Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol union, Vail Resorts reach labor contract
February 6, 2019
After months of negotiations, the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association has reached a new labor contract with Vail Resorts.
The association, which is made up of ski patrol and mountain safety personnel at Park City Mountain Resort, announced the two-year labor contract on Tuesday. The agreement includes a base wage increase and a compensation package for employees with specialty skills. The contract is set to expire on Nov. 14, 2020.
Contract negotiations between the association and Vail Resorts began in the late summer and continued when the previous two-year contract expired in November. Julia Edwards, the business manager for the association and a member of its negotiations committee, said the association hoped to craft a contract with improved incentives for employees who remain with PCMR. She believes the final contract is a "great building block" for workers to have a stable career working for ski patrol.
Bill Rock, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Park City Mountain Resort, said in a prepared statement that he is pleased to be moving forward with the ski patrol association.
"A lot of time, energy and effort went into reaching this new agreement, which is in alignment with the overall Vail Resorts policies, programs and compensation practices, and mutually beneficial to both parties," he said. "As a Company, we are committed to treating all of our employees fairly and investing in their continued development."
Under the new contract, employees who have specialty skills will receive additional compensation. That includes those certified in avalanche control, dog handling and chair lift evacuation, or those who are emergency medical technicians or paramedics.
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"It encourages people to develop those skills and develop those expertise, and it compensates those who already have them," Edwards said.
Previously, workers who were more skilled in rescue and ski operations were not paid more, she said.
Ski patrol and mountain safety personnel do have access to education packages that cover avalanche training and other outdoor safety skills. That was included in the previous contract, as was a patrol-management safety committee and a grievance process.
During the negotiation meetings, Edwards said base wages and compensation packages were some of the most debated topics.
"We wanted to have a wage structure that would incentivize people to stay, and that would give people a path to making a livable wage in the Park City area," she said.
Association leaders have often claimed the high cost of living makes it difficult for ski patrollers to afford to live in Park City. They say many patrollers leave after a couple of seasons, but Edwards said having more seasoned employees on staff helps improve the safety and efficiency of the resort.
Negotiations ended up taking several months partly because of the association's persistence on some of those issues, Edwards said.
"We wanted to make sure we were getting a good deal," she said. "We wanted to make sure we were getting something that our membership would be excited about."
Edwards said she felt the membership was pleased with the contract. In a vote, 97 percent of the approximately 200 association members voted in favor of the agreement.
The amount of support for the contract was among contrast to the 50-50 split opinion among ski patrollers about whether to unionize in late 2015. When Vail Resorts merged the former Canyons Resort and Park City Mountain Resort earlier that year, employees on the Park City side were not in favor of unionizing, and Vail Resorts did not want the patrollers to unionize. Canyons Village-side patrollers, who had operated under a union for years, spearheaded the push for unionization under the merged resort.
The association and Vail Resorts met for one year before finalizing the first contract. Edwards said this time around, the process was easier because both parties were more familiar with each other. Overall, she said it was a positive experience. She said there was trepidation from Vail Resorts during the first negotiation process that was not present this time.
"We've been able to show that having a united patrol is a great resource and a great way to have engaged and passionate employees," she said.
Edwards said she is proud of what the association and Vail Resorts were able to accomplish together.