News Roundup: On Line

News Roundup: Viral Videos

Park City Mountain Employee Killed After Tree Falls on Chairlift

A tree fell on the Short Cut triple around 10:45 am this morning at Park City Mountain, causing a ski patroller on the lift to fall more than 25 feet. Despite swift rescue efforts, the 29 year old worker did not survive. Ten other passengers on the lift were evacuated and several other chairlifts in the area were closed to support the ski patrol response. The mountain had received 25 inches of dense snow in the past 48 hours as part of a major storm cycle.

“The Park City Mountain team – as well as the entire Vail Resorts team – extend our deepest sympathy and support to the family and friends of our team member,” said Deirdra Walsh, Park City Mountain vice president & chief operating officer. “We are all deeply saddened by this tragic incident, and we will be providing support for our employees as we grieve this devastating loss.”

Short Cut was installed in 1997 and features triple chairs with lap bars. The lift will remain closed until an investigation is complete. Other lifts in the area are expected to reopen tomorrow.

Update 1/4: Authorities identified the deceased ski patroller as 29 year old Christian Helger of Millcreek, Utah. The cause of death will be determined by the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

News Roundup: California Republic

Park City to Replace Red Pine Gondola Cabins

Despite the recent postponement of two major lift projects, Vail Resorts will press ahead with another major upgrade at Park City next summer. Leitner-Poma of America has been contracted to supply all-new cabins for the Red Pine Gondola, the out-of-base workhorse in Canyons Village. The eight passenger lift dates back to 1997 and currently features 58 CWA Omega cabins with two spares. All 60 cars will be swapped for 55 Sigma Diamond C8S155 cabins manufactured in France. The project is similar to the 2018 upgrade of Killington’s K-1 Gondola, a sister ship to Red Pine built by Poma the same year for American Skiing Company.

“Some incremental re-engineering of towers and terminal rails will be completed to support the change,” said a Park City representative by email. The mountain’s other major lift project, replacement of Silverlode and Eagle, remains in legal limbo and will proceed if and when it gains approval. In the meantime, Vail Resorts and Doppelmayr are working to install equipment originally ordered for Park City at Whistler Blackcomb. In addition to the Whistler and Red Pine projects, Vail Resorts also plans to install new lifts at Attitash, Breckenridge, Keystone and Stevens Pass next year.

Park City Lift Mechanics Vote to Unionize

The results are in. Park City Mountain’s lift mechanics and electricians voted by an 85 percent margin to form a union. Nearly every eligible employee cast a ballot over the past two days with 35 choosing yes and 6 voting no. The Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union will be part of the Communications Workers of America, the same union which represents ski patrollers at Park City, Crested Butte, Stevens Pass and other mountains. “Hard work pays off!” read a social media post from the union. “We would like to thank the community at large for their continued support, and we’re extremely excited for a phenomenal winter season and some productive bargaining sessions,” the post continued.

Park City parent company Vail Resorts had advocated for a continued direct relationship with employees who maintain the largest lift fleet on the continent. “We care deeply about all of our employees, and we are going to do what’s right for our team members regardless of today’s outcome,” said Deirdra Walsh, Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of Park City Mountain. “While we are disappointed with the result, we are grateful to those who took the time to vote. As we have shared both publicly and to our team throughout this process, we sincerely believe that direct communication works best to build strong relationships, ensure a safe working environment, and allow every employee’s voice to be heard through direct and open dialogue,” Walsh continued. “We respect the decision of those who chose to pay to have a union speak for them with regard to their wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment.”

Assuming the election results are certified by the National Labor Relations Board, Park City will become the first ski lift maintenance union in the United States. The union plans to elect leaders soon and work toward its first contract with Vail Resorts.

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Park City Lift Mechanics and Electricians File Union Petition

The lift maintenance department at Vail Resorts-owned Park City Mountain could be the first in the United States to unionize under a plan announced today. A group of mechanics and electricians filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board to form the Park City Lift Maintenance Professional Union, which would be would be part of the Communications Workers of America 7781 – the United Professional Ski Patrols of America. A press release states the petition was submitted with 80 percent support.

In March, Vail Resorts raised its minimum wage for US maintenance technicians to $21 per hour however the union says there are issues beyond just compensation. “The members of the mechanics team face dangerous work conditions, chronic understaffing, and low pay that is not commensurate with the precarity of their work or cost of living,” said the CWA. “These issues contribute to constant employee turnover, which makes it impossible to cultivate a crew of experienced mechanics, and their work often goes unappreciated despite being essential to the resort’s functioning. The workers have decided that self-advocacy as a unionized crew will combat these issues, and create a safe and equitable working environment for all.”

