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Vail Resorts, Park City Mountain Resort ski patrol reach tentative deal, likely averting a strike

Members of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort demonstrate at Canyons Village during the resort’s opening day in November. The union and PCMR owner Vail Resorts announced on Thursday that they have reached a tentative contract agreement that would end a long-running labor dispute.
Park Record file photo

Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts and the union that represents ski patrollers on Thursday jointly announced the two sides reached an agreement in principle about a new contract for the ski patrol, a deal that, if ratified, would end the possibility of a strike that could have impacted PCMR during what is expected to be a busy stretch of the ski season.

The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association membership last weekend overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike should the negotiations collapse. Talks between the union and Vail Resorts, though, continued after the authorization vote. The membership of the union is poised to decide whether to ratify the agreement shortly.

The Thursday statement from the two sides reads: “The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA) and Vail Resorts are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement in principle, and are appreciative of the engagement and commitment on both sides. The parties are finalizing the details and next steps which will include a vote by union members in the coming days. We appreciate the patience and support of everyone as we work on moving forward together.”

Representatives from the union and PCMR did not immediately return phone messages on Thursday morning.

The statement did not provide details about the starting wage outlined in the agreement in principle. The starting wage has been the key point in the recent negotiations.

The union sees a starting wage of $15 an hour — the figure included in an earlier Vail Resorts proposal that patrollers rejected — as too low for the ski patrol, saying patrollers are trained to perform specialized duties like treating accident victims on the slopes, avalanche control and lift evacuations.

The Vail Resorts side countered that it had offered a proposal that is competitive with other mountain resorts, including wage increases, future increases that would be automatic and retroactive pay to cover hours that have been worked during the current ski season.

Park City Mountain Resort ski patrollers overwhelmingly authorize a strike if talks with Vail Resorts unsuccessful

Members of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort demonstrate at Canyons Village during the resort’s opening day in November. The union is in contract negotiations with Vail Resorts that have stretched for longer than a year.
Park Record file photo

The membership of the union that represents ski patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike should negotiations with Vail Resorts, the Colorado-based owner of the resort, collapse.

The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association said on Monday 98.2% of the votes were in support of the strike authorization. According to the union, 168 out of the 171 people who voted backed the authorization. There are 185 ski patrollers eligible for union membership, meaning the vast majority cast a vote.

Patrick Murphy, a Canyons Village-based ski patroller and the business manager for the union, said the 48-hour online vote closed Sunday night.

A bargaining session with Vail Resorts is scheduled on Monday evening. It will be the 50th between the two sides, according to the union. Murphy said he “optimistic” an agreement can be reached during the Monday evening session.

The authorization vote was needed prior to a strike by the union members. Murphy said the authorization, though, is not a signal of an imminent strike, and he acknowledged the union understands the broad impact a work stoppage would potentially have on the community. He said the union is “doing everything we can” to reach an agreement to avoid a strike.

The key point in the talks is the current starting wage of $15 per hour. The union argues the wage is too low for ski patrollers, who are trained for specialized duties like treating victims of accidents on the slopes, evacuating lifts and avalanche control.

The Vail Resorts side says it has offered a proposal to the union that is competitive with other mountain resorts, including wage increases, future increases that would be automatic and retroactive pay to cover hours that have been worked during the current ski season.

The union in the middle of December rejected a proposal from Vail Resorts. The union has raised more than $75,000 through a crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe to cover patrollers in the event of a strike.

The most recent contract negotiated by the union ended in November of 2020. It was a two-year deal between the union and Vail Resorts.

Vail Resorts on Monday afternoon after the union vote issued a brief statement. It reads: “We continue to have productive conversations with the union and have another collective bargaining session scheduled for Monday (this) evening.”