Tipping the instructor?
February 28, 2006
Its my first season skiing. Whitetail/Liberty had a deal this year that gave me free lessons all season. Should I tip the instructor and if so how much?
That's a tricky question. A lot of instructors are professional people who do it for the love of teaching and skiing, not to mention discounted skiing at local resorts. These people might get insulted by a tip, but on the other hand that tip might cover after ski beers.
On the other hand, people who teach for a living might appreciate a gratuity. In America, it seems like we are tipping more and more for everything imaginable. The rule seems to be, "when in doubt, tip."
We've got some ski instructors on this forum and I'd be interested in hearing what they have to say. Also, this question might be worth posting on the epicski.com forum.
Our system of tipping is: for instructors we do not know personally [non-local hill] we usually give 10-20% of the cost of the lesson, depending on the quality of instruction. If the instructor is someone we take lessons from on a regular basis we usually offer dinner, drinks etc. or if there is something in particular the instructor has talked about [hard to find type of ski socks] we try to find the item for them and give on the next meeting.
One gift instructors seem to love are those fob tiny watches you can attach to a zipper. Easier to check the time rather than hiking up your sleeve to check your wristwatch.
I have been teaching snowboarding for eleven years at three different resorts over the course of that time, full time for the last five. It's amazes me that people think it would insult an instructor if they were tipped. I have known and worked with hundreds of instructors and have never met one who was upset or insulted when being tipped. However, I have had customers ask me if I would mind a tip or if I am allowed to accept gratuity. Most of the time I will motion to my duct taped gloves and answer, "are you kidding I can barely afford duct tape", or "that would help a bunch... I didn't know how I was going to feed my children tonight".
I am in it for the love of teaching and passing along the passion for the sport for sure but every little bit helps. Instructors definetily don't get in it for the money - heck I work about 10 hours of OT a week and can only pay about 80% of my bills with my paycheck, I know full time instructors whose first three hours of work each day goes to paying for that days gas for the commute to work. A lot of folks working in this industry make a little more than what is needed to live on, some make less.
Some people will tip a waiter or waitress for 1-3 minutes of customer service during a meal. I would think if that same person were to have a qaulity experience during a lesson, anywhere from an hour to several hours of customer service and teaching, they would be inclined to tip, however most of the time in my experience people just don't know or even think of tipping their instructor. I never understood it.
So don't be afraid to tip your instructor! Of course the tip should be proportional to the quality of the instruction and customer service, but if you have a good time a tip is a great way to thank your instructor!
This topic has been covered recently on Epic
and in the past
I also have a page on the topic on my web site
Tucker, I've worked with some pros who consider tips to be insulting. I generally advise them to change their opinion, if only to indirectly help those who teach for a living.
As an instructor at Whitetail and a marketing representative of Snow Time (the owner of Liberty, Whitetail and Roundtop), please allow me to extend our thanks to you for even thinking about tipping! As a new skier, there is nothing anywhere (Except online in places like DC Ski) to tell you what you should do regarding tips. That you are even asking the question tells us you are happy with the services we have provided to you. BTW - although we have no official policy on tipping, if you are ever made to feel that a tip is expected or required then we have failed to meet our standard for customer service. Subtle hints are ok, but outright requests for tips or pouts or indignation at no tip are a big faux pas. There's only one tip I want to see in every one of my lessons - that's the tip of your pearly whites displayed proudly between your lips (i.e. a smile!)
The purpose of the Mountain Passport program is to make it easy and affordable for people to grow to love the sport. The free lesson part of the deal is designed to get you hooked on the sport because we know that if we can get you skiing at an intermediate level in your first year, you are much more likely to make skiing a "permanent" hobby. Instructors generally don't pay attention to whether your lesson is free or not. We get paid the same whether you pay or not. Any tip (even $2) in a group lesson is a pleasant surprise. In my experience tips for a first time group lesson happen maybe once per 1000 people, but we have been getting up to 10% of our advanced group lesson students tipping for lessons when they are free. Five to 10 dollars is the usual, but I've been absolutely flattered to receive $20 more than once. Today, one of DC Ski's finest came to Whitetail for a group lesson, got a 40% discount and then proceeded to donate more than the savings to me as a tip at the end of the lesson. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!
