Vail CEO Rob Katz Answers Questions On Wages, Night Skiing And Half-full Chairlifts

Mar 20, 2019

Credit www.vailresorts.com

Vail CEO Rob Katz addressed a standing-room-only crowd at the Santy Auditorium for the Community Leadership Lecture Monday. Katz took questions from the audience for about half an hour, on topics ranging from employment to the skiing experience. 

An employee from Park City Mountain Resort posed a question to Katz about compensation and wages. The employee says when Vail raised its minimum wage to $12.25 an hour, he didn’t see a change in his paycheck, and while he’d like to stay with the company, it’s not a financially stable option for him. Katz says they’ve made progress on entry-level wages but need to work on helping employees afford to remain in their communities—and putting them on a track toward higher-paying jobs in the company.

“If you're here and you are passionate about it, how do we quickly show you that yeah, we can get not only your current wage up, but actually get you into more senior jobs and build your skills, whether you stay with the ski resort or go off and do something else because you want to,” Katz said.

Steven Fox is a dad, and he told Katz he appreciated the outdoor alternative the mountain provides to kids who are looking at screens all day. Fox asked Katz how the community could convince the resort to bring back night skiing, which ended in 2017, to keep children on the slopes longer. Katz says that’s a conversation to have with Park City Mountain Resort COO Bill Rock, but additionally, Vail will consider the environmental impact in that sort of business decision.

“Well, how many people will be here if we're going to turn on the entire resort?" Katz said. "Is that actually environmentally friendly, and is it responsible on a lot of different levels? I have no idea. It could be that we turn it on, and the place will be packed. I don't know that about Park City, but I do know that when these questions come up, that's how we try and wrestle with them. It's certainly not that we want to take away things that the community enjoys, but sometimes we’re reacting to the demand.”

Ernest Oriente brought a specific experience to Katz’s attention. Oriente says the lines at Payday Lift—due to only partially filling the seats—put a bad taste in guests’ mouths, especially when Deer Valley Resort fills every chair they have. Katz says he agrees—one thousand percent.

“Let’s face it: We spend a lot of money to put these lifts up, and to not have the chairs full when they go up is silly," Katz said. "So, I think I may give a call over to my friend, Bill [Rock], and talk about that.”

Katz also fielded questions about climate change, community outreach and traffic. As CEO, Katz mostly responded with Vail’s general approach to issues, but he didn’t give many Park City-specific details.