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Big Sky Resort, ski patrol ratify union contract

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Patrollers work the bomb tram at Big Sky Resort. PHOTO COURTESY OF BIG SKY SKI PATROL

By Gabrielle Gasser ASSOCIATE EDITOR

BIG SKY – Following months of bargaining, Big Sky Resort and the labor union representing Big Sky Ski Patrol formalized an agreement that will make changes to working conditions for the patrol.

A contract was ratified on Feb. 12 by the resort and labor union Communications Workers of America, which represents Big Sky Ski Patrol as well as six other North American ski patrols. In April 2021 Big Sky’s patrol voted 69-21 to unionize, and this agreement formalizes the relationship between the resort and the now-unionized patrol represented by CWA.

An eight-person patrol Bargaining Committee worked with a CWA representative to communicate with the resort to advocate for change and reach the new agreement. Big Sky patroller and Bargaining Committee member Tucker Cunningham described the process as “collaborative” and said it will bring positive change for patrollers and for the resort as a whole.

“Both sides invested significant time into the process, which helped to foster an improved understanding between employer and employee,” Cunningham said on behalf of the bargaining committee. “Throughout negotiations, it was clear that the ability to collectively bargain greatly advanced the interests of the ski patrol, and that the patrol’s requests were taken much more seriously than in previous attempts to increase wages and benefits.”

The contract’s terms establish performance-based wage increases, structured evaluations, an investment in ongoing training for patrollers, and job security, among other terms, according to the contract.

After the deal was tentatively finalized, the Bargaining Committee returned the contract to ski patrol’s 110-person bargaining unit, or nonmanagement patrollers, which passed the agreement with a 96 percent majority. 

After unionizing last year, patrol chose to be represented by the United Professional Ski Patrols of America, a labor union organized under CWA, to advocate for better working conditions along with more competitive wages and benefits, patrol representatives said in April 2021. 

“It’s a big relief,” Cunningham said, speaking on behalf of the committee. “There was a lot of tension during the unionization process [and] it wasn’t something at the beginning the resort was very excited about … It feels really good to come together again.”

In a Feb. 12 statement, Big Sky Resort General Manager Troy Nedved said the contract was ratified with overwhelming support from all parties. 

“It takes teamwork to come to an agreement swiftly, and we look forward to honoring our commitment to being the premier ski patrol team in the country,” Nedved said. “Our goal has always been to grow our professionalism and provide the best workplace possible through competitive wages and benefits for all of our teams across the resort.”

The new contract will be in effect through May 2023.

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