Backlash mounts in ski pro controversy
An anonymous shot fired by some ski school instructors who blameforeign teachers for taking jobs they claim should be reservedfor U.S. citizens has created a backlash within the ski pro ranks.A substantial number of ski instructors as well as Aspen SkiingCo. management have condemned a letter that targets foreign pros.That letter – which purports to represent instructors at AspenMountain, Highlands, Buttermilk and Snowmass – was sent to theSkico owners as well as Colorado’s congressional delegation. Itwas also posted on the Internet. It wasn’t signed, the creators said, because “we fear for ourjobs if names are mentioned.” But critics of the letter suggested it wasn’t signed because therewasn’t substantial support for the foreigner-bashing. “It’s a very small group of cowards,” said Mike Haas, a 17-yearinstructor at Snowmass. “Unfortunately, it besmirches all of us.”Haas isn’t the only instructor who’s been willing to speak outagainst the letter and its authors. Instructors at Aspen Highlandspenned their own response to dispute the anonymous letter. “Unequivocally, no Aspen Highlands pros had a part in the lettersent to Jim Crown regarding foreign pros, nor do we support theintent or spirit of the letter,” wrote the Highlands instructors.”We stand in support of our fellow pros from other countries andthank them for raising the professional standards of the School.”We are angry and offended that the Aspen Highlands School wasadded to an anonymous letter in which we had no part,” the letteradded. It closes by saying, “Signed, rather than anonymous.” It includesthe signatures of 23 instructors and was posted at all four skischools. A copy was provided by Ski Schools of Aspen directorMike Kaplan at the request of The Aspen Times. The letter was unsolicited by management, but generated by theHighlands’ instructors own initiative, Kaplan said. “That’s basicallyall the full-time pros” at Highlands, he said. Ski instructors at Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk have discussedthe anonymous letter and concerns over lack of work with Kaplanand other Skico executives since it created a stir within thecompany nearly two weeks ago. Another private meeting was held last evening at Snowmass. Kaplansaid the anonymous letter, issues about foreign instructors andthe lack of business would all be major topics. Snowmass employs the most ski pros of the four local ski areas.There are 477 instructors at Snowmass, plus additional workersin day care and preschool. The anonymous letter accused the Aspen Skiing Co. of hiring moreski instructors than it could realistically employ this season.”Over-hiring practices, in-creased importing of foreign instructorsis spreading the available work thin and diminishing our abilityto make a living,” the letter said. The Skico’s hiring of instructors from New Zealand and Australiawas singled out for criticism. “It is our understanding that these green-card holders are hiredspecifically to teach those who cannot speak English,” the lettersaid. “So why on earth do we need pros from Australia and NewZealand?” Kaplan and Skico Chief Operating Officer John Norton acknowledgedthat the ski schools hired too many pros this season. But theproblem, they claim, was a decline in business this season thatcreated fewer customers for the ski schools. The number of instructorswasn’t substantially increased. Kaplan said he understands the concerns over lack of business,but believes the anger over foreign pros comes from a “small minorityof people.” Norton agreed, based on the conversation at Aspen Mountain andButtermilk. “I think the overwhelming sentiment was for the foreignpros,” he said. The anonymity of the letter and the way the issue was raised werewhat troubled Norton the most. He said none of those concernswas taken to management prior to the letter’s circulation. He scoffed at the idea that anyone’s job would have been threatenedfor raising those issues. “No one has ever had their job threatened for bringing up a legitimateconcern,” he said.
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.