| SierraSun.com

Jan 25. update: Nevada County reports 298 new COVID-19 cases

Jan. 25

Nevada County recorded 298 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday making the new total 13,713. There were 3,047 active cases, 299 more than the previous day.

There were 10,543 people released from isolation, and 123 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Thirty-five people were hospitalized locally Tuesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 71,818,876 total cases, and 866,968 deaths, the CDC stated.


Jan. 24

Nevada County recorded 707 new COVID-19 cases on Monday making the new total 13,414. There were 2,748 active cases, 696 more than the previous Friday.

There were 10,533 people released from isolation, and 123 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Thirty people were hospitalized locally Monday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 70,641,725 total cases, and 864,203 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 21

Nevada County recorded 94 new COVID-19 cases on Friday making the new total 12,714. There were 2,052 active cases, 273 more than the previous day.

There were 10,539 people released from isolation, and 123 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twenty-six people were hospitalized locally Friday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 69,437,067 total cases, and 858,909 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 20

Nevada County recorded 192 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday making the new total 12,637. There were 1,779 active cases, no change from the previous day.

There were 10,735 people released from isolation, and 123 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twenty-eight people were hospitalized locally Thursday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 68,671,563 total cases, and 856,288 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 19

Nevada County recorded 396 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday making the new total 12,445. There were 1,779 active cases, 395 more than the previous day.

There were 10,543 people released from isolation, and one new death making 123 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twenty-five people were hospitalized locally Wednesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 67,903,759 total cases, and 853,230 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 18

Nevada County recorded 702 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday making the new total 12,050. There were 1,384 active cases, 849 more than the previous Friday.

There were 10,544 people released from isolation, and 122 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twenty people were hospitalized locally Tuesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 66,715,937 total cases, and 850,575 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 14

Nevada County recorded 47 new COVID-19 cases on Friday making the new total 11,349. There were 535 active cases, 102 fewer than the previous day.

There were 10,692 people released from isolation, and 122 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Fourteen people were hospitalized locally Friday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 64,285,467 total cases, and 844,841 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 13

Nevada County recorded 112 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday making the new total 11,303. There were 637 active cases, 17 more than the previous day.

There were 10,544 people released from isolation, and 122 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Fifteen people were hospitalized locally Thursday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 63,397,935 total cases, and 842,873 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 12

Nevada County recorded 57 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday making the new total 11,192. There were 620 active cases, 71 fewer than the previous day.

There were 10,450 people released from isolation, and 122 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twelve people were hospitalized locally Wednesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 62,538,796 total cases, and 840,286 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 11

Nevada County recorded 157 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday making the new total 11,135. There were 691 active cases, 156 more than the previous day.

There were 10,322 people released from isolation, and one new death making 122 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Thirteen people were hospitalized locally Tuesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 61,732,283 total cases, and 837,274 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 10

Nevada County recorded 259 new COVID-19 cases on Monday making the new total 10,979. There were 535 active cases, 205 more than the previous Friday.

There were 10,323 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Thirteen people were hospitalized locally Monday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 60,240,751 total cases, and 835,302 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 7

Nevada County recorded 60 new COVID-19 cases on Friday making the new total 10,722. There were 327 active cases, 34 fewer than the previous day.

There were 10,274 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Twelve people were hospitalized locally Friday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 58,689,973 total cases, and 831,729 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 6

Nevada County recorded 51 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday making the new total 10,662. There were 361 active cases, 54 fewer than the previous day.

There were 10,180 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Thirteen people were hospitalized locally Thursday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 57,898,239 total cases, and 829,740 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 5

Nevada County recorded 34 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday making the new total 10,614. There were 415 active cases, 11 fewer than the previous day.

There were 10,078 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Eleven people were hospitalized locally Wednesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 57,190,371 total cases, and 827,879 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 4

Nevada County recorded 146 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday making the new total 10,581. There were 426 active cases, 151 more than the previous day.

There were 10,034 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Ten people were hospitalized locally Tuesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 56,310,718 total cases, and 825,106 deaths, the CDC stated.

Jan. 3

Nevada County recorded 162 new COVID-19 cases on Monday making the new total 10,436. There were 275 active cases, 80 more than the previous Thursday.

There were 10,040 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Eight people were hospitalized locally Monday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 53,795,407 total cases, and 820,355 deaths, the CDC stated.

