Should You Tip Your Ski Instructor? If So, How Much?

Quintin Mills | | Industry NewsIndustry News
tip your ski instructor
Every Legend of the Slopes Begins Somewhere–Courtesy of Palisades Tahoe

In the United States, it’s become arduous to decipher when, where, who, and how much you should tip. I always think of the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs, where Mr. Pink refuses to tip the waitress “because society says I have to.” However, life isn’t a Quentin Tarantino film, and tipping isn’t just for servers anymore. With inflation and unlivable wages, especially in mountain towns in the United States, it’s a good idea to tip your ski instructor.

Factors to consider when deciding to tip

Was it enjoyable? If you enjoyed your time with the instructor and they expanded your ski knowledge and ability, they will be grateful for anywhere from a 10-30% tip. Snow Gaper did a Facebook poll in a large ski group that will shed some light on what people think is acceptable to tip your instructor. 

Obviously, tip more if you can or feel your instructor deserved it by going above and beyond. Sometimes ski instructors are doing things out of the kindness of their hearts, not because it’s in their job description. 

If you did not have an enjoyable session, think about why. Was it because of your instructor? Was the weather bad? Were there some disruptive people in the class? This all factors into how well the instructor can relay their information to their students.

If you didn’t have an enjoyable experience, talk about it with your instructor. Ski instructors are humans too, and they are usually happy to have a conversation about the experience and the tip you think they deserve. It can improve them in the future, and the student can tip what they think the instructor deserves. 

You should also consider if you were in a private lesson or a group lesson. Most people think that private lessons should be tipped more, and that is okay. 

But in reality, private lessons are sometimes the easiest for the instructors because it’s usually one-on-one or a small group of people who know each other. It makes for a smoother process, and there are fewer variables in the dynamics of personalities and abilities. However, most people do tip private lessons more.

Group lessons can be hectic for instructors, especially during peak seasons. We all know how cutthroat the ski hill can get on a busy day, and instructors sometimes take the worst of it. I’m not going to say that you should always tip more in a group lesson, but if you had an enjoyable experience, notice that some people didn’t tip, or this particular group of people was making the instructor’s job harder, the instructor will be beholden by a little extra tip.

tip your ski instructor
The Holidays in Olympic Valley–Courtesy of Palisades Tahoe

Understanding a ski instructor’s role

A ski instructor’s role will be different in different scenarios. You have to understand the dynamics between private and group lessons, lesson goals, and your class limits. 

Most instructors will have a discussion about the goals for the class. If you feel like these goals don’t align with yours, let your instructor know. Maybe the rest of the class agrees, or you must be in a different class. 

An instructor wants to give you the tools to become a better skier while having an enjoyable experience. Yes, you will fall, it will probably be cold, and you will be sore if you’re a new skier. This isn’t your instructor’s fault. It’s skiing’s fault. 

Other times, more advanced skiers just want an instructor to help them brush up on their technique or show them around the mountain. This is where instructors thrive, and sometimes it takes someone saying the right thing at the right time to make things click. 

Know your instructor’s goals and understand that there are many moving parts in ski lessons.

Recognizing exceptional service

One of the most difficult things about tipping is actually recognizing when the instructor goes above and beyond. It could be something like letting you borrow an extra pair of goggles or giving extra help to someone struggling while the rest of the class is ahead.

If you notice your instructor doing things like these, there’s more of a reason to tip them. Yes, their job is to safely educate, describe and demonstrate, but they are not babysitters for grown adults.

Tips don’t always have to be in cash, either. One of the best parts about the job is meeting people and making connections in the ski world and beyond. Whether it’s a beer or a burger at the bar after a day or something more personal if you have built a relationship with your instructor.

tip your ski instructor
Instructors Going Above and Beyond–Courtesy of Palisades Tahoe

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