‘Fighting for a living wage,’ Park City ski patrollers demand higher pay as cost of living rises

Off-duty ski patrollers rallied outside Park City Mountain Resort on Sunday to demand higher wages amid the ski resort’s rising cost of living.

The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association represents nearly 200 of them and the mountain safety personnel who are employed by Vail Resorts. The PCPSPA said it had 42 negotiation sessions with the company since August 2020, over the starting hourly wage of new patrollers.

This summer, Vail and Deer Valley resorts announced that they increase their starting salary for $15 tip-free employees amid Utah’s labor shortages.

Patrick Murphy, association business manager and ski patroller at Park City Mountain Resort, said they had skills that were worth increasing their salary.

He said their work ranges from providing advanced medical response on the mountain managing avalanche mitigation with explosives accident investigation and elevator evacuations.

“All of these different skills, it takes years of work to develop expertise in all of these facets,” Murphy said. “It’s not something where you can just hook someone up and have them become a mountain expert.”

Most ski patrollers cannot afford to live in Park City and have to travel to town.

He said ski patrollers demand higher wages because they are currently not “livable” and most employees cannot afford to live in town because of housing prices. The Park Record reported that affordable housing for the workforce in ski towns like Park City is a critical issue that has only gotten worse over the years.

“We would all love to live in Park City, work in the city,” Murphy said, “but right now, as things stand, we don’t make enough money to pay reasonable rent in this city. It forces people to live elsewhere and [for] a lot of people, it forces them to find other job opportunities because they can be paid more.

In a statement sent to KUER, a representative from Park City Mountain Resort said they were continuing to negotiate with the union and believed they were getting closer to an agreement.

“We listened carefully and addressed key points our patrollers and the union have expressed over the past year, including salaries, job training opportunities, equipment reimbursements and sick leave,” said the complex.

Officials said they had “offered them a comprehensive multi-year proposal that offers salary increases to all returning patrollers and increased salary caps to provide more room for our most experienced patrollers to earn merit increases before to reach a salary cap.

Station officials said the deal also provides parity at their locations in Colorado — if patrol salaries increase there, they would automatically match those salaries in Utah without needing to negotiate.

But nothing is finalized.

For now, returning ski patrollers will continue to operate under the terms of their old contract until a new agreement is reached.

Michael A. Bynum