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Vail Resorts outlines details for PCMR ski season, including reservation system

Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts on Thursday outlined a blueprint for operations during the ski season that, crucially, introduces a reservation system for people wanting to ski or snowboard on any given day during what will be the first North American ski season held in the era of social distancing.

The Vail Resorts announcement ends months of speculation about the mechanics of the ski season at PCMR. It was timed three months before the traditional start of the season at many places in North America and as the spread of the novel coronavirus, which forced an early end to the most recent ski season, continues.

The plans are designed to manage the crowds at PCMR and the other resorts as well as ensure the skiers and snowboarders practice social distancing on the slopes and elsewhere on the properties.

The reservation system appears to be especially important to the overall plans. According to Vail Resorts, reservations will be required each day of the season throughout the firm’s resorts in North America. Vail Resorts says there is a possibility the reservation system will not be required at certain resorts later in the season.

People who hold a pass are allowed on Nov. 6 to begin reserving dates to ski or snowboard between Dec. 8 and April 4. Prior to Dec. 8, Vail Resorts will release times for reservations a week ahead. Reservations will be made online or on the phone.

Vail Resorts will offer the pass holders what are known as Priority Reservation Days, with the holders having up to seven of those days. The pass holders also will have the ability to book days within one week of their selected date, known as week-of reservations. The early season period, prior to Dec. 8, will allow as many reservations as are available, Vail Resorts said.

The company said it expects “that for many days throughout the season, pass holders will be able to make a reservation within the week of their desired date.”

Lift tickets, meanwhile, will be sold starting on Dec. 8. Lift tickets will be sold with a reservation for a certain date at one of the resorts, meaning a further reservation is not required. The Dec. 8 start date of lift ticket sales means only people holding passes will be on the slopes prior to that date. Opening day at PCMR is scheduled for Nov. 20.

“It has been our goal to design an approach that can remain in place for all of the 2020/21 season. We do not want to be caught off guard or find ourselves needing to make reactionary changes. Striving for consistency will provide our guests, employees and communities with as much predictability as possible this season, which we believe is worth the extra effort,” Rob Katz, the CEO of Vail Resorts, said in a prepared statement as the plans were outlined.

Vail Resorts also outlined its plans for physical distancing. People who are together will be able to ride lifts and gondolas with each other. People who are not together will be seated with space between them. Two people will be seated on the opposite sides of a four-person lift while two people or two pairs of people will be seated on the opposite sides of a six-person lift. Two people will be seated on opposite sides of gondolas. Physical distancing will also be practiced in restaurants on the mountain and locations where people rent skis and snowboards.

The information from Vail Resorts did not include details about the capacity of the resorts. A spokesperson said capacity details have not been finalized and are expected to evolve as the resorts better understand the operations as well as through consultation with the communities where the resorts are located. The spokesperson said the capacity should be adequate on most days to accommodate anyone wanting to ski or snowboard on a specific date.

The Vail Resorts information released on Thursday will be important to a wide swath of the Park City community. Many PCMR skiers and snowboarders now have some of the key information about the season that they desired prior to making a decision regarding season passes. The business community, meanwhile, can better prepare for the ski season with some of the details having been made public.

More information is available at epicpass.com/info/reservation-details while a letter from Katz is available at news.vailresorts.com/corporate/vailresorts/winter-operating-plan-2020-letter.htm.

Utah logged 4.4 million skier visits in 2019-20. But the pandemic likely prevented a second straight record season.

A pandemic that forced the closure of the mountain resorts with several weeks left in the scheduled ski season didn’t stop Utah from logging one of it’s busiest-ever winters. 

The state’s ski industry saw nearly 4.4 million skier visits during the 2019-20 winter, the fourth most ever, Ski Utah announced Wednesday. 

But the news wasn’t exactly a call for celebration. Nathan Rafferty, president and CEO of Ski Utah, said in a prepared statement that the premature end to the season was “devastating for our ski resorts and for our community.” The organization said that, despite experiencing the highest per-capita spending on record over the winter, Utah’s ski industry lost $232.4 million due to the early resort closures, according to expert estimates. 

Before the coronavirus hit, prompting resorts to stop their lifts in mid-March, the outlook was rosy. According to Ski Utah, the state was likely headed to another record season after breaking 5 million skier visits for the first time during the 2018-19 winter. 

