MISSOULA — Sunday morning, a group of Whitefish Mountain Resort employees and Flathead Valley residents staged a protest on the ski hill.
Lift operator Mariah Rine, one of the organizers, shared a prepared statement with MTN News in an interview:
"On my arrival to Whitefish Mountain Resort, I was internally met with excitement due to the fact that was embarking on a new job as a liftee. At the beginning of the season, I was met with subconscious bias due to the fact that I'm a person of color, a woman and queer. I have always been upfront about who I am, while understanding the need to respect everyone. While working Chair One and Six throughout the season I was faced with microaggressions, as well as covert and overt racism and sexism. Each time I attempted to stand up in the face of these injustices, it was simply brushed off as a small issue, and nothing was done to move forward in a positive direction. A month ago at the Beerstub, I was outside with my roommate and the supervisor on the deck, where we circled around the discussion of equal representation, specifically on the mountain, and the lack of it. This was followed up by the supervisor letting us know we did not have an equality problem, because we already have an N-word, working on the mountain. Obviously, he didn't say the 'N-word.' He actually said the word with the hard 'R', referencing me to my face. At this point I took the high road and walked away because I knew the issue would not be resolved right then and there. I immediately took verbal action steps in the lift operations unit to attempt to remedy this incident in a peaceful manner, the next morning. There was hardly any follow up right away, until the spread of information brought it out, and then the mountain wanted to save face through the lens of HR and upper management. We demand equal rights for all in this workplace and we'll continue to strive to create a space that is held for all no matter of race, gender or sex. We are asking for a cultural shift forward from this mountain, as well as extending out to this community and abroad. We thank you for your time. Taking the time to listen to us and encourage the movement to continue long after the protest ends. We would also like to take the time out to acknowledge the fact that after meeting with the mountain, they are attempting to hear us out, and potentially continue to work with us, as far as meeting our ask for all our concerns."
A second individual told MTN News they quit as an employee because of this alleged incident because the supervisor in question was not terminated.
The protest group, Culture Change at WMR, said it's asking for changes to be implemented and expanded on a systematic level at the resort.
In a press release, Whitefish Mountain Resort states it became aware of the protest on March 17, and stated, "The purpose of this protest was to address diversity and racial inclusion. The resort responded immediately with changes that are already in place as well as a plan moving forward with additional changes to continue fostering a safe, diverse, and inclusive workplace."
The press release from the resort included a statement from Director of Human Resources, Kristi Hanchett; "We have identified a clear plan moving forward on these issues and are dedicated to enacting change. We want to say thank you to those that came to us with their concerns, and we are committed to following through with our efforts.”