PARK CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) - As Park City Mountain Resort celebrated opening day with thousands of skiers taking to the slopes, there is a flurry of activity going on behind the scenes to get higher wages for ski patrol members.
Vail Resorts, out of Colorado, manages Park City Mountain Resort. The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association represents a couple hundred members of a ski patrol union. The contract between Vail and the union is up for renewal, and negotiations are going on right now.
The group's business manager Julia Edwards spoke to ABC4 News Wednesday.
"Our biggest focus is on retention. We are pushing for wages and flexible work schedules that would enable people to continue patrolling and to help make patrolling more of a long-time profession as opposed to just a couple years and then done," said Edwards.
Ski patrol members typically make between $10 to $13 an hour starting out, Edwards said. That is a low wage for a place like Park City, and the industry has become somewhat of a revolving door, with high turnaround during ski season. That turnaround creates problems for resorts, including expensive training for new hires because of the unique terrain.
"If we don't have that institutional knowledge, there could be issues of safety," said Edwards. "We just want to be able to say that patrollers are paid a livable wage."
"We've got a great relationship with our patrol and all of our employees," Park City Mountain Resort's Chief Operational Officer Bill Rock told ABC4 News, adding that staffing was adequate for Wednesday's opening. He also said during the season there are great part-time job opportunities for people interested in ski patrol.
Edwards said contract negotiations could go on for a few more weeks, but she's optimistic the union and Vail will reach an agreement. She said they have similar discussions every time the contract expires.
None of that was on the minds of skiers enjoying the beautiful late-November weather during opening day Wednesday. Park City Mountain Resort and Canyons Village opened, along with a new learning area at High Meadow Park, which is designed for beginner skiers and snowboarders. The new feature also features a brand new lift.
Guests were offered complimentary hot chocolate and coffee during opening day events.
Snowfall expected over Thanksgiving weekend is expected to attract thousands of visitors to this and other ski resorts around the state.
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