* Warning: the information that you are about to read has sensitive materiel and has been accumulated based off of personal experiences over the past 3 years with Vail Resorts in Park City, Utah; the opinions expressed are backed by both actions/lack of action taken throughout those years *
Backstory: I began working for Vail in 2014 as a rental tech, however I technically worked for The Canyons Resort as the transition of both mountains had not yet been implemented. For that summer, I worked as a zip tour guide as well as a summer lift operator that moved into winter operations for the 14/15 winter season. In 2015 I took a job within retail for the company finishing that season with no intent to return to Vail again. However, in 2017 due to a large job demand coming from the company in Park City, I chose to take a human resources position in the hopes of staying with the company long term.
After speaking on the phone with Emma from Corporate's Employee Investigations Team, I believe that these issues need to be, at least, made public and brought to the attention of the two people who are responsible for this resort, as Corporate chose to focus solely on only the sexual harassment piece of this write up. The phone call was not recorded nor was there intention to do so even after I asked how this conversation would be fully documented; the response that I was given was that she would be taking notes personally while we spoke. By the end of the phone call it was very clear why this had been set up: she wanted to make sure I did not have the grounds to sue the company; when I asked her what was going to be done with this information, she responded by saying "it will be going on file". My response? Publicity.
So here it is:
Part I: Vail Resorts, The Buyout, and Corporate Flaws
Lack of consideration for employees in general. Our guests are treated far better than our employees who are working tirelessly to operate the mountain for said guests for a dismal wage. Not only that, our lovely CEO, Rob Katz, loves to dump money into the pockets of the politicians that absolutely don't believe in climate change yet we have set a Zero Emissions Goal for the 2020's.
Pay: Employees do not receive holiday pay even though we work straight through the holidays with little or no schedule change; we were just able to post a competitive wage for our lift operators for the first time this 17/18 season because they have been underpaid compared to our neighboring resorts. My personal position goes for 15.00/hour starting, outside of Vail Resorts but in Park City, and due to the demand of this one, full time, position with the company, I was unable to take on a second job within the community.
Meals: Black out meal times for employees – some of us only have the food at our work to eat and being asked to skip a meal due to our guest service does not seem reasonable. Resort food is entirely too expensive as is and either way Vail is making money regardless of who is purchasing. Guests visiting this mountain, or any Vail Resort for that matter, should be aware of the choice they made by coming to a corporate ran ski mountain and that they should expect lines and a higher volume of traffic on a daily basis.
Customer Service: At the Grand Summit Fast Tracks café I was waiting behind two guests for 15 minutes and once they completed their orders and were served and it was finally my time to order, the barista took my order only to have a new guest walk up behind me AFTER the barista had taken my order, upon which the barista said “I am sorry but the guest has priority”. I agree with this attitude but not in this circumstance-that kind of “customer service” is eye opening and it was blatantly demeaning as a human.
Parking: The PC base area lot is filled with ice that the attendants do nothing obvious to make it safe for even the guests. I had one attendant tell me “you may want to park elsewhere as we have had cars slipping throughout the day” on 01/10/2018. You would think that after three years of the official turn over, we would have a parking under control by now like a parking garage or a lot that can actually handle the high volume of guests visiting. Vail also has contracted their employees third party to work for the Parking Department, so any of the folks you see in the PC lot standing in an orange vest do not actually work primarily for Vail Resorts. Lastly, my biggest question is how does one of the parking managers have two DUI’s on record, one resulting in a suspension of his license for a period of time in Summit County, and is still in charge not only of all vehicles on property but also gets to drive company ones? Not afraid to call you out Josh, tenure at a company shouldn't mean running through the ranks unscathed by the same rules. Plus, I'm pretty sure that is a considerable liability for Vail.
Housing: Vail is robbing it’s employees through Employee Housing by charging an employee a comparable amount of rent to live with a roommate where instead the employee can rent a whole room outside of the Employee Housing agreement for the same price. I have heard this complaint from many employees, many of which who have left employee housing already due to this fact. The retaliation response from the company: that costs covers all that is provided. There is also extremely limited transportation options for employees from the housing area, including options to obtain food from a grocery store on a regular basis, which comes off as a large irresponsibility on Vail’s part in buying a resort in a town that was not equipped to handle it. Beyond that, the employee housing that was set up was birthed just a couple weeks prior to the mountain's opening day and therefore there was little advertisement done; recruiters who traveled to foreign countries this summer did not even have that information to give to prospective J1 or H2B workers. The review for Employee Housing in terms of being successful/not successful is being based on this Winter 17/18 season in which almost no one knew about this housing option. To add, the housing established for employees is not even in Park City, instead it is in a town called Heber City that sits 15-20 minutes away from Park City and has no public transportation available aka no bus system. It's an extremely limiting location for an resort worker who comes here without personal transportation.
Business Partners: *Business Partners are employees who are technically third party from Vail so as to provide both employees and managers with a place/person to discuss work related issues* When I was employed with Vail Park City as a Zip Tour Guide/Lift Operator for the 14/15 summer into winter season, Simon McFarren dropped his hand down my back all the way to my buttocks in a sexual enough manner that I was made immediately uncomfortable around him permanently. It took until the winter of that year for me to have the guts to go talk to a business partner about it because I myself was raped at the age of sixteen and I did not want to talk to the lift department about it as I knew nothing would get done. After stopping by the HR office one day, Nikki Kendrick sat down and met with me formally but nothing, literally nothing was done about it. There was no follow-through on the issue, zero consideration for the PTSD it triggered. It was the reason why I said I would never take another job with Vail Resorts after that season. Now we work in the same department. In early January 2018, I informed my supervisor of the above incidents and now as the beginning of February has come, I have not received any follow through on even that conversation, after I made it clear that I wanted Nikki Kendrick to explain to me why she never did anything. The lack of follow through made me feel uncomfortable to the point that when harassed at my workplace on 01/30/2018 by a male employee, I chose to go straight to Public Safety with my concerns as I did not feel like I would have been taken seriously enough by my supervisor or a Business Partner.
Employee Benefits: The number one complaint that comes through the HR office at Park City when it comes to employee benefits: "no more buddy passes, Powder Corps used to give us full comp buddy passes". Our system here with Vail works in a way that you only receive full comp passes if you are Year Round Full Time, 25 years lifetime status, or you are season full time with Vail for +5 years aka you have to work for Vail for over 5 years to earn your privileges. Health insurance? You need to be year round or seasonally full time, but here's the catch, you have to meet the 750 hours of service with the company before you quality for health insurance. 750 hours roughly plays out to be a full winter season, so employees go one whole season without being offered health insurance. Most places cap around 90 days of commitment needed before being offered insurance.
Child Care Options: Employees who have children are not guaranteed child care, especially during peak times, but are expected to be at work regardless. There are hardly any usable outside options that have been made available to employees so that they actually do have alternatives. Besides children, there are employees that have living, breathing souls to take care of, such as dogs, but we are not paid enough to use our options so that we can leave them for an 8-10 hour work day. There are multiple employees that I know of personally who have to bring their dog into work with them which actually means that the animal sits in the said employee’s vehicle for the day. “Find someone else to help you, can’t your roommate do it, what about a kennel” are not available options for most; most employees are coming from The Valley for work and most employees barely get a solid enough lunch break to attend to their pets. Then, I have employees coming in to my office blatantly confirming that there are other employees that work for this resort that bring their dogs into their offices/workplaces with them.
HR Department: For everything that the HR department does for the resort, for managers and supervisors, for employees and their dependents and even guests, you would think that we would get a strong pat on the back more often. Instead we get more complaints, more bad attitudes, and more sub-par treatment from the people we work every day alongside. Of every employee that we helped onboard and hire there was only one individual that came back in to thank us for our time and work; that day was in late November after one of our busiest Check-In Sessions for the 17/18 Season. We had to beg other departments to send volunteers for Check-In sessions and only two departments showed consistent support/help: Golf and Ski School. We have well over 10 departments at this resort. 9 out of 10 employees that walk into our offices do not say “please” or “thank you”.
HR Office at Park City: On a weekly basis we have individuals that have come into the office, located in a basement, claiming that they smell something “gas or chemical or electrical” going on. Our office is also the location of the sprinkler control valve room which has a compressor that turns on at random during business hours and creates such a loud noise that you are not able to communicate for 1-2 minutes. Employees complain that they can “never find the HR office on this side” and half of the people we see are for Ski School who then get frustrated because they are lost in this base area. Employees are constantly saying, “you would think that HR would be more accessible or at least have a window”.
Maybe I have taken these discussed items too personally however I strongly believe that my concerns and complaints are an accurate depiction as to what it is actually like to work for a resort that under pays its employees and does very little to address their needs. I am in full understanding that a company this large has a harder time tending to the specific needs of its employees and I am sure that everything discussed will be swept back under the rug as I am sure these issues are not to be deemed as worthy enough of discussion. I do know for a fact that I am not the only one who feels this way but I am one of the few that is taking the time to warn you that Vail Resorts needs to change if they want employees to return each season.
To end, I more or less just wanted, in writing, my exact reasons for leaving and so that some of these specific instances can be documented in the hopes that Vail Resorts actually cares in some way, shape, or form.
We may just be another number to the company but we are all still human beings.
Part II - The Community, The Locals, Park City
Where do we begin? Shall we touch on summer that Vail had it's greedy sights set on owning the name "Park City" so that anyone using the town's name, the given name of this beautiful place before Vail ever existed, would have to pay to license it from Vail. I'll always be proud of the folks who took to our hill in town and added a white "TM" next to our big white "PC" letters. Locals are losing their town; sure you can argue that Sundance was always going to populate this location however Utah was never on the radar the way that it is now. Park City was not built to handle the influx that Vail has brought upon the town. Local shops are losing their benefits with each passing year, being forced to either comply or stand completely on their own.
Vail wants total control, period. They will write in a new rule for the mountain right in front of your face if they do not agree with you or what you are trying to do; if you speak to management you get turned around by someone sitting behind a desk who pushes more paper than snow.
What happened to the ski culture that we all loved? When did our free time need to become so regulated? When did spending your own hard earned money on a season pass mean that it can be pulled at the drop of a dime for any given reason - or more just because you pissed someone off. You end up watching your back on mountain instead of enjoying your day. My theory: Vail is advertising and appealing to a part of the population in the world that does not ski for any other reason than vacation; guests therefore hold a high expectation for what Vail promises they will experience but show up to a mountain that has horrid snow conditions and overpopulated slopes. Even when the season is strong in snowfall for the resorts, there are no caps for the ski mountains owned by Vail so you are bound to be skiing with thousands of people at any resort location.
The only positive that Vail brought upon the town this winter was an increase in business locally due to the snow conditions (or lack thereof). This season, Park City's Main Street businesses saw a huge jump in success as more guests who had booked their trip to Park City a year out with the expectation of skiing powder are taking their funds to places that Vail can't make a dime off of.
If you have had any sort of experience with Vail Resorts that you want to share, feel free to comment on this post. This company is money driven while making sure no one gets in their way. Stay supporting your local community Park City, our mountain may be owned but the town isn't.