Dec. 30

Nevada County recorded 29 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday making the new total 10,274. There were 195 active cases, 5 fewer than the previous day.

There were 9,958 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Zero people were hospitalized locally Thursday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 53,795,407 total cases, and 820,355 deaths, the CDC stated.

Dec. 29

Nevada County recorded 158 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday making the new total 10,245. There were 200 active cases, 41 more than the previous Thursday.

There were 9,924 people released from isolation, and 121 total deaths. Everyone five and older is now eligible to receive the vaccine.

Two people were hospitalized locally Wednesday with COVID-19.

Nationwide, there were 53,275,589 total cases, and 818,444 deaths, the CDC stated.

Elections office suspends in-person service over security concerns

The Office of the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters has temporarily shut its doors to in-person services after a group forced its way inside and pushed an employee, Gregory Diaz said in a statement.

Diaz, the county’s clerk-recorder/registrar of voters, said the decision was made over security concerns in connection with a recall petition.

“A group of recall proponents, displeased with our office’s efforts to initiate a COVID-19 protocol and enforce a mask mandate, forcibly entered the Clerk-Recorder/Registrar’s Office lobby demanding to know the status of their recall effort,” Diaz said in his statement. “They knew that our office was implementing a COVID-19 protocol, were asked to wear masks before entry and refused, and were offered alternative means to obtain our services but refused to take them. Rather than work with us peacefully, three proponents stormed our office, pushed an employee, and claimed that they had a right to appear in our office in person.”

According to Diaz, neither the state or federal constitutions, nor county ordinance, gives “any member of the public unfettered access to our office.”

RECALL

Calvin Clark, a recall supporter, said he visited Diaz’s office last Wednesday, telling an employee she should help his group even though they wore no masks, claiming it was discriminatory. The employee then helped them.

Clark said another group of recall supporters visited the office on Thursday. Clark wasn’t there, but he said he saw a video of what occurred.

A new policy was in effect that Thursday. People had to ring a bell for service, he said.

“If they want to get behind their glass and wear double and triple masks, OK,” Clark said. “Everybody knows what happened. We got a video. We didn’t storm the building. Somebody ought to get their facts straight.”

Clark claims someone tried to slam a door on a recall supporter, injuring her foot.

Recall supporters seek to remove all five supervisors, claiming government overreach and failing to reopen the county when the coronavirus began to diminish.

CLERK-RECORDER’S DUTY

Diaz said that in his position his duty is to “maintain a safe and healthy work environment, free of harassment, intimidation, and threat of violence.”

“As the elected Nevada County clerk-recorder/registrar of voters, I have a duty to keep our guests and employees safe,” Diaz said in his statement. “Unfortunately, this means that we must close our lobby to in-person services temporarily until our office can safely conduct business.

Diaz said his duty is to serve all of the county’s citizens.

“Unlike public meetings, the Office of the Clerk-Recorder is not a public forum,” he said. “There is an expectation that all visitors treat others, including our staff, with respect and decorum.

“We apologize to our constituents for any inconvenience that this temporary closure has caused and look forward to welcoming you all in person soon.”

Staff Writer William Roller contributed to this report

 

CONTACT CLERK-RECORDER/ELECTIONS

Clerk-Recorder

nc.recorder@co.nevada.ca.us

530.265.1223

Drop box in lobby of Eric Rood Administrative Center, 950 Maidu Ave., Nevada City

Elections

elections.mail@co.nevada.ca.us

530.265.1298

GREGORY DIAZ’S STATEMENT

Last Thursday, the Office of the Nevada County Clerk-Recorder/Registrar of Voters made the decision to temporarily close its lobby over security concerns relating to a recall petition, Gregory Diaz said in a statement.

A group of recall proponents, displeased with our office’s efforts to initiate a COVID-19 protocol and enforce a mask mandate, forcibly entered the Clerk-Recorder/Registrar’s office lobby demanding to know the status of their recall effort. They knew that our office was implementing a COVID-19 protocol, were asked to wear masks before entry and refused, and were offered alternative means to obtain our services but refused to take them. Rather than work with us peacefully, three proponents stormed our office, pushed an employee, and claimed that they had a right to appear in our office in person, Diaz said.

To be clear: Neither the state nor federal constitutions, nor any county ordinance, give any member of the public unfettered access to our office.

