Aspen Skiing Co. surprises workers with mid-season pay hike |

Aspen Skiing Co. surprises workers with mid-season pay hike

All hourly and salaried workers will receive a $3 per hour increase in $12 million move

All hourly and salaried employees of the Aspen Skiing Co. are getting a $3 per hour pay raise effective Sunday, the company announced Thursday.

The pay hikes represent an investment of about $12 million annually, according to Skico’s accounting. It comes on the heels of Skico’s decision in November to boost starting pay for newcomers as well as the hourly wage for second-, third- and fourth-year employees. Skico also decided preseason to boost the entry pay of salaried workers to $50,000.

The earlier moves added an estimated $3 million to payroll. The latest raise creates a cumulative $15 million investment in employees.

“This is an investment in our employees, our community and our future as a business,” Skico President and chief executive officer Mike Kaplan said in a prepared statement. “I have heard from many of our employees about how tough this year has been. The goal here is to say thank you, to offer encouragement for the future and honor their commitment to their work.”

Kaplan shared the information with employees at a meeting at Bumps restaurant Thursday afternoon.

The Lester Crown family of Chicago, full owners of Skico, provided their “unwavering support” for the move, according to Kaplan’s statement.

Skico’s latest move will boost starting pay to $20 per hour for most hourly employees. Workers in positions that rely heavily on tips will see the $3 per hour raise but starting pay is lower for those positions.

For salaried positions the increase represents a $6,240 annual increase.

Skico typically waits to give raises during the first pay period of July. This pay hike replaces the typical raise.

The pay hike comes just after the halfway point in the season. Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said it wasn’t necessarily meant to attract candidates this season, but Skico will gladly accept if that is the result.

“If we picked up a few people to get us through the season, that’s great,” Hanle said.

Multiple news stories have documented the problems the ski industry has encountered finding enough employees this season. Low pay and nearly universal shortages with affordable housing have plagued the industry.

Vail Resorts announced in January that all its employees that stick with their jobs through the season will receive a $2 per hour bonus for all hours worked after Jan. 1. Skico took a different tactic and raised the pay scale.

However, in fall meetings with local government leaders, Skico officials said raising pay alone wouldn’t solve the perennial problem of finding enough employees. Jim Laing, Skico’s chief human resources officer, has said on multiple occasions that Aspen-area businesses cannot pay employees enough to handle soaring rents on the free market.

The solution also requires building more affordable housing. Skico spent $18.4 million on its new employee-housing complex in Willits Town Center. The building, called The Hub, provides 150 bedrooms. All told, Skico owns or leases about 1,000 beds. Skico employs up to 4,500 workers at peak season.

Hanle said Skico’s recruitment team in the human resources department did a “phenomenal job” recruiting workers and making the best of a challenging situation.

“We hired more people then we’ve ever hired before,” Hanle said. “We just had more positions (to fill) than we’ve ever had.”