Park City Mountain ski patrollers enter season without a contract

PARK CITY, Utah — The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA), which represents roughly 200 ski patrollers and mountain safety personnel at Park City Mountain Resort (PCMR), is set to start the winter season without an active contract with Vail Resorts.

Since August of 2020, the association has held 42 bargaining sessions with the company, which owns PCMR. Their last contract expired in November 2020, however, they opted back in during the spring due to available bonuses and pandemic instability. That agreement ended on May 1.

“We feel we’re getting closer,” said Patrick Murphy, business manager for PCPSPA. “Both the company and our bargaining committee presented large amounts of research, backing up our discussions… We’ve had a lot of disagreements with the company, in particular about employee retention. And in light of that, we just want to keep open the option to continue to have this open discourse with the company on these types of terms.”

As things currently stand in the negotiations, new patrollers would start at a $15 an hour wage. Murphy said their goal is a starting wage of $16.70 an hour. Under the old contract — which is the current policy given the lack of an active contract — starting wage is at $13.25 an hour.

Outside of wages, negotiating terms include education programs, training opportunities, uniforms, and paid sick leave.

Working without a contract means PCPSPA members lose certain protections. For example, a clause to prevent work stoppages, which can be in the form of a strike or lockout on behalf of the company. “When we’re in a contract, those tactics cannot be used,” Murphy said. “Getting back into the contract is in our best interest.”

He emphasized the importance of retaining experienced patrollers. “A lot of these skills are not things that you can master quickly, it takes time. It takes years on the job to safely mitigate this avalanche hazard, especially with a mountain as vast and complex as ours. With as many employees as we have, it’s of the utmost importance that we have experience so that we can safely manage these hazards and keep our guests and our employees safe.”

In a statement to TownLift, Vail Resorts said “we are continuing to bargain in good faith with our ski patrol’s union. Our recent discussions have been productive and we feel we’re close to coming to an agreement.

“We have listened closely to, and addressed, the key points our patrollers and the union have voiced over the past year, including wages, professional training opportunities, equipment reimbursements and sick time off.

“With this, we’ve offered them a multi-year, comprehensive proposal that delivers wage increases to all returning patrollers and increased wage caps to allow more room for our most experienced patrollers to earn merit increases before hitting a pay ceiling. 

“This multi-year agreement also offers parity to our resorts in Colorado; if patrol wages increase in Colorado we will automatically match these wages in Utah without needing to return to the bargaining table.

“We know our patrollers are eager to finalize their contract and we have shared these key elements of the proposal with them. We’ve encourage them to speak with their union representatives about next steps. In the meantime, our ski patrollers returning to the resort will continue to operate under the terms of their previous contract until a new agreement is reached.  

“We’re looking forward to the season ahead and remain committed to finalizing a contract as soon as possible. The season is scheduled to kick off this Sunday, Nov. 28 at Canyons Village.”  

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