FRISCO, Colo. — Vail Resorts is less than one week away from its first opening day in Colorado at Keystone Resort. While the company has promised new health protocols would be put in place for the season amid the ongoing pandemic, several employees reached out to the Summit Daily News to share concerns about the implementation of public health guidelines.
One Keystone employee said there has been a lack of hand sanitizer and other cleaning equipment, such as sanitizing wipes, in the workplace.
The employee, who identified themselves as a supervisor and department safety lead, said their manager told them to ignore physical-distancing protocols because the office space is too small to comply. The employee was also concerned that there is not a designated space to eat lunch or take breaks, meaning employees must take off their masks to eat in the office. The employee said mask-wearing has not been enforced in the workplace.
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Another Keystone employee echoed concerns about a lack of cleaning equipment in various resort departments, including on buses. The employee said the situation did improve toward the end of last week after buckets with cleaning supplies were put on buses, along with the installation of plastic barriers between the driver and riders, but there is no hand sanitizer on the buses.
Employees also voiced concerns about potential COVID-19 exposure in employee housing as well as the way Vail Resorts handled communication about housing once the pandemic was underway.
Two employees said they were told that people entering employee housing would be tested for COVID-19, but that testing hasn’t been taking place. One employee also refuted a statement made by the company in a previous Summit Daily News article that said health and safety protocols would be implemented for anyone living in resort facilities. In addition to the lack of testing, the employee said there are no signs in communal places — like laundry rooms or elevators — asking people to wear a mask.
Melissa Giroux, a former employee who recently left Breckenridge Ski Resort, shared other issues she had with communication about employee housing this summer as the resort prepared for the upcoming ski season. Giroux started working in guest services at Breckenridge in fall 2019 and moved into the Breckenridge Terrace employee housing.
When she became a year-round employee, Giroux said she was told the position would include employee housing. She said employees were asked to check in with their bosses regarding winter housing for the 2020-21 season, but many were told on short notice that there wouldn’t be a space for them and were given just days to clear out this fall.
“I kept checking in with my bosses, and they’re like, ‘We’re still waiting (to hear) from Vail to be able to understand how many bedding spaces we have for our department,’” Giroux said. “And then they didn’t find out until we all got five-day notices on our doors that we had to move out.”
Throughout the process, Giroux said she felt like no one knew what was going on.
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Breckenridge and Keystone spokesperson Nicole Stull declined to confirm or respond to specific employee concerns but wrote in an email that the resort’s safety plans are aligned with, and in some cases go above and beyond, local guidelines.
“The safety of our employees is our top priority and something we are focused on every day,” Stull wrote. “We have spent several months developing and rolling out robust safety protocols and trainings across each of our resorts and unique businesses so that our employees can safely return to work this season. … We are constantly seeking feedback from our employees and guests, and we continue to learn and adapt as things change.”
Before opening, ski areas are required to get approval first from the local public health department and then from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Summit County Manager Scott Vargo said Keystone and Breckenridge operation plans have not been submitted to the state. He said local public health officials have received the plans and have been working to get more details from the resorts. Vargo said public health officials are meeting Tuesday to determine whether the plans are ready to move forward.
“We’re trying to push through as best we can with them,” Vargo said.
Keystone is scheduled to open Friday, Nov. 6. Vargo said the turnaround time for the state to approve ski area plans is about three days.
Editor’s note: The Summit Daily News rarely permits a source to speak on the condition of anonymity. The requests were granted in this case because Vail Resorts employees are not permitted to speak with the media without permission and feared for their jobs if they had been named.
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