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post #1 of 78
Thread Starter 
I read in L.M. Boyd's column on Friday an interesting factoid:

"In Austria, ski instructors have a higher annual income than school teachers."

Even knowing that school teachers in the U.S. are underpaid, would it not be cool to be able to outearn them as in Austria?

What conditions would have to exist for this to happen?
post #2 of 78
For you to believe that ski instructors really can make some money.

Because, every post I've ever seen of yours, seems to want to keep the profession in a nice, neat little box. "Oh, we'll never make any money, too many instructors who'll work for nothing".

I mean, that kind of attitude is way half-empty.
post #3 of 78
Thread Starter 
You know, SCSA, I have really tried to be open-minded about you, but in this post you demonstrate the futility of my showing any generosity toward you or your half-baked opinions.

I have said, in this country we have legions of instructors who earn their bread and butter elsewhere. Do you understand that this is a significant economic obstacle to achieving the "living wage"?

You do not know me. If you did, you would find your comment about me wanting to have the profession in a nice, neat little box as ridiculous as I do.

You, sir, are an ignoranus.
post #4 of 78

SCSA's comments not withstanding, I have to revert back to the old days, when I was "gainfully" employed. Many school districts' teachers are represented by collective bargaining organizations, whether they be called unions, guilds or whatever. Collective bargaining units represent the majority of the employees at a specific work location. There has been a vote of the employees, stating that they wish to be represented by a particular "union". This election is governed by the Nat'l Labor Relations Board, a part of US Dep't of Labor. The union then negotiates with the employer on the behalf of the employee. When both sides agree on a wage/benefits package, the union members ratify.

Let's look at the ski industry. An instructor applies for a job at an area. The wage/benefit package has been set by Human Resourses Dept. The instructor either accepts or rejects the package. If the instructor rejects the package, it's down the hill. If the area were organized, the starting wage would probably be much higher. There could be wage scales for certified and non-certified employees. There could be other perks, like holding instructor clinics, and so on.

From my perspective working in the industry for a time, The only way that we will get a livable wage, is to organize. By livable wage, I am talking a minimum starting wage of $16 per hour for an eighr hour day. For a five hour day, a minimum start wage of $20 per hour. Each cert level would be another two dollars per hour. And guarenteed, whether we teach or not. No classes? Clinic for the day.

Anything less than $500 per week is substandard wages. This is inappropriate of the ski area, considering the money that we generate. It is going to take a group of dedicated people, with good industry contacts, to do the organizing that would be required for this effort. I am not advocating that PSIA is the organization. In fact, I think it would be a conflict for PSIA to enter that arena. What it will take, is a group of dedcated instructors to say we aren't making a livable wage and take the bull by the horns and do something about it.

End of rant... RH
post #5 of 78
Not to oversimplify, but first the American people would have to value skiing as much as the Austrians do. Where I come from, half of the Beacon Hill crowd heads to Florida for the entire winter! :
And when they do those stupid, Best Places to Live reports, they always list the places with moderate climates! :
post #6 of 78


Besides. Who the hell died and made you Queen, anyway?

You've been putting up with me? Oh, I get it. You're in charge, right?

Sorry nolo. Anybody with an Internet connection gets to play here - you're proof of that.

For the record, I don't think you're so swell, either.

So there.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 24, 2002 12:16 PM: Message edited 1 time, by SCSA ]</font>
post #7 of 78
I'm inclined to think that comparing Euorpe and US market might be an apples to oranges thing. I read somewhere that the skiing based winter tourism industry is the largest industry, in percentage of gross national product, in Austria. The European market is very competitive for the skiing tourism customer. As if the state financial security of CO, UT, WY, ID were all dependant on wooing each others customers from season to season. This is one reason that the european alpine nations in the past intentionally worked hard to each forster their own unique "look or style" of skiing that could be marketed as "the xxxxx way to ski" which was based function follows form. While this may have changed somewhat the importance of a skilled instructor who can generate consistant return business is still paramount. In Austria Ski Instructors are held in high regard and considered to be professionals within their communities and society. I've also heard that in europe the training course you need to go through to become an instructor is very comprehensive compared to our process.

I wonder, do we still have a "ski bum" image or is that changing enough to make a differance? Are our pros really considered to be much further up the food chain than other seasonal labor like lifties, food service, and lodging service help? What is our market/demand leverage position? Is there an over abundance of young (ski bums) who are willing to do the job for less, thus keeping the pay scale retarded?

I see what customers are willing to pay for lessons and when I do the math I think the instructor percentage is a lot less that the 60% labor cost average for most industries.

