With opening day for Park City Resort tomorrow, the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association and Vail resorts contract has expired. Members of the union will be at work tomorrow but representatives from the union and the resort company are working to have a new deal done soon.
Canyons resort ski patrol members had a union since the year 2000, when the resorts combined, they voted to keep the union for both resorts. The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association represents around 200 members including, full and part-time staff as well as mountain safety. The organizations business manager Julia McCarrier Edwards says that about half of those represented workers are members of the union, although all reap the benefits of the organizations work. Unit President Robby Young says they’ve been negotiating since late summer.
“At this point the contract has expired, both sides are bargaining in good faith moving in a positive direction. So, our plan is to just continue into the season and we’re hopeful that we can reach an agreement sometime in December.”
The union has two representatives from the Canyons base area, and two from the Park City base area, a representative from Mountain Safety was a part of the negotiations but a job change means they’re looking to fill that seat. Park City Mountain has three members of the negotiation. A senior HR representative, the Senior Manager for Ski Patrol and a lawyer.
Edwards says the unions biggest focus this year is improving retention.
“We have a retention problem. We’re replacing about a quarter of our patrol every year. We feel that it is in the best interest for the resort and for our guests to have a really experienced knowledgeable patrol. With this contract we’re really looking at those things that would encourage people to make ski patrolling their career and make it a viable career. Everyone knows it’s hard to live in a ski town and so we want to address some things that will help make that a little easier.”
Edwards says the best way to improve retention is simply to increase wages.
“We want fair and equitable wages. We’re also looking for opportunities to have a little bit of flexible scheduling so people who have families, who need to manage child care can still stay on the hill. We’ve had several really experienced patrollers leave to start families, or once their kids are a little older realize that it doesn’t work with a childcare schedule. So, we’re just hoping to expand opportunities to keep good people working.”
Edwards also noted that working as a ski patroller means you have to find work for the rest of the year as well. Young says that safety is also a concern when retention dips.
“When it comes to large ski areas with a lot of avalanche terrain like Park City, especially with our new combined 7,300 acres, it is terrain specific. It is being intimate with the terrain at your own ski area. That sort of experience doesn’t come in just a few years. From an avalanche perspective, from a snow safety perspective it takes a lot of years of developing that intuition with the terrain at your resort and being intimate with the terrain at your resort. Not only in the snow safety word but the patrollers coming in, that stay for a few years you know it’s a long process to really learn that terrain and be able to mitigate hazards.”
Young says that both sides are continuing to bargain in good faith, they just haven’t reached an agreement yet.
“There’s certainly a handful of other things that both sides are working towards an agreement on. I think a lot of the things that we talk about in negotiations are tweaks to current policies and practices that one side feels will improve with a few tweaks. We go back and forth in that regard. There are certainly a lot of things that we’re working out and both sides have goals to adjust.”
Once a tentative agreement is reached, the union will bring the contract before the members who will vote on whether they accept the agreement or want the union to return to the negotiating table. Vail and the Ski Patrol Association have this conversation often as the contracts expire every two years
“The nature of the industry is so dynamic. We have found multiple times that after two years, policies have changed, practices have changed, and the language really doesn’t really match. So instead of trying to just schedule time to open certain articles we want to look at the whole agreement holistically.
The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association is a under the umbrella of a parent union that provides support. That parent organization is the Communication Workers of America.