Instead, skier visits declined 14.3% from the previous season, though they finished 2.4% above the 10-year average. 

“Utah was poised to log a second record season in a row before resort closures began on March 14, one of the busiest check-in days of the season,” Rafferty said. “I am proud of our industry and the difficult but responsible decisions made by Utah resorts to prioritize the safety of their guests and employees. While it’s sure to look different next winter with new safety measures in place, I am optimistic that skiing and riding will be better than ever during the upcoming 2020–21 ski season.”

Ski Utah did not release data about skier visits at individual resorts, though Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort are two of the biggest draws in the state. It is believed that in the 2018-19 season, for instance, PCMR and Deer Valley together tallied roughly 2 million skier days. 

Deer Valley and PCMR, along with Woodward Park City, closed at the end of the second week of March, shortly after the first case in Utah of community spread of the coronavirus was discovered in Park City. The final day of the ski season at both Deer Valley and PCMR was initially scheduled to be April 12. 

The abrupt end to the season rippled through the tourism-reliant Park City economy, as businesses were counting on strong spring break crowds and another month of steady sales. 

The ski resorts suffered greatly, as well. Both PCMR and Deer Valley furloughed hundreds of employees as part of cost-cutting measures their parent companies indicated were necessary due to the financial fallout of the pandemic. The National Ski Areas Association, meanwhile, recently said the pandemic resulted in losses of at least $2 billion for the U.S. ski industry as a whole. 

Nationally, skier trends mirrored those in Utah. In releasing the nationwide skier visitation count last week, the National Ski Areas Association indicated the industry was tracking toward one of its best seasons on record before resorts across the country, like those in Utah, closed early. Instead, skier visits totaled 51.1 million, a dip of nearly 14% from the 2018-19 season. 

PCMR announces July 2 summer opening

Park City Mountain Resort will soon be back in action, announcing Thursday that it plans to open for the summer July 2. 

The resort said operations will be scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic. Offerings will include scenic lift rides, hiking and biking, the alpine slide and the mountain coaster, with grab-and-go dining available at Jupiter Java. 

“Park City summers are beautiful and we’re looking forward to enjoying the next few months here in the mountains that we all love,” said PCMR Chief Operating Officer Mike Goar in a prepared statement. “Although summer may look a bit different this year, we know people are eager to get back outside and we are thrilled to be opening this July with activities that our guests can safely enjoy in the outdoors.”

PCMR also indicated it will implement strict protocols to guard against the spread of COVID-19. The safety measures include requiring guests to physically distance, mandating they wear face masks in certain areas like lines and on the alpine slide and mountain coaster, and reducing the capacity of lifts and gondolas. 

Additionally, the resort will require employees to wear face masks and will frequently disinfect high-touch surfaces.

“While we are offering limited summer activities, we are lucky that our beautiful outdoor settings provide a landscape to experience nature and to easily practice physical distancing so we all can safely return to the mountains we love,” said Pat Campbell, president of PCMR owner Vail Resorts’ mountain division, in a statement. “It is our expectation that guests help us ensure the experience is safe for them and for our employees by following our new guidelines. As summer progresses, we look forward to opening more activities and adventures at our resorts.” 

The summer opening would come three and a half months after the coronavirus forced a premature end to the ski season, which battered the ski industry financially. PCMR shortly after the early closure furloughed nearly 400 employees as part of Vail Resorts’ widespread cost-cutting measures in response to the pandemic. 

Summer operations are not nearly as crucial to mountain resorts’ financial well-being as the ski season, but the announcement of the summer opening is likely to be seen as positive news in Park City.  

Deer Valley Resort plans to open for the summer June 26.

Vail Daily: Vail Resorts reports rough spring, summer optimism

Like just about every other person and entity, Vail Resorts has had a tough spring.

Vail Resorts on Thursday afternoon released its earnings report for the third quarter of its fiscal year, February through the end of April. That’s usually the company’s most profitable quarter, but operations were short-circuited by the worldwide outbreak of the COVID-19 virus and the March 15 shutdown of all Vail Resorts’ North American resorts.

