Vail Resorts decline voluntary recognition of Keystone Ski Patrol Union

Despite historic levels of public support, Vail Resorts have refused to voluntarily acknowledge the Ski Patrol Union, forcing an official vote on April 2nd.
Now Reading:  
Vail Resorts decline voluntary recognition of Keystone Ski Patrol Union

There is a growing appetite for organized labor – with approval of unions in the United States at their highest since 1965 – and resort ownership knows it. Human resources departments up and down the country are scrambling to ensure the workforce remains atomized, employing decades old union-busting tactics. Keystone is owned by Vail Resorts – the largest resort operator in North America with 37 snowsports areas. Keystone Ski Patrol Union (KSPU) are attempting to unionize after successful campaigns at Vail, Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Park City areas. Vail Resorts – who posted profits exceeding 1.2 Billion in 2023 – have rejected the opportunity to informally recognise the union.

This isn’t their first attempt. Keystone Ski Patrol voted against unionizing in 2021, the bid falling short by a single vote. This time around, there is cause for more optimism. More than two-thirds of eligible patrollers signed union cards, indicating that at this stage, a majority of patrollers are on-board. Union organizers also cite better communication with management, and better sentiment among patrollers. 

This comes on a wave of successful labor-organizing across the west. Just days before Keystone submitted their union petition, so too did patrollers at Palisades-Tahoe with 70% support, and Whitefish Mountain Resort with 77% support. Five long months since Eldora Ski Patrol filed their petition they finally have a date for election, which will take place from March 28th-30th. Since 2015, the membership of the United Ski Patrollers association has doubled to nearly 350.

Read the KSPU statement below:

When approached for comment, Chris Sorensen, General Manager at Keystone Resort provided the following email-statement:

“We care deeply about our team members at Keystone Resort and appreciate all that they do. While we respect our employees’ right to seek to organize, we genuinely believe that the best way to foster an inclusive culture where all employees feel empowered and heard is to have a direct, open relationship. We will continue to do the right thing for our team members, regardless of a union.”

Chris highlighted recent investments – wages, benefits, mental health support, and development opportunities – as an indication of the support KSPU have from senior management, who he says are “committed to continue the work”. But this investment has been met with claims of significant wage compression, where a first-year patroller is earning close to that of someone who has been at Keystone for several years. When approached for comment on wage compression and salary bands for new and experienced patrollers, Vail Resorts declined to comment. 

According to KSPU, more than half of patrollers juggle multiple jobs to keep the lights on, and a roof over their heads. These benefits might look like support on the surface, but according to KSPU, they’re woefully inadequate. Seasonal employees don’t get paid time off (PTO) or sick leave, or seasonal health insurance until they surpass 500 hours.

Safefit is a ‘free’ physical therapy programme provided by Vail, which covers the cost of five visits. Beyond this, it can be covered by insurance up to 70%, but only once the 1500$ deductible has been met. Sessions are an eye-watering 400$ for 40 minutes, so patrollers are still left 100$ out-of-pocket per session, even with insurance. There’s no workout or recreational facility provided, making training and injury prevention difficult. Workers compensation is slow, and if you’re hurt on the job, it takes weeks to be seen. There is a growing feeling that the medical services work for Vail Resorts, and employees feel pressured to return to work.

Keystone Ski Patrollers will have the ability to vote in their upcoming election on April 2nd.

Follow KSPU’s unionization efforts on Instagram