To Tip or Not to Tip?

Here you will find two sides to the tipping story. Enjoy! The word "tip" comes from England where it originally meant "To Insure Promptness". Tips have since grown into a practice to reward good service.

How can instructors get more tips?

Should you tip ski instructors?

Rusty is amazed at some of the stories he hears. Here are some of the best.

Ask one member of the group to hold some money for you because your pockets are full, wet or whatever, then ask for the money at the end of the day. The other group members will see you being handed money and will get the hint to dig for tips.

In a multi day lesson, give out a tip every day at the end of the day except for the last day. When student's complain "Where's my tip?" explain that it's now their turn to give a tip.

Explain to the class that if they don't enjoy the lesson, they don't have to give a tip.

At the end of the lesson, draw an "S" in the snow to show the desired turn shape, then draw a line through the "S" to show the path of the center of mass. It will look just like a dollar sign when you are done (hint, hint).

Explain the parts of a ski pole: the working end is handled by the tip and if there is no tip, then you end with just the shaft.

Explain the parts of a ski: the tip is what you live on and the tail is what you sit on.

PSIA/AASI has free "tip of the day" cards you can give out in your lessons. These work great for getting cash tips in return. 

Rusty cautions that some of our guests are appalled at how expensive our favorite sport is. Please remember that they are the ones that are paying full price and may not be in a tipping mood after paying exorbitant prices for everything at every turn.

Here is Rusty's etiquette for tipping (USA based) ski instructors. Rusty is not familiar with the ski instructor tipping culture in other countries. In Europe you may find that your instructor or guide will organize apres ski activities for your group where you can show your appreciation by buying them dinner and drinks.

When tipping instructors, 15-20% of the lesson price is appropriate for a well taught lesson. Some students have been known to tip higher when the service is exceptional or if a major breakthrough has been facilitated.

Tipping is not generally expected for group lessons for full or partial day lessons. Offering to buy lunch is a nice gesture, but do not feel offended if the instructor declines because they often choose or are forced to skip lunch. For multiple day group lessons, it is nice to pool the groups gratuity into a single envelope and surprise the instructor. A great tip for a group lesson is a follow up private lesson request (instructors get paid more for private lessons and usually get paid even more when they are specifically requested).

Tipping is generally expected for private lessons. You are rewarding for personal attention and the quality of the experience just like in a restaurant. The tip should match the level of service received.

Tipping is not expected from children, but many parents will tip instructors after the lesson when the children are returned to them (unharmed, happy and the right children to the right parent!).

There are two general classes of ski instructors: ski for food and ski for fun. "Ski for food" instructors live off of their teaching income during the winter. Which means they go hungry a lot. Tips mean a lot to these folks. "Ski for fun" instructors are just plain nuts. They don't need the money to eat, but tips do help cover gas money, expenses for equipment and our professional dues and education expenses. Most "ski for fun" instructors view tips as a "job well done" message. Some "ski for fun" instructors will be insulted if there is no tip for a private lesson. Some "ski for fun" instructors consider themselves to be professionals and feel insulted if they are offered a tip. Do you tip your doctor or airline pilot or your kid's first grade teacher? The message means a whole lot more than the money, but for most, the money helps too. In general, there are more full time "ski for food" instructors "out west" and more part time "ski for fun" instructors every where else.

Don't forget there are other ways to show appreciation to your instructor. A big smile or a thanks is better than nothing. Offering a favorite libation (and/or food) at the end of the day is a good way to have an opportunity to describe what worked and say thanks one more time (plus you get the opportunity for follow up questions). A thank you letter to the ski school or filling in a comment card complimenting the instructor helps the boss know who's doing a good job and why. On the other end of the scale, ski instructors get a wide variety of different kinds of tips. Some of the "unusual" tips that Rusty has heard of includes: new vehicles, new ski equipment (used once during the lesson), trips to other resorts, days at the golf course, a condo, lifetime season passes.


Rusty lives by the "provide more service" axiom. Rusty has gotten tips for ignoring lost lesson tickets, keeping kids a little longer in the lesson on a powder day so dad could get an extra run, making sure kids get returned to parents after the lesson is over and explaining how well the child did. The money does not mean much (Rusty has a day job), but a tip is good feedback that the guest has been satisfied.