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Should Ski Schools be granted Monopolies on Public Land?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
A. Yes, and they should be able to charge customers and pay instructors whatever they want.
B. Yes, but prices and wages should be regulated.
C. No, each resort should have 2 to 5 independent ski schools.
D. No, any individual or entity should be able to offer ski instruction on publicly owned land.

What do you think?
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D we have a least 7 schools plus lots of independent instructors. But they do all have to conform to italian regulations.
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Probably D, but if that causes problems that I can't currently envisage then I'd suggest C with ski school operators bidding for licenses.
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Thanks for the reply Peter. In Colorado, private lessons cost $600 to $900 per day ($100+ per hour) while certified instructors are typically paid $10 to $25 per hour by the resort monopoly ski school. What are typical lesson prices and instructor compensation at Italian ski schools?
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How much do""private lessons"" cost , cash in hand?
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I doubt that very much of the land is 'public'. I guess the exception will be National Parks.
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Private lessons cost between €40 & €45 per hour depending on the time of year. Normal lessons cost €120 and €140 for six 2 hour lessons.
Most instructior earn about €15 to €25 an hour. Don't forget the cost of living is much hire in europe.
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Personally I'd say D. Somewhat ironic that the land of the free and champion of free market capitalism should have so much protectionism. Ski instruction in the US is a racket and that also includes the "tip me cos I make poor wages" mentality some instructors seem to have.
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How many lift networks and inbounds areas in the US are on public land? If they are on public land what sort of licence from State/Federal agencies is required to operate?
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peter42 wrote:
Private lessons cost between €40 & €45 per hour depending on the time of year.


Really? Wow. That's a fraction of the going rate in France.
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dogwatch, And that is with a very good school. Italians don't like to be riped of.
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rob@rar wrote:
How many lift networks and inbounds areas in the US are on public land? If they are on public land what sort of licence from State/Federal agencies is required to operate?


I believe that in the US the vast majority of the inbounds ski area is publicly owned by the US Forest Service, who lease the land to the ski resort operator. I presume (I stand to be corrected) that before the lease is awarded there is a bidding process and the lease goes to whichever applicant is judged to have the best proposal (in terms of financial return to the Forest Service, but hopefully environmental aspects are also taken into consideration).

Whilst logistically it makes sense for there to be one company installing and operating the lifts and maintaining and patrolling the slopes, there is no a priori reason why multiple ski schools and even qualified independent ski instructors should not be free to instruct on the slopes. Perhaps the terms of the Forest Service lease allow the operator to have a monopoly on ski instruction, if so that seems very strange in the so called land of free enterprise Puzzled
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When a country says it's "the land of the free", the fact that they're having to say it about themselves is probably a bit of a clue as to the purpose of the statement and the veracity of it.

I also thought that most US resorts were on public land, and I think the same's true for Canada. It's all about leasing "tenure" from the government. Typically you'll do that relating to a business, like operating lifts, but you can't therefore exclude (say) hikers or even sledders, unless you can prove that they would cause problems with the purpose of the lease. So you'll not be allowed to sled on the pistes at a resort, but they can't generally stop you hiking up them.

The question needs to say which countries we're talking about, but it does state "public land", so that's a given in this case.

I don't think those are a particularly good set of options to pick from. I think there should be competition. If people deliver a poor service (eg ESF in France), then they should be allowed to die commercially as people vote with their wallets for something else. So broadly, I'm in favour of this working the same way everything else which actually works does. Any overarching control or closed-shop business is tends to kill competition and encourage mediocrity. Sack all the rule makers, let the market deal with it.
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dogwatch, no problem getting private lessons in France for that sort of money.
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OK.....maybe France. Not EK as far as I can tell and I've looked at pricing from most of the schools. Going rate is double and upwards.
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dogwatch wrote:
OK.....maybe France. Not EK as far as I can tell and I've looked at pricing from most of the schools. Going rate is double and upwards.

Last few years I've been paying €50 per hour for private instruction in France (not ESF, no idea what they charge).
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C and D. The competition makes for better instruction and more competitive pricing. Having said that, the ESF tends to be the cheapest option in France and the smaller ski schools or "one man bands" are more expensive. The smaller ski schools in the likes of Vla D'Isere or the 3v are set up by and market themselves as having native english speakers, with smaller group sizes-especially for children- which is a big plus.
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Up until last season anyone could 'set up shop' in the Niseko United ski area of Hokkaido and offer ski and snowboard lessons.

Seeing money fly out the door the companies who run the lifts finally got together and started an Accreditation System.

