SKYKOMISH, Wash. - Skiers are back on the slopes at Stevens Pass Ski Area amid changes being made by its corporate owner to improve the customer experience.
As of Friday, 39,715 people have signed an online petition asking for the ski area’s corporate owners, Vail Resorts, to improve conditions that have frustrated many ski pass holders.
Early on in the season, many skiers complained that the ski resort was not open entirely when it has been in similar conditions in the past. Skiers were also frustrated that not all of the lifts and terrain were open.
The resort reported five of 12 of its lifts operating, 44% of the terrain open with 35 of 77 trails open. Heavy snow and avalanche dangers are limiting operations, according to a resort spokesperson.
"This issue is essentially about corporate greed and people are organizing to say they've had enough," said Jeremy Rubingh, an EPIC pass holder and organizer of the petition.
EPIC pass holders paid up to $1,000 this season at ski Stevens Pass and other Vail resorts around the country.
The Washington Attorney General’s Office currently has 81 open consumer complaints about issues at Stevens Pass Ski Area.
Rubingh said staffing shortages have led to many of the problems at the resort.
"They were understaffed and employees weren't being valued up there as they had been in the past," he said.
To address the staffing issue, Vail Resort’s CEO told employees in an internal email that anyone working from Jan. 1 to the end of the ski season will be paid an additional $2 an hour for every hour worked.
Also, Vail Resorts replaced the ski area’s general manager and replaced him with Tom Fortune, who was once the resort’s operations director when it was not owned by Vail Resorts. Fortune is from the area and has skied at Stevens Pass in the past.
In a blog post to skiers this week, Fortune said, "I also know many of you are frustrated – and we’ve heard you" and said he was brought on to improve things and promised more transparency.
"With the new leadership, we are cautiously optimistic because you know Tom is a local guy. He grew up skiing Stevens Pass, so we've got to give him a chance" said Rubingh.
The resort is also limiting skier capacity.
Online and walk-up tickets for the holiday weekend are sold out in an effort to reduce long left lines and give more skiing time to pass holders.
Similar labor shortages and complaints are appearing at other ski resorts owned by Vail Resorts.
"We to be able to ski our mountain," said Rubingh. "We want our mountain back"
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