Aspen Skiing Co. workers prepare for Oct. 1 fitness test
August 4, 2014
Some Aspen Skiing Co. workers are hitting the weights and sharpening agility skills this summer to make sure they can pass a new, annual fitness test prior to ski season.
About 1,500 ski instructors, lift operators and ski patrollers will be required to take the test, according to Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources and retail operations. It's part of a broader wellness initiative Skico has implemented to encourage health and fitness and to reduce workplace injuries. Laing noted that one of Skico's guiding principles is to nurture "Mind, Body, Spirit."
Last season, only newly hired employees in the three major departments had to take the fitness test. It was expanded this year. The test will be administered starting Oct. 1.
"I think there's a full range of perceptions over this," Laing said of the fitness test. The reaction probably follows a classic bell curve, with most employees in the middle. They don't mind taking the test and will likely pass with varying degrees of preparation, he said.
Skico workers will have 40 or 50 opportunities over the next two months to meet with fitness experts hired by the company to do a “dry run” of the fitness test.
A small number of employees won't give the test a second thought and will be able to pass it easily just by following their usual fitness and outdoor regimens, he said. And an equally small number object to the test as irrelevant to their jobs, according to Laing.
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The fitness test represents a change, he said, and some people don't like change.
Corporate brass and administrative workers who spend more time behind a desk than on the slopes technically don't have to take the test. However, many of those employees help load lifts during busy times of the season, so they also will be required to prove their fitness, Laing said.
Ready or not, workers will start taking the test in two months. The fitness test has eight components — though the components will change slightly depending on which department the employee works in. Ski patrollers, for example, will have a repetitive weightlifting drill.
Probably the most "rigorous" component will be repeatedly stepping up onto an elevated platform for five minutes, Laing said. Other components include 15 pushups, standard or from knees, in one minute; hopping sideways; and balancing on one foot on a foam pad.
The "Work Ready" program has been thoroughly tried and tested and has been put into use by all sorts of employers, Laing said. Vail Resorts follows a similar program.
Skico's data show that new employees are more likely to have the highest rate of injuries. Last year, there was only one work-related injury among rookies. There aren't enough data to say that requiring the fitness test made the difference, but Laing suspects that time will show the program was worthwhile.
Skico workers will have 40 or 50 opportunities over the next two months to meet with fitness experts hired by the company to do a "dry run" of the fitness test, according to Laing.
The fitness experts will be available to consult with employees to help them acquire the skills needed to pass the test, if needed. They also will offer everything from yoga, cardio classes and hiking outings for any employee interested as part of the broader wellness initiative.
The fitness opportunities also could provide a great benefit to a workforce heavy with aging baby boomers. More than 200 Skico employees have been with the company 30 or more years.