This story has been brewing and gathering a lot noise on the internet, however I’ve been too busy skiing in the last 10 days and too caught up at work and dealing with my daughter’s ski racing to follow this story adequately. Mind you, we’ve really only heard one version of the story and it doesn’t paint a good picture of the situation.
In a nutshell…
– skiers are busted by the ski patrol skiing a closed out-of-bounds avy area.
– one of the person busted is the son of the owner’s of the ski area. “Do you know who I am type moments” as if it’s has anything to do with it.
– four senior long term employees which included Mountain Operations Manager, Snow Safety Manager, Lift Operations Supervisor, and Chief Patroller are fired 12 days after the incidence.
– The ski patrol that busted the illegal party is also fired.
– One day protest over the firing…then others are fired.
– Lawsuit by fired employees.
Not that I want to paint everyone one as being the same, but it would seem a relationship between who do you know and who you are related too. Instead of facing to the personal responsibility that what the son did was stupid, they decided to fire 4 senior staff members that carry every important tasks in the middle of a ski season is misguided.
1) If these people would have been ‘nobodies’ like us, we would have had our asses nailed to the wall. If we would have been in trouble, we would have paid an important fine. Some of you might remember the incidence off Grouse Mtn where skier were ‘rescued and charged for it’ even if they were requiring any help.
2) If something happened to the illegal party, the ski patrol/resort would have been blamed. Definitely a lose-lose situation for the head of the patrol. Example, the case where a couple from Quebec skied on the wrong side of Kicking Horse Resort and the lady died.
Great way to learn about Life’s Lessons when who you are is like a ‘Get out of Jail’ card. His family sued Cariboo, but lost in court.
Here is a quote from the Centre for Sport and Law’s Coaches Report – Fall 1995, Volume 2 Number 2.
Scurfield v. Cariboo Helicopter Skiing Ltd. (1993, 74 B.C.L.R. 225), the balance of blame swung the other way. Scurfield, a participant on a back-country ski trip, was killed while crossing an avalanche slope. At trial, the Court found Scurfield 75 percent at fault for the accident and the defendants (Cariboo and the guide) 25 percent at fault. Scurfield had been negligent on several fronts, including failing to wait for the skier ahead to finish crossing, failing to wait for the guide’s signal to cross, and failing to “ski alert” — all of which he had been instructed to do. The guide was found to be negligent for taking the skiers to that particular slope, although on appeal, this finding was overturned.
Now for the details.
An excellent story in the Adventure Journal:
Sunshine Village Fires Patrollers, Triggers Lawsuit & Avalanche of Anger by johnathon allen on January 28, 2011.
Sunshine Village ski area in Banff National Park is facing a $435,000 “wrongful firing” lawsuit and accusations of nepotism after the resort terminated four longtime safety staff in the wake of an incident allegedly involving the son of the resort’s owner, who was caught skiing a closed out-of-bounds avalanche area.
“When the owner starts firing people because they dared to enforce the resort’s policy on closed runs by escorting skiers who violate it off the hill, even if those skiers are their relatives, something is wrong,” said one patrol member who declined to be identified. “The problem is that losing guys like that who have done so much to help the area grow over the last two decades not only hurts morale, it raises some pretty disturbing safety issues for everyone.”
Read the entire piece at Adventure Journal
Here is another excellent story from Explore magazine:
Sunshine Village fires staff causing uproar: Ryan Stuart’s take on the scandal going on at Sunshine Village ski resort
EDIT: Original story has been removed from their site, here is the catched view of Ryan Stuart’s piece which was removed.
EDIT: Explore Sunshine isn’t the only one to disappear. Here is the story by Jeremy Evans for Skiing mag.com has also been removed from their site. Here a copy of Sunshine Village Ski Patrollers vs. Resort Management.
Here is a quote from that story on the impact of the initial firing.
“The experience those guys had is irreplaceable, especially Chevy (Chris Chevalier) and Rowan,” said Jim Salter, a Revelstoke patroller and former ski patroller at Sunshine Village. “It’s going to be pretty hard to get people with paramedic skills and avalanche search and rescue skills (in the middle of the winter). I wouldn’t want to be badly injured at that mountain right now.”
EDIT: Sunshine Village staffers file lawsuit by Brigid Mander ESPN Action Sports (February 7, 2011)
An excellent post on the TGR ski forum from mtnlion that gives some of the details.
Sunshine Village has a long history of mistreating staff. This week after many years it has finally come to a head. Finally there is a chance for the little people to stand up and be heard. Even if you have never worked at Sunshine if you have lived in the valley you will know many who have. Most that are wronged are unable to afford to stand up against this big corporate bully. Now there are numbers, and the matter is very public. While there is momentum lets keep up the pressure on them. We would like to organize protests to let them know the community is behind our dedicated hard working professional patrol staff. Don’t let this fade into history just yet!…… Get your friends to join in and stand up for a good cause!
So here is the whole story.
On December 19th one of Sunshine’s younger patrollers Charlie Hitchman noticed a group of young males in a closed area of the mountain. While getting them to exit the area they became abusive, and belligerent and saying “do you know who I am”. At one point the group actually threatened to do him physical harm. He had them escorted to the village where they were lectured about closures and had their ID’s checked, and VIP passes temporarily taken. It turns out the “don’t you know who I am” person was Thomas Taylor Scurfield son of Ralph Scurfield the owner. Taylor was home visiting from his first year at U Vic. His friends were younger I believe from Calgary. After the talking to they were allowed to return to skiing. This was special treatment, as normally they would have been escorted off of the property.