The company took a 47.8% decline in net income during the quarter compared to the previous year. Total net revenue declined 27.5%.

In a statement, Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz said that the decline in third-quarter revenue began in the first two weeks of March, stating that, “We experienced a negative change in performance that we believe was due to the impact of COVID-19 on traveler behavior.”

The statement adds that the company actually expected a steeper drop in net revenue. The statement notes that the company expected a third-quarter decline of between $180 million and $200 million in resort reported EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization). Results weren’t that bad, to the tune of about $40 million, the report states.

While Vail Resorts suffered a bad quarter, Katz said he’s optimistic about the future in a Thursday earnings call.

Katz noted that the resorts expect to be open for summer operations and the Australian ski season by late June or early July.

‘Tremendous passion’

And, speaking to analysts on the conference call, Katz said there are indicators of a “tremendous passion and enthusiasm to get back.”

For now, though, Katz said the company is counting in large part on drive-up visitation.

“Consumer sentiment seems to be the shorter the distance the better,” Katz said.

Katz added that the company believes it can see good results from future pass sales. An April 27 announcement offered credits for a 2020-21 pass to those who bought passes for the 2019-20 season. Those credits can be up to 80% for season pass holders who didn’t use their passes this past season.

The company also introduced Epic Coverage to replace third-party pass insurance.

Katz told analysts that while the travel and recreation industry, in general, is in a “constantly moving environment,” Vail Resorts is focused on the guest experience in an era of social distancing.

Katz noted that Vail Resorts’ operations in general put people outside on large mountains. But, he added, the company is paying attention to “pinch points” including lifts and restaurants.

Analyst Sean Kelley of Bank of America asked Katz about the company moving its pass-sale deadlines.

What about passes?

Katz noted that the company does a “huge percentage” of business based on deadlines. While it’s too early to see trends, Katz reiterated his optimism that skier and riders want to ski and ride.

“Anecdotally, we’re getting good response from many passholders,” Katz said. “People understand this is a tough moment.”

And, while there may be fewer people on the mountains this winter, Katz said those who do come can expect “the full mountain experience.”

That mountain experience starts this summer at the company’s resorts in Australia. Katz said the experience at those resorts will help the company plan for winter in North America.

Analyst Chris Waronka of Deutsche Bank asked how the current labor and housing environment might affect the company’s operations this winter.

Katz acknowledged that there could be “eased pressure” on local labor and housing markets, which could present a “small opportunity” for the company.

“We’ll use this (opportunity) to make sure we stay out ahead,” Katz said. “We probably will have an easier time fully staffing.”

That staffing will include the company’s hourly full-time employees, all of whom were furloughed shortly after the March 15 resort shutdown.

“We have a goal of getting those employees back to work,” he said.

Deer Valley announces plans to open for summer in June

After a ski season cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, action will soon return to Park City’s mountains. 

Deer Valley Resort announced Thursday that it will begin summer operations June 26, offering lift-served mountain biking, hiking and scenic chairlift rides, albeit with significant protocols in place to guard against the spread of COVID-19. 

The resort indicated in a press release it will take “extensive measures to comply with COVID-19 cleaning, operating procedures and guidelines” and will adhere to the safety mandates imposed by Summit County. It will also limit the number of guests allowed on the mountain at any one time, with day lift tickets being sold on a first-come, first-served basis. 

“We have been working diligently to offer a summer experience on the mountain this year and altering our operations to comply with all COVID-19 safety standards and guidelines,” said Deer Valley President and COO Todd Shallan in a prepared statement. “Although operations will look a bit different than in years past, we are very much looking forward to opening the resort once again and welcoming guests back to Deer Valley.”

The resort will allow outdoor dining at three restaurants this summer — Deer Valley Grocery-Cafe, Royal Street Cafe and Silver Lake Snack Shack — and plans to reopen its lodging properties Monday. 

The resort acknowledged, however, that its summer operations could be altered if the health situation in Summit County changes. The county is in the low-risk phase of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s pandemic response plan, and the numbers of new confirmed cases have fallen sharply after peaking in early April. 

“We will continue to monitor evolving COVID-19 procedures and guidelines and take all necessary precautions to comply, including making changes to our summer operations plan if necessary,” the resort said. 

