BARTLETT — Local areas Attitash Mountain Resort of Bartlett and Wildcat Mountain of Pinkham Notch are among the 37 ski resorts affected by a Vail Resorts announcement Wednesday concerning pay cuts, furloughs for employees and a pause in payouts for its CEO, board of directors and shareholders due to economic and health impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Vail Resorts Inc. Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz, the company is furloughing nearly all of its U.S. year-round employees as of April 4 for “at least the next one to two months, without pay, but with full health-care coverage for any impacted employee currently enrolled,” stating that “the company will pay all premiums.”
Both Attitash and Wildcat were acquired from a buyout of Peak Resorts by Vail Resorts last fall.
John Lowell, president and general manager of both local resorts, said Thursday that Katz informed the company of his decisions in a public letter April 1 from the company headquarters in Colorado.
Katz said it’s unclear when the company’s mountain, retail and transportation businesses will be able to re-open, depending on how long the pandemic continues.
He said it will be an ongoing evaluation.
That was backed up by Lowell in an interview with the Sun Thursday, as Lowell took time to speak with the press in between making calls to year-round, full-time staff of Attitash and Wildcat.
He declined to say how many employees at the two local resorts are affected by the furloughs.
“I am contacting yearly hourly staff and discussing the statement from our CEO,” said Lowell, adding the staff includes some salaried people who are managers or department heads and many year-round hourly employees who work under those managers.
He saluted the dedication and work ethic of his employees and expressed his disappointment and concern.
“We have an awesome crew of dedicated professionals, and our heart goes out to them in these difficult times,” Lowell said. “ Obviously this will affect everyone financially and their families. It is a very unfortunate time, and we are doing what we can,” noting that since the closing of Vail Resort’s properties in mid-March, the company has been paying year-round staff 100 percent but that with the extended closures and uncertain outlook, that is no longer sustainable.
Lowell was heartened to see that Vail Resorts will continue to pay full health-care coverage and premiums for all furloughed year-round hourly employees who are currently enrolled.
“We wish nothing more than to get back to normal operations as soon as it is prudent to do so. We very much value our employees, and we are trying to make this as painless as possible, but unfortunately there is much pain associated with all of this,” said Lowell.
He said Katz is asking all U.S. salaried employees to take a six-month pay decrease, with Katz writing that those reductions start at “5 percent for those up to Grade 27, 7.5 percent for Grades 28/29, 10 percent for Grades 30/31, and then rises up to a 25 percent reduction” for the company’s most senior executives.
Katz said he is personally giving up 100 percent of his salary during the next six months.
He added that Vail Resorts is eliminating 100 percent of cash compensation for members of the company’s board of directors and the company is suspending its 401(k) match for the next six months.
Other directives include reducing capital expenditures by $80-$85 million, and eliminating June and September dividends to shareholders, saving the company over $140 million.
Lowell said Attitash and Wildcat did not have any major capital projects scheduled other than routine maintenance of lifts and infrastructure.
“We still have our capital maintenance money that we spend to do routine maintenance (lifts, etc.), so that will continue,” said Lowell.
Looking ahead to summer operations, which account for more than 20 percent of the company’s revenue, Lowell said neither he nor anyone else at this juncture has an answer, with Katz noting that they will be making an assessment as time progresses.
He added that following the closure by the U.S. Forest Service of Tuckerman Ravine Sunday due to overuse in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for safe social distancing, Attitash is now also closed to all recreational use and that they are working with the U.S. Forest Service’s Androscoggin District to also close off Wildcat to any recreational use. Parts of Attitash and all of Wildcat are located on White Mountain National Forest property.