Solitude ski patrollers file petition for unionization

Solitude ski patrollers organize for first Alterra union

SOLITUDE, Utah — The ski patrollers at Solitude Mountain Resort have taken a significant step towards unionization, with over 94% of eligible members signing union authorization cards.

If successful, the unionization of the Solitude ski patrol would make it the first unionized ski patrol at a resort owned by Alterra Mountain Company and the third patrol in the 2023-24 winter season to launch a unionization effort, following the Whitefish Mountain Resort Professional Ski Patrol and the Eldora Professional Ski Patrol Association.

Robbie Kosinski, a third-year hill captain and organizer of the Solitude Ski Patrollers Association, highlighted the demanding nature of their work. “Our patrollers must be well-versed in emergency medical care, avalanche mitigation, rope rescue, and other specialties,” Kosinski explained, emphasizing the need for appropriate compensation for their expertise and the risks associated with their job.

The drive for unionization is rooted in concerns over wages, seasonal employment benefits and career progression within the ski patrol profession. Kosinski said that starting wages for ski patrols at Solitude currently stand at $21 an hour, with top earners, even after a decade or more in supervisory roles, making $27 an hour. He sees this wage compression and lack of progression as significant issues, especially given the high qualification levels of the patrollers, most of whom hold at least a four-year degree. “We’re competing for employees out of the whole Salt Lake area, not just within the ski industry,” Kosinski noted.

Sean Parent, a five-year patrol veteran, pointed out the effort’s goal to retain top talent. “Being a patroller here requires years of experience and expertise to gain a mastery level of competency,” he said, underlining the importance of keeping experienced patrollers on staff.

Jeff Carroll, vice president of marketing and guest experiences at Solitude, responded in a statement, “Solitude values all its employees, including our ski patrollers. We are committed to providing competitive wages, excellent benefits, and an employee experience that is fulfilling, safe, and inclusive of opportunities for growth.” The resort has reportedly increased starting wages for patrollers by 42% in the last two years, among other investments aimed at improving patroller satisfaction and safety.

The ski patrollers at Solitude are hopeful for a favorable outcome through good-faith bargaining with the resort’s management. “If they don’t voluntarily recognize us, then we will go to a union election, which we expect to be done about a month from now. And so, we’re hoping we have a 100% answer on our union election by the end of March,” says Konsinki. As of the afternoon of Feb. 15, Solitude responded, saying they would not voluntarily recognize the ski patrol union and wanted to proceed with an election. After the election, Kosinski plans to start the bargaining process immediately, with a contract in place for the 2024/2025 season.

Kosinki added that he and his team have looked to the Park City ski patrol for advice and resources. “Just to get their wisdom on it, as well as a number of other unionized ski patrols across the United States, has been extremely helpful.”

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