If you liked free lessons this year, it's quite likely that you will be able to get more free lessons early next season if we open before Christmas (we've done this for the last 2 seasons now). If you get an Advantage card next season, that entitles you to 40% off lessons for the rest of the season. We'll be more than happy to help you get to Expert level if that's what you wish, but we won't be disappointed if you reach a level where you say "I'm happy where I'm at" either.
Thanks again for the great post! You've made me smile today!
If instructors are "professionals" then tipping should not be a part of the deal. Do you tip your high school teacher? How about your doctor? Or the nurse who gives you a flue shot? How about a driver's ed instructor?
Basically, tipping seems to be getting way out of hand in this country. Case in point: here's how many people I needed to tip on my recent Canyons trip:
1. Cab driver to and from DCA.
2. Curbside checkin at DCA and SLC
3. Shuttle Drivers (SLC to Canyons and back)
4. Room cleaning staff.
6. Ski room attendant (daily)
7. Waiters at the pre-paid breakfast (daily)
9. Dinner waiters when I ate out.
Do I also have to include ski instructors on this list? What about lift attendants or "mountain hosts" who agreed to "show me the mountain" for free for 1-2 runs?
On the other hand, ski instructors are definitely underpaid for the tough services they perform, but given the costs of running a medical practice, so are doctors and other health care workers. Lawyers? Well, that's a different ballgame.
But you get the idea.. This is a larger problem in American society and certainly not isolated to the ski industry, but endemic in the "holiday industry" in general. Anyone who has ever taken a cruise will tell you to bring loads of extra dollars for all the end of cruise tipping. It's getting to the point that whenever anyone provides another person with service in this country, a tip is expected, but there are a lot of other workers who perform difficult, underpaid jobs and get nothing. Do you tip the checkout person at Walmart? He is certainly underpaid and performing a service to you by bagging all your stuff?
To me the solution is for ski resorts to pay their professional teachers as professionals and not compel them to rely on uneven handouts from students who have no idea whether it is acceptable or not to tip a ski instructor. The less ambiguity, the better the experience will be for everyone. Should the instructors who kill themselves to teach five year olds how to ski have to rely on tips from children to survive?
As an instructor at Hidden Valley. I will say tips are very nice, but like rusty said smiles are nicer. With that said when people ask about tips. I tell ask them "How do you think the lesson went?". Trust me I would never be insulted by a tip, it means I get to eat well that night.;)
There was one instructor in particular at Liberty (Andy) that I felt had gone out of his way to help me, but at the end of the lesson, my wallet was three clothes layers down and you're wearing these huge gloves so I just said thanks and I've wondered ever since if was either expected or rude to offer a tip.
I never mind tipping a good waitress or any service person who provides pleasant service. I have clients take me out to lunch and I'm never insulted that they pick up the tab.
From another instructor's opinion....
If I teach a group lesson, I don't look for a tip. Typically, there is so much going on with adapting to different ski abilities that no one really gets enough information to take their skiing to a new level (except in beginner lessons).
With a private lesson, I give the person an opportunity to tip. That means that I spend the last 5 minutes or so at the bottom of the hill giving feedback on what they've learned, what to work on, etc. If they are not moving to give you a tip, you'll know it and I don't stand around suggesting they give one.
Most of the full time instructors I work with (including me) are excited when they get a tip. Few are disappointed because they didn't get a tip. This is because we know it is hit or miss if the person gives a tip or not.
As far as your wallet being buried under clothes, you can still get a tip to the instructor. Just go to the ski school desk and let the person know you want to leave a tip for your instructor. They will take the money and put it in an envelope for your instructor.
John, an argument in principal?...isn't it nice to be able to afford a trip to a different ski resort everyweekend, a second home at a ski resort, a trip to the canyons, a cruise, a lawyer, and even health care.
"Gratuity is appreciated, but not expected" is what I really tell my students when students ask and honestly I don't have kids, but my gloves are really duct taped, my board has about 300 days on it and rides like a wet noodle, and when it snows 4-8 inches in the valley I get 2-4 inches of accumulation in the front seat of the beat up vehicle I drive.
Rusty your right the real reward is in seeing the pleasure that a customer takes in the sport that we live and love, but I'm always stoked with an extra twenty after a 2 and a half hour private lesson.
Rusty when you take AASI or PSIA clinics do you tip? I try to always and I always encourage our snowboard staff to do the same if they have an enjoyable experience.
