Perisher Resort, Australia, to Scrap Volunteer Ski Patrol in 2024

Julia Schneemann | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Perisher Ski Patrol
Members of the Perisher Ski Patrol. | Picture: Perisher Ski Patrol Facebook Page

Perisher Resort, Australia, has decided to discontinue the volunteer ski patrol that has worked alongside Perisher’s professional ski patrol for over 50 years in the winter of 2024. The decision was made to ensure “the delivery of consistent ski patrol services at Perisher Ski Resort.” The Perisher Ski Patrol Inc. (‘PSP’) has approximately 120 active members and is Australia’s largest volunteer ski patrol. PSP operates under the ‘One Patrol’ umbrella by supporting Perisher’s Paid Patrol across the 1,245 hectares of the Perisher Blue resort, including Perisher, Smiggins Hole, Blue Cow, and Guthega.

Perisher is the largest ski resort in Australia, located in New South Wales (‘NSW’), about six hours southwest of Sydney, and was acquired in July 2015 by Vail Resorts. PSP is run as a charity, and many of its members come from Sydney, dedicating large chunks of their time to volunteer at Perisher Resort in the volunteer ski patrol. Perisher also operates a paid ski patrol. Volunteering is very much the fabric of the Australian culture, and almost all Australian ski resorts have both a paid and a volunteer ski patrol, just like Australian beaches are patrolled by both paid and volunteer surf lifeguards.

“The Perisher Ski Patrol Inc. volunteers have a storied history at our resort, and we are grateful for their contributions. Volunteers have worked alongside our professional ski patrol service over many years, however, the evolution of the ski industry, workplace health and safety obligations and guests’ expectations are demanding more time and skills than a volunteer can reasonably be asked to deliver. We believe the future of ski patrolling is best provided by full coverage on the mountain by a fully professional workforce. We are grateful to PSP for volunteering their time and will look to honor their legacy in the future.”

– Michael Fearnside, Perisher Operations Director

Perisher Ski Patrol
Perisher Ski Patrol digging out infrastructure on the mountain at Perisher Resort. | Picture: Perisher Ski Patrol Facebook Page

The decision was met with outrage by the PSP volunteers, who felt that the resort was implying that their services were somehow of a lower standard. A letter written by Perisher to the president of the volunteer ski patrol stated that the decision was made “in order to ensure consistency of training, delivery of ski patrol services, safety protocols, and compliance purposes to provide the highest standard of care for all of Perisher’s guests.”

For the 2023 winter season, which will commence at Perisher on June 10, 2023, qualification requirements are listed in a separate document for the volunteers. Former president Michael McAlary said in an interview with SnowBrains, “The same standards are not required of the paid patrol.” All ski patrols in Australia fall under the Australian Ski Patrol Association (‘ASPA’), which sets and upholds safety standards in Australian Alpine areas. ASPA is the sole provider of ski patrol training and provides uniform courses and certifications for all its members — paid and volunteer ski patrols. All members of PSP undertake regular training programs and must hold appropriate first aid certificates to be an active ski patroller.

A 38-page economic analysis performed in 2017 by former president Michael McAlary and Jiaming Jia concluded that the volunteer ski patrol contributed close to AUD 1 million (USD 670,000) net economic value to Vail Resorts. Six years later, this contribution is likely much higher, given the calculations were based on 2017 day pass prices of AUD 128, while day passes were AUD 199 in 2022.

PSP estimates that Perisher would need to hire 15 paid ski patrollers if they scrapped the volunteer ski patrol. One can be forgiven for wondering why the resort would scrap a free service. According to PSP volunteers, the sinister reason is that Perisher wants their ski lodge, a prime ski-in/ski-out location in the Front Valley of the resort. Perisher is situated in the National Park; as such, all land is held by the National Park. Perisher Resort has leased its infrastructure from the National Park and does not technically own the land but is instead a leaseholder. Every lodge holds a limited amount of bed licenses issued by the National Park, and the parks strictly control the total number of bed licenses.

Perisher Ski Patrol
Perisher Ski Patrol — a volunteer ski patrol.

PSP is accusing the resort of trying to take their lodge from them and Australian taxpayers. The lodge consists of Ski Patrol Headquarters and Accommodation buildings beside the ski slopes in Perisher Valley. These buildings are sub-leased from Perisher and are not on a direct lease from the National Park. This a problem PSP has been trying to rectify ever since the acquisition of Perisher Resort by Vail Resorts. For years the group has been trying to have a direct lease with NSW National Park but has been unsuccessful. They argue the sub-lease arrangement was always meant to be temporary and that they should fall under the same classification as the fire brigade or police, or church and have a direct lease arrangement with National Parks.

This sub-lease expires in December 2025 and, if not renewed, could allow Perisher Resort to use the bed licenses of the buildings for its requirements. The PSP lodge has been built and maintained through fundraising (selling raffle tickets), public donations, and NSW government grants. PSP volunteers are accusing the resort of wanting to oust them to get their hands on the prime location.

Perisher Resort did not comment on their intentions for renewing PSP’s sub-lease in their communication to SnowBrains. Perisher Resort stated in their letter to PSP dated March 13, 2023, that the sublease would remain intact until the agreed end of the lease on December 30, 2025. No further statements were made, so this is currently only speculation.

PSP lodge
The PSP lodge, which volunteers believe is at the heart of the decision by Perisher Resort. | Picture: Perisher Ski Patrol Facebook Page

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One thought on “Perisher Resort, Australia, to Scrap Volunteer Ski Patrol in 2024

  1. So will Perisher/Vail hand back the donations made to build the volunteer ski patrol hut when the kease ends? Current market value for an equivalent building should be given to the volunteer ski patrol committee. It is nothing more than a beds and space grab, nothing to do with the qualifications as it was stated in the article there is only 1 training org for ski patrolled, paid or volly, so it can’t be that at all!

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