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Vail announces $20 minimum wage in bid to return to full staffing

Vail Resorts announced Monday it would increase its minimum wage to $20 per hour. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Robert F. Bukaty
Vail Resorts announced Monday it would increase its minimum wage to $20 per hour. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

During an investor report on Monday, Vail Resorts announced it would increase its minimum wage to $20 per hour. The company said it was an effort to solve staffing woes that have contributed to a challenging season.

Complaints about Vail Resorts’ “Experience of a Lifetime” have been plentiful this year in Park City. Locals have said fewer lifts are turning, the runs are more crowded and the grooming hasn’t kept pace.

Park City Mountain Resort has said it’s had to close some lifts this year because it didn’t have enough employees to run them, and Vail officials suggested staffing levels have impacted other aspects of the business, as well.

Vail Resorts CEO Kirsten Lynch acknowledged those difficulties in the firm’s second quarter earnings call Monday.

“The confluence of storm cycles, staffing challenges and the spike in omicron variant cases created challenges through the holiday period, impacting our resorts’ ability to fully open terrain as planned and negatively impacting the guest experience during that time,” Lynch told investors.

During the call, Vail announced a $175 million investment in employee wages for the 2022/2023 ski season. The plan includes a $20 per hour minimum wage that increases to $21 per hour for employees with specialized skills, like ski patrollers and maintenance technicians. The minimum wage had been $15 per hour.

Lynch called full staffing “critical” for Vail’s success.

“I would think about this as a strategic investment in the guest experience. And the goal is to return to full staffing, which we did not have this year,” she said.

Lynch and Vail CFO Michael Barkin declined to say how much of the compensation package would be spent to increase employee wages and how much would be spent to hire more employees and boost employee hours.

Lynch pushed back on the narrative that increased Epic Pass sales led to crowding on the slopes. Overall skier visits from the start of the season until March 6 are up nearly 12% over last year, according to a prepared statement from Vail Resorts.

Vail reported a 5% jump in earnings compared to the same quarter in fiscal year 2020, but the firm reportedly missed Wall Street targets. Vail’s share price has fallen to its lowest point since the fall of 2020.

One investor who has been particularly critical of Vail asked if the low share price had attracted interest from private equity firms looking to buy the company.

Barkin declined to comment.

Monday’s earnings call came two months to the day after Vail and Park City’s ski patrol union struck a deal that included a $15 minimum wage for starting patrollers. That deal took nearly two years to negotiate.

The president of the ski patrol union declined to comment on the newly announced $21 minimum wage.

Alexander joined KPCW in 2021 after two years reporting on Summit County for The Park Record. While there, he won many awards for covering issues ranging from school curriculum to East Side legacy agriculture operations to land-use disputes. He arrived in Utah by way of Madison, Wisconsin, and western Massachusetts, with stints living in other areas across the country and world. When not attending a public meeting or trying to figure out what a PID is, Alexander enjoys skiing, reading and watching the Celtics.