On the job: Hotel Jerome bellmen see it all
March 15, 2014
It might be 5 below zero with snow blowing into their faces or 80-plus degrees and sticky, but the bellmen of the Hotel Jerome are at their posts year-round, easy to spot in their black cowboy hats at Aspen's busiest corner.
Wednesday afternoon appeared to be a fun time for them, with abundant sunshine and lots of friendly smiles from visitors and locals alike. They took on the tasks with which they are overly familiar: opening doors, carrying luggage, parking cars beneath the hotel or bringing them back to the main entrance — even providing treats to the many dogs that regularly pass along the sidewalk.
When the historic hotel at Main and Mill streets is busy, as it always is during the winter and summer high seasons, there's much to do. Typically the bellmen start at 5:30 a.m., with different shifts working until midnight or later.
Emily Noble, 24, began working as a bellman last summer. The Paris, Texas, native was promoted to bell captain for the winter season. She recently graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in international business.
"I didn't have a lot of job opportunity back home, so I thought, 'Why not travel a little bit while I can?'" she said. "My parents brought me out here for the first time in February of last year, and I absolutely fell in love with Aspen and moved about two months later."
On Wednesday, Noble was supervising the other bellmen with Roger Smith, guest services manager. Describing what she likes about the job, she pointed to Aspen Mountain.
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"Obviously, the view is spectacular," Noble said. "Most all people are pleasant to deal with. Being outside, you have a lot of responsibility, and it can be a little crazier than being inside. I enjoy being busy."
A lot of the work involves transportation arrangements: helping guests with in-house or taxi shuttles to and from the airport or one of the four local ski areas. Locals stop by to chat, as well, and visitors who aren't guests of the Jerome often seek help with directions or recommendations.
"Typically an older gentleman drops by to tell us a joke just about every day," Noble said. "I come from a small town, and I enjoy getting to know people."
It's never a dull moment in front of the Jerome. At night, inebriated people from the nearby J-Bar wander around on their way to other nightspots, sometimes foregoing the crosswalks in favor of dodging traffic. During the day, there's the spectator sport of parallel parking along Main Street.
Smith, 31, of Melbourne, Australia, has lived in Aspen since 2001 and joined the hotel about 18 months ago following its major renovation. On Wednesday, he was as quick with a guest request on the phone as he was with a sidewalk canine who needed a snack.
"Sometimes we even get dogs without owners," he said before moving along to speak with visitors about recent ski conditions.
"We are basically tour guides for the town of Aspen," Smith continued a few minutes later. "Anyone who walks by, we're giving directions; we're recommending things for them to do whether they are staying here or not. This is such a centrally located property; we get all of the traffic of Main Street. And the cowboy hats are pretty popular, so people are always asking if they can get photos with the staff."
Daniel Pereira, of Porto, Portugal, has been employed as a bellman since November. He is working here on a J-1 visa. After graduating from a university in Switzerland last year, he went to a job fair and ended up landing a spot with the Jerome.
Pereira, 23, also plans to work at the Jerome this summer.
"It is fun. You never stop. You do all kinds of things. You could be shoveling snow in the morning or half an hour later taking a VIP to the private airport. It's very interactive," he said.
Pereira speaks English, Portuguese, French and Spanish, and his language skills serve him well on the job, he said.
"We get customers from all over the world, and as we are interested in their stories, their backgrounds, they also are interested in ours," he said.
Lachlan Carpenter, also of Melbourne, enjoys the valet-parking aspect of the job, even though he's just driving to and from the garage in the basement of the hotel. He's a self-described car enthusiast.
"I like driving the Range Rovers and the Porsche Cayennes. I never get that opportunity back home," he said. "And we get to ski five days a week. I think I'm up to 52 days this season. This job is perfect because I usually don't start a shift until 3 o'clock. I get the entire morning to myself."
Of course, every job has its difficulties. In the service industry, some customers can be quite demanding.
"You learn to be patient," said Carpenter, 25. "But one of the best points about this job is we are constantly doing different stuff. I couldn't handle working behind the front desk because you're just stuck in a little cage.
"You get the best people-watching in town in front of the Jerome," he continued. "You see Aspen people trying to outdo each other with their different types of dogs, and you see some great fur coats. A few wrecks, occasionally. I've seen a rear-ending, which was kind of good fun. And obviously a procession of brilliant cars."