Ski Patrollers have one of the most important jobs at ski resorts. They treat injuries, mark hazards and closed terrain, mitigate avalanche risks, and help guests out. This is why it’s extremely odd how some of the most experienced employees at resorts consistently get meager pay and underwhelming benefits. According to TownLift, one ski resort where these concerns have come to a head is Park City Mountain Resort in Utah. The season has started without an active contract for the patrollers with Vail Resorts. Last season, the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSA) opted back in due to pandemic concerns and the opportunities of bonuses. Over the past fifteen months, the two sides have held forty-two bargaining sessions. One of the key factors is the starting wage. In the original contract, the minimum wage for patrollers was $13.25 an hour. Negotiations have brought that wage to $15 an hour, but the union wants to get it up to $16.70. Other issues have involved employee retention, “education programs, training opportunities, uniforms, and paid sick leave.”
Business Manager for PCPSA, Patrick Murphy, said the following about the dispute: “We feel we’re getting closer. Both the company and our bargaining committee presented large amounts of research, backing up our discussions… We’ve had a lot of disagreements with the company, in particular about employee retention. And in light of that, we just want to keep open the option to continue to have this open discourse with the company on these types of terms. A lot of these skills are not things that you can master quickly, it takes time. It takes years on the job to safely mitigate this avalanche hazard, especially with a mountain as vast and complex as ours. With as many employees as we have, it’s of the utmost importance that we have experience so that we can safely manage these hazards and keep our guests and our employees safe.”
With a lack of terrain being open for their opening day, not many patrollers were needed. According to KPCW, around thirty patrollers held a demonstration at the roundabout leading up to the Canyons Village to promote their cause. Some of the signs included “Experienced Patrol=Safer Resorts”, “$17 Chicken Tenders, $15 Patrol Wage”, and “Not on Strike, Just Practicing”. It’s a developing situation that could become a major story if the two sides can’t reach a deal by the time the mountain actually has snow on it. In solidarity, partner mountain Stevens Pass Professional Patrol Union has created their own Instagram page in light of their similar contract negotiations with Vail Resorts.
Here was Vail Resorts statement on the matter to TownLift:
“We are continuing to bargain in good faith with our ski patrol’s union. Our recent discussions have been productive and we feel we’re close to coming to an agreement.
We have listened closely to and addressed the key points our patrollers and the union have voiced over the past year, including wages, professional training opportunities, equipment reimbursements, and sick time off. With this, we’ve offered them a multi-year, comprehensive proposal that delivers wage increases to all returning patrollers and increased wage caps to allow more room for our most experienced patrollers to earn merit increases before hitting a pay ceiling.
This multi-year agreement also offers parity to our resorts in Colorado; if patrol wages increase in Colorado we will automatically match these wages in Utah without needing to return to the bargaining table…”