Friday, December 13, 2013

Helpful Answers to Ski Season questions

With the ski season upon us, I've been getting l questions from clients and friends referred to me about booking ski lessons, sharing private lessons, gratuity etiquette, etc.

So, here's a helpful overview that attempts to answer many of the most frequently asked questions.

When are you available? To help people with booking private lessons, I keep a calendar updated and online at skiwithjay.com, where you’ll also find blog postings geared toward making skiing low-stress for your family.

Where do we meet? Lessons can start in the Northstar Village, at the mid-mountain ski school or at the Ritz Carleton and are available in these configurations:

1 hour "rise and shines" from 8:30 to 9:30
3 hour morning or afternoon lessons, starting at 9:30 and 1:00pm; or
6 hour all day lessons, which start at 8:30

What do private lessons cost, and how do I book a lesson?  Pricing (not including tax or gratuities, which are greatly appreciated) is available on on the Northstar website. If you book any lessons or Northstar tickets online, I believe you get the lowest possible rates. Alternatively, you can call 530-562-3848 or 530-562-3800 to speak with a booking team member. There can be some hold time when we’re busy, so there is an option to leave a message for a call back.

Many of my clients share their lessons with another family to reduce the costs for each family. With the exception of the rise and shines, lessons can be divided between students, or up to 6 skiers of the same ability level can be taught at once. As you would expect, one on one attention delivers more rapid skill development. Another thing to remember is that private lessons, unlike group lessons, do not include lift tickets or equipment.

One more thing I do for busy guests is facilitate the scheduling process via email. Simply send me an email saying something like "We'd love to have your 9:30-12:30 slot on December XX for our 8 year old, Johnny.  We'll be staying at the Ritz and would love to start the lesson there.  Can you have the office call me at 415-XXX-XXXX to confirm the reservation?"   This most important thing in the email is your phone number, as the office will review all the details when they call you.

Happy skiing!
Coach Jay

PS: For folks who'd like more guidance around gratuities on the mountain, here's a link to an earlier blog posting specific to that topic. I'll give a shout out here to Nancy Huang, a friend and client who told me how new ski families would appreciate the guidance.

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?