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Backlash against Vail Resorts growing among skiers and snowboarders across the country

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Backlash against Vail Resorts growing among skiers and snowboarders across the country

CRESTED BUTTE — Several Vail Resorts properties across the country are facing backlash from skiers and snowboarders, many of them longtime customers. The problem hasn’t been a lack of snow. While it came late this season, two huge December storms dumped 90 inches on Crested Butte alone. Streets here are lined with massive snowbanks, and nearly all of the mountain’s ski terrain has been open.

But the lifts to reach all that terrain? Vail Resorts has struggled to keep those operating amid a staffing problem the company blames on the omicron variant even as its labor practices at resorts around the country have come under fire.

After several major acquisitions in recent years, including Crested Butte in 2018, Broomfield-based Vail Resorts is now the largest ski area operator in the United States with more than 30 properties in Colorado, California, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont and beyond.

While ski areas across the country — and mountain towns in particular — have struggled with staffing this year amid omicron, high housing costs and a national labor shortage, Vail Resorts has faced a cacophony of complaints on social media and in national news stories from outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, alleging everything from long lift lines to unplowed parking lots, limited terrain and frustrated, overworked employees.

“The first two things they need to do is pay their people and house their people,” said Denis Hall, 72, who has had Crested Butte season passes for 54 years. “I gave them three years, and they didn’t make my skiing better; they made my skiing worse. I’ve been here through four different owners of the ski area, and this is the first one that has actively destroyed the ski culture that had been here through all those owners for all those years. They’ve made the place a lot worse.”

An anti-Vail Resorts online petition started by a local resident has garnered more than 400 supporters. That petition was inspired by another that was created by former Crested Butte resident Jeremy Rubingh, which blasted Vail Resorts for the way it is managing the Stevens Pass ski area in Washington State. Rubingh expected perhaps “a couple of hundred people” would respond, but his petition has been supported by nearly 44,000 people since it was posted Dec. 28, sparking anti-Vail Resorts complaints from coast to coast.

Many of those comments have come from Colorado, where Vail Resorts owns Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Crested Butte. The most common complaints: limited terrain offerings over the Christmas holidays and other problems caused by staffing shortages.

Will Alisberg, who had driven to Crested Butte from New York City with his girlfriend, was “overjoyed” Tuesday when the resort opened its High Lift to the top of the mountain for the first time this season. That T-bar lift serves some of the steepest terrain on the mountain, but opening lifts and keeping them open has been a challenge for mountain managers there due to staffing shortages.

When it finally opened Tuesday, it was the seventh day of Alisberg’s ski vacation.

“There are all sorts of fun runs up there,” Alisberg said. “Given that it hadn’t opened until now, a lot of the terrain was really untouched, and that was some of the best powder on the mountain.”

But on Wednesday, that lift was closed again. The terrain it accesses remained open, but skiers had to hike to get there.

At Vail Mountain, skiers and snowboarders found only about 60% of the terrain open over the Christmas holidays. That mountain’s chief operating officer, Beth Howard, blamed early season weather and staff shortages caused by COVID-19.

Dean Krakel, Special to The Denver Post

A sign warned skiers that the Teocalli lift was closed at Crested Butte Mountain Resort on Monday. Although the Teocalli area has been open for much of the season, the lift has not been running regularly due to staff shortages and illnesses.

In Washington State, attorney general Bob Ferguson weighed in on the Vail Resorts complaints last week, tweeting that his office had received more than 80 comments about Stevens Pass over the past two months.

“This is a significant number of complaints in a short period of time,” Ferguson tweeted. “If you have been impacted, or have information, I’m asking that you file a complaint with my office.”

Only about 40% of Stevens Pass was open over the holidays, Rubingh said. Rubingh has lived in Seattle for 2½ years, but he was born and raised in Colorado, and he spent most of his adult life in Crested Butte.

“Living in Crested Butte, I watched Vail Resorts come in,” Rubingh said. “Initially there was some optimism. It was like, ‘OK, this is an established company that knows how to do skiing. They know how to do infrastructure, maybe they can start paying people better, maybe things will run more efficiently.’ Instead, what happened was the exact opposite.”

