Crested Butte Ski Patrol union and Vail Resorts in contract talks

Patrol working without contract

By Mark Reaman

Negotiations between Vail Resorts, owner of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol are under way but on hold for the holidays. Representatives of both sides indicate talks are cordial but differences remain.

Vail purchased CBMR this summer and that added a second unionized ski patrol to the resort’s North American operations. Park City also has a unionized ski patrol with 200 members, while CBMR has 49 members.

The Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol Association sent an “intent to negotiate” letter to management in August, and negotiations commenced on November 1. According to a statement from the union, challenges to members of the CBPSPA include increased cost of living near a resort town, wage compression in relation to the rising minimum wage, and wages in other sectors of the local economy that make ski patrol work less attractive.

The CBPSPA has been working without a contract since November 28, when the previous two-year agreement with CBMR expired. In the ongoing negotiations, “We are trying to work with the company on a contract that benefits both parties,” said Chad Berardo, president of the CBPSPA. “One that recognizes the role that ski patrol plays in the safe and effective operation of our resort and mirrors the unique demands of a ski area that contains the steep and technical terrain that Crested Butte is known for. A highly trained and experienced patrol is what this mountain requires and our guests deserve.”

Berardo noted that all ski patrollers in Crested Butte are EMT-Basic certified, where that is not the case at every ski resort.

CBMR vice president and general manager Tim Baker said while there hasn’t been a lot of time, the conversations between management and the ski patrol have been good.

“Now in only our third month with the resort, we are enjoying learning about Crested Butte—the resort, the community and our new employees, including the Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol Association and its history prior to our ownership of CBMR,” Baker said. “With the beginning of the season upon us, we have started the process of coming together as an organization with a shared focus to provide a terrific, safe experience for our guests. While we are still in the early stages of collective bargaining with the Ski Patrol Association, we have had constructive conversations and believe both parties are working in good faith to reach an agreement.”

Berardo said the patrol worked without a contract in place twice in the 1990s but they would not like to do that again. The patrol is basically working under the terms of the previous contract that ended in November but with a few alterations. “The No Strike/No Lockout clause was removed but the patrol does not intend to strike at this time, and we understand from Vail Resorts that they do not plan to lock us out,” he explained. “One of the draw backs is the inability to move grievances to arbitration if they cannot be resolved.  Otherwise, Vail Resorts cannot make any unilateral changes to working conditions or terms of employment and all wages stay as they were under the previous agreement but the patrol members do have access to Vail Resorts Insurance packages.”

Negotiation talks will resume in mid January.

The Crested Butte Professional Ski Patrol Association is part of CWA Local 7781, the United Professional Ski Patrols of America. Through Local 7781, the Communications Workers of America represent Ski Patrollers at Park City, Crested Butte, Steamboat, and Telluride.

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