To say that this has been a curious winter for the ski industry is putting it mildly. Early winter challenges with making snow, lack of personnel at resorts due to Covid and low wages, and dearth of affordable housing for employees have been well documented. The staff and customer revolt at Washington state’s Stevens Pass garnered an enormous amount of negative media coverage for Vail Resorts resulting in a change of leadership in mid-season with a new general manager.
Perhaps the most curious thing of all was the debut of an Instagram account called Epic Lift Lines (@epicliftlines). A New Englander named Alex Kaufman came up with the idea to highlight – well – long lift lines at resorts and not just Vail properties.
The account boasts more than 48,000 followers. One video showing lift lines at Utah’s Park City Mountain Resort generated more than 100,000 views. Ouch!
Kaufman previously hosted a podcast called Wintry Mix and before that he was in sales and marketing for Ski the East. He is no longer in the ski business but he obviously still thinks about it and probably was instrumental in Vail’s recent about face to try and clean up some of the negative publicity it received this winter. Salaries were a big issue as many employees were not making enough money to keep them on the job (read: not enough snowmaking personnel or people to run lifts, work in the lodge, etc).
Vail’s new CEO Kirsten Lynch recently announced the beginnings of an aggressive plan that includes:
- $20-an-hour minimum wage for all North American resort employees for the 2022-23 season, $21 for Patrol (including unionized Patrol), maintenance technicians, and certified commercial vehicle drivers
- A commitment to “aggressively pursue building new affordable housing on land we own”
- A career-track program that creates a Yellow Brick Road from, say, bumping chairs to management positions and more
- An enormous expansion of the human resources team to decrease reliance on Vail’s hated HR app
- A flexible work policy that allows corporate employees to live and work in any community where Vail Resorts operates
Meanwhile, sales of the Epic Pass for 2022-23 went on sale in early March with an offer of discounts for returning pass holders and/or those switching from another pass. Two web sites – theavantski.com and Zrankings.com – offer compassions regarding Epic, Ikon, the Mountain Collective and the Indy Pass.
Indy Pass creator Doug Fish just announced that there will be no increase in cost for next season and hinted that they are looking to add additional resorts in Pennsylvania and out west. Prices are $279 for adults and $119 for kids. Indy also is offering a discount to those who switch foremother passes. That price is $259. The Indy Pass provides two visits to each resort on its roster. Indy recently added Sunlight in Colorado, currently its only Colorado location. ikon recently announce the defection of Sun Valley and Snowbasin from Epic to Ikon and the addition of Chamonix, France.