Aspen Skico ‘desk jockeys’ hitting the front lines
December 11, 2009
ASPEN – Aspen Skiing Co. “desk jockeys” are learning what it’s like working the front lines at chairlifts, restaurants and other on-mountain locations this season.
Employees who typically work in offices at Skico headquarters at the Aspen Business Center and other administrative sites are working on the hills for at least one shift during the week.
That means people in departments like sales and marketing, accounting, environmental affairs and the attorney’s office are sharpening their skills loading skiers on the Silver Queen Gondola at Aspen Mountain, manning the pizza station at the Sundeck or directing vehicles in parking lots. Even Skico’s top two officials, President and CEO Mike Kaplan and Senior Vice President David Perry, are taking their turns. Perry braved frigid temperatures from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to greet customers at the gondola. (As a Canadian native, he shrugged off the cold.)
“Pretty much everyone that’s a desk jockey is pulling a shift somewhere,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle, who has bused tables in the past and will work gates at Aspen Highlands this season.
About 80 desk jockeys are working the front lines in the special program so far this year. That will increase to 125 during the holidays and other busy periods.
The Skico placed desk jockeys on the hills for limited shifts last season. This season the program expanded and is better coordinated, Hanle said. Workers have signed on for a specific shift throughout the season.
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There is a slight savings on labor costs, according to Perry, although the desk jockeys augment rather than replace regular front-line workers. The greater motivation is to get office workers mingling with customers and front-line employees. The program is great for team building within the broader Skico employee base, Perry said. It also gives local skiers and riders a chance to make suggestions to Skico executives. It leads to a lot of little tweaks, he said.
Skico officials heard from locals last season that rubber mats were needed on the concrete of the gondola loading platform, so people wouldn’t slip or wear down ski boots as much. It was an excellent idea, Perry said, so mats were added at corners and high-traffic areas.
Sometimes, areas of improvement pop out to an executive working on the front lines. Skico Senior Vice President/legal counsel Dave Bellack was working the gondola area on the first Sunday of ski season when he realized more benches were needed for skiers and riders preparing for their day on the slopes.
While some of the desk jockeys clearly like getting on the slopes, less clear is how the front-liners are tolerating the desk jockeys.