Aspen Skiing Co. raises base pay for employees amid labor shortage
As Aspen Skiing Co. prepares for the upcoming winter season, the company will be recruiting roughly 1,200 new employees with a higher base pay.
This year, the minimum hourly wage for Skico employees will be $13.50, up from $12 last season.
“We are trying to attract and retain good people,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle, adding that the company continues to offer benefits, including a ski pass, health insurance and deep retail discounts. “A lot of this is due to the marketplace … there are not a lot of employees out there.”
Skico has raised employees’ base pay each year for the past few years but this bump is larger than the ones in the past.
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Hanle said the pay raise creates a ripple effect because returning employees who started at $12 hour last year will be bumped up to the $13.50 wage.
The state’s minimum wage is currently $10.20 an hour.
Chris Linsmayer, public affairs director for Colorado Ski Country USA, which represents a consortium of ski resorts in the state, said his organization hasn’t seen any other wage announcements in advance of the 2018-19 season yet.
“Colorado is experiencing a competitive job market, especially in our mountain communities where unemployment rates remain below the statewide average,” he said. “We expect to see a competitive hiring market across the state for employees this winter.”
Skico also offers a dollar an hour bonus for staying through the season.
Skico is planning two job fairs this fall — Sept. 27 and Oct. 25. They will be held at Bumps at Buttermilk from 3 to 6 p.m. That is when the bulk of the workers will apply and get hired.
About 600 beds will be offered to seasonal employees this year, which does not include longer term rentals provided to workers. Hanle said there is a potential for more beds to be negotiated, if needed.
Currently there are 147 job openings listed on Skico’s website, including the unique position of “guest safety representative” for Cloud Nine, an on-mountain restaurant at Highlands that’s known for its party atmosphere.
The second lunch seating becomes a scene out of a nightclub with loud dance music, and expensive bottles of Champagne being sprayed by guests dancing on the tables in their ski boots.
The elevated level of imbibing created issues a few years ago, when intoxicated guests couldn’t get down the mountain on their own. That forced ski patrol to transport them via snowcat or toboggan, making their end-of-the-day sweep of the mountain go into the night.
“We don’t want to burden the patrol,” Hanle said. “They don’t need to be babysitters at the end of the day.”
He said the guest safety representative position was created three years ago. But the impetus centered on safety — helping people who are hurt, or realize the terrain is beyond their capabilities, Hanle added.
But there’s no denying that the position, based on the job description, is to monitor the partying.
The essential functions of the job include:
• Assess intoxication levels of guests using TIPS training guidelines.
• Advise restaurant management of any guests who show signs of intoxication, to prevent further service of alcohol.
• Discreetly provide guests with an option of nonalcoholic beverages when appropriate.
• Operate the snowcat as needed to provide transportation to guests who are unable to safely ski/ride to the base.
Hanle said bringing people down the mountain via snowcat is not a regular service and should not be advertised as such.
He confirmed that the guest safety representative position is unique to Highlands and there is no similar position at Skico’s other three mountains.
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Aspen Skiing Co. and most of the Colorado ski industry were cruising along in a second strong season, until the coronavirus crisis forced their closure on March 14. Skier visits would typically be announced this week, but the ski industry is focused on forging ahead rather than looking back.