PCMR leader optimistic resort and ski patrol will reach contract agreement
Mike Goar says he is surprised union rejected starting wage of $15 an hour
For The Park Record
The leader of Park City Mountain Resort said Monday he is disappointed the ski patrol union voted down the company’s latest contract proposal earlier this month but he was hopeful progress would be made in a bargaining session early in the week.
Negotiations between representatives of PCMR owner Vail Resorts and the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, were scheduled for Tuesday evening.
“I’m optimistic that good things are going to come from that,” said Mike Goar, PCMR’s vice president and chief operating officer.
This is the second ski season ski patrollers and mountain safety personnel at the resort are working without a contract in place. The previous two-year contract covering the approximately 200 employees expired in November 2020.
Goar said the two sides have reached tentative agreements on many items. The sticking point has been starting pay of $15 an hour for ski patrollers in the Vail Resorts proposal that the union rejected on Dec. 17.
“We thought we had something in front of our patrol that they would ratify, that they would think was very good,” Goar said. “It was disappointing but nonetheless, it just means we all need to come back to the table and keep working on it.”
The proposal included higher wages across the board, automatic wage increases going forward, retroactive pay for the hours worked this winter, increased equipment allowances, increased incentive pay and more training, he said. In addition, the resort has enhanced sick pay and health benefits that are offered to all employees, he said.
Goar said the proposal is competitive and very similar to an offer that unionized patrols at the company’s resorts in Breckenridge, Colorado, and Stevens Pass in Skykomish, Washington, recently ratified almost unanimously.
“We’re competitive with resorts outside our company and we’re basically identical to the resorts within our company, which are some of the bigger resorts and larger patrols in the country,” he said.
Employees who start a ski patrolling job at PCMR with no experience go through training and start at $15 an hour, Goar said. However, they have opportunities for incentives, even in their first year, and in their second year and beyond, they get automatic and significant pay increases, he said.
The number of patrollers who make $15 an hour is small and a lot of them have worked at the resort for a long time and make considerably more, Goar said.
“Everyone, including the most experienced patrollers, still have room above their current wage to grow,” he said.
The union and the company have been in discussions since August 2020. Last winter, ski patrollers picketed at PCMR hoping to gain community support, and union members held a demonstration once again in Canyons Village during the resort’s opening day in November.
Some demonstrators carried signs saying, “Not on strike just practicing.” But Goar said he doesn’t think either side is considering a work stoppage, and the union president has said a strike would be a last resort.
The union has said a starting wage of $15 an hour is not enough to retain patrollers for the long term, and that it takes several winters for a patroller to develop the experience and skills to perform the job at the highest level.
Goar, who has worked in the ski industry for more than 40 years, began his career working as a ski patroller for several years. That stint has given him a perspective of what the patrol does and what it takes to be a professional ski patroller, he said.
“They are so vital to the operations of the resort,” Goar said. “They’re very good at what they do. We value them, which is why we’re at the table trying to find a deal that works for everybody and enhance their benefits and their pay. We have an amazing ski patrol and we want them to continue do the amazing work that they’ve been doing.”
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