Killington takes ax to workforce (Rutland Herald)

KILLINGTON — The new owner of Killington and Pico continued its shakeup of the resorts Monday, firing a number of mostly longtime, year-round employees as part of a major restructuring.

Powdr Corp. refused to disclose the number of employees who were let go, saying only it involved many employees and was across the board and wasn't limited to management personnel.

"We look at the folks who were released today, they were all very good talented people, members of our family," Killington marketing director Dave Rathbun said. "They were all affected by the restructuring and in deference to them and their families, we're not going to comment on the scope."

When told that fired workers who contacted the Rutland Herald put the number of workers let go at between 30 and 90, Rathbun again declined comment.

In a recent interview, Killington President Chris Nyberg said the ski area employed approximately 200 full-time people year-round. And while not ruling out layoffs, Nyberg said in the interview that there were "no plans to make dramatic changes."

Rathbun on Monday qualified that full-time, year-round figure saying Powdr uses a different employment gauge of full-time equivalent positions. He did not know the number of full-time equivalents at Killington/Pico under Powdr's system.

Rathbun said the decision to cut Killington's workforce was "a major change" made necessary to put the resort on firm financial ground and to make the necessary improvements to the resort.

"Based on the restructuring of other companies, what we're doing is looking at the positions for our current needs and future needs, and the resulting changes were made," he said, "so we're prepared to operate the resort under the new model that is in place."

That new model, according to Nyberg, requires each Powdr resort to fend for itself. He said each resort is expected to fund capital improvements from its own profits with little or no money coming from the parent company in Utah.

Rathbun said the staff reductions were a one-time event and that no further cuts are in the offing. He said some positions that were eliminated could open up as seasonal jobs while other positions were combined or could open up in the future.

He said there was no reduction in pay or benefits.

Rathbun said workers who were let go Monday were given a generous severance package of one week's pay for each year of employment, salaries paid through July 11 as well as unused vacation and personal days and outplacement assistance.

"There is no intent to do any kind of reduction in seasonal labor that would negatively impact our ability to deliver a great experience at Killington," Rathbun said.

One of those who got their walking papers Monday was an employee with more than 10 years of service at Killington.

"We thought we were safe because we were down to a skeleton crew," said the employee, who asked to remain anonymous.

The worker said it's apparently Killington's intent to jettison year-round workers, replacing them with seasonal workers.

"A lot of cars are headed down the highway today," he said.

Monday's announcement continues a string of public relations headaches for Powdr. Corp, which made a joint purchase of Killington with SP Land Co. The companies paid American Skiing Co. $85.2 million for Killington and adjacent Pico.

Since taking over the largest ski resort in the East last month, Powdr Corp. cancelled lifetime season passes that were issued to early investors in the resort. Last week, Powdr announced a big jump in season pass prices. Both moves angered many of Killington's longtime skiers, some of whom are calling for a boycott of season pass purchases until October.

Powdr justified both decisions as necessary to get the resort back on solid financial ground.

"I hate to admit it but I've seen a fair share of these in the ski industry," Rathbun said, "and this represents probably the best package I have seen."

Based in Park City, Utah, Powdr Resorts is owned by John Cumming and his family. The company owns seven resorts; all but Killington are in the West.