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Vail Resorts drops employee vaccine requirement

Park City Mountain Resort PCMR opening day 2021 canyons village
Ben Lasseter
/
KPCW
Lines for the High Meadow and Saddleback lifts on Park City Mountain's opening day in November 2021.

Ski towns were among the hardest hit places when the omicron variant spiked in early 2022.

Vail Resorts recently listed a variety of open jobs for the winter season, and receiving a Covid-19 vaccine is no longer a requirement to work for the company due to a new policy change.

A spokesperson for Park City Mountain owner Vail Resorts, which is the largest ski area operator in the country, told KPCW that the overall conditions surrounding COVID-19 have improved, which underpinned the policy change.

The move is in line with changes at the federal level: Earlier this year, OSHA withdrew its emergency temporary standard that called for large employers to adopt a mandatory vaccination policy.

A COVID vaccine was required to work on the mountain last winter, and despite the change, the company said it will continue to encourage employees to get vaccinated.

Ski towns were among the hardest hit places when the omicron variant spiked in early 2022. In January, Summit County was ranked fifth nationally when comparing the highest rate of COVID per 100,000 residents.

Pitkin County, Colorado and Teton County, Wyoming ranked in the top three for transmission at the time. Pitkin County is home to Aspen and Teton County includes Jackson Hole.

Vail CEO Kirsten Lynch told investors in March that some resorts saw staff levels decline by 10% due to employees getting sick with COVID. Locally, the pandemic took a hit on staff at PCMR, and led to several lift closures.

In an effort to boost staffing, the company announced in March that it would boost its minimum wage by $5 to $20 per hour.

The company still has daily health screenings which it plans to continue, and staff will be required to isolate if they’re sick.

Workers at Alterra-owned Deer Valley weren’t required to get vaccinated last season. However, if they were unvaccinated, proof of a negative COVID test result was required twice a week. At the end of the ski season, the resort removed the requirement but encouraged workers to get vaccinated and boosted.

Alterra, which also owns Solitude in Big Cottonwood Canyon, left COVID policies to be handled individually by resorts.

Parker Malatesta covers Park City for KPCW. Before coming to NPR, he spent one year as a general assignment reporter for TownLift in Park City. He previously was the news editor at The News Record, the student paper at the University of Cincinnati. He loves running, reading, and urban planning.