STEVENS PASS — Ski patrol workers at Stevens Pass Mountain Resort voted last week to unionize for better bargaining leverage with the ski mecca’s new ownership.

The 48 Stevens Pass employees join about 400 other ski patrollers already represented by the United Professional Ski Patrols of America Local 7781. The union is a chapter of the Communications Workers of America. Forty-five patrollers voted on the move, which passed 27-18.

“I think this helps them on their path to be the professionals they want to be,” says Al Kogler, administrative director for CWA District 7, based in Denver. “… The people I’ve been working with across the board are committed to this. They want it to be safe, and they’re really in places where they risk their lives doing avalanche control, they obviously are saving people’s lives when they get into a bind, and our goal is to get them that recognition.”

The April 16 vote came after the acquisition of Stevens Pass last June by Vail Resorts of Colorado, for $67 million. The union already represents ski patrol teams at other resorts owned by Vail, including Park City and Crested Butte.

“Vale is the Walmart of ski resorts, so there were concerns about what this is gonna look like,” Kogler says.

Ski patrollers are responsible for search and rescue, avalanche control, emergency first aid and other necessities at winter resorts. Unionizing is a relatively new phenomenon: The patrol team at Park City formed in 2015, and negotiated its first contract with Vail Resorts a year later. The most recent two-year contract, struck in February, gave Park City workers a base wage increase and new compensation packages.

The vote at Stevens Pass marks the first time patrollers there have been represented by a union. Kogler says negotiations with Vail over pay and other conditions will commence soon.

Jefferson Robbins: 679-7013