Record editorial: Vail Resorts shouldn’t take PCMR ski patrollers’ contributions for granted
Members of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort ratified a three-year contract with PCMR owner Vail Resorts late last week, capping negotiations that had dragged on for nearly a year and a half and ending the possibility that the patrollers would strike if the talks deteriorated.
The resolution is a relief for the Park City community. The effects of a strike — which seemed likelier by the day even as the union remained adamant that it was a last resort — would have rippled through the economy, and could have been downright catastrophic if the lifts at PCMR stopped turning for any extended length of time.
Though the crisis was ultimately averted, it’s a shame that the situation ever deteriorated to the point where a work stoppage was a realistic possibility — and Vail Resorts, rather than the patrollers, shoulders the blame.
Anyone who’s ever clicked into skis or strapped into a snowboard understands the importance of ski patrollers and mountain safety personnel. They ensure guests can enjoy the slopes without the fear that a false move will result in being swept up in a deadly avalanche. They are first responders who provide emergency, and sometimes lifesaving, medical care to people who are injured on the mountain. They monitor the resort to ensure skiers and boarders comply with the rules that keep everyone else on the slopes safe.
They are, in short, highly trained professionals who are essential to the on-mountain experience, and who deserve wages commensurate with their skills and expertise. In Park City, where the cost of living continues to skyrocket, that figure is a lot higher even than the $17-an-hour minimum starting wage that the patrollers were pushing for. A patroller could earn more than that stocking shelves at the grocery store or waiting tables on Main Street.
Yet Vail Resorts seemed throughout the talks to take the patrollers’ contributions for granted, allowing the negotiations to reach a boiling point rather than ponying up and paying them a living wage. That’s frustrating given that the company isn’t exactly crying poor. In September, Vail Resorts reported a net income of $127.9 million for the fiscal year ending in July, while its stock price, even factoring in a recent dip, has more than tripled in the seven-plus years since it acquired PCMR.
The full details of the agreement the two sides reached late last week remain scant; the union says patrollers will make an average of $19 hourly across the board, though the minimum starting wage is unclear.
That’s progress — and apparently enough to satisfy the union for now. But even that seems to undervalue the work the patrollers perform.
Skiing and snowboarding at PCMR wouldn’t be possible without them. Nor would the tremendous profits Vail Resorts reaps from the skiers and snowboarders who flock to the resort each winter.
The company had an opportunity during the negotiations to show its appreciation and willingly pay patrollers a reasonable wage. The company instead took a different tack, belaboring the talks and backing the union into a corner.
That’s a shame, and one patrollers likely won’t soon forget.
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