You're now able to work as an independent instructor / ski school on the Niseko United slopes using their lift infrastructure and facilities if you can present:

Current instructor certification
Visa to be able to work in Japan
Accreditation fee of JPY ¥ 250,000 (£1,400) per instructor. This fee includes your season lift pass (JPY ¥100,000)

This seems fair to me.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Mon 6-10-14 11:10; edited 1 time in total
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Quote:

Should Ski Schools be granted Monopolies on Public Land?


Surely the fact that it's public land becomes moot as soon as the government leases it out to someone? If they lease it out to allow someone to operate a ski resort then that would likely include the rights to control ski services and operations. So although the land is still publicly owned it is effectively privately controlled and the lessee can choose how they want ski schools to operate unless the lease says otherwise.
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olderscot wrote:
Quote:

Should Ski Schools be granted Monopolies on Public Land?


Surely the fact that it's public land becomes moot as soon as the government leases it out to someone? If they lease it out to allow someone to operate a ski resort then that would likely include the rights to control ski services and operations. So although the land is still publicly owned it is effectively privately controlled and the lessee can choose how they want ski schools to operate unless the lease says otherwise.


Precisely - it all depends on the term of the lease. I would have thought it would be beneficial on competition grounds to the users of the ski area if the US Forest Service had a policy of not allowing the leaseholder to have a monopoly on ski instruction.
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It's an interesting question. I guess if a ski school is using the facilities that the people in legal charge of the land on which the snow sits, i.e. the groomed surface and the lift system and possibly the 'huts' (who owns these?), then the group/person in legal charge of the land has a right to say who can charge for services based on the use of their facilities. I imagine the sensible land owning/operating group has a system/criteria that allows anyone that they deem is suitable to apply for a license to operate a business based on the facilities that they provide. Is this any different to any other business, i.e. a harbour authority who might rent out docking rights to a business that might want to offer sight seeing trips on a boat? Or a shooting group who I imagine might have to apply/pay for a license if they wanted to shoot over land not owned by them? There seems to be a feeling that just because we are talking about snow that something different to 'fair play' ought to apply, but surely there are parallels in other industries that the ski industry could look at. I don't think the question is just pertinent because people see the instruction as something special, I think it goes further than that. I guess the interesting question is if someone wants to operate an offpiste ski instruction business on open access land - based only on hiking up and skiing down and never touching pisted runs and perhaps pays an insurance policy to cover the cost of rescue services, where would they stand? NB. This is an interesting thread.
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Most US Ski resorts operate on publicly owned land under the terms of a Special Use Permit issued by the Forest Service. I believe most Ski Area SUPs are issued for 40 years and are typically renewed without competitive bidding. Here is a link to a sample permit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/recreation/special-use/forms/new-forms/fs-2700-5b.pdf

Regarding exclusivity, it says:

E. Nonexclusive Use. This permit is not exclusive. The Forest Service reserves the right to use or permit others to use any part
of the permitted area for any purpose, provided such use does not materially interfere with the rights and privileges hereby
authorized.

but I don't know of any cases where the Forest Service has permitted a ski school other than that owned by the resort.
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Well if you read the permit you'll see that they want a share of the revenue generated by ski school operations so they clearly fall under the scope of the lease / permit:


****
AGR shall be calculated by summing the revenue from lift tickets and ski school operations prorated for use of National
Forest System lands and from ancillary facility operations conducted on National Forest System lands
****

I don't see how you could argue that running your own ski lessons on their ski resort would not interfere with the rights / privilege to run a ski school that they are paying for.
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olderscot, I guess it depends on whether you deem those rights to be exclusive or not.

I am not saying that individuals or non-resort ski school should be able to offer lessons without paying the same fees the resort owned ski school pays to the Forest Service. When it comes to river rafting operations, the forest service permits multiple companies on each river. Yes, a competing company may make it harder to turn an exceptionally high profit, but it does not interfere with your right to run and operate your own business.
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I must confess that I am not generally in favour of granting exclusive exploitation rights to unlimited public goods, particulary when the benefit is almost entirely contrary to the benefit of the public.
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Fairwages, but as others have said, the resort company has leased the land. Once that happens it is really up to them whether they choose to have one ski school or a hundreds there is no reason why they shouldn't decide on a purely commercial basis. If another ski school or instructor wants to operate on their leased land then it's up to them to make a commercially attractive offer. Think of it like a motorway service station. The operating company buys a lease and that gives it the right to offer food concessions as it sees fit, they have every right to stop someone setting up a coffee stall in the car park.

BTW, you mention above that you accept independents should pay fees but I'm not quite sure who to?

As it is still publicly owned land then I suppose you may have an argument that you should be allowed to operate there if you pay a license to the Forest service, but I guess that would have to be on the basis that neither your nor your clients used the lifts, pistes, car parks etc. not really feasible is it?
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under a new name wrote:
I must confess that I am not generally in favour of granting exclusive exploitation rights to unlimited public goods, particulary when the benefit is almost entirely contrary to the benefit of the public.