Vail Resorts’ five Colorado areas currently are reporting that 90% or more of their terrain is open. Chief executive Kirsten Lynch, who is in her first winter at the helm of the company, announced two weeks ago that employees will receive a bonus of $2 per hour for all hours worked from Jan. 1 until the end of the ski season. They must stick it out to the end to receive their bonuses, which will be paid in May. The company also says it increased the minimum wage it pays at Colorado resorts this season from $12.25 to $15 per hour.

Meanwhile, news stories about Vail’s labor practices are adding increased scrutiny. Earlier this season, ski patrol at Vail-run slopes in Park City, Utah nearly went on strike — citing too-low pay as the dominant factor, according to reporting in the Salt Lake Tribune — before reaching a tentative agreement in mid-January.

In California, Vail has extended a $13.1 million offer to settle five wage and labor lawsuits alleging that the company violated state and federal labor laws by failing to pay reimbursements for equipment and not compensating staff for time spent training, in meetings or gearing up before shifts on the mountain. The California suit is similar to a class-action lawsuit filed in Colorado District Court back in Dec. of 2020, and could spell trouble for Vail Resorts in the form of payouts for about 100,000 employees nationwide, according to reporting from Vail Daily.

But Vail’s CEO says the pandemic, not its labor practices, is to blame.

“We want nothing more than to provide each of our guests with an incredible experience at our resorts,” Lynch said in a statement to The Denver Post. “The reality is, we are still operating during a pandemic — facing a global staffing shortage and the very real impacts of omicron on our workforce, with daily COVID-19 cases in Colorado going up ninefold in the three-week period over the Christmas and New Year holidays. We take very seriously the feedback from any disappointed guest and want them to know that we are always listening; that we are very aware of, and sincerely apologize for, the challenges this season; and that we are working to constantly improve. However, it is also important to recognize that we have provided millions of positive experiences already this season — something we know from our own guest feedback and research.”

Vail has had other challenges to manage in recent days, as well. In New Hampshire, a chair detached from its lift cable and fell to the ground at Wildcat Mountain, resulting in serious rib injuries for a man who was riding the lift. In Vermont, that state’s Department of Financial Regulation filed a cease-and-desist order alleging that Vail Resorts is reneging on an agreement with about 30 immigrant investors that could lead to their deportation. Spokesman Quinn Kelsey said the company is “confident our practices are fully compliant.”

Last week, The Denver Post invited online comments from skiers and snowboarders, asking how they rate their experiences with Vail Resorts. More than 250 people responded, most of them with complaints.

Many complaints came from outside Colorado, and most had the same complaints that Rubingh and his petition respondents have raised: limited terrain offerings, staff shortages that impact resort operations, and a widespread perception that Vail Resorts needs to pay its workers more.

“People are angry and employees are angry,” wrote John Tomlinson of Parker, who typically skis at Breckenridge, Vail and Beaver Creek. “I have seen more Vail Resorts employee meltdowns this year than any other year. Nothing is about the customer. People make sacrifices to live in expensive areas like San Francisco and New York because they can find value and fulfillment in their jobs and lifestyle. Vail Resorts is struggling to offer this to their employees, and this breach in culture and values has a ripple effect that impacts the customer experience.”

Eric Moxham of Park City, Utah, cited “gross mismanagement” at Park City Mountain Resort with “complete disregard” for the experience of PCMR guests.

“Great companies are a byproduct of happy customers and happy employees,” Moxham wrote. “Loyalty is hard-earned but quick to lose when there is not a fair value exchange for both parties. Apparently the fine folks (in) Broomfield don’t understand this. They will when customers evaluate their options next year and elect to spend their dollars elsewhere.”

Skiers wait in the lift line ...

Dean Krakel, Special to The Denver Post

Skiers wait in the lift line at the Paradise Bowl chair lift at Crested Butte Ski Resort on Saturday. Local skiers have complained that since Vail Resorts bought the ski area in 2018, their promotion of the area and the promotion of their Epic Pass have brought large crowds of skiers to the small area that overwhelm the area’s resources.

But Joe Reed of Parker said he has had “mostly positive” experiences this year while snowboarding at Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Whistler in British Columbia.