The county’s leadership has a duty to maintain a safe and healthy work environment, free of harassment, intimidation, and threat of violence. As the elected Nevada County clerk-recorder/registrar of voters, I have a duty to keep our guests and employees safe. Unfortunately, this means that we must close our lobby to in-person services temporarily until our office can safely conduct business.

As a countywide elected officer, Diaz said the county clerk-recorder/registrar of voters has a duty to serve all of Nevada County’s citizens. The clerk-recorder/registrar of voters also has the discretion to decide the rules of conduct for doing business. Unlike public meetings, the Office of the Clerk-Recorder is not a public forum. There is an expectation that all visitors treat others, including our staff, with respect and decorum.

We apologize to our constituents for any inconvenience that this temporary closure has caused and look forward to welcoming you all in person soon.

 

 

Truckee-Tahoe weather: Slight chance of snow on Monday

A slight chance of snow is expected on Monday, the National Weather Service said.

It’ll be sunny to mostly sunny though the week.

Today’s high will reach 38. Lows will drop to 14 tonight.

Wednesday’s high will climb to 46, with lows landing at 17 that night.

Thursday’s high will top out at 43, while Friday and Saturday’s will reach 48. Lows will settle in the upper teens to lower 20s all three nights.

Sunday’s high will make it to 47. A slight chance of snow appears Monday, when highs will get to 40.

FILE — Wagon and Aspens.
Submitted by C. Herrington

 

Body found in South Lake Tahoe meadow

South Lake Tahoe police on Saturday responded to reports of a body found in a meadow behind a bank on Highway 50, authorities said.

A wildlife photographer was in the meadow taking photos, discovered the remains, and contacted police.

Upon arrival, officers found a human body in the snow. Detectives responded to the scene and began an investigation. The body appeared to have been buried in the late December snowstorms, and was spotted after snow melted from the recent warmer temperatures.

The body hasn’t been identified. Foul play is not suspected at this time. However, an autopsy will be conducted in order to determine identity and cause of death.

If anyone has information helpful to this investigation, contact Detective Allen Molesworth at 530-542-6138.

Truckee-Tahoe weather: Slight chance of rain Sunday

Another week of sun could give way to rain on Sunday, the National Weather Service said.

Today’s high will hit 51. Lows will drop to 21 tonight.

Tuesday’s high will climb to 40, Wednesday’s will reach 47, and Thursday’s will top out at 46. Lows will settle in the upper teens to lower 20s all three nights.

Friday’s high will make it to 48, while Saturday’s will reach 46. Lows will land at 24 both nights.

There’s a slight chance of rain on Sunday. Highs will hit 49.

Crispy morning.
Submitted by Michael Kennedy

Third grade class takes part in Sugar Pine restoration

 

Debbie Kadziauskas’ third grade class plants Sugar Pines near the Flume Trail in Incline Village.
Submitted by Shannon Piro

Debbie Kadziauskas is an elementary science teacher at the Lake Tahoe School in Incline Village who takes experiential learning to a whole new level through restoration projects with her students.

The students’ latest restoration project is to bring back the population of Sugar Pine trees in their community, as trees in California have been dying by the millions in the past decade.

According to the USDA Forest Service, 129 million trees have died in California due to drought and bark beetles since 2010. These trees were primarily located in the central and southern regions of the Sierra Nevada.

Kadziauskas decided to use this problem as a teachable moment for her students to make a positive change in their community.

The 20 third graders planted around 30 Sugar Pine seedlings in an open area near the Marlette Flume Trail in Incline Village the first week of December.

“We spent a lot of time in class learning about how to plant a Sugar Pine, how to pick a good area, and then learning about the life cycle of a Sugar Pine and all of its threats. We did a lot of that before we actually participated in planting,” said Kadziauskas.

Kadziauskas plans to take her classes back to visit their Sugar Pines as soon as the snow melts, in order to monitor progress by measuring the length of the trees. She said that she wants to continue to monitor the trees’ progress year after year.

The third grade class was very enthusiastic about planting the trees. A couple of students took down the exact coordinates of their Sugar Pine seedlings and plan on going back on weekends with their parents to check up on them, said Kadziauskas.

“They kind of look at it like it’s their own adopted tree,” Kadziauskas joked.

IN DECLINE

According to Kadziauskas, Sugar Pines have been on the decline ever since the logging industry began in Incline Village.

