Vail Resorts to offer end-of-season bonus to hourly employees

All full-time and part-time hourly employees will be eligible for $2/hour bonus

Vail Ski Patrol workers line up at the HIgh Noon Express lift in Vail after getting the Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls open for the season Dec. 28. All hourly employees who continue to work for Vail Resorts through the end of the season will be entitled to a bonus.
John LaConte/Vail Daily

Calling this ski season “incredibly challenging,” Vail Resorts CEO Kirstin Lynch on Monday said employees who stick with the company through the end of the season will receive a $2 per hour bonus for all hours worked after Jan. 1.

“It is unusual to take these actions in the middle of the season, but this is an unusual season,” Lynch told employees in an email.

The full payout of the bonus will occur in May. Employees must work through their season-end date to be eligible.

The bonus is for this season only; Lynch, in the email, said Vail Resorts will review employee compensation at the end of the season.

“These bonus programs are specific to this year and the unique challenges of this season,” Lynch said.

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Lynch acknowledged that Vail Resorts workers have carried an extra burden this season.

“Staffing was always going to be tight given the global labor shortage, but the acceleration of Omicron, late snow, and many other factors created particularly challenging impacts for our operations teams,” she said. “We were all hoping this season would be more ‘normal,’ however, as we went through the busy holiday period, it became apparent that we are still navigating the impacts of this pandemic.”

Vail Resorts, to start the 2018-19 ski season, increased its minimum wage from $10 per hour to $12.25 per hour in Colorado, California and Utah. Three years later, to start the 2021-22 season, Vail Resorts announced it was increasing its starting wage to $15 per hour in Colorado, Utah, California and Washington.

In an earnings call in December, Lynch said the company was happy with its current wage level at $15 per hour.

“We feel good about that wage increase,” Lynch said.

But Vail Resorts received a barrage of bad press to start 2022 — a petition titled “Hold Vail Resorts Accountable” alleges mismanagement of the Stevens Pass ski area in Washington state, failure to treat employees well, failure to pay a livable wage, and failure to deliver the a proper ski experience. The petition has received 38,000 signatures and counting. Tales of bad guest experiences over the holidays have made headlines from coast to coast.

The Tuesday bonus announcement from Lynch came just one day after a 50th bargaining session between the resort operator and the ski patrollers’ union at Park City Mountain Resort, with both sides remaining deadlocked. Patrollers in Park City are asking for a $2 wage increase.

Last week, Wall Street financial corporation Truist Financial published an opinion referencing labor problems at Vail Resorts.

“(Vail Resorts) may need to bite the bullet and raise wages even higher in order to bring the quality of the product back to its historically excellent levels,” wrote Patrick Scholes with Truist.

The Seattle Times also published a piece on Friday saying pass purchasers were “getting cheated” this season due to overcrowding and a lack of terrain openings. Later that day, Lynch sent an email to employees saying “it is clear that there are actions that need to be taken this season.”

Monday’s announcement from Lynch touted the company’s willingness to react to challenges.

“We are a company that embraces change, which means we also embrace feedback when things do not go well and then we adjust,” Lynch said.

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