Solution? I don't have one. But the low pay is the main reason I never pursued skiing as a full time carreer. Instead I got a real career and teach as a second job evenings and weekends, but not for the money. I have so much fun teaching that I fear someone finding out that I might be one of those to do it for less.
post #8 of 78
Thread Starter 

The trouble with unions is the socialistic aspect. I would prefer a solution that uses a merit system, such as the stock brokerage model, where the broker works his/her book and the house takes a cut to cover overhead and a modest profit.

My director allowed me to work my own book this year. I haven't been to line-up all season. We are both happy with the outcomes.


A recent survey shows Driggs, Idaho, as the #1 most desirable and Bozeman, Montana, as the #7 most desirable places to live (small to mid-size). Both are notable for their ski areas.

Ice Age and Snow Dogs are playing to big audiences in movie theatres.

My cultural sensors indicate an increase in snowy landscapes as advertising backdrops.

Could be our population is bored with the beach, fearful of melanoma, and uncomfortable being the Ugly Americans.


I would prefer that you address me as "Your Highness."
post #9 of 78
Hmmm most of the instructors I've known are just simple ski bums that are in it just to ski and for all the free passes (an instructor I was talking about was telling me how they can ski ANY resort in Western Canada except Whistler for free). Plus most of them work in the summer elsewhere. Anyhow for them to make more there would have to be enough of them demanding to make more, because resorts pay them as much as they know they can get away with.
post #10 of 78
The statement of what the situation abroad is, and the question of how to create that here - did not warrent a personal attack as an answer.


On the subject, I think Lisamarie is right on. Skiing is the national sport of Austria, their instructors are looked up at in the way that Doctors are looked up to here. Its a fundamental, deep and old difference in their very society.
post #11 of 78
Could part of the problem be our pathetically short ski season, especially in New England? So many resorts try to sell on mountain properties based on what you can do on the mountain year round.

Why not have instructors become year round outdoor education specialists? Camping, hiking, mountain biking, outdoor first aid, etc. They are the ones that have already formed the relationship with the guest. If you enjoy learning one skill from a particular teacher, you'd probably enjoy learning another skill.

Another problem is the independent contractor thing. SkierJ can probably do a better job at explaining this, but unless you are going in and saying I am going to do this class at this specific time, you are not really an independent contractor.
Many gyms are being snagged by the government on that one.

Its been my experience that the more involved employees are allowed to be involved with their company, the more sucessful they will be. For example, one of the gyms I work at gives any instructor who teaches 10 classes a week, health insurance, a 401k plan with employer contributions, bonuses, profit sharing, paid vacation, holidays, sick days, and an annual trip to Aruba!
They also bring educators in periodically, such as Nancy Clark and Miriam Nelson.

Since we all have "a piece of the action" we are extremely concerned with giving out good customer service ALL the time, not just in class.

The result: In contrast to other gyms I work at, who have been hit hard by 9/11, and the opening of a swank "luxury" gym in our area, we have not been hit too hard, financially!

Even in the winter season, there are other ways to involve instructors in the entire operation of the mountain! It would be great having knowlegable instructors helping out at the pro shop. Most of the gyms I see at ski resorts have equipment that is so lame, and has very little to do with ski conditioing. Instructors who also ski can do a better job running the gyms at night, and recommending program that don't even need equipment.

Okay, I'm rambling, but you get my drift.
post #12 of 78
Out West the ski season is as long as in Europe, and there are glaciers for year round skiing just as there are in Europe. But we are really not an alpine country. We have mountains, but most of our large population centers do not live near the mountains - and certainly not *in* the mountains like in Austria.

What sports in the U.S. are NOT more popular than skiing? Parachuting probably, maybe skeet shooting? I'll bet Bowling is more popular!
post #13 of 78
post #14 of 78
The fact that most of the population does not live near the mountains can be the main problem. For most, with the cost of even the least expensive lodging near a ski area, there's little left for lessons. Sugarloaf does this well. If you stay on one of their properties, you get free lessons.

Interesting insight about what sport would NOT be popular in Europe. IMHO, it all comes down to a question of finesse and detail. The subtleties of skiing require and learning, and sadly learning is not a favorite American pastime.
post #15 of 78
>>>Why not have instructors become year round outdoor education specialists?<<<

Lisamarie, many full time isntructors do just that, Bob Barnes, Wigs, Ski&Golf, etc.

Also, many work in construction at the areas during off-season.

post #16 of 78
That just seems to further illustrate the point that the more sucessful instructors have a more total involvement with the mountain.
post #17 of 78
beware ... possible rave thoughts shared freely

Make the SS cert much harder. The PSIA level III is the easiest to get in the world (sorry guys) Austrian, Swiss, Oz, NZ are much harder.

Make instructor training like going to university. (i.e. Bundersportiem)

For legal and safety reasons only graduate instructors can work full time.

Interns do part time work as part of thier training.

If a resort cannot employ enough graduate instructors then they cannot service their guests. (imagine what that would do for "Instructor University funding")

After all skiing is a "Professional Industry".

