Park City locals discuss Epic and Icon Passes’ impact on the community

Story and photographs by ASHLEIGH THOMAS

Vail’s Epic Pass and Altera’s Icon Pass have changed and shaped the landscape of the modern-day ski culture and business. Park City, Utah, is growing and changing at a rapid rate due to the passes. They invite skiers and snowboarders all over the world to buy a single ski pass that allows them to ski at multiple ski resorts.

Utah locals must prepare and consider the new changes to the Utah ski industry as the upcoming season approaches.

Park City is home to Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Mountain Resort, two culturally rich and unique ski areas that many people call home. These passes are altering the “Park City ski culture” as we know it, in part because the ski industry has been globalized on a huge scale. These passes give access to resorts all over the world including in Australia, Europe, Asia, Canada, and South America. But at this scale what are the lasting effects on small ski towns like Park City and the Park City way of life? Are these passes changing the industry for the better or for worse?

Many locals have described their feelings about the Icon and Epic Passes’ impact on Park City as a mix of good and bad.

Kathy Burke, the buyer for Cole Sport, described her feelings in an email interview about whether the Icon and Epic pass are beneficial to Park City or not. “I have mixed feelings about this. Being in retail, I am in favor of controlled growth and commerce. The town has grown and has more job opportunities for jobs.” However, she added, “the impact on traffic and the carbon footprint is having an impact on this town.”

Another Park City local, Renee Godin, PSIA ski instructor and level 300 ski coach USSA, discussed her experience with the growth. Godin said in an email interview that she has noticed the town has become busier. She also has experienced the impact of increased tourism with crowded restaurants, scarce parking spots, and slower commutes. “These are problems that locals find to be annoying, but more tourists for the local business is what it’s all about, it is what a small town thrives on. Tourist dollars, and that’s what people sometimes forget.”

Park City is known all over the world for being a unique ski town with something for everyone to enjoy and experience. Park City’s charm and ski culture is what made many Park City locals want to lay down roots and live there. “What brought me to Park City was the idea of being able to jump on a bus and ski 3 different ski areas, in one town making a European experience in the middle of the USA!” Godin said.

Park City’s Historic Main Street is one of the main attractions of Park City. Burke said Main Street is changing quickly due to the fact national corporate retail chains are seeing incentives to open their shops where locally-owned business have existed for years.

“My favorite characteristic is the community spirit of Park City and its heritage to its mining history,” Burke said, “specifically characterized through the historic commitment to preserving Main Street and Old Town. I think the Epic and Icon transition is bringing a commercial element to Main Street with its national chain stores. The growth in mono brand stores and national chains diminished the charm and uniqueness of specialty retail and character and integrity of Main Street.”

The economic development and change in the community’s character aren’t the only things that are evolving from the Icon and Epic Passes. The “on the hill” experience is also changing, said Chuck English, a former mountain manager at Deer Valley. He added that a couple of years ago locals could ski on wide open runs on the weekdays and sometimes even on the weekends. But that is no longer a reality. The number of visitors on the hill has greatly increased, creating longer lines, crowded runs, and busy lodges.

“The Icon has definitely changed DV (Deer Valley). Their stated intention of limiting skiers to the maintain quality experiences has gone by the wayside. They are not able to limit Icon pass holders even though they encourage them to make reservations,” English said in an email interview.

The Icon and Epic Passes may be attractive to some and less attractive to others. When asked about the expense of skiing and the experience as a whole, English added, “To a person who is already a skier the passes make it more affordable. Season pass prices were getting very expensive and I feel like some people might have started to drop out based on cost.” He thinks that there is less of an incentive and focus for new skiers to participate or buy a season pass. “This is a serious problem for the industry,” he said. This is an aspect that will change ski culture in the long term and is something to consider for new skiers and snowboarders.

With all things considered the Epic and Icon pass are creating an evolved modern ski and snowboard experience. They are a force to be reckoned with and will have a lasting impact on the industry and ski culture in Park City.

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Millennials are complaining about low pay but favor perks over high compensation

Story and gallery by SAIGE HAWKINS

The cost of living continues to rise and millennials are continuing to struggle to afford it. A common gripe for the cause of this is that they are not being paid appropriately. But is that really at the root of the cause? Experts in their field have noted that in order to keep up with hiring demand, flashy perks and events have become a necessity in order to maintain top talent millennials at a company.

“Most of the people we hire for our corporate office are under 40 and are more initially attracted to little perks that make their day-to-day in the office more tolerable, rather than their income.” says Erika Park, the manager of perks and benefits for Backcountry, an online outdoor retail company based out of Park City, Utah.

This is a position human resources professionals have heard more than once, and yet 18-35-year-olds are often complaining about their compensation. The most repeated comment left in Backcountry’s exit interviews was that departing employees weren’t paid enough. It is also the most common reason employees not at the corporate level were leaving Backcountry. One comment stated, “The free food and fun events are nice, but at the end of the day my paycheck didn’t reflect the work I’d put in.”

This isn’t a problem unique to Backcountry, as the cast member culture at Disneyland reflects the same thing. In Spring and Summer 2018 multiple demonstrations were held across the street from the world-famous theme park by cast members demanding a higher wage. These protests led to union representatives getting involved and beginning negotiations with the company’s leadership team for a higher hourly pay rate.

Tessa Zalfen, a Disneyland cast member for over a year, said, “No we don’t get paid that much. Most of it has to do with how many hours we get scheduled since it’s based on seniority but I don’t work here for the money. We get discounts, free admission, guest passes, and honestly I just love it here so much I don’t really mind it.” This exemplifies what the millennial generation is demonstrating, a willingness to work more for less if they’re doing something they enjoy even if it’s just the company and their values.

The next generation is displaying a sense of importance for similar values over higher pay. They are happy to be working for a company they admire so the other things don’t matter as much. This values-based employment added with the perks catered to them creates an excellent combination for compensation. If the employees already pay business to a company and will continue to do so, discounting those experiences for them allows them to feel compensated, spend more at the company, and in turn create a win-win scenario.

Corporate perks aren’t just something important to the employee life cycle. They also help draw applicants in and sell them on one job over another. “We’re very fortunate here because we offer so much in regards to activities, discounts, and the great events Erika plans. It makes my job easier because the sales pitch is already laid out for me most times,” said Donna Barker, the senior corporate recruiter for Backcountry.

Even though most of the companies that are able to offer this don’t pay as much as smaller companies, they still combine these perks with name recognition on a resume to make their company desired. “It is definitely a bigger draw for younger people just starting their careers to be somewhere recognizable,” said Park, Backcountry’s manager for perks and benefits.

Park added, “They’re more likely to take something now with less pay that will catapult them to their next opportunity than something that pays well and won’t guarantee advancement later on.”

This sentiment is echoed through Zalfen, the Disneyland cast member, who said, “I plan to stay here awhile because I want to work my way up one day and work for ABC. It’s easier to do that if I’m already here.” A foot in the door method definitely seems to be a direction the millennial generation is being steered into. Zalfen added, “From what I’ve been told, it looks better on a resume to have growth and different positions at one place than to have experience without growth at several different places.”

Corporate perks and growth potential have quickly grown to be one of the biggest factors when looking for a job in today’s market and companies don’t have a reason to change. Why spend more to pay someone for a job when they’re willing to work for less as long as you put a sparkly bow on it? Barker, the senior recruiter, added, “We might not pay as much as smaller warehouses but we don’t need to because people want to work for us before they even hear how much it pays. We attract a very niche crowd and they’ll stay if we help maintain their lifestyle, even if it isn’t through a pay check.”