At no point were they treated in any way badly. In fact if he were not the owners son the group would have likely been escorted off of the property completely.
This obviously got back to Ralph and the parents of the other males.
On December 29th as staff were arriving for work there were extra security and cabs waiting at the Bourgeau Base area. Three of the main mountain operations managers, Chris Chevalier Mountain Operations Manager, Rowan Harper Snow Safety Supervisor, and Ben Chevalier Lift Operations Supervisor, as well as a senior patroller Chris Conway were terminated without warning, and with no just cause, escorted off of the hill into the waiting cabs and sent home.
In total about 88 years of experience was lost in a moment. These were people that dedicated themselves completely to this hill for most of their adult lives. They worked with a dedication and passion rarely seen anymore. They affected change in the industry, and turned Sunshine into the fantastic place it is. In their tenure there they set a work ethic that has shaped many young peoples lives, leading with compassion and by example. Working alongside their staff in any conditions. Countless lives were touched, helped, and saved by these people, and they did it all for the love of the mountain they called HOME. They grew up there, as did their children. They were working towards teaching the next generation to pass the torch to.
In the aftermath of this the remaining staff were left with no leadership, a lack of experience and the feeling they had lost their family. They were given no direction from upper management and no succession plan. Some were asked to take on roles they knew they were not yet ready to fill, and they were worried. The management asked them to trust them, but there was no feeling of trust left and as they waited they felt that there was still no direction, and perhaps more staff positions were in jeopardy.
Management did not seem interested in the safety concerns that they raised with them. They continued on understaffed, overworked, stressed, and just trying to do the best job they could. All of this is in the middle of the most unstable snow pack in decades. Each day they just wanted to make sure everyone got home safe, staff and guests alike.
On January 18th the young patroller that originally pulled Taylor Scurfield out of the closure was let go. He had been asked to write a letter of apology to the Scurfield’s and refused to do so as he was just doing his job trying to keep them safe. Everything he did was following the policies of the ski hill. This was the last straw for the rest of the staff, and they decided the only way their voice could be heard was by having a one-day one-time protest by not going to work. Some had already been working while they were sick and injured to cover the staff shortages and so they called in sick. They gathered together in Canmore.
This sudden staff shortage left Sunshine with too few staff to operate. They cut some corners against their own safety guidelines, and the advice of supervisors, and opened anyway at a diminished capacity, Strawberry, Standish, and Wawa. They did not initially inform skiers and did not tell the truth to the public as to why lifts were closed. They eventually offered people $20 “gift certificates” for a later date. Not surprisingly people were angry and when it hit the news the rumors started flying.
The press got wind of the “protest” and two patrol staff stood up and became spokesmen for the rest of the staff, at the jeopardy of their jobs. They felt it was a risk that needed to be taken to let the public know the safety concerns they had since the loss of all their experienced leaders.
Sunshine management denied any knowledge of bad morale, safety concerns, or that they knew staff were planning to walk out. But management had started alternate measures for gondola evac staffing the day before. They said they hoped all the staff was ok and hoped they would be back at work the next day. That night they interrogated a supervisor on who was in a picture taken at the gathering with the press. They were preparing for the staff coming back the next day and looking for whom they could blame.
The patrol staff arrived at work on January 20th to Management interrogating them one by one. The spokesmen from the day before were told they could leave then, or work the day and hear their jobs fate at the end of shift. They both chose to work their shift. Management was looking to go after who ever they could.
At the end of the day Craig McArthur, and Jock Richardson the two spokesmen were fired and escorted off of the hill and banned from the property. During the discussion they had with owners and management they asked why Charlie Hitchman had been let go. They were told it was because he showed “bad judgment” in removing Taylor Scurfield and friends from the closed area. The owner also threatened legal action against all the staff that protested.
Now the patrol is more short staffed and have lost another close to 30 years of experience. They are demoralized, devastated, and still in fear of losing the jobs they love. When you see them they look sad. They are trying their best to do their job under exceptionally difficult circumstances.
This is the story without any embellishment or untruths. Management has made up some other reasoning’s for the dismissals, but none of them hold any weight.
(Ben Chevalier was only fired because he is Chris Chevalier’s nephew. “Blood is thicker than water,” he was told.)
I hope this helps people see the background and truth behind why we need to take a stand.
Ski forums are burning over this.
The most active being TGR with over 600 posts. Probably one of the best places (wth the Support Sunshine Ski Patrol sites) to be informed. Some besides Teton Gravity Research forum, here is a list of other forum discussions.
And some stuff in some blogs:
Miss Snow It All’s Trouble in Paradise – ski patrollers revolt
Ramsey’s World’s Sunshine Village fiasco around the world
The Wisconsin Skier: Sunshine Ski Village and a Lawsuit
Some News Stories:
The Banff Crag & Canyon: Sunshine fires two more ski patrollers
Calgary Herald: Son of ski hill owner sparked firings: lawsuit
Calgary Sun: Fired ski patrollers sue Sunshine
CBC News: Boycott Sunshine, Facebook group urges
Metro News: Lots of clicks for fired ski patrol
Metro News: Sunshine sued by ex-workers
Global TV News: Sunshine firings
The Ski Patrol Supporters
What to know more? Check out the Facebook page Support Ski Patrol wronged by Sunshine Village Ski Resort.
So yeah Martin, if I would be going to Banff, I would Ski Louise (which I like better, regardless of the situation at SV).