The opening announcement comes two and a half months after Deer Valley, like other resorts in Utah and across the country, closed abruptly at the outset of the coronavirus crisis, with weeks left in the scheduled ski season. Nearly 300 resort employees were furloughed in early April or saw their hours reduced as part of significant cost-saving measures necessitated by the early closure. 

While the summer tourism season in Park City is not nearly as lucrative as the winter, word of the resort’s opening is likely to be welcomed in a business community that has been battered by the pandemic and the strict measures health officials enacted to counter it. 

There remains widespread concern about summer business, particularly in light of the cancellation of the Park Silly Sunday Market and the Tour of Utah bicycling race, two popular events that draw large crowds to Park City, as well as the slate of summer concerts planned at Deer Valley. With health restrictions still in place, and continuing apprehension among the general public about contracting the coronavirus, the pandemic is likely to continue to weigh on the local economy in the coming months. 

Park City Mountain Resort has not released specifics about when it will open for the summer. Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, which owns PCMR, recently indicated in a letter to employees that the company was aiming to open all of its properties by late June or early July.

Banjo CEO Damien Patton resigns in wake of KKK revelations

The CEO and founder of Kimball Junction-based Banjo has resigned after revelations about his past ties to white supremacist groups imperiled the artificial intelligence firm’s contracts with the state of Utah and other prominent clients.

The company announced the departure of Damien Patton, a visible presence in Utah’s tech scene, in a statement posted on its website Friday. In April, a news report from the tech news outlet OneZero revealed that Patton was once a member of the Ku Klux Klan and, as a 17-year-old, was the driver in a 1990 drive-by shooting of a synagogue in Tennessee.

“I’m deeply honored to have worked alongside the Banjo team and am proud of all we have accomplished thus far,” Patton said in the statement. “I am confident Banjo’s greatest days are still ahead, and will do everything in my power to ensure our mission succeeds. However, under the current circumstances, I believe Banjo’s best path forward is under different leadership.”

After Patton’s past came to light, the Utah Attorney General’s Office suspended its contract with Banjo, pending a third-party audit to examine issues like data privacy and the potential of bias in the technology. According to news reports, State Auditor John Dougall will conduct the review.

The Park City Police Department and Summit County Sheriff’s Office both utilize Banjo’s services through the company’s contract with the Attorney General’s Office. Park City Manager Matt Dias has said City Hall supports the review.

Banjo uses its artificial intelligence technology to collect massive amounts of data from various sources, then provides information to law enforcement agencies and first responders. The company says its service allows authorities to respond faster to emergencies.

Critics have voiced privacy concerns regarding Banjo’s technology and government entities having access to it. The company maintains the data it gathers is anonymized and that it uses sufficient safeguards to protect privacy.

The company has confronted increased questioning following a March VICE news report that examined Banjo’s contracts with government agencies in Utah.

Patton apologized for his past actions after the publication of the OneZero report. He has said he no longer holds racist views, characterizing them as “abhorrent and indefensible.”

“I am deeply ashamed of this time in my life and feel sincere remorse and deep regret for my affiliation with hateful groups whose actions and beliefs are completely despicable, immoral and indefensible,” he said in a statement in April.

​“I am sorry to all those who I have hurt and offended and understand that no apology will undo what I have done. For the last 30 years, I have worked to right this grievous mistake as a lost, misguided adolescent kid.”

Taking over for Patton as CEO is Justin R. Lindsey, who has been Banjo’s chief technology officer.

“Nine months ago I was inspired by Banjo’s mission to join the company full time as the CTO,” Lindsey said in the statement. “As CEO, I’m looking forward to continuing Banjo’s dedication to technology solutions that protect privacy.”

Summit County lifts stay-at-home mandate, detailing restrictions in new public health order

Summit County lifted its stay-at-home mandate Friday morning in a new public health order that relaxes some of the strictest measures that have forced the area economy into a standstill and allows most businesses to reopen, albeit under expansive restrictions meant to guard against a surge in coronavirus cases.

The move marks a new step — dubbed the stabilization phase — in the community’s response to the pandemic and reflects health officials’ increasing confidence that the presence of the disease in the county is at a manageable level.

Far from a return to normal, though, the order requires residents and businesses to continue to comply with strict social distancing protocols and other measures meant to prevent the spread of the virus.

