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Vail Resorts responds to Park City community concerns regarding Epic Pass suspension

This winter we have received a few emails from locals who have encountered issues with Vail Resorts suspending passes due to various infractions. Locals’ issues seem to center on:

  • Children who have had their passes suspended
  • Limited ability to appeal suspended passes
  • Are different rules applied at Canyons versus PCMR
  • A lack of understanding of how suspension timeframes are determined
  • A question of whether Park City (local) teenagers are being targeted by Vail due to apparel such as Park City Ski Team jackets

We reached out to Vail’s Mountain Community Affairs representative, Kristin Williams, with these concerns. We have always found her, and Park City COO Bill Rock, to be reasonable people who generally want a good experience for visitors. Below is her response:


First, many thanks for seeking us out on the topic of Safety – we place the highest value on the safety of our guests and employees, and any time we can clarify and/or inform, we’re more than happy to do so. Skiing and snowboarding are meant to be fun experiences for every guest and for all ages. At the same time, our guests have a responsibility to ski and ride safely and we have a responsibility to help educate and promote safety at our mountains. We’re all in this together.

For years, Vail Resorts has led the industry with innovative safety programs and initiatives designed to help guests and employees understand their responsibility while skiing and riding at our resorts. One of Vail Resorts’ proactive approaches to skier safety awareness and education is the Mountain Safety program, which started with the 1999-2000 season at Vail Mountain. The program expanded to all Vail Resorts mountains, including Park City Mountain, and is aimed at having a dedicated staff whose primary focus is enforcing the rules of skiing and snowboarding on the mountain. So, while patrol may be called away to transport injured guests down the mountain, Mountain Safety staff are still be able to focus on skier and snowboarder safety. A number of different tactics may be utilized, such as monitored runs on which a team of Mountain Safety employees stagger themselves throughout a given trail for a designated period of time, providing guests of all abilities and ages the comfort of extra eyes on the slopes, typically in high-traffic areas at busier times during the day – again, very much what you see on the mountain at Park City. Mountain Safety employees are empowered to stop guests and utilize safety violation cards both for enforcement of and education on the National Ski Areas Association’s “Your Responsibility Code.” Guests who are found to be in violation of the code may have their pass revoked for a period of time and are required to participate in a Safety Violator Class in order to have their pass reactivated.

You notice I am referencing “guest(s)” numerous times – whether you are a local or visiting from outside city limits, and no matter your age, you are considered our guest. When Mountain Safety stops a skier or snowboarder, we have no idea whether they are a local resident or a destination guest. Our safety rules apply to all guests and employees.

To date this season, we have pulled 102 passes and in fact, of those, only a small percentage were Park City youth. The amount of suspension time ranges from one day to as long as the remainder of the season, depending on the infraction. Speeding is the most common infraction across the board.

Any guest who states they have questions, comments, concerns or would like to appeal are given the MSP office number (435-658-5555) to speak with a supervisor or manager.

I mentioned the Responsibility Code above which is a long established standard within our industry. It is a universal set of standard applied at resorts across North America. The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) Code is used in classrooms, employee training, orientations, Slope Safety meetings and the community.

NSAA Seven Points to Your Responsibility Code
1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Examples representative of violations include:

* Consistency of what is deemed an infraction
We look for following behaviors (NOT A COMPLETE LIST BUT MOST OF THEM):
Skiing / Riding out of control
Skiing / Riding above ability
Jumping in slow zones
Jumping in a no jumping zone
Jumping from wooded areas
Spraying signs
Jibbing on signs (any made-made object not in a terrain park)
Ducking any rope.
Failure to abide by on mountain signage
Failure to stop or yield to employee command
Failure to present pass upon request
Any damage to man-made property
Collisions
Closed terrain
Cutting / skipping lift lines
Vulgar language
Vulgar gestures
Assault / threats of harm / Battery / theft
Knocking down signs / bamboo
Jumping ropes / signs
Defacing property
Swinging lift chairs
Bouncing on lift chair
Hitting lift tower with ski equipment
Throwing items from lift chair
Drinking alcohol in non-licensed areas
Bringing alcohol onto property
Any use of illegal drugs on property
Skiing / Riding intoxicated
Inappropriate riding of a lift
Littering


We also asked a few specific questions. Below are our questions and the replies from Ms. Williams:

Q: Park Rag – We’d like to better understand the process for a Vail employee to conclude there was an infraction
A: Ms. Williams (Vail) – We determine whether or not an infraction has taken place a few different ways: Visual confirmation of event; employee or guest complaint of an observed event; through investigation of the event.

