Vail Resorts Workers Up In Arms Over Reported Housing Plan

December 17, 2015
Photo: Keystone Ski Resort (Flickr/CC)
Keystone Resort, a Vail Resort property, in Keystone, Colorado.

Vail Resorts has backed off a plan that would have required workers living in company housing at Keystone to accept new roommates.

In addition to its namesake mountain, Vail Resorts owns Keystone, Breckenridge and Beaver Creek ski areas in Colorado. It also owns other massive resorts in Utah and California, and other smaller properties.

The Summit Daily on Wednesday reported that bunk beds would be delivered before Christmas to its Tenderfoot properties. Some two-bedroom units would soon house four workers, and three-bedroom apartments would hold as many as five. The company disclosed the plan at closed-door meetings on Tuesday, the paper reported, to crowds of disgruntled employees. 

The throng of instructors, lift operators and other members of the resort workforce were up in arms, pointedly inquiring how their already limited space would be divvied up by even more bodies: That the tight confines of finite storage for outdoor gear could not possibly be parceled out any further; that refrigerators and cupboards in the kitchen could not possibly hold food for this expanded number of people; that parking, which is presently at capacity, could not be stretched any further.

In a Q&A session, some employees said living conditions would be "like a prison." A similar plan was discussed for Breckenridge Terrace, the paper reported.

A day later, in a statement to CPR News, the company denied that the plan was ever compulsory. Vail's Mark Gasta, whose title is chief people officer, said the company is doing its best to deal with a tight housing market in Summit County.

"[W]e are offering financial incentives to employees who volunteer to take on an additional bed and roommate," Gasta said. "It is a completely voluntary program and those employees who do not want an additional bed added to their unit will not be required to do so. As always, we’re trying to do what’s right for our employees."

The Summit Daily reported Thursday that employees were shown a spreadsheet that showed who would be affected by the new policy.

That document was supplied by Greg Mock of Pinnacle Property Management, the company in charge of overseeing the resort company’s 1,100 workforce units throughout its four Colorado resorts – Breckenridge, Keystone, Beaver Creek and Vail.

The same employee said he was one who approached Mock with a roommate to inquire if there was any way that this policy would not move forward. Mock replied, according to the employee, “No. This is what’s happening. This is set in stone.”

Multiple employees also told the paper the plan was presented as involuntary.

Vail had floated a similar plan earlier in October. Disgruntled workers tipped off Summit County officials, who were concerned about fire safety and zoning issues, said county assistant manager Thad Noll. The plan was soon dropped. 

In early December, the company announced it would spend $30 million on more employee housing at some of its properties in Utah, California and Colorado. The next business day, Vail representatives told Noll they wanted to put one additional bed in each unit. 

"We told them we had some serious concerns about that, but that we would work worth them," Noll told CPR News.

Then on Wednesday, Noll learned of Vail's new plan from the front page of the Summit Daily. He told the paper he was "blindsided" by the move to put two additional beds in each unit.

"In our minds, [that] created a very different occupancy discussion and more concern," he said. Still, he said, the county has a long-standing relationship with Vail and is confident the company will do its best to alleviate the housing crunch.

"We feel comfortable that we'll come to a good solution on this," he said.

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