CWA 7781 currently represents some 650 ski patrollers in the Mountain West and Pacific Northwest, most recently adding Purgatory Resort bike patrollers to its ranks. The CWA also represents patrol staff at Vail Resorts properties including Breckenridge, Crested Butte and Stevens Pass.

“The prosperity, happiness, and safety of the mechanics and electricians in Lift Maintenance has been a discussion for years,” said Liesl Jenkins, a lift mechanic at Park City Mountain Resort. “Having a voice and the opportunity to negotiate with our employer is paramount to the retention of mechanics and electricians, as well as experience, in our department.”

The petition starts multi-step process between the National Labor Relations Board, the union and employer before a possible formal union vote.

Update: Park City Mountain Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Deirdra Walsh provided the following statement regarding the unionization effort:

“We’re committed to constant improvement of our employee experience, which includes our significant investment in employee wages and affordable housing for this season, among other steps. We’re proud of our efforts so far but know this work is ongoing. I’ve always believed in an open-door policy and encourage employees to communicate directly with me and our leadership team. My number one priority is working together with employees to hear and address their concerns. We believe a direct relationship with our team works best rather than through a third party, but we respect the decision of our teammates to choose.”

Park City Mountain Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Deirdra Walsh

Vail Resorts to Install Deferred Park City Lifts at Whistler Blackcomb

In its earnings report today, Vail Resorts announced new six and eight passenger lifts will be built at Whistler Blackcomb in 2023, replacing the aging Jersey Cream and Fitzsimmons high speed quads. The project will utilize Doppelmayr equipment originally purchased for Park City Mountain but not installed due to a successful permit appeal by four local residents. On Blackcomb Mountain, Jersey Cream will become a six passenger detachable and on Whistler Mountain, Vail Resorts’ first eight place D-Line will replace the Fitzsimmons Express. Jersey Cream services the heart of Blackcomb’s mid mountain and Fitzsimmons provides out-of-base capacity to Whistler Mountain along with servicing the world’s largest bike park. Jersey Cream capacity will increase 29 percent and Fitzsimmons capacity will jump 73 percent. Fitz will also become the first eight place and first D-Line in Canada.

The two lifts were originally slated to become Eagle and Silverlode, respectively, at Park City. Vail said it remains “committed to resolving our permit” for the new Park City lifts in the future. “When that happens, we plan to purchase the lifts and equipment needed,” the company said. Vail Resorts appealed the permit revocation in July but no resolution has been reached. Due to continued uncertainty, lift equipment was placed in storage in Utah over the summer and will be re-engineered and modified for Whistler Blackcomb. An intermediate unloading station built for Eagle likely won’t be utilized in Whistler. Despite the Park City situation, 18 other lifts that are part of the 2022 Epic Lift Upgrade are proceeding on schedule, including two at Whistler Blackcomb.

“We are excited to continue investing in the guest experience here at Whistler Blackcomb, and the opportunity to upgrade the Fitzsimmons Express and Jersey Cream chairlifts reinforces our commitment to excellence, especially as a world-class destination resort,” said Geoff Buchheister, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Whistler Blackcomb. “Following approvals and installation, these upgrades will reduce lift line wait times and create easier access and flow for all who visit our beautiful mountains,” he continued.

The Whistler Blackcomb projects bring Vail Resorts to at least six new lifts for 2023, including three previously announced investments and the delayed Keystone Bergman Bowl expansion. In July, Vail unveiled plans to replace Summit at Attitash, 5-Chair at Breckenridge and Kehr’s Chair at Stevens Pass for 2023. The Attitash and Breckenridge projects will be detachable quads while Stevens Pass will see a fixed grip quad. Manufacturer(s) for those lifts have not been announced. At Keystone, Bergman Bowl will feature a six passenger Leitner-Poma detachable.

Vail also reported season pass sales increased approximately 6 percent in units and 7 percent in sales dollars through September 24th as compared to a year ago. However, full Epic and Epic Local unlimited season pass sales declined roughly 10 percent. The company’s total 2023 capital plan is expected to total $191 million to $196 million, significantly less than this year’s $323 to $333 million. Those numbers reflect approximately $10 million in capital deferred from 2022 to 2023 as a result of the Park City and Keystone lift delays.

In addition to the six 2023 lift projects, Vail also plans to debut new technology allowing guests to use phones as lift passes via Bluetooth Low Energy connectivity next season.