While remaining at home is no longer mandatory, the order nonetheless instructs residents to do so as much as they can, including by working from home when possible. Residents are also advised to wear non-surgical face masks in public, while gatherings must be limited to 20 or fewer people.

Businesses are required to comply with a bevy of restrictions ranging from stringent sanitization protocols to caps on the number of patrons they can allow inside at one time.

The 54-page order was issued at the direction of Health Director Rich Bullough and County Manager Tom Fisher. The Summit County Council approved the order unanimously in a special meeting Thursday afternoon. It went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday.

“We’re putting a lot of faith in everybody in the community to do their part and abide by the new rules,” said Councilor Kim Carson during the meeting. “… I think if we follow this, we can slowly begin to open things back up, get our businesses back open and slowly begin to build the activity levels within our communities.”

Among the most notable restrictions on private businesses are those that apply to restaurants, which have been limited to providing only curbside or delivery service since mid-March.

Dine-in service is permitted as long as establishments limit tables to groups of six — unless the patrons are members of the same household — and keep groups at least 6 feet apart. Restaurants are also required to close for cleaning in the morning, afternoon and evening. Bars can operate under additional restrictions, such as a ban on at-the-bar seating.

Other types of businesses that can reopen include salons, gyms and retail shops, though they, too, need to abide by a number of rigorous conditions. As an example, salons aren’t allowed to accept walk-in clients, while gyms and retail shops are required to limit the number of patrons inside to one person per 100 square feet of floor space.

Grocery stores are also compelled to cap the number of patrons using that formula, in addition to restrictions such as limiting aisles to one-way traffic.

Up to 20 people are allowed at theaters and other entertainment venues, as long as social distancing protocols are followed. Gatherings of that many people are also permitted at churches, though the order encourages them to use video conferencing instead of meeting in person.

All businesses in the county, meanwhile, must take actions such as posting signage with information about proper protocols, screening employees for symptoms of the coronavirus before their shifts and appointing someone responsible for “COVID-19 issues and their impact in the workplace.”

Absent from the order is a ban on visitors, who were required to leave as part of the stay-at-home mandate. Bullough said Thursday, however, that non-essential travel remains unwise. He urged visitors, including from neighboring areas, to refrain from coming into Summit County for reasons other than work.

“If you’re considering coming here to recreate, we still have a small hospital,” he said, referring to lingering fears that a spike in coronavirus patients could overwhelm health care infrastructure. “Our obligation is still to our residents.”

The prospect of reopening is likely to be welcomed by many businesses that have awaited eased restrictions after the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the community last month prompted the stay-at-home mandate. It is unclear, though, how quickly customers will return, given continuing concern about the virus.

The growth of confirmed cases slowed after the stay-at-home order was enacted. Officials have said public health data, including information gleaned from a recent testing push that included many asymptomatic people, indicates that it is safe to gradually reopen the economy, even as some residents, apprehensive about the possibility of igniting another outbreak, have expressed skepticism about the wisdom of doing so.

Predictions about the economic effects of the pandemic remain grim, even in light of the reopening plans, though much about the evolving situation is still unknown. The Park City government is projecting a 36% drop in sales tax revenue in the fiscal year that begins in July versus what had been expected, for instance, contributing to an anticipated budget shortfall of nearly $8.6 million.

County officials early in the week indicated they were planning to implement a new order at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, minutes after the stay-at-home order was initially slated to expire, but moved it up to Friday to coincide with the governor’s reopening timeline for the state.

The new health order is scheduled to remain in place through July 1. Health officials, notably, plan to reevaluate it in two weeks and could reinstate a stay-at-home order if the spread of the coronavirus has “substantially increased.”

“We’re very hopeful moving forward, but it’s going to be a team effort, it’s going to be a community effort,” Bullough said during the council meeting.

To view the health order in its entirety, go to https://www.summitcounty.org/DocumentCenter/View/10897/Joint-Public-Health-Order-2020-05—Stabilization-Phase.

UPDATED: Banjo CEO Damien Patton under scrutiny after report details past involvement with KKK

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comment from the Park City manager and Summit County sheriff.