I don't always tip for clinics. There are some clinics where it just does not work out. At the rider rally, the format is you change clinicians every day and many of the particpants are kids that simply can't afford to tip. At that event I go out of my way to pay for drinks. At the Epic Ski academy at Stowe, we didn't tip because things were just so fast paced over two days. Although I did run up a fair bar tab, one of the clinicians actually bought me a drink (hmm - we need to train him better!).
At Pro Jam and the private Rogan clinics we run I usually tip a little extra over the going rate to cover for those who tip light for whatever reason.
Last year I slipped a regular grocery clerk a free pass. This year, I was able to slip my doctor a free pass. I'd like to become better skilled at slipping freebies to people who don't normally get tips.
I really appreciate the extra effort instructors personally put into a good lesson or regular student and regularly tip to acknowledge great service. My daughter has a favorite instructor who always goes out of her way working with my daughter and nuturing her love of skiing. By helping make sure that skiing is lots of fun for my kid she has directly made skiing even more enjoyable for my whole family. You can't compare that kind of return with a checkout job at Walmart. I can't put a value on the intangible benefits we get from great ski lessons and an instructor who helps us get more enjoyment out of the sport.
", but I'm always stoked with an extra twenty after a 2 and a half hour private lesson"
So's a hooker. Why can't the ski resort just be honest up front and make the lesson $20 more and pay it back to the instructor. If you are expected to tip $20 on the back-end, why not just be up-front with the (not likely to return) client and tell them, this is the total cost. Opps, I forgot to "tip" the grocery cashier, oh, and my Dentist... Why American resturants don't just add 20% to the bill every time I don't know. The end outlay is the same (meal + tip), but for some reason Americans seem math-impaired: meal + tip is cheaper then adding the two together up-front. ???!?!?!?!?! Could someone explain the American psyche to me: there's the cost of a service clearly posted, but, that's not what it really costs ?!?!?
Is anyone tired of paying bribes to receive a service of any kind that they have paid-in-full for? Or felt they HAD to pay a bribe to get a "better" service 'cause all services paid equal for are not the same? Someone mentioned a "job" vs a "profession". Do you think that might have something to do with the whole tipping thing? Low self-esteem and a job needs a tip, but a "professional" is doing their chosen duty and is paid by high self-esteem and feeling of accomplishment? How much did you tip your college professors?
HMMMM ... so let me guess... your not a big tipper?
I'm just disturbed by:
Private Lesson = $50
Private Lesson with special attention = $50 + $20 tip
Private Lesson and we give a damn = $50 + $40 tip
In this country we are just so accustomed to getting a prepaid service commensurate to the extra tip required for what we paid for in the first place!
Actually, the "tip" that meant the most to me was from the parents (green cruisers) who had me do a full-day with their 13 yo son (black and steeps) in Tahoe: a nice NorthStar sweatshirt I wear to this day! I tell them: "it's my pleasure, not my job". I'm personally embarrassed if they pull out cash. I find it rather cold ... but that's just me.
I am sry I too for sure do teaching for the pleasure, I dont expect tips, but I do recieve them quite often after the lesson. which means that the student was not treated "specially" at all. I treat all my students the same, and do the best I can do at that time everyday. Why are you embarrassed about getting a tip? For the amount time spent up there and how little work you end up teaching, doing a good Job a getting tip because of it, is a great way to fund yourself. No one is getting rich working in this area, and if we were all the better, IMO.
Again I never expect a tip, never really unhappy if I dont get one, but they are nice and I just dont see your side.
I thought a bribe was an inducement, offered in advance, to secure a desired result. A tip is a gratuity given for good service after it is rendered. I would not hesitate to not tip someone who gave me bad service, whether we're talking ski instructor, server or hooker; wait a minit, i don't know due you pay a hooker before or after the service is rendered.....never mind i've said too much already.
I do not believe in and never ment to imply any kind of equation like that. I don't expect tips. I must not have made my point clearly.
I'm not really an instructor anyway...but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.....by myself and I wasn't on the clock.
I leave tips. Are they bribes? Yup! When do I leave them? When it's in MY best interest. Examples:
The bartender in a busy bar. I find it much easier to get his attention for the next round.
The mechanics in the tuning shop. By spending a little extra time, they can have a huge impact on the quality of my skiing experience, plus, on busy days, when they do Eanie Meanie ... which pair do I tackle next, its nice when they pick mine out of the crowd.
How about a bootfitter? Well, somehow, I find that different, but I've sure sought them out with an appreciative thank you when after a couple days, it's clear they did a good job.
