellent job of provoking thought?
post #82 of 112
Thread Starter 
Provocative or evocative, that is the question.
post #83 of 112
push or pull?

what about that Dr Doolittle creature, the PushmePullyu?

anyway, I really would be interested in hearing (1) how your observations in this little arena of professionalism and pay are NOT in any way related to personal issues, and (2) how all skiers could benefit from changes relating to instructor/coach pay and tipping.

I guess I am wondering how you would reconcile your evocative thoughts and my strong impression that you are trying to make the rest of us agree to pay you more even though you voluntarily elected to become a low-paying ski coach/teacher.

I believe quite strongly in personal responsibility, and I think that each of us must live with his/her choices. Your thoughts regarding professionalism and pay have always hit the "caution flag" in my mind, because they always strike me as following something resembling this thought/action pattern, with "Ms S" somewhat resembling my mental picture of you (embellished and exaggerated of course):

1) while in her formative years, Ms S loves skiing, but tries to be practical and goes to college anyway instead of skipping college to be a ski bum, sponsored skier, or potential ski racer.

2) after college, S follows her big hearted love for skiing, and chooses to teach skiing rather than moving to a big city to work a 9-5, 5 days/week, 50 wks/yr job -- even though the pay is much lower as a ski teacher

3) now that S is an adult with children of her own and college tuition on the horizon, S is questioning the wisdom of her choice and whether she should have chosen a "regular" job

4) S is starting to realize that ski coaching won't pay for expensive college tuition

5) S starts insisting that she be called a "professional" because she still smarts at the thought of being so well-educated yet so underpaid. hints of jealousy creep in around the edges.

6) S begins insisting that skiing become much more businesslike, in to make ski coaching/teaching resemble the "regular" job that got away.

These 6 points are pure conjecture, but they form the composite picture I have when I read your posts about professionalism and pay. Sorry, but that's the truth. I hope to be dissuaded of my position. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #84 of 112
Gonzo, put up or shut up.

People don't tip their lawyers, doctors, dentists or CPA's because they believe those professionals are paid well enough - maybe too well, as may be so in your case.
post #85 of 112
P.S. The director of the adult ski instruction program at my home mountain was a lawyer who practiced here for a number of years. He didn't like the practice of law all that well and returned to the profession of ski instruction. As the director of the adult side of the ski school, I imagine he's paid not poorly, even if not as well as he may have been as a lawyer. Although he's a laid back kind of guy who's genuinely well liked by his staff, he's still a rigorous and popular instructor, and he's at least as professional and effective in his chosen profession as I can only imagine you are in yours. Although I have never doubted your IQ or his, I'd wager that his EQ is far above yours.
post #86 of 112
Thread Starter 
Gonzo, I do believe you are trying to draw me out. But you are a blind man feeling just one part of the elephant and making it suffice for the whole.

I am just asking a simple question, not advocating a position, because whatever my position might have been when I decided the topic was ripe for a redo, I assure you it shifts and rearranges itself with every new insight I am offered.

Believe it or not, Gonz, I am here to learn.

And you?
post #87 of 112
oboe, your bitter arrogance is embarrassing. if you honestly cannot understand how a lawyer receiving a tip might be approaching an improper contingency fee, I suggest two words: CRIMINAL DEFENSE.

as to your comments on whether I'm overpaid, I invite you to pound sand until knuckles are bloodied pulps. most people who have reason to learn my salary are astonished at its tiny size.

I fail to see why you take this tipping issue so personally, as well as why you insist on being so darned accusatory and caustic. as to your PS about my "EQ," what do you want from me? what exactly is your problem? I've never been the type of person to understand passive-aggressiveness (must be my subnormal emotional intelligence), so if you have an issue with me, come right out and say it.

nolo, why don't you tell us what you're driving at, instead of playing the coy protector of secret knowledge? I hate to say this, but your posts are reminding me of our President's secret knowledge regarding Iraq

whatever you're trying to "learn" smells like justification -- and that's the whole honest truth about my perception on these two issues. every time you raise the issues of professionalism and pay, your message conveys a demand for respect and higher salary, because -- apparently -- "you deserve it." fine. you are free to try to go earn it. if accepting a tip makes you feel "unprofessional," then you should examine your definition of "professional" and the root of your feelings. you should not be insisting that the tip be replaced with a salary increase.

I've stated my position, and you've yet to refute it with facts. the only thing you've offered is criticism of my approach, and not any aspect of the substance of my position. you haven't explained what you're after.

[ April 02, 2003, 06:54 PM: Message edited by: gonzostrike ]
post #88 of 112
random thoughts on "professionalism" and hobby as work

* I could be a "professional" mountain bike coach if I wanted to, but I prefer to do other work. I like to keep mtn biking as my hobby, separate from my job. in that capacity, it balances me.

* however, if I did choose to be a mtn bike coach, I would not complain about the professionalism or pay involved.

* "professionalism" is a vague concept, because its original definition has been corrupted through daily parlance.

* well-educated isn't "professional" - ask any Columbia Ph.D. carrying NYC taxi driver, or one of the hundreds of highly educated Missoula residents who wait tables, tend bar, fight forest fires, ski bum, etc.

* if you are good at your job, why would it matter if you are called a "professional"?

* if you are good at your job, why would it matter whether the job is categorized as a "profession"?

* what should be the motivating factors behind taking on a particular job?

* is it "unprofessional" to work a job that incorporates tips as part of the compensation?

* what do you think makes people give tips? is it because they are "underpaid," as oboe suggests? should it matter that tip-supplement jobs are STRUCTURED with tips in mind, and therefore not truly "underpaid" nor something that the employee cannot know beforehand when accepting the job?

* is the entire "tipping" notion amoral? unethical? if so, why?

* if someone works a job in which he/she can receive tips, is he/she somehow an inferior or lesser person? if so, why?

* how did the simple term "job" morph into the more heavily-loaded-with-implication "profession"? what is the justification for that morphing?

* why do people say that they have a "chosen profession" instead of simply saying what their job is?

* are euphemism, obfuscation and puffery a good idea, given the fragile human mind and heart?

* is someone a better person merely because he/she refuses tips?

* does anyone dispute the practical reality that those who work jobs that enable athletic improvement (karate instructor, kayaking instructor, ski coach, road cycling coach, sports psychologist, etc) almost without exception are paid very low - almost like most artists?
post #89 of 112
Gonzo, you lose . . . time after time after time. While nolo is "here to learn", you're here to burn. Your credibility here is minimal.
post #90 of 112
While credibility may be down, entertainment value is still a "C".
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Ski Instruction & Coaching
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Ski Training and Pro Forums › Ski Instruction & Coaching › Elephant in the Living Room 2.0