The CEO of the Snyderville Basin-based artificial intelligence firm Banjo is facing scrutiny following a news report that revealed he used to be a member of a white supremacist group and was once involved in the shooting of a synagogue.

The report, published Tuesday by tech news outlet OneZero, shows Damien Patton was part of a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee and, as a 17-year-old, was behind the wheel during a drive-by shooting in which a Klan leader fired a handgun into a synagogue near Nashville.

Patton pleaded guilty to acts of juvenile delinquency for the 1990 incident, according to the report, which was based on courtroom testimony, court records and sworn statements. No people were hit or killed during the shooting.

Banjo, headquartered in Kimball Junction, uses artificial intelligence to collect reams of data it then provides to law enforcement and emergency responders, including some agencies in Summit County. The company claims its technology helps authorities react quicker and more efficiently to emergencies.

In a written statement posted on the company’s website, Patton apologized for his actions, saying he no longer holds racist views and has sought to make amends for his past. He added that he was abused as a child, leading him to leave home at an early age and live on the streets, where he said he was taken in by “skinhead gangs and white supremacist organizations.”

“I am deeply ashamed of this time in my life and feel sincere remorse and deep regret for my affiliation with hateful groups whose actions and beliefs are completely despicable, immoral and indefensible,” he said in the statement.

​“I am sorry to all those who I have hurt and offended and understand that no apology will undo what I have done. For the last 30 years, I have worked to right this grievous mistake as a lost, misguided adolescent kid.”

The revelations were publicized as Banjo has come under increased scrutiny following a March news article from VICE that shed light on the company’s lucrative business contracts with the state and involvement with various other law enforcement agencies in Utah.

Critics have raised concerns about the privacy implications of Banjo and the agencies it works with having access to the massive amounts of data the company collects, ranging from social media posts to surveillance camera footage. The company, which touts a mission to “reduce human suffering,” contends it does not gather personal identifying information, that it does not track individuals and that it has implemented sufficient measures to protect privacy.

After Patton’s involvement with white supremacist groups was publicized Tuesday, the Utah Attorney General’s Office said it would suspend its use of Banjo’s technology and implement an outside review to explore issues like data privacy and the possibility of bias in the technology.

“The Utah Attorney General’s Office is shocked and dismayed at reports that Banjo’s founder had any affiliation with any hate group or groups in his youth,” a statement from the Attorney General’s Office said. “Neither the Attorney General nor anyone in the Attorney General’s Office were aware of these affiliations or actions. They are indefensible. He has said so himself.

“Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and the Attorney General’s Office absolutely condemn the hate and violence promoted by supremacist groups and will continue to aggressively fight crimes and decry domestic terror perpetrated by them.”

The Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office are among the agencies that utilize Banjo’s technology. Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter, for instance, said during a 2019 panel discussion that the department was working with the firm on an initiative to model evacuation plans based on GPS data in the event of a wildfire.

Both agencies indicated in response to Park Record inquiries that they do not pay Banjo and instead use the company’s services through its contract with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Park City Manager Matt Dias said in a prepared statement Thursday that City Hall agrees with the attorney general’s actions.

“Park City wholeheartedly supports the decision by the Utah Attorney General’s Office to immediately suspend its contract with Banjo and implement a third-party audit, and advisory committee,” Dias said in the statement. “Park City intends to cooperate and support the audit in any way possible, and has ceased sharing or using Banjo until the outcome of the audit is complete.”

Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said in a written response that Banjo’s technology has enabled the Sheriff’s Office to “solve cases in a timely and efficient fashion.”

“As the Sheriff, I ensure all of our partnerships with outside contractors act in accordance with citizen civil rights and protecting of privacy,” he said Thursday.

The Park Record has submitted public records requests to both the Park City Police Department and the Summit County Sheriff’s Office seeking additional information about their involvement with the company.

Banjo on Wednesday announced that it would suspend all of its governmental contracts in Utah until a third-party audit of its operations has been completed.

“The audit will have direct oversight by the state and will look to ensure there’s no bias in the technology, that Banjo is not a surveillance company and that all data for the state is being handled per the contract,” the company said in a statement posted to its website.

​”Banjo’s mission is to save lives and minimize human suffering to help first responders in emergency situations while not invading people’s civil liberties and rights. We are looking forward to the audit to show that we can build technology to help save lives and protect people’s rights.”