Wash up would be.

A real career, real wages due to the need to attract graduates from the pool, much better instruction due to college dedication, instruction would become a respected and attractive career, the creme would rise to the top and the resorts that employ the creme would charge the applicable rates.

And hey then a resort could market thier instructors as graduates from "XX University of Skiing" and the public would flock to these "marketable" schools of instructor.

Oz :

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 24, 2002 07:07 PM: Message edited 1 time, by man from oz ]</font>
post #18 of 78
But Oz, doesn't imply a thirst for knowledge and learning that just is not there. Look at the back of any magazine, and you'll see ads for all these correspondance courses for just about any industry.

In my own field, first there was the one day fitness instructor certification, now we are cursed with one day Pilates "certifications"! :

So in order for your excellent idea to work, there would have to be enough instructors interested in going the extra mile.

As many times that I've commented that the epicski participant is not the average skier, I don't think that the epicski instructor, who spends their FREE TIME discussing ski tecnique, is your average instructor!

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 24, 2002 09:48 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Lisamarie ]</font>
post #19 of 78
While i admire good ski teachers and totally love skiing I can't put it in the same category as getting a good basic education. Teachers in basic education have to deal with kids who don't want to learn and don't view the subjects being taught as fun. They also have to try and work with children who come from a totally f-up home life. I wish the US placed more importance on skiing but we seem to be dominated by the goons in the NBA and the NFL who struggle to represent the human race.
post #20 of 78
Thread Starter 
Thanks to those who helped with that little problem...

I would like to return to the odd pocket of socialism, the snow sports instruction schools of America, where instructors are represented as all being equal, regardless of certification or education or special skills. We instructors often bemoan the fact that the public rarely has a clue about certification, but we really need look no further than the reception area, which perhaps has an AASI/PSIA plaque on the wall but that's the extent of the publicity.

At my school, as I'm sure is the case at others, there is a priority list: Level 3, full-time are at the top of the list; no cert, part-time are at the bottom (read: PlayCare). Walk-in traffic gets the next instructor on the list. It's a matter of luck and timing whether one gets the "middle cream" or the "bottom." The "high cream" is probably already booked.

But all this is inside stuff the consumer is not privy to: regardless of quality, the price remains the same. The school is out to sell lessons, not to provide a quality guarantee. Lisa is probably right in saying that the short selling season is largely to blame for our industry's short-sightedness.

As an expert once remarked, guest satisfaction is only as good as his/her last experience. Until our service industry takes guest satisfaction seriously, our profession will suffer from quality problems. As long as quality is a problem, consumers will be justified in regarding us as glorified ski bums in it for the free ticket.

If schools were seriously committed to guest satisfaction, they would be serious about employing instructors who satisfy guests instead of just manning (womanning?) a class.

I'm with Oz. Up the requirements; thin the ranks; quit going for the quick sale (one time purchase) and start angling for repeat customers.

I'd love to see the schools follow Patagonia's slogan: "Committed to the core." Committed to the core value of guest satisfaction; committed to their core staff; committed to their core customers. Stop treating every employee as interchangeable; stop treating guests as though there were more where they came from; stop pretending that the instructors' contribution to the company is as impersonal and unskilled as cooking burgers and changing the sheets.
post #21 of 78
I agree with everyone's expression of need for hiring, and training, and respecting, and paying the best. It is critical to understand that guests are best served by highly trained, adequately paid, talented, and caring pros. Otherwise, this business is toast.

We do that, and our top pros have gotten so fabulous that the whole team has been lifted up.

And we did it totally without a union--because we believed in our people and want to work with them. And whoever said that it can't be done without a union is blowing smoke. A union guarantees nothing.

This year being an exception a top pro here can really make a living during the short winter we have.

However, we have not proved that this makes money. Certainly our numbers are not up commensurately with our quality. .

Nevermind, though. As long as I'm in management and have anything to say about it, we'll continue with the ideals expressed here. The skiing public deserves great pros, and the pros deserve a fair shake.

Still we've got to somehow manage a profit for our owners. Our owners care about us and the community. I would hate our areas to be sold to someone who didn't care. Some of you have experienced that.

The balance of owners, pros, guests is a tough one to maintain--especially in this business climate.

Oh, back to the orginal post: I think pros should be paid a lot, but school teachers are the ones we should really be fighting for.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 24, 2002 10:36 PM: Message edited 1 time, by weems ]</font>
post #22 of 78
Yep - school teachers are possibly the most important people in our society, there is no excuse for lawyers and insurance agents making more money!
post #23 of 78
There is no reason writters and computer geeks should make more money!

I would like to make what some college teachers make for only working 7 months a year and paid sabaticals!

