Aspen Skiing Co. braces for retirement wave
November 13, 2016
An aging workforce at Aspen Skiing Co. has company leaders eyeing ways to address what they are certain will be a dearth of employee housing within the next decade.
Skico expects it will need 600 to 800 more beds by 2025 because the bulk of its workers over the age of 50 don't live in company housing. Given that 1,200 of Skico's workers — 90 percent of whom are seasonable employees — will be eligible for retirement within 10 years, Skico will be rehiring for those positions. The problem is, those employees who are new to the Roaring Fork Valley will need places to live, and Skico is grappling with how to accommodate them.
"We're facing a significant loss of employees in the coming decade," David Corbin, Skico's vice president of Planning and Development, told members of the Aspen City Council at a Nov. 7 meeting. "And we're going to lose access to the housing stock that's not our own that those employees occupy now."
Skico's employment numbers have been flat over the past decade, Corbin said. Of its 3,800 employees, 2,400 are seasonal and 1,400 are year-round workers, including 400 of whom are salaried employees. And of those seasonal employees, 1,000 to 1,200 are first-year workers, Corbin said.
One way Skico has addressed the conundrum was by creating a staff position this summer designed specifically to tackle and analyze the company's housing issues. Phillip Jeffreys has been analyzing Skico's housing inventory, defining Skico's housing needs and writing a new company housing master plan that would identify costs, capital requirement and funding sources, according to Corbin's presentation.
Skico also is feeling pressure because the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority has no plans to build more seasonal housing. Some examples of APCHA seasonal housing Skico uses include the Marolt complex and the Burlingame development directly across from Buttermilk ski area off Highway 82. Airbnb's short-term rentals also are cutting into Skico's employee housing efforts, Corbin said.
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"The good news is, obviously this community has been working on this longer than most," Skico CEO and President Mike Kaplan told the council. "We're seeing it really become more acute in Colorado resorts. … We have a decent bed base to start off with."
The escalating cost of housing in Pitkin County clearly makes it more difficult for people to relocate to Aspen and live in free-market housing, Councilman Bert Myrin said.
"All of us on council have free-market housing," he said. "It's changing and it's not attainable anymore. It's always been a stretch, but now it's not even a stretch."
Skico's 12 housing locations between Aspen and Carbondale account for 596 beds, which include 389 seasonal beds and 207 long-term rentals, Corbin said.
Skico also has undeveloped land in Basalt and other areas, and the construction of housing at those locations is plausible.
The possible downside to that, however, is the more traffic additional downvalley housing could create on an already maxed-out Highway 82, Corbin said.
"It circles back and becomes a transportation challenge, as well," Corbin said, adding that the housing needs and transportation issues are "inextricably linked as we move forward."