Defining the real issue |

Defining the real issue

Judging from recent letters to the editor, Adam Aron’s bonus has upset a few folks in the valley.

For those whose primary source of income and benefits come from VR, it’s understandable why they would write to the paper when VR’s CEO is awarded a significant bonus while their health insurance premiums increase.

Is Mr. Aron worth the salary expense of $710,000 per year plus potential bonuses in the millions? I don’t know. Is Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche worth $11 million per year to play hockey? I don’t know that, either.

But what I do know from personal observation, as a former CEO, is that workers in America are usually paid in direct proportion to the difficulty their employers have in replacing them.

If a babysitter makes $10 per hour, it’s because she can be replaced for $10 per hour, if a cardiologist earns $400,000 per year, it’s because he or she can be replaced for $400,000 per year, and it’s going to cost the Colorado Avalanche $11 million dollars to replace Peter Forsberg with a player of equal talent, motivation and grit.

I believe that schoolteachers are underpaid. But the economic reality is that a teacher’s income is predicated upon what the marketplace is willing to pay. If a teacher can be replaced for $45,000 a year, then a teacher will be replaced for $45,000 a year. Regardless of how excellent a teacher is or how hard he or she works, supply and demand is an economic reality.

Theoretically, we all have equal opportunities in this life. Under “normal” circumstances, the distance up the professional and economic ladder a person travels is usually in direct proportion to his or her talent, skill and the effort put into the climb. But we also must be mature enough to realize that life is not always fair.

According to a recent article in this paper, one primary cause of concern to VR employees is the 480-hour rule for seasonal employees. This is not a new rule; it’s just never been strictly enforced. What it means is that in order for a full-time seasonal employee to retain his or her full-time status with attendant benefits, he or she must accumulate 480 benefit hours during a five-month season.

For example, if there are 100 full-time ski instructors at Gold Peak, Vail Village, Lionshead and Beaver Creek respectively, there must be 48,000 hours of available work at each POD (Point of Departure) in order for every full-time instructor to retain his or her full-time status and attendant benefits.

Recently, I spoke with a senior member of VR’s management whom I trust implicitly. I asked him if historical records indicate that there’s enough work for their full-time ski instructors. He assured me there was. While VR is under no obligation to relax the rules in order that employees retain their status and attendant benefits, he also assured me that the entire VR management team has been asked to assist individual instructors to meet his or her minimum requirements.

Taking this to the next logical step, the manner in which VR treats any given segment of employees is in all likelihood the manner that they will treat employees throughout the organization; therefore, the commitment to assist instructors bodes well for all seasonal full-time employees.

Vail Resorts does not owe health insurance benefits to anyone. And to me the real issue is not what the marketplace is willing to pay Adam Aron (or Peter Forsberg) but how well VR’s managers and supervisors will work with their employees during the upcoming ski season to resolve the work and benefit issues successfully. I have been assured that they will.

Quote of the day: “When your work speaks for itself, don’t interrupt.”

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at

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