Heading to the USA to ski? Then you need our tipping guide.

Australians come from a land that actually pays a living wage and customer service is then rewarded with tips, if it’s good, so hospitality workers don’t rely on their tips down under like Americans do.

We’re not known for our service in Australia, try getting someone to help you in David Jones or Myer and expect to watch the tumbleweed roll by. But we are known in the USA for our tipping, or lack of it.

There’s no point debating tipping or fighting it, just pay up while in the USA and you won’t get yourself into trouble. We’d all prefer the minimum wage to be a living wage in the USA, especially those working in hospitality, but it’s not up to we tourists to change that.

I know, I know, the exchange rate is already a killer so forking over up to 20% (yes I said 20%) of any bar bill can have you sobbing in a foetal position under the bar. Whatever you do at this point do not accept help from anyone as they may also expect a tip, better to just lie there and cry.

I am constantly told I over tip but it’s my guilty Australia conscience. I don’t want to be known as that tight arsed Australian girl who never says thank you financially. Instead I carry the weight of an entire nation of non tippers and throw my hard earned money at those who in some bars and restaurants just don’t work hard enough for it.

Be warned many dining destinations in ski towns expect you to order at the counter, collect your own cutlery and condiments from a self serve bench and then bus your own table when you’re done. Yes, they still expect a tip. I know, right?

Traditionally coat check people don’t even get a wage they just get tips but during peak season they can make well over US$450 a night in cash. I never check my coat in, I prefer to have it hanging over the back of my chair not because I resent them earning more than I do but because, well, I resent them earning more than I do.

As a rule of thumb in ski towns you tip hairdressers (20%), you tip cab drivers (10 – 15%), you tip barmen and waiters (20%) and you tip ski instructors (20%). If you’re buying a coffee or a meal in a venue where you order at the counter and bus your own table then 15% is fine.

Though to be honest if you’re a tourist in a ski town so long as you tip between 15% and 20% dependent on service level you’ll be fine. You also tip on the amount before tax. Download a Tip Calculator app such as Tip Calculator by iHandy if maths is not your fortè.

When I stay in a hotel I will over tip on day one to the car valet or bellmen and then undertip from then on. Word gets out on day one what kind of tipper you are and it can seriously impact your service so start big.

If you are staying in a hotel you certainly don’t have to tip 20% of the price of the entire bill, that would just be ludicrous. You can choose to tip individuals as you go or tip at the end and ensure they go into a tip pool. But you’ll want the individuals to know that’s how you’ll be tipping or they might get a bit antsy that you’re not paying up.

You don’t have to tip boot fitters nor do you tip retailers or gondola lifties. You do tip ski guides, snow mobile guides, any guides, ski valets and ski concierge. You also tip massage therapists, nail technicians, spa attendants, babysitters and dog walkers.

If you are in doubt just ask. People are pretty straight up (well, when it comes to money the rest of the time it’s hard to tell) and they will let you know what they do and don’t expect. They’ll also chase you down the street if you dare to leave zero.

But seriously, the USA is an awesome place to ski. The service levels are high, everyone’s on a buzz, people smile, they chat, they say hello. It’s like the Truman Snow Show and I dare you not to feel that love and beam right back. This kind of vibe is contagious. Until you don’t tip.

So do carry around cash in small bills with you. Lots of ones and fives will do. I once ended up tipping a driver $20 on a $50 ride because he said he didn’t have change. Yeah, right.

The iPad invoice system that most companies use will give you the option of adding a tip. Some ballsy companies have 20%, 25% or 30%. Others have 18%, 20% and 25% (still ballsy). But don’t feel bullied you can always add your own tip amount because I don’t know on what planet 30% is considered a standard tip amount.

But whatever you do, DO add a tip amount.

If you don’t I will forever be forking out more than I should just to make up for my fellow country folk.

It’s bad enough I have to deal with the coffee.

14 things that will surprise Aussies skiing in the USA


  1. I have lived and worked In the US. I hate the tipping. I put my 3 kids in ski school in Snowmass last year and was then told I was expected to pay a hefty tip to the ski instructors on top of the already rather pricey lessons…..not bloody happy. Skiing in Japan this year….no tipping…luv it.

    • I’ve just come back from 10 days at Niseko and it was great. The Japanese and other nationalities working there are all a delight and seem very happy. So glad to not have to deal with the situation in the US that sounds very uncomfortable and nothing to do with good customer service.

    • so if I tell you to give me a hefty tip can you please send it to my bank account.

      Tipping is NOT compulsory.

      If someone says what about a tip, you simply say, no or

      be good to your mother.

      What are they going to do ? Shoot you ? (suppose it is the land of the gun)

  2. You should never EVER tip in Australia. Tipping in USA ski towns – 20% is not required. Noticed recently on lots of restaurants bills, suggested tipping amounts of 20, 18 & 15%.

    10% is fine most of the time.

    Some restaurants are actually paying workers more & banning, yes, banning tipping.

    Get the impression, many yanks tip less they we do.

  3. I have used this guide when in the States and Canada: 10% if service just ok, 15% if good, 18% -20% if great and if you have to serve yourself or the service is crap forget it there is no tip. Sitting at a bar, I’ll usually add $1 to the pride of a drink (which is cheap anyway and then the service is fantastic and the drinks just get stronger).


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