Vail Resorts’ snowstake cam broadcasts blowback from efforts asking employees to vacate housing
Sign placed in front of live camera criticizes company and CEO Rob Katz
Blowback from the coordinated effort by Eagle County and Vail Resorts to see workers vacate employee housing, if able, received a public broadcast via one of Vail Resorts’ own snowstake cameras on Saturday morning.
A sign was placed in front of the Beaver Creek camera, reading “10 days to vacate employee housing #ProfitsOverPeople #RobKatzMustGo.”
As of Saturday afternoon, the snowstake camera viewing feature had been removed from Beaver Creek’s website. Vail Resorts offered no comment on the matter on Saturday.
The sign references a document issued to Vail Resorts employees on March 17, which said workers in employee housing are recommended to leave housing “as our community infrastructure is largely shutting down.” Vail Resorts closed its North American ski areas on March 15.
One portion of the March 17 document, which is titled “COVID-19 Employee FAQ: Season Closure,” says “if you have specific circumstances that prevent you from leaving housing, please work with the housing manager or open a case (with the company).”
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Later in the document, however, the language is less welcoming.
“If needed, you can remain in housing until Friday, March 27,” the March 17 document states.
‘Return home if you can’
On March 18, Vail Resort CEO Rob Katz issued a follow-up letter to employees, explaining that those who can not leave have the support of the company and the local community.
By that point, however, the damage had been done. News outlets across the state were sharing stories of employees hitting the road while commenters on those stories said the decision to tell employees to leave was irresponsible.
Vail Resorts explained that the direction to have employees leave was coming from local governments in the counties where Vail Resorts operates. Eagle County Commissioner Kathy Chandler Henry’s first response on March 18 was to say Vail received no such direction from Eagle County, but later that day, Chandler Henry noted that Eagle County had indeed offered full support of Vail Resorts’ decision.
“I think the confusion here is where Eagle County may have not said that in those words (our new order had not gone out yet), Summit County and Gunnison County, two counties VR operates in, did essentially say that,” Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll told the Vail Daily in an email. “We support the messaging that guests, visitors and non-permanent residents that have a permanent place to reside, it would be wise to return home. If that is not possible (can’t get home for whatever reason), it is not possible and those folks will have to stay. VR and the EC would be aligned in trying to find the best way to accommodate them. One other point of clarification on behalf of VR, they do have some employee housing that is more communal in nature much like a college dorm setting. That is not conducive to social distancing requirements and we support VR’s efforts to encourage those housed in those circumstances to return home or find safer places to live where social distancing can be practiced.”
Shroll also refuted the claim that community infrastructure was shutting down.
“This is not true in EC,” Shroll wrote. “Again, Summit and Gunnison have some different orders out there that may look different than ours, but right now EC transit is still operating, all utilities, water/wastewater, trash services, etc. are all still operating.”
In a telephone call, Shroll made it clear that seasonal employees are always welcome members of the Eagle County community.
“Yes you’re part of our community, yes you’re part of the economic engine that makes this valley go,” Shroll said. “You may be safer and wiser to go back to your place of origin because we have a pretty significant spread issue going on up here, but if you can’t we’re going to treat you just like we treat the county manager.”