Ski patrollers at Purgatory Resort are set to begin wage negotiations with company management mid-August, following the unionization of the group last winter. According to The Durango Herald, 93% of the ski patrol staff voted in favor of unionizing. The privately owned resort reportedly pays average patrollers $15/hr and blast certified patroller-paramedics $19/hr. The wage of a Vail Resorts ski patroller, after wages were increased by 30% across the whole company, starts at $21/hr, while other resorts hover around $17-$20/hr.
The Purgatory Ski Patrol Union’s formation and wage negotiation follow in the footsteps of several other resorts, like Big Sky and Park City, who received higher pay for patrollers within the past few years. According to several Purgatory employees, the low pay has caused a significantly higher turnover rates than other resorts, leading to more dangerous conditions caused by a lack of experienced patrollers.
“You can look at it as bottom lines getting larger and having to pay a little bit more, but when you’re not having to train new people or hire new people all the time, it can save businesses money.” – Purgatory Patroller Cameron Kautzman, according to The Durango Herald
According to Purgatory General Manager Dave Rathbun, management was not alerted to the wage concerns prior to the patrollers vote to unionize, and was alerted to the vote by the National Labor Relations Board. The patrollers are seeking out not only wage increases, but also a higher gear stipend and training and certification raises. According to patroller Jon Riefenberg, Purgatory gave patrollers a $200 gear stipend, a lackluster amount compared to the $800 he received at Loveland and the $500 he received at monarch.
“Rain or shine, we’re gonna show up and do the job. We’re upset we’re not making enough but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to show up to do our job because it’s not just about a job, it’s about the passion to do it.” – Purgatory Patroller Cameron Kautzman, according to The Durango Herald
Whether or not the patrollers notified management of the wage concerns, I personally believe it’s never a bad idea to seek unionization in any sort of job, and it’s hard to deny that $15/hr, even for a starting pay, is quite low for the training and skill required to become a ski patroller. Sure, Purgatory can’t necessarily compete pay wise with the enormously expansive Vail Resorts, but let’s not pretend Vail Resorts couldn’t be doing better with the pay they provide to their employees, even with he %30 pay increase.
Image Credit: Purgatory Resort on Instagram