STEVENS PASS, Wash. (AP) — The winter skiing and snowboarding season on at Stevens Pass ski resort east of Everett, Washington, has gotten off to a rough start with the area opening only about half its terrain amid a staffing shortage.
Customers have reported parking problems and long chairlift lines at the ski area on U.S. 2 in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee national forests, The Herald reported.
Some customers are demanding better treatment of resort employees and partial refunds of their season passes. An online petition accusing Stevens Pass owner Vail Resorts of deceiving consumers in the name of profit, has over 27,000 signatures.
And at least a dozen people have filed consumer complaints against the resort with the state Attorney General’s Office.
Stevens Pass was purchased by Colorado-based Vail Resorts in 2018. The company has attributed the issues to an industry-wide employee shortage and a global pandemic plaguing the service economy.
“Like others in the travel and leisure industry, Stevens Pass is contending with staffing shortages, creating challenges for certain departments,” Vail Resorts spokesperson Sara Roston told the newspaper in an email. “Right now, we’re focusing our staff where we can maximize our operations while keeping guest safety as our top priority, and we remain committed to providing the best possible experience.”
Some season pass holders reject the company’s argument that the problems are universal, citing other Washington state resorts — like Crystal Mountain and Mount Baker — that have more fully opened.
“We’re wondering why Stevens Pass doesn’t have the staff, but Baker does and Crystal does,” said Lisa Niblett, who has skied at Stevens Pass with her husband for over two decades.
The ski area so far this season has had about five of 10 chairlifts running, with nothing open on the backside of the mountain, according information on the Stevens Pass Facebook page.
“We just want our mountain back,” Niblett said. And if they can’t get their mountain back, Niblett added, they want their money back.
Last summer, Vail Resorts raised wages from $12.50 to a $15-an-hour minimum for full-time seasonal employees in several states including Washington, according to a news release.
Low-cost employee housing remains an issue. The company also has a few housing options but is “working to secure employee housing for Stevens Pass team members that is safe, comfortable, and secure” by leasing other properties, Roston said.
Stevens Pass General Manager Tom Pettigrew thanked guests in a Facebook post for their patience.
“It’s important to recognize that many of you feel a sense of disappointment, and I want to assure you we are working hard to resolve these issues,” his post said.