By Spencer Wilson

VAIL, Colo. (CBS4) — More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on Vail Resorts to pay its employees better — and deliver the value season pass holders deserve. Vail resorts offers the Epic Ski Pass, which includes ski areas in Colorado and across the country.

(credit: CBS)

A skier in Washington state started the petition. He claims that hundreds of unfilled jobs are hurting the ski experience at many resorts — and employees don’t get paid enough to make ends meet.

“As Stevens Pass [in Washington] skiers, snowboarders, and customers who purchased Vail Resorts ‘Epic Pass,’ we are disgusted with the mismanagement of the ski area, the failure to treat employees well, or pay them a livable wage, and the failure to deliver the product we all paid for and bought with hard-earned money during a pandemic,” author Jeremy Rubingh states.

Rubingh spoke with Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson Tuesday afternoon explaining his reasoning for getting involved.

“Lift lines are out of control to the point where the majority of a day of ‘skiing’ is spent standing in line at one of the few lifts open,” Rubingh wrote.

“There is a clear pattern of overselling passes and failing to provide the most rudimentary services to uphold Vail Resort’s end of the deal with consumers,” he continued.

Rubingh is now calling on skiers to cancel their Epic Pass auto renewals for next season.

“From the Pacific Northwest to Colorado to New Hampshire and Vermont, Vail Resorts is failing their customers and their employees,” Rubingh said.

(credit: CBS)

He went on to say how his experience at a Washington based ski area run by Vail was “limping along” with somewhere around 30%-40% of its terrain open.

“When you buy a ski pass the idea is you get to access the areas that have been marketed to you and experience that,” Rubingh said. “So yeah, they need to do better by their customers and provide the product. ”

He believes the issue in Washington and also across the country to be based on employee salaries, creating low interest in positions, resulting in low staffing. He says that staffing shortage is behind the closures.

“It’s not a COVID problem, it’s a Vail Resorts problem and you can certainly see that when you look at Crested Butte, for example. They have had tons of snow, more snow than we are used to getting in Colorado in general and they have been failing to open up terrain in Crested Butte as well.”

Vail resorts sent CBS4 this statement in regard to the petition online:

“We absolutely value the loyalty of our guests and pass holders and are always reviewing their feedback – both positive and negative. We recognize this season has had its challenges stemming from the global staffing shortages and the impacts of Omicron, and certainly understand our guests’ frustrations where terrain has been impacted as a result. We are doing everything possible to maximize our guests’ experience and are pleased to have added significant terrain across our largest resorts recently thanks to the hard work of our incredible employees.

In fact, we are very pleased with our operations here in Colorado where we have about 80% of terrain open on average, which includes all five peaks at Breckenridge, the back bowls at Vail and the new McCoy Park which debuted at Beaver Creek on January 10th.”

Rubingh said he understands no ski area will be perfect and that weather conditions can affect which terrains will open, but he said he expects better from the massive ski company.

“It feels like decisions are being made from a hedge fund boardroom rather than based on an actual mountain community, and that is disappointing,” Rubingh said with a sigh. “I think it’s time for them to really engage, have a discussion with skiers and riders like myself.”

Vail Resorts reached out to CBS4 to provide explanations for claims made by the petition creator. We’ve included their responses below.

He says lift lines are out of control:

  • Over the holidays, which is our busiest time, we found that 90% of the time across our resorts, lift line wait times were under 10 minutes.

He claims we oversold Epic Passes:

  • We are proud of the growth in our pass program and making passes more accessible, but it is important to note that a significant portion of our pass growth came from people who used to purchase lift tickets, they are not all newcomers.
  • Plus our pass holders spread their visitation out over the season – away from peak periods – which is evident in our recent metrics release from last Friday which said that our visitation season to date is down 1.7% as compared to last year.

Spencer Wilson