Taos Ski Valley has been going through a lot of changes since hedge fund billionaire Louis Bacon bought the iconic resort from the late Ernie Blake's family two years ago. The Kachina Peak Lift opened last season, there are major plans in the works to update the base village, and now, the Taos Ski Valley ski patrol is going to vote on unionizing. The patrollers are looking around at the new management's changes and want a greater say in issues affecting them, but it doesn't look like management is stoked about the idea.
Longtime Taos patroller Rey Deveaux has been representing the union push to the media and told the Albuquerque Journal that it's "not a hostile-type thing." According to Deveaux, the new management team is making changes and having discussions about pay and benefits, and the patrollers want to make sure their interests are represented.
Taos wears its extreme nature as a badge of honor, extending to its advertisement of being a "Class A avalanche resort" — a designation that applies to a good number of major resorts — and posted warnings about explosives used for avalanche control. Members of the Taos patrol have to be highly skilled, and according to Deveaux, veterans patrollers can't just be replaced by any ski bum. A union would give patrollers leverage they could use to negotiate a pay scale that better allows them to retain talent and maintain a top-notch patrol.
The patrollers are working with Communications Workers of America, which represents other ski patrols through the United Professional Ski Patrols of America. Taos' 44 seasonal ski patrol members will vote on unionizing Nov. 12.
It's not a given, however, that management will immediately recognize the union if the vote goes through. Taos Ski Valley CEO Gordon Briner released a statement that shows management is not hot on the idea of working with a ski patrol union.
"We are convinced that we stand a much better chance of addressing whatever issues the ski patrol may have and achieving our mutual goals through direct lines of communication rather than talking through a third party — the union," Briner said. "We genuinely believe that the insertion of a third party — with its own interests and agenda – will damage our long-term working relationship that has provided our community and guests excellent, safe and committed service."
While the Blake family ran Taos lean without accumulating debt for expansion or improvements, Bacon is pouring $350 million into the resort. The union push could stem from patrollers who spent most of their careers working for a skiing pioneer or a close family member being wary when when a New York hedge fund manager takes over, or they could see all the new infrastructure investment and wonder if they're going to see any of that.
What do you think, Curbed Ski readers? To unionize or not?
· Taos ski patrol will vote on unionizing [Albuquerque Journal]
· Taos ski patrol looks to unionize [Taos News]
· 9 Reasons Why Skiing Taos Should Be on Your Bucket List [Curbed Ski]
· Taos Ski Valley Will Get a New Chairlift to Kachina Peak [Curbed Ski]
· Just In: Billionaire Conservationist Buys Taos Ski Valley [Curbed Ski]