More than 800 workers have passed Aspen Skiing Co. fitness tests | AspenTimes.com

More than 800 workers have passed Aspen Skiing Co. fitness tests

Aspen Skiing Co. employees are breathing easier now that word is out that mandatory fitness tests for roughly 1,500 on-slope workers aren't so tough.

"I have definitely noticed the apprehension level dropping," said Alisa Vetter, coordinator of Skico's Mind, Body, Spirit program. One component of that program is the Work Ready fitness test. It is mandatory this season for ski patrollers, ski instructors, lift operators and other mountain-operations workers.

More than 800 employees had been tested as of Thursday, and fewer than 1 percent of them had failed, Vetter said. All failures were related to medical conditions. The tests will be modified due to each individual's specific conditions and they will be able to retake the test, she said.

The test has eight components. In chronological order, they feature a five-minute step test on a 12-inch-high box while stepping at a rate of 96 beats per minute; 15 push-ups (from the knees allowed) in one minute; 15 crunches or sit-ups in one minute; a side plank with 15 hip dips on each side within one minute for each side; and a fifth station that tests agility with a side-to-side slalom hop over a 10-foot-long course. Patrollers, lift-operator leads and ski-instructor trainers must complete the agility test within six seconds. Regular ski instructors and lift operators have 13 seconds.

“I have definitely noticed the apprehension level dropping.”
Alisa Vetter, Mind, Body, Spirit program coordinator

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Rounding out the stations are weightlifting, which features a 75-pound dead lift for patrollers and 50-pound dead lift for everyone else; a dead lift to upright row of 25 pounds for everyone; a 15-pound overhead lift only for patrollers, lift-operator leads and ski-instructor trainers; balance on a cushy foam pad on one foot for 10 seconds each; and a flexibility test where employees must come within 6 inches of touching their toes.

The balance test has been the most challenging, Vetter said, because the pad has varying degrees of density to simulate conditions that employees might encounter on the slopes — from hard pack to icy to powder. While it is the most challenging, she said, most employees have completed it within the three attempts allowed.

A ski instructor fresh off his test early one recent morning said the balance was the only station that challenged him. It was like balancing with one foot in a cow pie, he said.

Another ski instructor said she passed with no trouble and would prefer to see a tougher overall test in the future. Another employee said some Skico workers spent more energy worrying about the test than on the test itself.

Vetter said she checks out every employee who comes through the Work Ready test and always asks them how it went. When the testing started in October, most Skico employees said they were nervous at the beginning but found it wasn't so bad, she said. About one month into the testing, most employees were saying it was fine, according to Vetter.

"Some say they had heard it was no big deal from their friends, and some have even said it was fun," Vetter said.

Some ski patrollers raced the clock in their individual tests to try to record the best time in the agility test. The contenders were completing the test in less than three seconds.

Skico Chief Human Resource Officer Jim Laing said the tests weren't created with the intention of flunking a certain percentage of workers. The idea was to help people gauge their fitness levels and to act accordingly if they weren't where they wanted to be. Vetter has run fitness classes since spring as part of Skico's Mind, Body, Spirit program and saw many employees attending to prepare for Work Ready, she said.

Other employees told her they were training on their own by cycling, practicing the balance test on a pillow and even building a 12-inch step to practice for the step test.

The 1,500 on-slope employees must complete the test before they report for duty on the slopes. Last year, only new employees in the on-mountain departments were required to take the test. Laing said another goal of the program is to help ensure employees are able to perform their duties safely.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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