Will a relaxation of vaccine requirements contribute to Vail Resorts’ employee shortage?

Vail Resorts no longer requires employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. The company, which experienced operational difficulties due to staffing issues last season, still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.
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On July 19, Vail Resorts changed its policy to no longer require COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment.

This was due to a number of factors, said Vail Resorts spokesman John Plack.

“General conditions surrounding COVID-19 have improved, public health officials have relaxed many public health requirements, and OSHA has withdrawn the temporary emergency vaccination and testing standard,” Plack said.

But the company still strongly encourages all of its employees to get vaccinated, Plack added.

“We believe the COVID-19 vaccine is the way to end this pandemic,” Plack said.

The company will continue to require daily health screenings for all employees working on-site, as well as comprehensive safety protocols around exposure, isolation, and cleaning and disinfection, Plack said.

“Our focus throughout the pandemic has always been to keep our guests and employees healthy and safe,” Plack said.

Hard situation

Looking from the sidelines last season, Indy Pass founder Doug Fish said Vail Resorts was in a tough spot.

“They made (COVID-19) vaccines mandatory for all their employees, it was a great move that I personally applaud, but … it’s not the year to do it in the ski area,” said said Fish in February. “You are automatically removing (a significant portion) of your workforce, and that’s hard enough.”

Fish, an Oregon native who worked in ski marketing for decades before founding Indy Pass, said it’s hard to watch big resorts go through staffing issues while seeing big crowds. and people wanting to ski. Big crowds are one thing, Fish said, but when there are lifts that aren’t running due to understaffing, skiers in those crowds tend to get upset.

The Indy Pass, now in its third season, doesn’t necessarily see a different customer base than Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass (Fish says many Indy Pass holders also own other pass products), but the 105 alpine and nordic ski areas to which the Indy Access Pass offers are perceived by this clientele to be quite different, as most are independently owned.

But that’s not an entirely accurate view, Fish says, because Vail Resorts also has many smaller ski areas that attract the same skiers and, more importantly, use the same workforce.

And it’s a workforce that didn’t take too kindly to the order to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Fish said.

“I think (the vaccine mandate) really put them at a disadvantage, but being a leader they should have taken the lead on something like this,” Fish said of Vail Resorts.

Significant shortage

During an earnings call in March, Vail Resorts CEO Kirstin Lynch said the company did indeed have issues at the start of the 2021-22 season, and that those issues were “primarily due to understaffing. “.

Lynch said these issues became apparent during the Christmas to New Year’s Day holiday period.

“Available staff was below levels targeted before the holidays,” Lynch said.

A few months earlier, on September 20, the company announced its winter operating plan, detailing how all employees would be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 “for their safety and protection as well as the safety and protection customers and resort communities”. .”

Proof of vaccination would also be required from guests wishing to access cafeteria-style restaurants at Vail Resorts properties, the company said.

It was part of a strategy to “continuously evaluate our safety policies as the pandemic evolves, in consultation with health officials and in accordance with government regulations,” Plack said.

Some policies have changed throughout the season, such as the requirement for face coverings on gondolas, which were not required at the start of the season, but began to be required on December 28 following a peak of the omicron COVID-19 variant. The mask policy remained in place until February 28.

The employee vaccination policy, however, did not change throughout the ski season, remaining in place at the start of Vail’s summer operations window.

For customers, the company stopped requiring proof of vaccination to access cafeteria-style restaurants with the start of summer operations.

“I don’t have an update to share on winter yet, but these are our current safety protocols in effect this summer,” Plack said. “We will soon have more information about this upcoming season.”

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