Additionally, Sugar Pines can be infected by a parasite brought over from Europe known as “blister rust.”

Sugar Pines used to make up 25% of the local forest, though over the years that number has gone down to around 5%, said Kadziauskas.

“It helps stimulate more awareness of the local forests that they live in and it helps them understand the function of the forest. I think it makes them become better stewards to the area – they’re more conscientious of what it means to take care of the forest,” Kadziauskas said.

The Sugar Pines planted by the third graders have a naturally immunity to blister rust.

Her goal is to bring back the original population with Sugar Pines that can naturally fight against the blister rust so that future generations will be able to thrive in their environment.

“I think that it’s really important to make them aware and it’s awesome that we have the ability to apply our knowledge … Getting them to actually participate and visit the setting is a real effective way to spark their awareness,” Kadziauskas said.

Elizabeth White is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at ewhite@sierrasun.com

The 20 third graders planted around 30 Sugar Pine seedlings in an open area near the Marlette Flume Trail in Incline Village during the first week of December.
Provided

North Tahoe Public Utility District welcomes new facilities manager

The North Tahoe Public Utility District is proud to announce the addition of Amanda Oberacker as the District’s new Recreation, Parks, and Facilities Manager.

Oberacker comes to the North Tahoe Public Utility District from the Truckee Donner Recreation and Park District, where she spent 18 years, most recently as the Recreation Supervisor.

“Amanda represents the spirit of community recreation and leadership that we sought for this critical position,” said Bradley A. Johnson, P.E., North Tahoe Public Utility District General Manager/CEO. “Her local knowledge, history of successful programs, and network of connections throughout the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee community provide the ideal foundation to help shape the future of our Recreation and Parks Department. I look forward to what she will bring to our community.”

As the new Recreation, Parks, and Facilities Manager, Oberacker will direct and manage the staff and operations of the District’s Recreation and Parks Department, including the administration of all the amenities, rentals, concessionaires, special events, and programs at the North Tahoe Regional Park and the Tahoe Vista Recreation Area. She will also oversee the District’s community events and activities at the North Tahoe Event Center.

“I believe in the power of recreation and parks to truly help shape and build community,” said Oberacker. “I look forward to joining the North Lake Tahoe community and making it an even better place to live, work, and play.”

Oberacker holds a Master’s in Public Administration from San Diego State University and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Springfield College. She is a graduate of the National Recreation and Park Association Supervisors’ Management School and a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional. She is also a Certified American Red Cross Lifeguard Instructor Trainer and Lifeguard.

A resident of the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee region since 2005, Oberacker is a volunteer soccer coach and enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and two children.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District proudly welcomes Amanda Oberacker to the District and North Lake Tahoe. She can be reached via email aoberacker@ntpud.org or phone 530-546-4212.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District provides sewer and water service to the residents of Kings Beach, Tahoe Vista, Carnelian Bay, Cedar Flat, and Agate Bay. The North Tahoe Regional Park, Tahoe Vista Recreation Area and Boat Launch, and North Tahoe Event Center are owned and operated by the District and provide recreation opportunities to residents and visitors.

Source: North Tahoe Public Utility District

Amanda Oberacker, North Tahoe Public Utility District’s new Recreation, Parks, and Facilities Manager.
Photo courtesy NTPUD

Truckee-Tahoe skiers receive official Olympic nominations

Several Truckee-Tahoe skiers will vie for Olympic medals next month.

U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Friday announced its nominations for the Olympic alpine team, and a number of local skiers have been tabbed to represent Team USA.

Nominations are to be confirmed by the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Team Palisades Tahoe veteran Travis Ganong will make his second Olympic appearance, and is coming off a World Cup season in which the 33 year old has posted a trio of top-10 finishes, including finishing third place last month in super-G at Beaver Creek, Colorado.

Ganong competed in the 2014 Olympics in Russia, but was sidelined in 2018 after suffering a torn ACL during a World Cup event in Bormio, Italy.

Also making a second Olympic appearance will be Truckee’s Bryce Bennett. The 6-foot-7-inch downhiller has had a career year on the World Cup scene, claiming his first career win in downhill last month.

Bennett competed in the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, where he took 16th place in downhill and was 17th in combined.

North Tahoe’s AJ Hurt, 21, has been nominated to her first Olympic team. The Team Palisades Tahoe skier’s season, thus far, has been highlighted by a 20th place in giant slalom at a World Cup event in Austria.

