Friday, February 4, 2011

Yet another reason the Aspen Skiing Company will never see another penny of revenue from me

From The Aspen Daily News

Ousted ski instructor banned 
from all SkiCo properties

Lee Mulcahy, a former Aspen Skiing Co. instructor who was fired on Monday, also has been banned from the company’s four ski areas and its privately-owned properties.

SkiCo spokesman Jeff Hanle confirmed Wednesday that Mulcahy has been banned from the ski areas and all company-owned property since Dec. 30, when he distributed fliers to guests in the SkiCo-owned Little Nell and in the Silver Queen Gondola Plaza criticizing the ski school’s pay policies.

Mulcahy slid the fliers under hotel room doors and distributed them in the Little Nell’s dining room during one of the busiest days of the season. The fliers criticized SkiCo’s owners, the Crown of family of Chicago, for allegedly not paying a living wage to beginning instructors while the company reaps profits from expensive lessons.

The move was the straw that broke the camel’s back for SkiCo officials, who say they’ve had performance issues and behavioral problems with Mulcahy since 2006. As a result, he was terminated.

“Lee is currently banned from all Aspen Skiing Co. mountains and property, until we make a decision otherwise, for his inappropriate behavior and harassing our guests,” Hanle said, adding the ban is indefinite — “until he proves that he is not going to harass our guests or employees.”

Hanle added that Mulcahy hasn’t proven that he can hold civil discourse when it comes to his issues with SkiCo.

Mulcahy was suspended with pay for a week and then three weeks without pay for passing out the pamphlets on company property, which also advertised his group “People 4 a Living Wage,” which is in favor of unionizing ski school and other mountain employees. Currently, only the ski patrol is unionized among SkiCo divisions.

Mulcahy, an instructor since 1996, said Wednesday he found the ban on him “fascinating.”

The ban doesn’t allow him to buy a lift ticket, hike up the mountains, eat in any of the restaurants or step foot on anything owned by the SkiCo; all the base areas of the four mountains are private property.

If he does enter SkiCo property, Mulcahy will be arrested for trespassing, Hanle said.

Hanle said because the SkiCo leases land with the U.S. Forest Service, the public land is under SkiCo’s purview. He added that people have been banned from SkiCo property in the past.

Mulcahy last year ramped up his effort pressuring SkiCo to increase the starting wage of $69 a day for beginning instructors, since the company charges $625 for a full private lesson, even if taught by a rookie.

In recent weeks, his campaign has become a bitter and public dispute between him and his bosses, as well as the community at large, through the opinion pages of local newspapers.

Mulcahy this past fall filed two charges with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Denver, claiming the company violated federal labor law.

One charge claims that SkiCo “unlawfully” restructured its ski school in 1993. In the second charge, Mulcahy says he was taken off the “Diamond Pro” team “in retaliation” for his discussions about unionizing.

The complaints are currently under investigation by the NLRB.

SkiCo maintains it has acted within the law.

Mulcahy, who has hired an attorney, said his performance and past behavior as an employee is not the issue, and that he is being unfairly targeted for speaking out. He added that for many years, he was the top revenue producing instructor at SkiCo.

“I don’t have anything to lose,” he said. “Everything I did, I stand behind it.”

Here are just two of the many letters-to-the-editor supporting Mr. Mulcahy:

(This letter was originally addressed to Auden Schendler, vice president of sustainability for Aspen Skiing Co.)

I was gonna wait until we could have lunch to visit but...

I will choose my words carefully because of our long friendship and our positions in the Valley community.

Lee  Mulcahy has been my ski instructor for about 10 years. We would go out three or four times a year except this year because of my back surgery. He is singularly responsible for giving me the confidence to go into the double black areas and back country that before I found totally intimidating. I would never have attempted this without his expertise and the confidence, which he instilled in me. I would bet that I was not the only one he affected this way.

He was in no way anything other than a totally professional instructor. I never heard him say anything derogatory about SkiCo. He always checked on anyone who had fallen, knew everyone on the mountain and was extremely polite to any and all we encountered. I think he has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Texas and we talked a good bit about the struggle his Dad had with cancer and our respective families, especially my wife and daughter. I find it very disappointing that SkiCo could find no other way to resolve this situation but by his termination. In my estimation this does not speak well of SkiCo — which leads me to the second bone I have to pick with SkiCo.

That would be the insistence of having outside live music events at Elk Camp until midnight or after in the summer? This was despite a request from Department of Wildlife (DOW) to limit them to 10 p.m.

After I read about this in the paper I spoke with several DOW people and others about the health of the elk herd nearby the cow/calf ratios, the other wildlife etc. You and I even exchanged e-mails about this. I was especially disturbed when one person who I have a great deal of respect for, told me “SkiCo doesn’t give a damn about wildlife.” Somehow it seems to me that SkiCo may be getting a little out of touch with the community that it serves, and that also serves it. A strain in the symbiotic relationship if you will. Say it ain’t so Mr. Kaplan. 

Auden, please do not feel obligated to respond to my concerns but I would appreciate you forwarding this to the powers that be so they can hear from a down valley local who heretofore mostly skied Snowmass and whose teenage daughter was at the X-Games for three days. I still look forward to that lunch at Woody Creek we have been planning. SkiCo’s turn to buy.

Frosty Merriott


SkiCo’s response to a diamond level instructor trying to help his less experienced co-workers receive a higher percentage of the lesson fee is reprehensible. Paying employees approximately 10 percent of the lesson fee is absurd and I, as a patron of the mountains operated by SkiCo, am outraged. SkiCo receives not only lift ticket revenue but also 90 percent of the lesson fee? SkiCo may not like instructors trying to support each other, but isn’t that exactly the type of employee you would want helping you — both on the mountain and off?

Dale Keats Lipnick
Washington, D.C

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