Sometimes, a tip is like courtesy ... it lubricates the machinery of human interaction.
As for adding it to the price on the front end, that prevents the service providor as well as the recipient from differentiating themselves from the crowd. I'll take the current system any day.
HMMMM ... so let me guess... your not a big tipper?
Obviously not, he's Rich.
Tucker, your example of how "rustic" your equipment is exemplifies why I love the Canaan region. You don't have the "posh" feel with everyone rocking their skybacks and current-year gear (ahem, Snowshoe). Yeah, it's a drag to ride old, beaten-up geat, but it (just like riding on the ice coast) makes people better riders because they are out there to ride, not to make a fashion or popularity statement.
So, to those of you just trying to keep on, keep your stick on the ice, and one day everything might just pay off.
Wow! Interesting thread!! I guess my view is that tipping an ski instructor is a personal choice - if you want to, great! If not, you shouldn't be made to feel guilty . Recently, my son was at a ski/daycare at a local resort. I tipped the instructor five bucks. Seems it was the norm as she had a bunch of bills already on her clipboard. Was she trying to "induce" a tip? Maybe, but all I cared is she took the time to explain to me how my son did and what they learned. For taking five extra minutes to tell me about his experience, I figured such dedication should be shown some appreciation.
Frankly, I don't think we should ever set "rules" about how we each seek to reward those that help us. My own personal rule of thumb (just for me!) is that I tip those people that help make my life easier. Sure, a lot of times they do so because its their job. But just because doing something is your job doesn't automatically mean you should be able to enjoy an extra perk now and then for going the extra mile.
BTW - I am aware that instructors in the Snowtime resorts are paid barely minimum wage. For those instructors that live in the DC area, that's about six to eight lessons a day to get enough after-income-tax money to pay for JUST the gas to get up to Liberty, Whitetail or Roundtop and back home. Let's not even talk about what needs to be shelled out in equipment costs each season. To suggest that instructors are ever in it for the money shows a startling lack of knowledge about the costs involved in being an instructor.
I am aware that instructors in the Snowtime resorts are paid barely minimum wage. For those instructors that live in the DC area, that's about six to eight lessons a day to get enough after-income-tax money to pay for JUST the gas to get up to Liberty, Whitetail or Roundtop and back home.
Some of our Whitetail pros average a few dollars more than minimum because of "kickers" for how many years you've taught, whether you are full time or part time, what your certification level is, whether or not you are qualified to teach more than one discipline and requests for private lessons.
At Whitetail, we're asked to show up for a minimum of 2 shifts a week and teach a minimum average of 3.5 hours/week over the course of season. Although kids camp instructors often teach 7 hours/day, the average pro teaches about 3 hours/day.
Thus, the gas money observation is pretty close to the mark. If you figure the true cost of commuting at 40 cents/mile, then probably less than 15% of the pros cover their commuting costs. In addition to the extra wear and tear on our ski&board gear, many of us pay a fee for our uniform jackets and wear out ski pants, gloves, goggles, helmets, etc. at an amazing clip. Certified instructors also pay for continuing education. The total cost for the teaching clinics we go to can be close to what we make before taxes for the whole season. At the Snowtime resorts a good guess is that less than one pro in 15 makes more cash than they spend on teaching.
The big shocker is that the biggest cost for the typical Snow Time ski instructors is time. It takes a big commitment to spend 2 days/week on top of your day job to teach. We lose good people every year because they need to spend more time with their family or their day job.
But we also get other compensation. Bennies include free skiing, free training and discounts on all sorts of stuff. Many pros teach just for the free skiing. They don't last long. Most of us that have been around a while teach because we love the sport. Pay, tips and bennies help offset the costs, but the reward for helping people is priceless.
Ski pros come in all shapes and sizes from rocket scientists to kids still living at home. Some pros will literally use your tips to eat better. Some pros make more money than most of their students. Even if the tip does not mean much financially to the pro or even if the tip just gets spent on beer, it's a nice acknowledgement that they've done a good job, their efforts are appreciated and that the earned wages usually don't cover the costs.
But Rich, by all means tips are not required. Especially at SnowTime resorts, tips for lessons are quite rare. There are plenty of ways for you to acceptably acknowledge a pro for a good job without tipping. A big smile and a thank you are enough. A thank you letter to the boss is a nice touch. When you understand that most of us are essentially donating our time for your benefit, it should not be too hard to at least show us a little extra tooth enamel.