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Ski Patrol Union and Park City Mountain Resort at Impasse After Contract Termination

Sean Higgins

After allowing a contract extension expire on December 31st, the ski patrollers of Park City Mountain Resort have been working without a contract in place with PCMR. The patrol union held a small rally at the base of PCMR Saturday to raise awareness for their cause.


Although the Park City Professional Ski Patrollers Association hoped to have a new employment contract in place with PCMR before opening day this season, the union chose to sign an indefinite contract extension last November.


The extension kept their old contract in place until a new agreement was reached, or one side submitted a 20 day notice to terminate the contract.


After negotiations stalled in December, the union members have been working without a contract since January 1st.


A small group of union members held a rally at the main bus stop on Lowell Avenue in front of PCMR Saturday morning to raise awareness for their cause. A similar rally was also held at Stevens Pass Resort in Washington State, which is another Vail Resorts property with a unionized ski patrol.


Max Magill is the treasurer on the patrol union’s executive board and is a member of the negotiating committee with PCMR. He says a perceived lack of urgency from PCMR to get a new contract in place prompted the union’s decision to terminate the contract.


“We found that we weren’t being treated by the company as professionals and we weren’t getting the appropriate level of responsiveness and urgency from them to get a contract done, so the union decided to let the contract expire,” says Magill. “We certainly are disappointed that it’s come to this. We really want the company and the union to succeed and if we need to apply a little bit of public pressure to the company, we’re willing to do that.” 


Magill says the resort’s patrollers are still working and getting paid, but are classified as ‘working without.’ That means even though they still get paid, patrollers are without lockout protections and are not able to formally arbitrate grievances with PCMR.


According to Magill, the union is looking to keep the majority of their old contract in place, but are asking for access to sick time and a small raise and are looking to renegotiate after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.


Magill says the negotiations have been painfully slow so far.


“The company does not seem concerned with the timeliness of these negotiations and oftentimes, it takes a long time for us to get proposals back from them and they often come in the form of a rejection,” he says. “We don’t feel that we’re asking for much. A lot of things we’re just clarifying wording. We’ve only made three agreements so far on our contract after five months of bargaining.”


The President of the patrol union, Joe Naunchick, added in a written statement:


“Vail Resorts has a responsibility for the health and safety of its employees, its guests, and the communities in which it operates. So, it's important that we're fairly paid for the risks we're taking by being first responders during a pandemic and that we have access to benefits such as paid sick leave.”


Also in a written statement to KPCW, PCMR said in part:


“The issues raised by the union are very complex and do not lend themselves to quick resolution; another reason why the union’s unexpected termination of the contract seems very short-sighted and counter-productive.”


PCMR added that an upcoming bargaining date has been set for January 20th.


Saturday’s rally was not a work stoppage and all patrollers who took part were on off-days. 


Ski patrollers are not easily replaceable resort employees. In addition to being expert skiers, they also hold outdoor emergency care medical certifications and are trained avalanche professionals. Some patrollers can also hold higher medical certifications, like being an EMT.


Magill says the patrollers did speak with upper management Saturday morning, with both sides expressing disappointment in the current situation.

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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