But I do agree teachers and even more so daycare workers need to be paid good wages. The are shaping the future and we should have some of our best doing it.
post #24 of 78
Does any one know if the european instructors are better "organized"?.
With the strong area identification theme, it would seem that there would be significant difference between employes of international level areas compared to lesser areas.


post #25 of 78

You're in Aspen. What's the definition of "making money"?

Or, is this what you really meant to say. "Here in Aspen, our best instructors make enough --- to pay rent in Glenwood"!

What do we need to do to get you to come down valley (with the riff raff) and ski with the boys? I know it's a long year for you and April doesn't come soon enough, but we need to get you to the Basin in May. It's just not a full year until you show up at the Basin at least once in May.

SnoKarver, PinHed and I have our own little "gang" now. You'll have a blast!

post #26 of 78
SCSA, I'm there. Arapahoe was my first ski area when I was a boy. There's a picture on the wall in the cafeteria exactly as it was in 1952 when I first skied there.

I'll get in touch when the time gets near. I just got scoped, so I'm hoping the swelling goes away. If not, I'm only good for a couple of lame bump runs, but lotsa crooozin.

About money? We've got quite a bit of affordable housing here for employees. Not nearly enough, but better and better each year.

What I meant about making money was the company making money. This is a business, and if you like your owners, you want them to stay with you. We like our owners, because they like us and the community. We've got to convince them that they will do better here than putting their money in CD's. Right now, in the ski biz, it's a toss-up. It's been a hard year.

As for the pros--a talented, hard-working entrepreneurial and caring pro can do damn well here. But no, they won't be able to buy a house on Red Mountain, and yes, the ones who live in Glenwood, Carbondale, and Basalt like it. We lived in Basalt for about ten years. That was fine. Many people in cities commute for 45 minutes on jammed freeways. We commuted for about 1/2 hour along a beautiful river with eagles flying and elk herds and coyotes. And being lower than Aspen, the spring came early. It ain't the miseries!

But for a new pro?--yeah, the ski biz is hard, and you have to be ready for that. It was the same when I started. (In fact, it's better now.)
post #27 of 78

Actually, from what I here it's quite possible to carve yourself out a nice living teaching skiers.

Now, don't get me wrong - it doesn't happen overnight. But stick around in the right place and good things happen.

Basalt? Carbondale? Glenwood? Heck. I'll take either of those towns over Aspen any day of the week.

Teaching skiers is a service, just like any other. And, the same old rules apply. If you love what you do, you're good at it, and you have the desire, you're gonna be successful.

Cheers weems,
post #28 of 78

How is the pay structure set up for Aspen Pros? I too am a Ski Pro and have basically set up an alternative equation to making it work. I don't see how most of the Pros at the regular ski schools do it. I have been coaching and guiding a series of advanced ski clinics (X-Team Advanced Ski Clinics) in various locations since 1992 and am just finishing the third year of operating a small company of pros and guides locally in Lake Tahoe at Sugar Bowl. The resort is taking a very progressive position by allowing us to be there as an independent entity and I am grateful to them. All Mountain Ski Pros, spcializes in off-piste ski instruction and backcountry guiding for advanced skiers. Basically a non-compete with the ski school, but a very tough niche to market. We all make quite a bit more money per day then any ski school I'm aware of. I have heard through the grapevine that the Pros in Aspen, Vail, Beaver Creek and Deer Valley do really well. Just wondering how it is set up! Can you share a few insights and details?

I agree that it has to work for the owners. At the same time it has to work for the real Pros out there making it happen. There is absolutley no question in my mind, and many here agree, that top quality lessons are taught by top-quality Pros and that people can really benefit most by skiing with these folks. The reality right now, though, is that there are not that many left.

Anyway...how about a penny for your thoughts?

post #29 of 78
scsa, right on all counts--except we're rebuilding a community in Aspen that is more locals based. The affordable housing has really helped.

I like this whole valley from end to end.
post #30 of 78

I'll jump in here briefly.

I know some pros at Vail/BC who make what I consider to be good money, for part time work.

They don't really have any secrets. In fact, there's a common element amongst all of them.

1) They "mix" well and have great people skills.

Clients at the Beav or Vail, who can afford private instruction, are wealthy. And it really is true; "The rich, they're different than you and I".

So, in order to be "in" with by this group, you have to be affable. Now being affable isn't being a bullshitter. It's more about knowing how to "schmooze", and getting someone to engage with you.

2) They're knowlegeable.
No secret here, got to know your stuff.

3) They're all good skiers with nice skills. But not what I consider to be great skiers. Interesting, eh? I bet most here would have thought that ski skills were most important.

What is most important are having great people skills. Now, I know this sounds funny, coming from me, but that's really what counts the most.

The instructors I know that do the best, they just have a way about them - a kind of savoir-faire. After all. Who wants to fly across the country to hang-out with some dumb bunny?

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