Sunshine Village Blasts Fired Staff As Unsafe, Insubordinate, and Criminal

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After months of silence over the firing of ski patrollers, Banff-area Sunshine Village ski resort is finally speaking up about the incident that spawned one of the biggest mountain controversies in recent years — and it’s speaking up in a big way, accusing fired employees of safety lapses, fraud, theft, allowing alcohol while on duty, misogyny, and shaking down injured skiers to pay for bandages. Mountain and Risk Manager Chris Chevalier “built a culture of corruption, antagonism, intimidation, and confrontation within the Mountain Operations group, which he described as “mountain culture,” the resort claims.

The messy affair began on December 17, when Taylor Scurfield, son of Sunshine Village owner Ralph Scurfield, was caught by patrol skiing with friends in a closed area. Scurfield was accused of saying he would make the patrol “pay”, and 12 days later four mountain safety employees were fired: Chevalier, Rowan Harper (Snow Safety Supervisor), Chris Conway (Ski Patroller), and Ben Chevalier (Supervisor Lift Operations). They responded with the lawsuit, and the public rallied around patrol with a vitriolic anti-Sunshine campaign.

Sunshine had little comment until a few days ago, when it filed “Statements of Defense” with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary, which said that the terminations were for cause and that the incident with Scurfield didn’t play out as patrollers said.

“The incident involving the son of the owner, the son of Ralph Scurfield, was not the cause of the four dismissals,” resort spokesman Doug Firby said.

Specifically, Sunshine Village accused Chris Chevalier of:

“Failing to engage in proper risk and safety management and, thereby, exposing Sunshine and its officers to potential statutory liability under federal and provincial statutes and regulations and to potential civil liability.

“Undermining and resisting efforts by senior management to remove alcohol from the workplace, including consumption of alcohol in Sunshine vehicles, and thereby creating safety and regulatory risks for Sunshine.

“Challenging Sunshine’s decision and efforts to remove alcohol from the workplace by allowing the display of the following sign on the fridge in the trail crew locker room: ‘20 years tradition gone WTF.’

“Resisting the removal of pictures that were denigrating to women from the workplace on the basis that removal of such pictures was a ‘loss of mountain culture.’

“Charging members of the skiing public for tensor bandages and other medical supplies and soliciting unauthorized payments from members of the skiing public at Sunshine or accepting payments from members of the skiing public at Sunshine and funneling the proceeds into undisclosed funds and bank accounts, which Ski Patrollers referred to as the “Patrollers’ Benevolent Fund”, all without the knowledge and approval of executive management.

“Soliciting gifts and/or benefits from suppliers.”

He was also accused of harassing women and giving season passes to non-employees. Rowan Harper gave a season pass to his girlfriend and others, Sunshine said, engaged in fraud, and was antagonistic.

Sunshine also filed a statement of defense regarding the Scurfield’s poaching incursion. Scurfield acknowledged skiing in the closed area and being caught by patroller Charlie Hitchman, but denied becoming aggressive or threatening the patroller with his job.

Hitchfield called to Scurfield and his two companions from above, Sunshine says, and ordered them to climb back up the hill. By the time they arrived, Chris Conroy was also waiting for them.

“When Conroy saw that the Defendant and his two friends were skiing on VIP passes…he stated ‘Oh, look what we have here, VIP passes’ and commenced a pattern of rude, condescending and aggressive conduct towards the Defendant [Scurfield] and his two companions…once Conway and ski patroller Hitchman learned that the Defendant was a member of the family that owned Sunshine they became aggressive with the Defendant and his two companions and engaged in abusive, aggressive, condescending, threatening and intimidating behaviour, including but not limited to the following (a) verbal abuse; (b) calling in reinforcement Ski Patrol members as a means of physical intimidation; (c) without lawful authority, refusing to return their driver’s licenses after being requested to do so and despite having been offered replacement photo identification; (d) without lawful authority, refusing to return the VIP guest passes after being requested to do so; yelling at them to “shut up” when they asked for the return of their driver’s licenses; threatening that they would be kicked off the mountain and that Sunshine would charge them with trespassing; and without lawful authority, arresting or, alternatively, confining them.”

Comparing Sunshine’s statements of defense with the patrol’s arguments of wrongful dismissal, it’s impossible not to think of the old saying about fights between a man and woman, that there are three sides to every argument: his, hers, and the truth. Ultimately, the Queen’s Court will decide.

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{ 16 comments…read them below or write one }

  • Anita

    One would think that if these allegations were remotely true, Sunshine would have dismissed these guys years ago.
    Or Sunshine knowingly did not provide a safe working environment. Can’t have it both ways.

  • zak anderson

    Agreed on the three sides of the truth, but it does seem like the allegations by Sunshine are both incredibly strong and late — which is to say that in order to quench an allegation or claim of wrong doing the accused will often claim an even bigger wrong doing by the claimant. Another way to say it…. “oneupmanship.” Children and lawyers are incredibly good at exhibiting and executing this behavior.

  • Thomas

    What a crock. ” Unsafe at any speed” if they allowed this kind of action to go on all this time without acting on it until it built up. There are other ski areas that are really STEEPER, LONGER, and definitely DEEPER thinking than this shallow management group. I will never ski there again and I hope the Boycott continues through the end of this season and on into next season.

  • Vince

    It blows my mind how many people side up with these dismissed patrollers. Looks to me like these guys built their own little army, all on their employers’ dime for the past 20+ years. How can they have the audacity to work against their employers in such a fashion and expect anything less? A lfielong skier and having lived in Banff in my early 20′s and having lived this “mountain culture” lifestyle myself, I can assure you that anybody employed as a public safety provider should leave that crap at the door when they punch in for work. If “mountain culture” includes alcohol consumption on duty, shaking down injured skiers/boarders for pocket change, and other things I know happen but won’t mention here, my question is why did they even last so long. As a business owner myself I think any company is better off when they eliminate “the group within the group” who thinks the rules don’t apply to them.
    From corporate management to janitorial services, everybody is a team member and has to be on board as a team. Not building your own little group against those who sign your paycheques. Good luck in the real world guys.

