I’m a private ski instructor in Aspen, where lessons can cost $1,000 a person. I’ve taught celebrities and been gifted trips to beach houses — here’s what my job is like.

Summary List Placement

I’ve been skiing for 43 years, and I started teaching when I was 17 in Austria. 

After I left Europe, I really wanted to learn how to ski moguls. Moguls aren’t really a thing in Europe and aren’t huge in New Zealand, where I’m from. 

Aspen was just a really incredible place that had a big draw and a lot of talent came here.

I remember somebody saying to me, “Do you want to be a big fish in a small pond? Or do you want to be a small fish in a big pond?” And that sounded really intriguing to me. I’ve been in Aspen for 20 years. 

I’m a mom, so I must start the day with coffee. 

I make myself a latte and I put a nice glass of cream in because I deserve it. I get the kids ready and put them on the school bus, although one’s doing a bit of online schooling at the moment. 

Private lessons start at different times. But this morning I got out for the first tracks on Aspen Mountain, which is just such a wonderful thing that you can do with a ski instructor. We loaded the lift at a quarter past eight in the morning, when the mountain’s not really considered open yet. There’s a designated run, and you’ve got all this corduroy (groomed snow) and there’s very few people, so you get this incredible experience. 

People do private lessons for lots of different reasons. Some people want to just jump the lines. Some people want to have a buddy. Some people want to be dragged to places that they’re not going to choose to go to themselves. And some people do it so that the family dynamic can be super chill, because you’ve got somebody else that’s looking at what everyone needs. I’m looking for when somebody needs a drink or needs to go to the bathroom or needs a snack, all that kind of stuff. 

This year, you’re not going to have more than five people in a private group lesson. 

If you’re buying one seven days in advance, the rate is $248 per person. A full-day solo private lesson is $865 at the advanced purchase price and $990 when purchased in-resort at a peak time. We occasionally do half-day privates at an advanced rate of $670 and $795 when purchased in-resort at a peak time. (These prices don’t include lift tickets, which currently run $189 per weekend day for an adult.) 

People that engage in a ski or snowboard lesson are statistically more likely to return to the resort.

Most of the famous people who come out skiing love being anonymous when they’re here. 

We ski with a lot of well-known actors and singers, and people who are more on the political stage. I often have to Google people that I’m going to ski with because, coming from New Zealand, we have a whole different realm of celebrity. For us, athletes are our heroes. 

It’s kind of fun skiing with people that are famous in their own countries. I think they find it really refreshing that you have no idea what they do and who they are.

Some people enjoy the legal marijuana part of Colorado. 

Earlier this year, I was skiing with a group and one went into the bathroom. I was waiting and waiting and wondering where they were. And then I went inside, and they’re asleep in a chair. I’ve never had somebody fall asleep on me before! So I was like, oh, my goodness, what’s going on? And they sheepishly told me after they woke up that they had had a few gummy bears and were feeling a bit under the weather.

All instructors start at the Aspen Mountain School based on what their qualification is and how many teaching hours they’ve had.

There’s a scale for hourly compensation. Every couple hundred hours of teaching, you go up to another level. By the time that spring hits, and people are thinking more about margaritas, it encourages them to be motivated to stay teaching. That payscale is something that we’re very proud of here: That we are compensated according to how much we’ve invested in this profession. 

But when you don’t work, you don’t get paid. That’s one of the big risks of being an instructor. It’s a short season to begin with, probably about four months. To put it into perspective this year, 20 days of my January work are not here because they’re internationals that are not currently able to travel to America. I’m filling it in here and there — we have a big referral system. There are those of us that would generally work every day of the season. Right now, instructors can sign up for extra hours by doing things like mask patrol on the mountain.

Different nationalities have different views on what tipping is. 

It’s not a given, but it’s just hugely appreciated when it happens. I’ve been tipped in gifts before, like I’ve been able to go and stay at somebody’s home at a beach. I’ve been taken on a three-day hut trip. I’ve visited clients in Thailand and in Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, we were taken out on a junk in the harbor. These are just incredible experiences, where I kind of pinched myself going, holy cow. 

If you didn’t grow up skiing, sometimes people wonder what all the fuss is about. But it’s just such a rewarding experience to master different things on skis and to move around the mountain and see beautiful views. Especially now with COVID-19, I feel so privileged to be able to see a beautiful vista with this crazy world we’re in at the moment. 

This year, we’re not having a particularly great snow year, but today the snow was amazing. We’re just so spoiled. Aspen, to me, is about being spoiled. And I love it.

SEE ALSO: I spent 3 days in the most expensive ski town in the US, where a lift ticket costs $184 a day — and I was surprised to find that not everything there catered to the 1%

Join the conversation about this story »

This content was originally published here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *