Almost exactly a year ago during the summer of 2021, Solitude made a few big changes, including hiring a new president and chief operating officer (COO), Amber Broadaway. With the staffing change, ski patrollers became hopeful it would also cause a review and improvement of working conditions for patrollers and employees at the resort.
Kai Myers had been a patroller at Solitude for two years. While he wasn’t a seasoned veteran he could recognize the flaws in the way the patroller program operated. Low wages, lack of overtime pay, and safety concerns often turned quality patrollers away after just a few seasons.
After talking with his managers and coworkers, Myers drafted a letter and initiated a request that some changes be made to the program. His goal was to improve working conditions and attract more long-term patrollers for the upcoming season. His letter addressed the flaws of the program, mainly drawing attention to low wages, overtime pay, and lack of additional benefits. Myers added that the quick turnover of patrollers from season to season could result in safety concerns for everyone. He then sent it to Broadaway for consideration.
A few weeks later Myers’ supervisor called him. He had been let go. When asked about the terms upon which he was released, management had stated it was due to issues with his performance. This was not long after Myers had received numerous compliments on his work and was even offered a job for the season.
Myers remained suspicious of the terms of his release, so he filed a complaint claiming that he had been let go based on the letter he sent to Broadaway. After filing his complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), they began to investigate his complaint and prepared a statement against the resort. The statement proposed that Myers was fired on the basis that he was attempting to form a union, a protected action.
Earlier this month, a settlement between Myers and Solitude was met. While the details of the settlement will remain confidential, Myers has been financially compensated by the resort.
“While Solitude rejects the allegations in the complaint former Ski Patroller Kai Myers filed with the National Labor Relations Board,” Broadaway said, “we felt a voluntary and mutually agreeable resolution was in the best interests of all parties involved,” she said in an interview.
In addition to compensating Myers, Solitude has agreed to inform employees and patrollers about their protected right to work together in the form of a union for employee benefits and protection. As of right now, Solitude patrollers are not yet unionized.
Since the complaint, ski patrol wages have been increased and overtime pay policies abridged. Solitude also agreed not to discriminate against hiring potential employees who have ideas that may challenge management when it comes to wages, safety protocols, and other benefits.
Myers’ case isn’t the first of its kind and certainly isn’t an anomaly in the ski industry. This past season, labor actions have drawn attention to ski patroller’s rights all across the industry. Solitude’s neighboring resort, Park City Mountain Resort, is another resort to improve conditions for its patrollers after a bit of strife. Back in January, the Park City ski patrol union threatened a strike if Vail Resorts—owners of Park City—didn’t improve wages and working conditions for its patrollers. A deal was eventually agreed upon before a strike ever occurred.
With more attention to ski patrollers’ rights, it’s important for resorts to recognize the skill that comes with the job by improving pay and working conditions. Without patrollers’ skills in managing terrain and responding to emergencies, resorts wouldn’t be able to function at the level of safety they currently do.