Vail’s Park City Resort Ski Patrol Votes-in Union

Members of the full-time paid ski patrols at the recently-combined Canyons and Park City resorts voted to unionize on 14 December. (Listen-in on interview with Cofounder, Mark O’Connor, and Park City Mountain Resort COO, Bill Rock, on local NPR affiliate KPCW). The vote was close, with 97 voting in favor and 94 opposed to joining Local 7781 of the United Professional Ski Patrols of America (UPSPA) union within the AFL-CIO’s Communications Workers of America (CWA). Park City Opening Day 2015-

The Park City and Canyons resorts were officially combined at the end of July to form what is now the largest US ski resort. Fifty-million dollars has been committed to capital improvements for joining the resorts and upgrading the associated infrastructure. The combined resort has been re-branded as “Park City” (PCMR) with new tagline “There is only one. Park City.”

The question now is whether Vail, who inherited the union when it acquired the Canyons and recently took over management of the former Park City resort, will now continue the negotiations that had been ongoing with the UPSPA. That is, before Vail decided to use the combination of the two former competing resorts to create an opportunity to re-visit unionization of the former Canyons Resort patrol.

The negotiation of Canyons’ union contract had been ongoing, with 100% union participation among former Canyons patrollers. The Canyons Patrol had suggested early-on that the Park City patrol could be added to the agreement then-being negotiated. However, support from patrollers on the Park City side was not in favor of the union. Negotiations will now officially be between the combined patrols and PCMR. The patrols on both sides will have the additional challenge of getting on the same page with regard to union representation, but it is not mandatory. Under Utah law, union involvement is not obligatory even when a majority votes in favor of unionizing. PCMR also has a volunteer patrol. That patrol unit is not a party to the union negotiations given its volunteer status and regulatory restrictions.

This leaves the count of unionized “Pro Patrols” at large resorts around the US at eight. Telluride patrollers, in a 47 to 1 vote, joined Colorado’s Crested Butte and Steamboat, and Utah’s Canyons Resort this past February. Teluride patrollers voted to accept their first union-negotiated contract in a 50-1 vote at the beginning of November. The Steamboat Professional Ski Patrol Association voted in a union in a December 1999 – 44 to 12 vote. Canyons patrollers unionized in April of 2000. Each of those resorts is represented by UPSPA. Patrollers at Aspen SkiCo’s four resorts, Aspen Mountain (Ajax) , Snowmass, Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk have been separately unionized since 1986 as the Aspen Professional Ski Patrol Association (APSPA). (see recent “Ski Patrol Unions” article for more historical details).

The Taos New Mexico ski patrol held a union vote in late November. But in a 22-22 tie vote, their effort failed. Taos Ski Valley reportedly sweetened the pot of patroller benefits ahead of the vote, offering more pay and a ski gear allowance, according to the Vail Daily. Beaver Creak ski instructors are exploring the possibility of unionization, which would make it the first ski instructors’ union.

The former President of the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association, patroller Pete Earle, issued a prepared statement on 15 December that said, “We are proud of the success that the Canyons Professional Ski Patrol Association and Canyons have enjoyed together for 15 years, and that the Association will continue to be a part of the team under the newly combined Park City Mountain Resort. We want what is best for our patrollers, the resort’s guests and Park City – and we believe that having the Association and our members at the table ultimately will result in a better experience for patrollers and guests alike.”


One thought on “Vail’s Park City Resort Ski Patrol Votes-in Union”

  1. Vail CEO, Rob Katz, recently commented on the patrol union at PCR. In an interview during the opening of Park City’s Quicksilver Gondola, Katz was laser focused on enhancing the experience of guests at Park City Resort, even to a point that shows Vail’s commitment to customer service. Katz was not down-playing the fact that his preference as CEO would be for the Park City patrol not to be represented by a union. The interesting part was that he went on to say that if it was a choice for the union to represent only the former Canyons patrol and not the former Park City patrol, he would prefer to have the union represent all patrollers. His reason? Because guests need a consistent experience throughout the resort, and nothing should compromise that. Mr. Katz is clearly someone that walks the “exceptional guest experience” talk. Listen to the whole interview here:

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