Q: Park Rag – What is the appeal process. Is there fair process for contesting an infraction?
A: Ms. Williams – The appeal process is explained to everyone whose pass is pulled and is overseen by Mountain Safety Patrol Administration, through the supervisors and manager. The process includes a written request for a review and scheduled meeting.

Q: Park Rag -Is there a public policy in place that could educate the community on what causes an infraction, types of infractions, etc.?
A: Ms. Williams – We hold classes each week in the Legacy Lodge. Reviewing the National Ski Area Association “The Responsibility Code” that I outlined above. Reviewing Park City Municipal Code Title 8-2-8 and Summit County Code 5-2-3. We also educate by way of the Park City Season pass agreement and Guest ID badge Vail’s rules and regulations.

Q: Park Rag -How is length of pass suspension determined and by whom?
A: Ms. Williams – Depends upon the type of infraction and number of infractions:
From one (1) day thru the entire season and possible “no trespass” mandate from the property for severe infractions
Typically 28 days and 14 days.
Out Best Practice Groups, Risk Management and Health and Safety together determine consequences based on experience and modified behavior outcomes.

Q: Park Rag – If a person has an issue during the process at Park City, who can they escalate issues to at Vail?
A: Ms. Williams – At Park City Mountain a person may contact:
• Mountain Safety Patrol Administration
• Director of Ski Patrol
• Director of Mountain Operations

 

Comments

14 Comments

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Anonymous

Very informative. Thanks for the research.

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Anonymous

Speeding is named as most common infraction, yet it is not included in the list of behaviors deemed as a violation. It is quite subjective too, so the more specific, the better. An advanced or expert skier may not think he/she speeding or out of control, while Mountain Safety Staff may feel otherwise. Thank you!

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Anonymous

My 12 yr. old son had his pass suspended for 2 weeks for “abusing the lift” which turned into unloading & loading First Time chair late and skiing in unmarked terrain -not roped & not marked by closed sign, but “should have been known by the tree line” in the early season. We went in to get clarification from snow safety manager and he turned his back on us, so we took it to HR. We wanted to sit down with the parties involved (our son included) so we could get more information about the perceived infractions and place punishment on him, if warranted. We got a meeting with a patroller and another snow safety manager, but never got clarification on the infractions. Why is one person (the manager) the judge, jury and executioner?

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Anonymous

Vail seems quite content to place the responsibility for compliance of all safety related issues on their guests. So as a guest, I’d like to know what kind of training the Safety Staff receives each year? Are these individuals evaluated and reviewed on regular basis to ensure a common standard of evaluation is applied by all Safety Staff members? Do these individuals have published guide lines that the public has access too, and when an infraction is deemed to have occurred, is written reference to the guide lines provided to the guest at the time of infraction.

Vail claims a commitment to safety, and I support the need for safe mountain operations. But Vail’s failure to put in place a clearly defined protocol that ensures every guest is entitled to due process, including an appeal process with senior management or mountain operations should an infraction be issued, makes their claim of safety nothing more than a subjective witch hunt carried out by Safety Staff who is motivated by a performance based quota driven review. The more infractions issued the better the performance!

It’s time to remember that your guests are your customers!! Customers demand customer service and this includes Vail. Failure to understand and address the needs and wants of your customers speaks volumes about the lack of focus on your customers!!

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Kristen Brown

it seems that I’ve heard of so many passes pulled this year, sometimes with little explanation. Even middle aged women are not immune from getting yelled at

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Walt

I know how ski team kids ski, because I was one.

Vail has to keep everyone safe, folks. They don’t want to piss you off, they just don’t want you running down (or scaring) that family from out of town who are spending $10k on vacation.

I’d do the same if I were them. Don’t be a jerk and you’re good.

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Robbie

A friend and I got pulled over for speeding this weekend. Couldn’t believe it… I’ve being skiing and snowboarding at Park City since 1990. Never had a collision. Always been a “control freak” (as Vail likes to call it). But mountain safety guy (who’s name tag said he was from Minnesota) had the power and authority to pull us over and threaten to pull our passes. I understand giving warnings to out of control skiers, but not experienced skiers who are clearly in control. What was more insulting was that this mountain safety guy assumed that we were “adrenaline junkies” and that if we needed to get our adrenaline fix we could get it elsewhere on the mountain. Sorry man, I’m just making turns that might seem fast to a mid-westerner. Didn’t lose my pass, but definitely frustrating to be treated like a beginner when I’ve been skiing PC my whole life (32 now).