Team Palisades Tahoe will also be represented on the slopes by Keely Cashman, 22. The Strawberry, California, skier — who already owns national and junior championships — will make her Olympic debut next month after posting a season-best 23rd place in super-G at Sunday’s World Cup race in Zauchensee, Austria.

Another Team Palisades Tahoe representative, Nina O’Brien, 24, will also be making her Olympic debut.

O’Brien opened the World Cup season with a ninth-place finish in giant slalom, and after some struggles in races at the end of December and beginning of January, has bounced back to post back-to-back top-25 finishes in slalom.

Sugar Bowl Ski Team & Academy’s Luke Winters has also met criteria to be named to his first Olympic team. Winters, 24, is coming off a career-best 10th place in slalom racing.

‘A PHENOMENAL TEAM’

The team includes seven athletes who have podiumed on the FIS World Cup stage in the last two seasons, headlined by two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, a medal threat in both technical and speed disciplines.

“This is a phenomenal team led by Mikaela, and she is not alone,” said Jesse Hunt, alpine director, in a news release. “This team is filled with talent and multiple podium threats in many events. We’ve had five athletes in the last two seasons who have had breakthroughs and career-first podiums. On top of that, we’ve had numerous up-and-coming athletes score personal best results. We are lucky to have the leadership, professionalism and experience of our veteran athletes like Mikaela and Ryan to set an example for our up-and-coming athletes about what success looks like at this level. It is going to be an exciting Games for this team.”

The team includes 17 athletes who qualified through one or more top-three finishes, top-five finishes, and top-10 finishes, along with World Cup points and discretion. The qualification period included 2021-22 World Cup races from Oct. 23 through Jan. 16.

The alpine team has a full competition schedule for the 2022 games, featuring 11 medal events across men and women, including slalom, giant slalom, alpine combined, super-G, downhill, and the team event.

Alpine competition will start with the men’s downhill on Feb. 6; while the women will kick off their Olympic competition on Feb. 7 with giant slalom. Alpine competition will conclude Feb. 19 with the parallel team event.

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of The Union. He can be reached at jscacco@sierrasun.com

Firefighters respond to structure fire at Donner Ski Ranch Resort

From Cal Fire’s Facebook post:

Cal Fire responded late Thursday with Truckee Fire District to a working structure fire at the top of Donner Ski Ranch Resort. The fire was well established prior to the arrival of fire resources. It could not be accessed by engines, so firefighters made access via snow cat and snow machine. The fire spread to adjacent trees that were felled to protect the chair lift and other infrastructure. There are no known injuries, and Truckee Fire District is investigating the cause.

 

Vail Resorts offers $13M to settle class-action lawsuits

Oliver Padgett, front, and Rob Messic prepare the Upper Beaver Creek Express lift on Dec. 11, 2017, in Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

EAGLE — Vail Resorts has extended a $13.1 million offer to settle five wage and labor lawsuits filed in California, a step that could have implications for a similar lawsuit filed in Colorado and for anyone who has worked on mountains owned by Vail Resorts in recent years.

The California lawsuits are similar in many ways to a proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Colorado District Court in December 2020. Both allege that Vail Resorts violated state and federal labor laws in failing to pay reimbursements for equipment as well as compensation for time staff spent training, in meetings, on meal breaks, getting on the mountain and gearing up before shifts.

However, plaintiffs’ attorneys in the suit filed in Colorado say they would have asked for more than $13.1 million spread across a class of 100,000 people, and they would have asked for policy changes.

Vail Resorts called the settlement offer “appropriate and fair” in an October statement. And in recently filed court documents, attorneys for the California plaintiffs said it was an “excellent monetary result” for eligible employees across the country.

One part-time ski instructor at Vail Mountain, however, said he does not plan to cash his settlement check if and when the time comes that he receives it in the mail.

“Obviously, it’s low — I mean, from my perspective,” said Matt Elston, who is also an inactive member of the California bar association. “It really depends on how they view some of this stuff going forward. Are they going to be paying for what they really should be paying for going forward?”

The deal offers $13.1 million to “settle all claims” against Vail Resorts, but upward of $4.36 million in legal fees would be taken off the top of this amount, according to court documents.