While I tend to agree about exclusive rights in general, a lift system etc is a fairly natural monopoly. I'd also disagree that the benefit might be contrary to the benefit of the public. How would license fees of many millions be contrary to the benefit of the public?
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foxtrotzulu, In the alps, where there are many lift systems, just not generally geographically in the same place, it's only at best a partial monopoly.

I choose to buy a Chamonix season pass, as we have property there. I ski very frequently with friends in Samoens. I could choose a GMs season pass and it actually might work out economically beneficial, all in.

What license fees of many millions, I don't understand that bit.

Competition is often healthy, monopolies often are not (c.f. Swisscom vs (even) the French comms market - I think teh UK market is going backwards at the moment)
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foxtrotzulu wrote:
Fairwages, but as others have said, the resort company has leased the land. Once that happens it is really up to them whether they choose to have one ski school or a hundreds there is no reason why they shouldn't decide on a purely commercial basis. If another ski school or instructor wants to operate on their leased land then it's up to them to make a commercially attractive offer. Think of it like a motorway service station. The operating company buys a lease and that gives it the right to offer food concessions as it sees fit, they have every right to stop someone setting up a coffee stall in the car park.

BTW, you mention above that you accept independents should pay fees but I'm not quite sure who to?

As it is still publicly owned land then I suppose you may have an argument that you should be allowed to operate there if you pay a license to the Forest service, but I guess that would have to be on the basis that neither your nor your clients used the lifts, pistes, car parks etc. not really feasible is it?


Yes and no...The agreement the resort owners sign with the forest service is not actually called a lease. Rather, it is called a special use permit that specifically says:

E. Nonexclusive Use. This permit is not exclusive. The Forest Service reserves the right to use or permit others to use any part
of the permitted area for any purpose, provided such use does not materially interfere with the rights and privileges hereby
authorized.

OTOH, the permit also says

A. Subleasing. The holder may sublease the use of land and improvements covered under this permit and the operation of
concessions and facilities authorized upon prior written notice to the authorized officer. The Forest Service reserves the right to
disapprove subleasees. In any circumstance, only those facilities and activities authorized by this permit may be subleased. The
holder shall continue to be responsible for compliance with all conditions of this permit by persons to whom such premises may be
sublet. The holder may not sublease direct management responsibility without prior written approval by the authorized officer.

My thinking is that the "Nonexclusive" clause allows the Forest Service to permit and charge fees to other ski schools and individuals so long as their operations do not materially interfere with the operations of the existing resort owned ski school. Of course, any students or instructors of these ski schools would have to buy a lift ticket/pass if they want to ride the lifts.
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under a new name wrote:
foxtrotzulu, In the alps, where there are many lift systems, just not generally geographically in the same place, it's only at best a partial monopoly.

I choose to buy a Chamonix season pass, as we have property there. I ski very frequently with friends in Samoens. I could choose a GMs season pass and it actually might work out economically beneficial, all in.

What license fees of many millions, I don't understand that bit.

Competition is often healthy, monopolies often are not (c.f. Swisscom vs (even) the French comms market - I think teh UK market is going backwards at the moment)


Isn't this what we are talking about? A resort company leases an area. Not the entire Rocky Mountains. Surely Alps vs Rockies is much the same situation in that sense (although AFAIK the Alps are privately owned land).

The license fee referred to is the payment made by the resort company to the Forest Service, or whoever. Of course, it may be that the fee is offset against an agreement to develop infrastructure or whatever.

Swisscom is not really a monopoly. They have just 54% of the mobile market, 54% of the fixed broadband market and just 24% of the IPTV market. Dominant, but not a monopoly. (Not that any of that is relevant).

I don't disagree with the principle that monopolies are inherently less healthy than competition, but in the example quoted by Fairwages it isn't quite comparable. IMO if the Forest Service were to issue other licenses then they would certainly end up in a legal battle as I can't see that this wouldn't be to the detriment of the lease holder, then they would have to administer the whole thing in NA's litigious climate. I can't see why they'd bother. If Fairwages reckons he can make a compelling business case to the resort operator then go for it, but the RO has invested heavily and needs to make their returns, and not just from lift tickets. In an ideal world the RO should have been told to appoint at least x ski schools to retain a level of competition.
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dogwatch, esf val d'isere 47 euros an hour according to their website. Locally I can get cheaper outside main holidays. British schools tend to be far more expensive I think.
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foxtrotzulu, quick answer, so, I think you broadly agree with me?