“I think many of the Vail Resorts issues are limited to a small number of resorts, as I continue to see value in my Epic Pass,” Reed said. “I even read a story about Whistler after our New Year’s Eve trip, how they canceled different ski school programs, and the frustration it caused for some people on the mountain. I just did not see it, and largely haven’t seen it in eight days riding Vail Resorts mountains so far this season.”

Pam Elliott of Eagle, who skis Vail and Beaver Creek, said she has had “amazing” experiences on those mountains this year.

“I ski here 50 times a year,” Elliott said. “People need to quit whining and enjoy the view.”

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Joanna Vail, ‘greatest public service lobbyist in Minnesota,’ dies at 93

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Joanna Vail portrait

Many colleagues considered Joanna Vail the “greatest public service lobbyist in Minnesota.”

Joanna Vail (Courtesy of the family)

“At the Metropolitan Council, she was called ‘our legislative mortician’ because she would always kill off any bad legislation,” Todd Lefko, a longtime friend and president of the International Business Development Company, told the Pioneer Press. “She was a fixture, sitting in the front row of the legislative hearing rooms, knitting and staring at any legislator who might vote against her bills.”

Vail was also a former nurse, Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leader and aide to the late Gov. Wendell Anderson.

But to Capitol insiders, she will likely be best remembered for her furious knitting during legislative committee meetings. A political foe once mailed her a pencil drawing of a guillotine over the message: “Are you knitting, Madame Defarge?” — a reference to the fictional character in Charles Dickens’ 1859 novel “A Tale of Two Cities” who sat outside her Paris wine shop during the French Revolution endlessly knitting a scarf listing people to be killed.

Vail died May 12 at Presbyterian Homes in Arden Hills, where she had been receiving memory care since 2020. A former longtime resident of White Bear Lake and later Mahtomedi, she was 93.

“Joanna loved cats, baseball, reading and spending time at her family camp on Agate Island in Ontario, Canada,” her son, David, wrote in a profile.

“Joanna was a combination of the Massachusetts culture and the Minnesota nice,” Lefko said. “This was reflected in her humor, which could be biting, but in the Minnesota tradition, always told the truth.”

Vail was born Nov. 16, 1928, in Waltham, Mass. She graduated from Waltham High School in 1945, and then earned a nursing degree from McLean Hospital School of Nursing in 1950. She worked as a registered nurse in Massachusetts and Maryland in the early 1950s.

After attending the University of Maryland, she served as head nurse at Springfield State Hospital in Sykesville, Md., from 1952 to 1953 and was an instructor and director of nursing education at Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills, Md., from 1953 to 1956.

She married Dr. David Vail in 1956. They moved to Minnesota, where he became state medical director and she dove into politics.

After he died in 1971, she returned to work to support her four children. She became a staff assistant to Gov. Anderson, a post she held until 1973, when she left for a position as special assistant to the chair of the Metropolitan Council until her retirement in 1994.

A member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, Vail enrolled at Metropolitan State University in 1988 and became one of the first three area union members to graduate from the school’s labor studies program.

“I think people take for granted many of the things labor has fought and worked for. I don’t think they should,” she said later. “We can’t count on the benevolence of management without a strong countervailing force looking out for the interests of the workers.”

The Vails moved to White Bear Lake in 1959. She quickly became active in local politics but was soundly defeated in a 1961 primary election for a city council seat there.

She was elected Ramsey County DFL “chairman” in 1968 and Fourth Congressional District DFL “chairman” in 1970. Friends said she was the first woman elected as the top congressional district officer in either party in Minnesota.

In 1968, she was a strong supporter of Eugene McCarthy for president. DFLers elected her as a delegate to that year’s turbulent Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Hubert Humphrey defeated McCarthy for the party’s nomination. While walking back to her hotel one night Vail was tear-gassed by police who were battling violent protesters.

“I remember thinking, what the hell is this housewife doing in a riot in Chicago?” she later told Star Tribune reporters.

Her family said Vail, with the help of Anderson and others, “became sober in 1971 and remained clean and sober for over 50 years, until her death.”