Patton founded Banjo in 2010 in California and moved the company to the Park City area in 2018.

Patton has said Banjo has raised more than $200 million in private funding. The company has become a notable part of Utah’s burgeoning tech industry, often referred to as Silicon Slopes. Patton, for instance, was a speaker at the 2019 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit that touted a lineup of participants that included figures such as the CEO of Pinterest and former Major League Baseball star Alex Rodriguez.

Vail Resorts announces credits for 2019-20 passholders, new insurance program for next season

Vail Resorts on Monday announced updates to its season pass program for next ski season in response to the coronavirus pandemic, offering credits for 2019-2020 passholders and launching a new insurance program to protect against any lost dates in 2020-2021.

People who had an Epic Pass during 2019-2020 will receive a minimum 20% credit toward a 2020-2021 pass, the company said. Those who used their pass fewer than five days will be eligible for higher credits, meanwhile, topping out at an 80% credit for people who didn’t use their pass at all. People who purchased an Epic Day Pass will receive credit for unused days.

“Following the difficult decision to close our North American mountain resorts as a result of the unprecedented circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we have been developing a comprehensive plan to address our pass holders’ concerns about the early closure this past season and provide improved coverage for the future,” said Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, in a statement. “We are committed to providing the best passes in the ski industry and are focused on both honoring the loyalty of our guests and providing peace of mind for next season.”

Additionally, everyone who buys a pass for the 2020-2021 season will receive free pass insurance through a new program called Epic Coverage, which allows for refunds in the event of resort closures, including closures related to the coronavirus. The program also allows for refunds due to other circumstances included in the company’s typical pass insurance, such as an injury that prevents a passholder from skiing.

“Looking ahead to the 2020/2021 North American ski season, we fully expect that we will all be enjoying a great ski and ride season, but we also understand that many pass holders are nervous about the future given the current uncertainty,” Katz said. “As a result, we are redefining how we will protect season passes through the launch of ‘Epic Coverage.’ Epic Coverage is free for all pass holders and completely replaces the need to purchase pass insurance.”

Deer Valley workers furloughed as economic fallout of early end to ski season continues

Nearly 300 year-round workers at Deer Valley Resort have been furloughed or had their hours reduced due to the financial fallout stemming from the premature end to ski season, a spokesperson for the resort said.

Emily Summers, senior communications manager at Deer Valley, indicated in an email response to a Park Record inquiry that the changes were effective April 4 and will remain in place until further notice. Approximately 290 hourly and salaried employees were affected by the cuts, she said.

“We are continuously monitoring and adhering to the ever-changing and fluid COVID 19 situation and community health directives, but we do expect this reduction to last at least through the month of April,” she said. “Employees will return to the resort once we are able to determine the timing of future resort operations.”

Alterra Mountain Company, the owner of Deer Valley Resort, has taken similar steps at its other ski areas, according to the Denver Post, as it reacts to the economic ramifications caused by the coronavirus.

Summers said Deer Valley employees affected by the measures will retain their health care benefits and can use accrued paid time off. They are also eligible for state and federal unemployment benefits, though they will keep their seniority and employment status.

She also said capital improvement projects planned at the resort may be put on hold or canceled, though specifics were not available. In early march, the resort announced $14 million in projects, including a renovation of the Snow Park Lodge.

Vail Resorts, which owns Park City Mountain Resort, has also pursued significant cost-cutting measures, including furloughing employees at its U.S. ski areas. Nearly 400 workers at PCMR were furloughed earlier this month for at least the next several weeks.

Both Deer Valley and PCMR closed in mid-March alongside their parent companies’ other North American properties as the coronavirus began to spread in Summit County and other ski resort destinations in the West, which have been hit particularly hard by the disease.

Ski season at both Park City resorts was originally planned to end Sunday.

Though the closures came after the majority of the winter season had concluded, the abrupt end to the season nonetheless represents a significant blow to the ski industry. Vail Resorts has said it anticipates losing $180 to $200 million in revenue as a result of the season’s unexpected end. The National Ski Areas Association, meanwhile, has estimated U.S. resorts collectively could lose $2 billion, according to the Colorado Sun.