Vail Resorts prepares for possible Park City ski patrol strike, says email seeking replacements was ‘not authorized’

The unauthorized email, leaked to Instagram on Friday, indicated Vail Resorts was looking for replacement ‘temp patrollers’ for Park City.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) People take to the slopes of Park City Mountain Resort as clear skies and some recent fresh snow draws the crowds on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

Vail Resorts said Friday that it is preparing for a possible strike by the Park City ski patrol union after the two parties again failed to reach a contract agreement Thursday night in a negotiation process that has been dragging on since August 2020.

An email leaked to Instagram on Friday appeared to show an effort to attract temporary patrollers to Park City for $600 per day plus travel expenses. But the publicly traded company — which owns ski resorts across the United States and in Canada — said the email was “not authorized by Vail,” and denied claims that it is actively recruiting ski patrollers from other resorts.

The email was sent from a patrol director to ski patrollers at the Vail-owned Attitash Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. It was immediately characterized on social media as an attempt by the company to hire replacement workers who could be used to help keep the Utah resort open in the event of a strike.

The Salt Lake Tribune was able to independently confirm that the email was sent by a Vail employee on Thursday night before it was quickly retracted. Patrollers at Attitash who received the leaked email start at $13 per hour, or $104 for an eight-hour day. Park City ski patrollers currently start at $13.25 per hour.

Quinn Kelsey, director of communications for Vail Resorts, told The Tribune in a written statement that the contents of the email were not accurate.

“No effort to reach out directly to patrollers to come to Park City was suggested, authorized or initiated by Vail Resorts,” she said. “The compensation discussed in the email was also never discussed.”

Kelsey did confirm, however, that the company is taking next steps to prepare for a possible strike.

The union, the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association, has raised $65,000 since Christmas for a solidarity fund that could be used to replace workers’ wages should they stop receiving paychecks.

“Given that the Park City patrol union is raising money to prepare for a potential work stoppage,” Kelsey said, “we believe it is our responsibility to also prepare by having internal conversations about how we can minimize any impact of a work stoppage to the resort and to the community.”

In a social media post, the union said it had “heard rumors” about the company offering high pay to temporary patrollers.

“We hope any patroller who receives such a message understands the fight we are taking on [is] for our co-workers, families, and patrollers everywhere,” the union said. “Please help us by continuing your strong work at your home resorts.”

Close to 90% of the roughly 180 members of the Park City Ski Patrol are unionized. They have been pushing for a $17 per hour base wage for patrollers, which the union leadership says is the industry standard in the avalanche-prone West.

Vail has offered rookie Park City patrollers $15 per hour, the base wage for all workers at its biggest resorts, but the union has rejected those offers. Vail did not present the union with a counter proposal Thursday, but said it was encouraged by the discussions.

While employers can legally hire replacement workers during some strikes, the National Labor Relations Board has previously ruled that employers cannot threaten to replace workers before a strike begins.

Zak Podmore is a Report for America corps member for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.