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Friday, December 13, 2013

To Tip or Not To TIp: Answering a Delicate Ski Lesson Question

Nancy Huang, a friend and parent of three great kids, let me know last year that many folks would appreciate knowing etiquette around tipping the coaches who guide and shape mountain experiences. Like a few other guests, Nancy didn't know until several days into her vacation that it was OK to tip one's instructor.

I've had multiple guests ask me about gratuity practices for group lessons for kids or adults as well as private lessons, so here's this instructor's take on the subject.

Q - Should you tip a children's group lesson instructor?  If so, what's the right thank you?

A - Gratuities for coaches are not a requirement but an appropriate and appreciated gesture. Many kids instructors rely on their gratuities to make ends meet, and work at night in restaurants and bars to help out! 
A good instructor has focused on keeping your child and up to seven other children safe, warm and happy over an extended period of time. A good instructor created a space where all of the children had fun while learning, and maintained this environment through various challenges such as separation anxiety, bathroom emergencies and the sugar induced boisterousness following a hot chocolate break. 

At Northstar new children's instructors receive 15 days of training to deliver the service parents are counting on. Many also invest in a Professional Ski Instructors Association membership and purchase additional training throughout the season. Some invest unpaid hours and days off to clinic with other coaches in order to pass PSIA certifications.  

$10-15 dollars is an average tip for a one day lesson. If your child had a blast, tipping at restaurant levels (15-20% of the lesson cost) is appropriate.

Q - What about for Adult Group Lessons?
A - With adult lessons, the person doing the thanking has directly experienced the quality of the instructor's service. A $15 to $20 tip is fine. Again, if the lesson was great, 15-20% will make your coach feel very appreciated and valued.

Q - What about Private Lessons?  Is it any different?
A - This question is a bit more delicate to answer, since I spend my days teaching privates!
When I've purchased lessons for my better half (Johanna), my snowboarding brother-in-law, Gary or my tentative sister, Susan, I book only the best, most experienced, and most entertaining instructors on the staff. These include Eddie Visser, Randy Bell, Matt Majersky, Jeff Hickel and Mary Ellen Pearlman. I tip these folks at the 20% level, unless Johanna or my sister beats me to it!

As a general rule of thumb from my experience on the receiving end, a $50 tip is a fine thank you for a half day lesson, and $100 is similarly appreciated for a full day private.

Let me take this opportunity to thank all of the parents who trusted me when I was a kids' group lesson instructor;  and, of course, all who've gone on to choose me when private lesson attention is desired.

Thanks again, and I hope this post is helpful to folks new to skiing!

Guidance from other sources on the web:

From Trip Advisor:  Tipping your instructor

From Park City Resort's Website:  Should you tip your ski or snowboard instructor?

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