Vail Resorts, PCMR ski patrol reach tentative deal, likely averting a strike (updated)

Union vote on the agreement in principle expected to be held shortly

Members of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort demonstrate at Canyons Village during the resort’s opening day in November. The union and PCMR owner Vail Resorts announced on Thursday that they have reached a tentative contract agreement that would end a long-running labor dispute.
Park Record file photo

Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts and the union that represents ski patrollers on Thursday jointly announced the two sides reached an agreement in principle about a new contract for the ski patrol, a deal that, if ratified, will end the possibility of a strike that could have impacted PCMR during what is expected to be a busy stretch of the ski season.

The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association membership last weekend overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike should the negotiations collapse. Talks between the union and Vail Resorts, though, continued after the authorization vote. The membership of the union is poised to decide whether to ratify the agreement shortly.

The Thursday statement from the two sides reads: “The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA) and Vail Resorts are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement in principle, and are appreciative of the engagement and commitment on both sides. The parties are finalizing the details and next steps which will include a vote by union members in the coming days. We appreciate the patience and support of everyone as we work on moving forward together.”

The statement did not provide details about the starting wage outlined in the agreement in principle. The starting wage has been the key point in the recent negotiations.

Neither of the sides by Friday morning provided additional comment about the agreement itself.

The union sees a starting wage of $15 an hour — the figure included in an earlier Vail Resorts proposal that patrollers rejected — as too low, saying patrollers are trained to perform specialized duties like treating accident victims on the slopes, avalanche control and lift evacuations.

The Vail Resorts side countered that it had offered a proposal that is competitive with other mountain resorts, including wage increases, future increases that would be automatic and retroactive pay to cover hours that have been worked during the current ski season.

The union membership on Friday morning was in the process of casting what was described as an ongoing vote. The leadership of the association on Friday morning declined to discuss details, including when the balloting will close and how many ballots had been cast by then.

The two sides reaching an agreement in principle will be welcomed in the community. There was increasing worry about the prospects of a strike by the ski patrol at a moment when the business community is hopeful for strong months in February and March. It was not clear how the operations of PCMR would have been impacted if the ski patrollers picketed, but there was concern about the ability of the resort to open terrain and respond to emergencies across the slopes under that scenario.

The dispute between the union and Vail Resorts is the most recent controversy involving the Colorado firm since its arrival in the Park City ski industry nearly nine years ago. Vail Resorts acquired PCMR as part of a settlement of a bitterly contested lawsuit, it later drew disdain in the community as it pursued a trademark on the name “Park City” and many see the Vail Resorts presence as bringing a corporate vibe to Park City.

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