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Anonymous

I was also part of the Park City Ski Team and I had my pass pulled. I was caught for allegedly “catching air” off of a cat track that intercepted the Bonanza run. I was running drills with my coach where he was filming us in order to help us improve our technique. I was skiing down the run and trying my best to do the drill, and I remember that I had stopped above the cat track and did not do any type of jump off of the cat track. As I continued skiing I remember I stopped behind a slow sign further down the run. A safety patroller by the name of “Walther” told me he needed to take a picture of my pass and I was going to have it pulled. My coach was there when he said my pass was being pulled. I received a notice that my pass was pulled and I told my coach. He had to go within the department to make sure my pass was not being pulled. My coach had video proof that I had not “catched air” from the cat track, so therefore my pass could not be pulled.

It is my belief that Vail is targeting select people in certain organization due to the team equipment that they wear.

#VileVail

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Anonymous

I have a question… Has anyone ever been given an “atta boy” or “thank you” from this department (yellow jackets)? It seems that all they give is negative to guests (locals) in the form of threats and infractions. My daughter helped a visitor collect her skis, poles & fix her bindings after a fall – all while a yellow jacket watched- and never got a wave or thank you to her. A simple “thank you”, acknowledgement or free hot chocolate coupon would go a long way to spread some positive on this mountain, especially with this department. BTW, she was wearing a PCST jacket…

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May as well be anonymous too

Read my post above. I hope you’ve taught your daughter to help people even if there isn’t a reward involved.

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Paul J. Stangeland

I have not personally been reprimanded or lost my pass at Park City or any other ski resort. I have had a number of conversations with “Yellow Jacket” members and department managers to try and understand their interpretation of infractions, or as the state “Just a Warning”. Therein lies my confusion.

A “Warning” has been explained to me by the department head manager, department mid-management and Yellow Jackets on the snow, as an opportunity to discuss and educate the skier or boarder on how the have broken one of the Skier Responsibility Codes. The discussion requires the skier or boarder to show their ski pass to the Yellow Jacket at which time a photo is taken of the pass and the infraction is documented. If a guest receives two “Warnings” or infractions in a ski season, their pass is suspended for a duration of time.
The details from the days “Warnings” (photo of pass, written report) are then sent to department management and inputted into their database. The guest is not informed that the “Warning” is actually an infraction and that it is being documented and tracked
When I think of receiving a warning I relate it to “Please be aware that broke some rule, regulation or law” and no citation is issued –however next time you will be cited. Clearly Vail’s / Park City Mountain Safety Patrol department managers have a different mindset on the meaning of the term “Warning”. Its 2 strikes and you’re out.

One final note Ms. Williams states that there is process in place for contesting an infraction. I don’t believe the Mountain Safety Patrol department management, “Yellow Jacket” department, has been informed that an appeals process exists. I have asked this question and was told that there is no way the department can take time to review suspended pass cases, “we just don’t have the manpower or time” was the response.

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Anonymous

There pretty good at scouting out the locals from the tourists especially when we wear ski team jackets. #outlawskiteam

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May as well be anonymous too

I witnessed an amazing example of extraordinary service earlier this season at Miners Camp. A young 20-something woman went up to a “yellow jacket” person and gave him a huge hug. She returned to her table, which was next to ours, and told us that the day before, this “yellow jacket” had found her floundering, falling, crying and abandoned by her friends. It was her first time skiing and it was going to be her last. He helped her get to a lift and gave her some sort of a voucher for a free lesson! She used the voucher that morning and was actually enjoying the sport.

Two of my friends, both advanced skiers, were hit by out-of-control “guests” in December on green runs. Neither of the people that hit them stayed to see if they needed help. I wish there had been “yellow jackets” around to slow them down before they hurt my friends.

It seems to me that Vail is doing a lot to try to keep everyone safe on an increasingly crowded mountain and doing things they don’t have to do like vouchers for lessons and hot chocolate coupons. All the rest of us need to do is be respectful of the others we share the mountain with.

As one writer put it, just don’t be a jerk.

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Anonymous

Yeah I have to agree with what most everyone else is saying about these yellow jackets. I’m a local and have been skiing in Park city for three years. And this year they’re really cracking down! Never received any type of warning before and somehow within one day I received two! I had to pull information out of these guys as to why I was being stopped. Apparently I was speeding but I was barely going faster than the guy next to me. So I guess moral of the story, just never enter a slow zone and if you do freaking take your skis or bored off and walk downhill😂


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