Vail Resorts Furloughs Hourly Workforce

We’ll start by saying this: this is not an April Fools joke.

Vail Resorts has furloughed pretty much all of its year-round hourly-wage U.S. workforce.

Employees were not laughing today when they received the letter below from  Vail Resorts’ CEO Rob Katz.  The company announced that the early closing of its North American ski areas would cost $180 million to $200 million in lost revenue and to make up for that there would be furloughs and salary cuts across the company.

As Vail Resorts has stated on its website “We have a workforce of more than 30,000 brave, ambitious and passionate employees across the Company who get to match what they love with what they do. More than half of them are millennials!”

It is not clear how many this will impact. The situation is anticipated to be temporary—and many will be eligible for federal benefits under the recent relief aid package signed into law in late March— but it will hurt ski towns around the country all the same.

This came just days after Katz and his wife Alana Amsterdam announced their Katz Amsterdam Charitable Foundation would be donating $2.5 million to help communities impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic in the mountain towns where they operate.  “I cannot recall another moment in my lifetime that has caused so much disruption to our lives – to our work, to our health and to our communities,” said Katz. “Throughout this incredibly challenging time, two of our absolute priorities have been, and will continue to be, the health and wellbeing of our employees and mountain communities.”

In Vermont, the Vermont Community Foundation received  $150,000 to support several non-profits in three communities (surrounding Mount Snow, Okemo and Stowe) that provide food services, basic needs and critical social services to community members. In addition, the Epic Promise Employee Foundation received $1 million to establish a new fund to provide additional assistance to Vail Resorts employees who have been impacted by the pandemic.

Here is the letter Katz sent out today:

We continue to find ourselves living through an unprecedented time as the situation with COVID-19 grows more challenging, with everyone across our planet now dealing with very real and significant health risks and impacts. This crisis has hit the travel industry particularly hard. Currently, all of our mountains, lodging, retail, and transportation businesses are shut down and it is becoming less clear when things will start to reopen again. We reported two weeks ago that the early closure of our North American operations will cost the Company at least $180 million to $200 million in lost profitability in our third quarter ending April.
I am very hopeful that both the economy and travel will return to normal by the time our North American winter season opens eight months from now. However, we also need to remember that we have substantial business operations set to open over the next few months – our Australian winter season, Grand Teton Lodge Company, as well as our lodging, retail, and summer mountain operations at our North American resorts, which collectively represent more than 20% of our total revenue. With the very real possibility that the global stay-at-home orders could be extended, and travel reduced regardless, our business in May through October is at risk. We will work hard to reopen as soon as practical, but much of this is now outside of our control.
Because of these realities and to ensure that we can navigate the financial challenges ahead, we are taking certain measures, including some that will unfortunately affect each of our U.S. employees:
  • We are furloughing nearly all of our U.S year-round hourly employees as of April 4, 2020, for at least the next one to two months, without pay, but with full healthcare coverage for any impacted employee currently enrolled (the Company will pay all premiums). For more information see here.
  • We are implementing a six-month salary reduction for all U.S. salaried employees that starts at 5% for those up to Grade 27, 7.5% for Grades 28/29, 10% for Grades 30/31, and then rises up to a 25% reduction for our most senior executives. For more information see here.
  • I am giving up 100% of my salary during the next six months.
  • We are eliminating 100% of the cash compensation for members of our Board of Directors for six months.
  • We are suspending the Company’s 401(k) match for the next six months.
  • We are reducing our capital expenditures by $80-$85 million, with the intention to defer all new chair lifts, terrain expansions and other mountain improvements, while protecting the vast majority of our maintenance capital spending.
  • We are eliminating our June and September dividends to shareholders, saving the Company more than $140 million.
I recognize this is very disappointing news to be receiving and I had hoped we would not have to take this action. But with each passing week, the financial consequences have become more apparent. To our year-round hourly employees, I am so disappointed that the vast majority of you have not been able to work these past three weeks and I assure you we will end the furlough as soon as possible once we have clarity on our business reopening.
To our year-round salaried employees, who are working from home, in many cases harder than ever, I truly am sorry to have to ask you to give even more by accepting a salary reduction – we are asking everyone to accept some sacrifice so that we weather this storm together and are ready to come back strong for next winter. For those of you with questions, your leader will be reaching out to discuss the situation with you over the coming days.
I am sure many of you are wondering if these actions will be enough. Will there be more changes coming? Once again, if I am honest with myself, I have to give the toughest answer for any CEO – I really don’t know. It’s possible that things could quickly improve. But it’s also possible these challenges may force us to materially delay or cancel our upcoming summer season. In that case, more measures might be needed.
I have made decisions over the last few weeks that I never could have anticipated in my nearly 30 years working in the ski business. I recognize the impact of today’s decisions on you, and I do not take them lightly. I am humbled and grateful for your passion and dedication to each other, our communities and our industry – it’s what makes our sport and this Company so special.
Please know, I am fully committed to helping steward our Company and our entire industry forward so we can all continue to thrive in the mountains for years to come. During this challenging time, please continue to prioritize your health, safety and wellbeing.
Rob Katz
Chief Executive Officer

Lisa Lynn

Editor of VT SKI + RIDE and Vermont Sports.