  • Darryl

    Vince
    Your question “why did it even last so long?” is indeed the question. Sunshine ownership was able to put up with this so called “culture” for over 2 decades, allowing the paying customer to ski in a known unsafe environment. It must be pure coincidence that they only act once Ralph’s boy gets his hands slapped. This is the same attitude they exhibited in denying any wrong doing in the death of that unfortunate lifty who died on his first day on the job.

  • max

    I stopped my family vacation to Sunshine because of this.

    Why aren’t they charging Ralphie’s son for breaking the rules and putting not only the owners at risk, but the public too? Oh that’s right, because this is all a bunch of hot air. While remaining as professional as possible: Ralphie is a retard.

    I’d love to see this resort go down.
    Used to be one of my favourites, now I can easily say I hate it.

  • Vince

    Wow Max, little bit of peer pressure? They get rid of, basically a group of thugs who think they run the place, and you 86′em cuz of that? Just cuz a spoiled brat got his way?

    Sunshine rocks, and as much as it sucks and it is a double standard this is the way things work in the real world. Maybe we’ll actually have patrollers who don’t encourage drinking on the job and charging/extorting for band aids now… Wow imagine that eh? That’s ok tho, take your family somewhere “mountain culture” is rampant instead. Best of luck with that.

  • KP

    Hey Vince

    HOw much do you think an ambulance costs to go to the hill. Pocket change is not even close. Say $700. As you say, this is the real world and guess what, Supplies cost money. I suppose they should hand out free tylenol for everyones hang over.

    I am still waiting for young scurfield to say that he should not have been out of bounds and will never do it again. you know set an example. we know this will never happen because then he can never do what he wants again. I really do not think he has either the integrity or the balls to admit he was wrong.

  • Vince

    LOL 700$ can easily be pocket change when you don’t live the “mountain culture” lifestyle. It is to me anyways. If there are costs associated with tensor bandages, first aid supplies, etc. that’s fine, as long as upper management approves it and ultimately knows patrons are being charged for said articles. Believe me I deal with people who want a free ride almost daily and I agree with you 100% on that one, I apologize I should have been more clear that I meant they shouldn’t be (allegedly) shaking injured patrons down for first aid supplies and funneling the money into secret accounts.

    If Scurfield was out of bounds there is no question in my mind that he is 100% in the wrong. But the sad reality, the unfortunate bottom line here is that the Scurfields were his discipliner’s employers, and they have what looks to me like a very strong legal case and it’s not a bunch of Banff ski bum hippies that are gonna make a difference. Sunshine and all employed by it, including the Scurfields, only exist because of rich snobs, not hippy mountain people who hike the ski out and ski for free. Mountain culture doesn’t pay the bills.

  • MD

    Vince why do you automatically assume that the patrollers are the ones in the wrong here? And why do you assume that Sunshine has a very strong case? Just because they came out with big allegations, doesn’t make it true. Of course Sunshine is gonna come out with huge allegations, they need to protect their business.

    As someone else pointed out though, why didn’t Sunshine do something about these wrongs a long time ago? It really makes them look worse than the Ski patrollers. And I’m not siding either way because I know that some patrollers at places do tend to have huge egos and think they are the “shit”

    Both sides will try to tell their truth. Noone outside of this can sit and say they know what the truth is

  • Ryan

    Vince – You’re obviously right about everything… In your own mind. You carry around $700 on the regular? Really? For 99% of the people living in today’s modern society, that is real money; not pocket change. Welcome to the REAL world. The audacity of some folks…

    Three sides to the truth, 20+ years of putting up w/ unacceptable behavior, drinking on the job, extorting patrons for bandages… Sounds like a mess and a bunch of rabble.

    I’ll be interested to see the outcome in the courts. The paper trail will decide the winner here and until I see evidence in the form of consistent documentation of the “culture of corruption, antagonism, intimidation, and confrontation within the Mountain Operations group” I will side with the patrollers. In the REAL world corporations don’t put up with that kind of nonsense for 20+ years and then just one day snap. Something else is going on and one logical explanation could relate to that cheeky little SOB – Son of Boss ;)

  • Peter m Geisthardt

    hey vince it’s us so-called hippies that bump your chair groom your slopes and care for your spoiled rich kid personna when you get hurt, i don’t agree with what sapposely happened there . but as a person that has worked in the ski industry for thirty plus years. it’s people like you that drove me to leave the skiing industry. the rich do not rule the world!!!!! i’ve worked for so-called managers that allow the same types of things to go on.

  • Used to work there

    I worked there for a number of years back in the early 90′s. I worked with the people that got fired (execpt for one of them) and I know this kind of stuff was going on back then as well. I am not surprised by this but I am surprised that it took so long for them to get fired.

  • Left Coaster

    Ha! So, just so everyone knows- this is how it is on 90% of patrols out there. “Consumption of alcohol on company property” and the “culture” of alcohol means a beer fridge (OMG!). The free pass thing is for family and partners (dont be fooled by “girlfriend”, often that’s a long term common law for patrolers- it’s just how it is these days). The tensor charge is also a pretty universal- It’s not in our protocols (generally) to apply elasticized bandages (they prefer us to use roller gauze as it’s cheaper, but inferior). We use the two bucks to, guess what? Buy more for other patrons.

    Man, this is some classic mud slinging.

  • euro-land

    so they had a beer fridge with a sticker on it and took money to buy plasters…not exactly the end of the world!!

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