Skico and free speech
May 11, 2010
As an employee of the Aspen Skiing Co., I am lucky to work for a company that I am proud to be a part of, and fortunate, now, for a CEO who would view a letter to the editor as trying to improve the company (and hence, the community I live in), by conversation in public and with the community, as a positive, and simply not as negative criticism.
As much as I “kvetch” about midlevel management at the Skico not “getting it,'” no one who works on the mountain or for the school would ever fire me for expressing my views or not fitting into their preconceived box.
The corporate mentality that we as a company struggle with, or in its extreme, the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton approach: that the customer is always right, no matter when they are wrong (or worse, lying), is a conflict that is always going to be omnipresent in a town where some visitors expect this culture at the luxury level they are accustomed. Do we as a company embrace this philosophy or struggle to create a balance?
I was saddened this winter to find out that a person I respected up in the big dawgs’ offices at the Skico resigned because she felt our core values were being compromised. Again this season, I was disheartened when riding the Ritz Carlton shuttle with a guest staying there, when the driver could not pick up skiers at a public bus stop on a snowy powder morning going up to Aspen Highlands because he was afraid to stop “in case a guest complained and he would get fired.”
In looking back at this season in this incredible place we call home, it is not so astonishing that the gentleman who “fired” Dan Sheridan (who never did come forward as promised, right?) really did not understand the reaction he received from our community. Consequently, shortly after Dan’s dismissal was covered so vividly in the Daily News, the newspaper was removed from the company’s hotels for “environmental reasons.” What I found really surreal is that this mysterious gentleman had so little regard for the employment, and as a result, the life of a man who was trying to raise a family in this valley … that he “fired” him for singing a song deemed “inappropriate.” But a positive came out of all of it: The PR that Dan received as a consequence … and I was impressed how entertaining John Rigney was: He utilized both humor and grace after being put in a very tough situation. The “melee” for our identity and ethos continues!