“The (legal fees) are in line with market rates and are appropriate under the percentage-of-recovery method,” Jennifer Liu, lead attorney for the California plaintiffs, said in a request for preliminary approval of the settlement filed earlier this month. All California plaintiffs agreed to this amount of legal fees, according to the document.

Another $500,000 — 3.9% of the settlement fund — will go to complaints made using the Private Attorneys General Act, and 75% of that ($375,000) will be paid to the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency for assisting in facilitating that process.

If the remaining $8.24 million were to be distributed evenly across the 100,000 members of the class, it would shake out to about $82 per person.

Vail Resorts and its attorneys have not responded to requests for comment on the ongoing lawsuits since issuing a statement Oct. 5 that said the company “believes the settlement is appropriate and fair” despite disputing “the accuracy of the claims.”

“A hundred bucks or less for past underpayment really doesn’t cover the damages,” Elston said. “To me, the damages would be more than that, but I think a lot of (ski) instructors would probably feel like, ‘Hey, if we improve things going forward, that’s acceptable.’”

Kenneth Zakzesky chips away snow at Lower Beaver Creek Express on Dec. 11, 2017, in Beaver Creek.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

What happens now?

The nature of the settlement offer is such that any and all employees who cash settlement checks they receive in the mail give up their legal rights to bring forward complaints of state or federal labor law violations against Vail Resorts, specifically those that occurred over the past three to four years depending on which state they live in.

Some class-action settlements require class members to “opt in” to receive settlements, but this one requires that class members “opt out” by filling out a form or by choosing not to deposit the check they receive.

“This approach will provide greater total compensation to the class because participation rates are typically much higher,” Liu wrote in the document.

This will also likely mean more people giving up their legal rights to bring their own claims forward or join other lawsuits like the one filed in Colorado.

“You get a check in the mail; what do you do? You cash it, right? You don’t necessarily read the fine print. You’re like, ‘Oh, Vail’s sending me 90 bucks, great,’” Elston said. “Particularly if (the settlement) is covering people beyond California, they should have to opt-in as opposed to opting out.”

Typically, only about 15% to 30% of eligible class members opt in to benefit from settlements reached in Fair Labor Standards Act class-action lawsuits such as this one, according to the preliminary approval document.

Where did the number come from?

To determine a reasonable settlement offer, the California plaintiffs’ attorneys first calculated the “maximum theoretical damages” that eligible Vail Resorts employees could have incurred over the three- to four-year time period covered by the settlement.

The maximum theoretical damages — the most money the company could owe its employees if everyone opted in and all claims were proven in court — was calculated at $108.1 million.

This calculation assumed that “class members in snow positions worked five unpaid hours per week, 25% of which was overtime, missed three meal and rest breaks per week and incurred $700 in unreimbursed but required business expenses per year, and that class members in non-snow positions worked 1.25 unpaid hours per week, 25% of which was overtime, and missed two meal and rest breaks per week,” according to the preliminary approval document.

“The $13.1 million settlement therefore represents approximately 12.1% of the class’ maximum theoretical damages,” according to the document.

Attorneys for Vail Resorts made it clear they intended to challenge many of the claims brought against them if the cases went further into the litigation phase, which is often lengthy and costly for everyone involved. Given this, both parties concluded that the $13.1 million settlement would be “an outstanding result for the class.”

“This is not the opinion of merely a single law firm,” the preliminary approval document states. “This is the collective conclusion of seven different law firms, all of whom independently evaluated whether the settlement was in the best interests of the class.”

A bit of background

Plaintiffs’ attorneys in the proposed class-action lawsuit filed in Colorado have argued that the claims made in their case are stronger and could lead to a larger settlement, according to court filings. If the California settlement is granted final approval, it will hurt their case as any employees who opt-in to the settlement will no longer be eligible to join the Colorado case.

Edward Dietrich and Benjamin Galdston, attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Colorado case, moved to intervene in the California proceedings with an explicit intention to try to have the lawsuits dismissed so their case can move forward instead, but a state court judge issued a tentative ruling denying their request.

“I mean, it’s expensive to do a class-action suit, right? If you shrink the class down to only people who have opted out or opted not to cash a check they got in the mail, then your class is so much smaller and it just may not have the economies of scale worth pursuing it,” said Elston, who has been looking into the lawsuits filed in the two states.

In early November, a federal judge granted a motion filed by Vail Resorts to pause the Colorado case while the California settlement deal moves forward.

