Stevens Pass hopes to address staffing shortages with $20 minimum wage, announces opening day

Aug 24, 2022, 12:18 PM
stevens pass...
The slopes await for skiers and snowboarders alike at area mountain passes this week. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

After last year’s rocky start to the ski season led to frustrations over terrain closure, limited service, and long lines, Stevens Pass General Manager Ellen Galbraith is hopeful for a smoother run this year by addressing staffing shortages head-on.

“We did have trouble getting staffed up last year. We are doing everything we can to not have that be the case this year,” Galbraith said. “It is our primary focus. It is what we are doing every day. It’s what we’re focused on. And we’re all working on this together.”

Stevens Pass, Snoqualmie Pass reopen after early Monday closures

In an announcement in March, Vail Resorts said, for the 2023-24 season, their new minimum wage for all staff would be $20 an hour, a five-dollar increase over the previous minimum wage from last winter season. The hope is that the increased compensation will be competitive and help to attract workers to the ski area, which is set to prevent issues with attracting workers from last season, Galbraith said.

Last year, the Vail Resorts-owned ski area faced criticism over not having the staff to run all of its ski lifts, which led to the creation of a Change.org petition to hold the ski area accountable.

“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,” the petition states.

The petition got over 46,000 signatures and gained so much traction that the Attorney General’s office started collecting complaints against Vail Resorts.

The problems facing Stevens Pass are not new or uncommon in the industry as a whole, with long-time locals being priced out of ski towns across the country as housing prices skyrocket, leaving low-wage employees running food services and resort operations looking for housing. As a way to combat this, Galbraith said that the resort works to provide shuttle services for employees that live further away, as well as connect employees to housing opportunities.

“We do run employee shuttles from both the east and west side of the pass to help get people to the pass,” Galbraith said. “Stevens Pass has been signing leases. We have some of the same properties we had last year, and we are signing additional leases to master lease properties that we internally leased to our employees. In addition to that, we have a Facebook page where our employees can join and meet up with each other if they so choose, and go after rentals.”

A big part of the push for staffing comes from the community, Galbraith said, with the community being a big part of how they expect to get the mountain fully staffed so that everyone can have a fun season.

“I think we want to be fully staffed as much as our guests want us to be fully staffed,” Galbraith concluded. “So we want to leverage our community that’s engaged and asks for help to spread the word if a neighbor, nephew, or a friend who’s looking for work might be interested in coming to Stevens Pass. The more help we can get from our skiers and riders as we look forward to the winter, the better.”

According to Stevens Pass officials, they have penciled in an opening date of Friday, Dec. 2, but that date could change depending on how the weather cooperates with the ski area.

Once lift tickets go on sale, they will be limited in quantity to allow for a better experience for guests on the mountain.

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Stevens Pass hopes to address staffing shortages with $20 minimum wage, announces opening day