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With Opening Day Looming, Park City Mountain Resort and Ski Patrol Union Extend Contract

Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association

Park City Mountain Resort and the ski patrol union have reached an agreement to extend their current contract ahead of the opening day of the 2020-21 season.

With the opening day at Park City Mountain Resort fast approaching, the union representing the resort’s ski patrollers was eager to have an employment contract in place before the first guests of the 2020-21 season were loaded onto the chairlifts on November 20th.

The old contract was set to expire on November 14th and Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association President Joe Naunchik says the union struck a deal late last week with PCMR to extend the contract indefinitely. 

Naunchik says either party can void the contract with 20 days notice and further negotiations are set for December 3rd and 4th. He says areas like sick leave and employee safety -- especially during a global pandemic -- are still high priorities going forward.

“What the extension does is it gives us room to still negotiate,” Naunchik Says. “We still have dates set up to negotiate. We have made numerous proposals regarding sick leave and other, what the union feels are safety, that is gonna keep us safe and keep our guests safe and keep the Park City community safe. These are still on the table and we’ve passed them to the company.”  

The ski patrollers at PCMR narrowly voted to unionize in 2015 after then-Canyons Resort merged with Park City. Canyons ski patrollers had been part of a union since 2000 and Park City’s had not. The Canyons ski patrol union fell apart after the merger. 

Vail Resorts is the parent company of PCMR and opposed unionization, along with many of Park City’s patrollers at the time, but the effort ultimately passed by less than a handful of votes.

The union’s contract had last been renegotiated two years ago.

In a statement to KPCW on Wednesday, PCMR Senior Communications Manager Jessica Miller said the contract extension will “ensure we give the bargaining process the time it deserves and it allows both sides to focus on safely reopening Park City Mountain for the 2020-21 winter season.”

Naunchik says looking ahead to this season, what daily operations for ski patrol will look like are still largely unknown until the first guests arrive. With COVID-19 restrictions in place across the industry, Naunchik says PCMR’s patrollers will be adhering to Vail’s current health and safety measures.  

“There’s certainly going to be less contact with each other and with the public,” says Naunchik. “We’re going to stagger our clock-in times, we’re going to work in smaller groups, although they’re not going to be considered virus pods where we don’t ever interact with any other employees. We’ve been issued N95 masks. We’re hoping that the company is able to procure enough supplies for the season.” 

He adds guests who feel sick but go skiing anyway are another worry this season. An on-hill evacuation or medical emergency would require patrollers to come in close contact with guests.

“We have to worry about customers that plan for a week vacation for who knows how long, and when they get here and feel mild cold symptoms, they may still come skiing because they planned this for weeks and saved up for it and think it’s just a little cold,” he says. “We have to be very wary about how we approach and make physical contact.”  

PCMR’s opening day is this Friday, November 20th. Mountain access is for EPIC Pass holders only until day tickets go on sale December 8th. Guests will have to make a reservation in order to access the mountain this season and COVID-19 protocols will be in place, including a mask mandate, social distancing in lift lines, reduced lift capacity, and limited access to the resort’s lodges.

Reservations to ski or snowboard at PCMR can be made here.

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.
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