( off topic, Swisscom, has an effective monopoly in many areas who can't get cabletel (generally only effective alternate fixed line at least in Geneva) or/and Orange or Sunrise (whose coverages are both rather patchy outside high demand areas). I pay an extraordinary amount for very ordinary service compared to what I (think) I could arrange in France or UK).
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foxtrotzulu, US ski areas are a series of monopolies. At a Vail resort property you might be buying your transfer, accommodation, lift pass, ski rental, instruction, food and beverage on the mountain,apres beers from the same company. On a number of those especially instruction and on mountain catering there is zero competition. But down the road at the next resort they'll have a similar monopoly.

More than in Europe a cynical employer can pack ski school with under/unqualified instructors and still charge top dollar. Of course some places value their reputation and will still seek high quality instructors, however because unqualified can do the job they can exert downward wage pressure on higher certs leading to the ludicrous situation if customers paying $900 for a day's private then still being hit up for a substantial tip.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
foxtrotzulu, US ski areas are a series of monopolies. At a Vail resort property you might be buying your transfer, accommodation, lift pass, ski rental, instruction, food and beverage on the mountain,apres beers from the same company. On a number of those especially instruction and on mountain catering there is zero competition. But down the road at the next resort they'll have a similar monopoly.

More than in Europe a cynical employer can pack ski school with under/unqualified instructors and still charge top dollar. Of course some places value their reputation and will still seek high quality instructors, however because unqualified can do the job they can exert downward wage pressure on higher certs leading to the ludicrous situation if customers paying $900 for a day's private then still being hit up for a substantial tip.


Too true! I know of non-certified Instructors getting paid $10 per hour by the resort for a 3 hour private lesson the resort charges $600 for. Full Certs at these resorts start at $15/hr.

Not only is there a local monopoly for customers, but there is a monopsony in terms of ski instructors being able to sell their services. There are over 2,000 ski instructors who work in the Vail Valley, all of whom are employed by Vail Resorts. If a kid grows up in say Edwards, CO and wants to become a ski instructor, he has the following ski resort options locally:

1. Drive 10 minutes with no mountain passes and work at Beaver Creek for Vail Resorts.
2. Drive 17 minutes and work at Vail.
3. Drive 36 minutes in good conditions over a 10,600 foot (3,200 meters) mountain pass that can close at times in the winter to work at Copper Mountain (where instructors are paid even less than at Vail & Beaver Creek).
4. Drive an hour (in good conditions) to work for Vail Resorts at Breckenridge or Keystone.
5. Drive 1:36 (in good conditions) to Aspen where instructors are paid fairly.

foxtrotzulu, What is the example that I gave which you are referring to? How do you interpret the phrase "non exclusive use" in the standard Forest Service lease?
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pam w wrote:
dogwatch, esf val d'isere 47 euros an hour according to their website. Locally I can get cheaper outside main holidays. British schools tend to be far more expensive I think.


Thanks. I guess your last sentence is where my issue lies. No way in the world would I go to ESF.
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And, Dave of the Marmottes, the food is utilitarian, the beer rubbish, the rental kit shot and the après ski only entertaining if you are 19, have fake ID and are on spring break.
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I dream of being 19, with fake ID and on Spring Break!
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philwig wrote:
When a country says it's "the land of the free", the fact that they're having to say it about themselves is probably a bit of a clue as to the purpose of the statement and the veracity of it.
...
I don't think those are a particularly good set of options to pick from. I think there should be competition. If people deliver a poor service (eg ESF in France), then they should be allowed to die commercially as people vote with their wallets for something else. So broadly, I'm in favour of this working the same way everything else which actually works does. Any overarching control or closed-shop business is tends to kill competition and encourage mediocrity. Sack all the rule makers, let the market deal with it.


For those interested, it was Stephen T. Mather, a bipolar Head of the United States National Parks who promoted the
concept of the “regulated monopoly” concessioner on public land 100 years ago. http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/pubs/gtr556.pdf

The Vail Valley has 2 separate ski resorts that attract over 2 million skiers each year- Those skiers and 2,000+ instructors that work in the Vail Valley have only a single ski school to choose from.

In an effort at transparency, the Vail Ski and Snowboard School told those instructors that their NET PROFIT "Contribution" margin is 54.6% with the typical instructor being paid about $100 for teaching an all day private lesson the resort charges $850 for.

If you think this is wrong, please support https://www.facebook.com/pages/Fair-Wages-for-Ski-Instructors/897482290267031 and https://twitter.com/Fair_Wage and let https://twitter.com/bobbymurf and https://twitter.com/RickysRidge know how you feel.
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@Fairwages, is the instructor paid wages for periods where he is not assigned work? My guess is not, which makes the gross margin egregious, and no doubt only possible due to monopoly. My view is that the public landowner should make competition in instruction a condition of the concession to the resort managers.
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