Dietrich and Galdston said the motion was part of a plan by Vail Resorts to squash all the lawsuits for the least amount of money possible and without having to change its compensation policies.

Earlier this month, the California plaintiffs’ attorneys filed preliminary approval papers outlining the settlement deal they negotiated with attorneys for Vail Resorts.

Settlement negotiations began over the summer. Since then, five wage- and labor-related lawsuits filed in California were consolidated into one case and moved into California state court. It wasn’t until early January that a settlement amount was made public through the filing of the preliminary approval papers.

If approved, Vail Resorts has argued that settling the California lawsuits should “resolve and release all outstanding claims against Vail Resorts,” including the Colorado case.

The Colorado case “must be allowed to continue in order to end Vail Resorts’ egregious treatment of ski instructors and other hourly employees,” one of the Colorado plaintiffs in the case wrote in a declaration opposing the motion to stay the case.

Making changes

“They have already changed a few things, which I think is positive,” Elston said in a January interview about Vail Resorts. However, “what they’re trying to do, from my perspective, is they’re trying to make the changes on the books but hoping people don’t really change the practices of the way they’re reporting their hours.”

As an example, Elston said he recently asked his supervisor about whether he can log the hours he spends reading company emails outside of ski lessons. The supervisor informed him that he could log that time on his timecard, but Elston said most of his fellow instructors likely are not aware of this if they haven’t directly asked about it.

Vail Resorts also recently began allowing employees to log the time it takes them to put on and take off their equipment in the employee locker room at the start and end of each shift, which resolves one of the claims made in the lawsuits filed against the company.

However, employees are only able to log the time it takes them to put on their ski or snowboard gear, not the time it takes to don and doff their snow pants and jacket, Elston said. Even this first piece they are not able to record if they skied or snowboarded before or after work, he said.

“So the assumption is if someone doesn’t record it, they must have skied before or after work, but it could be that they just didn’t bother putting it down on the timecard because they didn’t know that we could start putting it down,” Elston said.

“I really do think if you had competition, you probably wouldn’t have had the wages lawsuit because Vail would have had to compete against someone else, and they wouldn’t have done some of these practices that they got comfortable doing because they have no competition and no regulation,” he said.

A snowmaker works near Talons Restaurant on Dec. 6, 2017, in Beaver Creek.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Who is eligible to receive settlement funds?

If the deal is approved, remaining settlement funds (after the deduction of fees) would be distributed between the plaintiffs who filed the California cases and the rest of the class outlined in the lawsuit.

Named plaintiffs will each receive $10,000 in settlement money, except for plaintiff Anna Gibson, who will be awarded $50,000 due to additional claims she raised against the company, including sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Eligible class members include hourly U.S. employees who worked primarily at one of the company’s “resort locations or mountain facilities” during the coverage period, according to the preliminary approval papers.

For Vail Resorts employees in Colorado, the coverage period begins Oct. 21, 2014.

Specifically excluded from the class are employees who worked primarily at corporate or non-resort distribution locations.

Beaver Creek Ski Patroller Chris Johnson, right, and avalanche dog, Luna, practice rescuing a potential victim during avalanche training in Vail's Back Bowls on Jan. 23, 2019.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

How will the settlement funds be allocated?

The settlement funds will not be doled out evenly across class members, but rather an “allocation formula” will be used to determine how much each employee should receive based on how long they have worked for Vail Resorts, when and where they worked and the position or positions they worked in.

The formula gives twice as many “points,” and therefore a higher share of the settlement, to current or former employees who worked in “snow positions.” This is defined as “all job titles for which skiing and/or snowboarding was an essential function of the job” and includes “mountain safety, ski school, lift maintenance, lift operations, mountain host, mountain dining, snowmaking and Epic Mix.”

Non-snow positions include employees working in “base area operations, food and beverage, lodging operations, resort operations and transportation.”

Employees who worked in California and Colorado would also be given a higher share of the goods for two reasons. First, “both California and Colorado state law provide greater statutory protections, and higher damages and penalties, than the other (states).”

“Second, Vail’s resort locations and mountain facilities in California and Colorado are generally much larger than in the other class states, … and the named plaintiffs therefore alleged that California and Colorado class members engaged in more uncompensated travel time than in states with smaller resorts and facilities,” according to the document.