Ski patrollers and paramedics at Loveland Ski Area submitted a petition on Feb. 14 for a representative election to vote on unionizing as the Loveland Ski Patrol Professional Union under CWA 7781, the Professional Ski Patrols of America.
Ski patrollers at the ski area have said they face dangerous working conditions every day, but according to six-year veteran patroller Anthony Potter, less than 7% of the patrollers are year-round employees who are eligible for health insurance through work.
Most of the employees are like Michael Earles, a seasonal employee who earns an hourly wage. He works as a river ranger in the off-season to make ends meet.
Earles is currently in his second season at Loveland, but said he’s someone the rookies are looking to for answers simply because the team can’t retain many patrollers for longer than a few years.
“I’m a second year, I shouldn’t be the guy with all the answers,” Earles said. “I want to see us be able to retain our experienced patrollers.”
Potter grew up in Idaho Springs and now lives in Silver Plume. He said retaining patrollers will make for a safer mountain, and the highly trained team should be compensated fairly.
“Our job is pretty dangerous and stressful, and we’re just trying to end that fallacy of us being paid in powder,” Potter said.
Potter has been on Ski Patrol at Loveland for six years. He makes $24.75/hour, with Emergency Medical Training and Outdoor Emergency Care certifications.
“My realm of specialization is in the avalanche side of things, and that honestly takes a lifetime to learn some of those skills,” Potter explained.
Potter leads avalanche mitigation efforts with explosives and ski guiding in Dry Gulch, and specializes in avalanche forecasting. Still, he faces the stigma that all ski patrollers do, that they are “ski bums” doing unskilled labor.
“I would argue that we are highly skilled, as EMTs, that’s no light duty right there,” he explained. Not to mention the safe transport of patients off expert terrain in unfavorable weather conditions.
As a second-year member of the patrol, Earles makes $21.25/hour with EMT certification. He said he knows of some lift operators who come away with a higher hourly wage than he and other patrollers.
“They aren’t expected to put their physical and mental health on the line every day,” Earles said.
The patrollers stressed that their efforts towards organizing aren’t about greed, but earning a livable wage and being fairly compensated for a dangerous job.
“We’re not doing this out of malice, we have so much love for the mountain, Loveland, our team,” Potter said.
The petition was submitted with 70% support from members of the patrol and paramedics at Loveland. The next steps will include discussions with management at Loveland as to when an election could take place.
Loveland Ski Area received the notification of the petition late Feb. 14 and did not have a comment at the time of publication.