Senior Skiing Op-Ed Monopolies and Your Vacation

In an exchange between instructors on a social media site, they were talking about how things haven’t changed much since the 70s, except that instructors don’t get the respect they used to.

Even after all the big, high profile acquisitions and all the real estate and the $35 breakfasts, there aren’t anymore snow sport participants today than there were 20 years ago.

In any other industry failure to grow is failure, period, yet the lift served market keeps chugging along and prices grow at rates higher than inflation. Make me wonder why it isn’t growing. There are two ways to grow revenue. Get more customers or get more money from the customers you have. But what happens when those customers finally stop coming?

So, what is so unique about these three screen shots? Can spot it?

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One organization represents the people who protect the public while they ski. The 26,000 members of the National Ski Patrol have one job, to make skiing and and snow boarding as safe as possible When people do get hurt, get them to help as soon as possible. Thousands of people are employed by ski resorts for this purpose.

The address of their headquarters 133 South Van Gordon St. Denver, CO

The second has the responsibility to teach people to ski or ride proficiently and safely. PSIA-AASI claims more than 30,000 members who are known as instructors, employees of the many ski resorts.Their address is …

133 South Van Gordon St, Denver, CO.

The last is the association of all ski resort owners in America. Their members are the employers of thousands of ski patrollers and instructors. Their address..is…yep…you guessed it…

133 South Van Gordon Street in Denver.

Am I the only person on the planet who has a problem with two organizations that represent employees of ski resorts, whose sole responsibility is the safety of the skiing public, sharing an office with the organization that represents employers and voracious new coporate interests?

coalminer

Does the AFL-CIO share a headquarters with General Motors? Does the IBEW share it’s office space with Verizon? Probably not, yet, here is NSAA, whose members enjoy government granted monopolies, which operate on public lands, sharing their headquarters with two organizations that represent employees of NSAA’s members.

PSIA-AASI will be the first to tell you, loudly, that they are not a union. OK, fine..whatever. They have been granted an effective monopoly to collect money from its members. Members have no choice. One can only hope that money is utilized to serve the needs of those members. Yet, in some cases resort schools pay LESS to maintain their PSIA accreditation than individual instructors pay for their certifications. That doesn’t sound right to me.

If the US Forest Service wants to hand out  monopolies that’s one thing. Forcing people to pay membership dues to work in that environment, on public land, is somethings else all together.

While the costs of membership to NSP and PSIA are borne by their members, the VALUE of that membership accrues to the resorts. That ain’t right. Their members pay what amounts to “union dues” but get no representation. The resorts profit by it.

Do Aspen, or Vail, or their share holders really need their employees money that badly? Perhaps the glory of all the recent acquisitions ain’t so glorious when billionaires have to live off the backs of their servants simply because they can get away with it.

coal miner 1

All is not well in the fife. The serfs are slowly revolting. Most senior skiers have no idea how instructors get paid. Although they are required to obtain and maintain expensive professional certifications they often make less in a day than the kid running the french fry machine. This article from 2 years ago spells out the trouble in paradise.

FAIR WAGES FOR INSTRUCTORS SLAM VAIL RESORTS

It’s high time to make things right.  Senior skiers are asked to pay hundreds of dollars for a lesson and ALSO pony up a gratuity to subsidize the low wages paid by large corporations. You pay $900 for the lesson Vail get $700 to $800 of that and expects YOU to make up half the instructor’s income for the day.

I have been told employees have to sign what amounts to a gag-order, with dire consequences for speaking to the media without permission. Some are willing to talk anyway. Several instructors have told me that  Vail’s response to the wage issue was to put up signs asking patrons to tip more. Really??

These Multi-billion dollar snow sport companies operate on the same labor model as a 19th century coal mine. People work at Vail and get paid minimum wage and turn around and pay it back to the company for slum living?

Vail Tells Employees to Brace for Tighter Living Conditions

Vail Back Pedals in Employee Housing

Local taxpayers wind up subsidizing mega-corps while their share holders profit. That just isn’t right. Beaver Creek patrollers voted to unionize and a movement is underway to unionize instructors at Vail. If all was bliss and light with Vail, these things would not be happening.

What can you say about a company that would fire an instructor with 18 years of experience because they couldn’t balance on a sponge? What kind of bureaucrat dreams this stuff up? Seems like Vail tries to implement all kinds of 19th century labor polices and then has to back track when they can’t find enough people to work for them.

Astronaut John Glenn famously said, “I guess the question I’m asked the most often is: “When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?” Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts — all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”

monopoly

Monopolies never serve their customers’ best interests. Monopolies serve the best interests of the monopoly. When a major resort has to offer it’s employees a $1000 bonus to pirate a ski instructor from another resort, something just isn’t right. If it takes that sort of measure to get people to work there you have to wonder if you are getting the best service available. Instructors at Vail make a lot less than instructors are paid at Aspen. You have to wonder which place might offer the best learning experience.

There can be no question that, from an economic perspective, seniors skiing at these resorts would be better served if there were competition for on-mountain services.

Is this truly the future of American skiing? As a customer, do you really want to entrust your multi-thousand dollar family vacation to a mega-monopoly who treat their employees this way?

Just sayin…

Smells funny

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3 thoughts on “Senior Skiing Op-Ed Monopolies and Your Vacation

  1. As a ski teacher in the East, I believe that nothing will change until w, as instructors ,walk away as a group leaving the ski areas to have their management come out and teach. That would be interesting.

    Like

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