She is survived by sons David Rand Vail (Anne), Garrett Murphy Vail and Michael Walsh Vail; daughters Sara Vail Palmquist (Dan), Rachel Vail Doran (Michael) and Martha Vail Spittal (Thomas), 14 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Vail’s memorial service will be held 2 p.m. Aug. 27 at the White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple St., Mahtomedi. Memorials are preferred to Vail Place, a nonprofit organization that provides recovery service for adults with serious mental illnesses.

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Salvation Army seeks 1,000 volunteers to deliver doughnuts to local heroes

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Salvation Army seeks 1,000 volunteers to deliver doughnuts to local heroes

Do you know a first responder, healthcare worker, teacher, veteran or helpful neighbor who could use a doughnut?

On June 3, which is National Donut Day, the Salvation Army Northern Division is looking for registered volunteers to fan out across the east metro and deliver a dozen doughnuts to their “local hero” of choice. The 12,000 doughnuts, which are being donated by Cub Foods, can be picked up from one of six metro Salvation Army locations.

Last year, the event drew just under 700 volunteers. This year, the goal is 1,000. Prospective doughnut deliverers must register in advance at SalvationArmyNorth.org/free-donuts.

As for recipients…

“It’s at the choosing of the volunteer,” said Dan Furry, a spokesman for the Salvation Army Northern Division. “We started doing this last year, and it worked very well. We’ll probably do it every year for Donut Day.”

Why doughnuts? Back in 1938, the Salvation Army’s “donut lassies” served up morale-boosting doughnuts, coffee and more to soldiers stationed in France, near the front lines of World War I. June 3 was set aside as a national recognition of their sweet service to the American troops, who returned home with a hankering for the fried confections.

Their appetites earned the returning soldiers the title “doughboys” and popularized the doughnut in post-war America.

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The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About?

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The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About?

Hold your seats fast! For there is another fiery documentary around the corner. On May 19, 2022, Netflix released The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar. The one hour and forty-six minutes long documentary will take us through the politically heated atmosphere of Argentina and focus on the death of Argentinian photojournalist Jose Luis Cabezas.

The co-writing team includes the names Tatiana Merenuk and Gabriel Bobillo. While Alejandro Hartmann is also one of the executive producers, Vanessa Ragone and Mariela Besuievsky have been a part of the executive production team.

The Plot

On the series’ description page on Netflix, the synopsis reads, “The crime of the photographer José Luis Cabezas, in the summer of 1997, shocks Argentina and reveals a mafia network in which the political and economic powers do not seem to be unrelated.

The consequences will be almost as dramatic as the crime itself, both for its instigator and the country.” The documentary again attempts to reassert the evil of governance and the mafia’s involvement in society’s underbellies, pulling the strings through the exploitation caused by money.

Freedom Of Press

The death of Jose Luis Cabezas was a lightning strike to every layman living in Argentina. This was a direct attack on the freedom of the press, for which people came out on the streets and protested this forced violence again.

It was a wake-up call for all; different media groups and human rights advocates asked for justice for Cabezas. The murder occurred during the times that one can  consider the golden age of the press in Argentina.

1652911028 825 The Photographer Murder in Pinamar On Netflix May 19 Release

The Conspiracy And Secrecy

For a long time in the initial investigation, it is believed that it is simply political motivation; where police  put sheets over it. However, a name soon popped up that shook the investigation in another direction, “Alfredo Yabran.” No one had ever seen his face in public; no photographs, no visual identification marker was present for him. 

This link led to new leads, and rumors started painting a whole new reality. Many people were apprehended from the area known as Los Hornos in the Bueno Aires province, and the case was put on trial in 2000 for the murder of Jose Luis Cabezas. They were sent to jail in feburary.

The Teaser

“Taking a picture of me is like shooting myself in the forehead,” almost horrifyingly; this line appears in the teaser released by Netflix. Yabran wanted to remain a ghost, but Cabezas was on his righteous mission.

The film is rates 16 and up, with children under 16 requiring parental supervision. Netflix describes it as provocative and investigative. Such unearthing of realities sure calls for a mature mind to deal with the complex reality we live in.

The post The Photographer: Murder in Pinamar On Netflix: May 19 Release, Time And What Is It About? appeared first on Gizmo Story.

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