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PCMR ski patrol union approves new contract, averts strike

PCMR Patrol Union
Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association
The union and vail Resorts had been locked in negotiations for over a year and a half.

The membership of the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association voted to approve a new contract with Vail Resorts on Friday.

The union announced on Saturday that membership voted to accept the new contract after a marathon 50th bargaining session with Vail Resorts on Wednesday that lasted over 15 hours.

Union Business Manager Patrick Murphy said the union will not be releasing the vote breakdown. He said while the union had hoped to secure a contract much sooner, he is glad progress was made.

“This was an abnormally long process, and we’re still frustrated with how long it took just to get to where we are now, but we’re happy we are where we are," he said. "We have to thank all of our patrollers, our friends and family, and the community for having our backs throughout all of this. We couldn’t have done it without them.”

The two sides had been locked in tense negotiations for over a year and a half, and union membership voted to authorize a strike last weekend if negotiations were unsuccessful.

Murphy said although it was disappointing Vail did not budge from its offer of a $15/hr base wage, the union was able to secure a $1/hr incentive for patrollers and mountain safety members who agree to work some of their shifts out of each of the resorts two base areas – Canyons Village and Park City – effectively creating a $16/hr starting rate. First-year patrollers had been making only $13.25/hr, and the union had been holding out for a $17/hr base wage.

Murphy said when factoring in all of the incentives, average pay for all patrollers now sits at over $19/hr.

The new contract runs through April 2024 and applies retroactively to the start of this season. Patrollers are also eligible for the $2/hr bonus announced by Vail CEO Kristen Lynch earlier this month. That bonus is to be paid out at the end of the season to hourly Vail employees for hours worked between January 1st and the end of the season.

Additionally, the contract provides wage parity with Vail’s Colorado resorts. That means if wages go up there, either by Vail’s own accord or by state law, so do ski patrol wages in Park City. It also puts Park City patrollers on the same bargaining schedule as Vail’s other unionized ski patrols. Murphy said that could be an advantage at future negotiations.

“We think that’s one of the biggest and best takeaways from this contract," said Murphy. "Being able to enter negotiations next time in a position to negotiate simultaneously with our other unionized patrols. That gives us a lot more strength. Solidarity was the best tool we had going for us in this round of negotiations within our own patrol. If we can build on that solidarity within our patrol, and then multiply that with the solidarity of those other patrollers, we think that will give us a lot more strength and bargaining power at the next round.”

In a statement to KPCW, Vail Resorts said:

"We are pleased to be moving forward with a three-year agreement with the Park City Ski Patrol union, so that together we can focus on providing a great guest experience and stability for our employees and community. A lot of time, energy and effort went into reaching this new agreement, which is very consistent with our compensation approach for patrol across all of our resorts, with specific skills-based opportunities that acknowledge the unique aspects of Park City Mountain. We appreciate the engagement from the union's bargaining team and want to reiterate our tremendous respect and admiration for our patrollers and all of our employees at Park City Mountain."

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.