Skico fills ranks with fall job fair
October 27, 2006
The Aspen Skiing Co. is on track for seasonal hiring, and Friday’s job fair at Buttermilk attracted 200 applicants to fill 350 job openings. “We can train for the skills, but the No. 1 priority is attitude,” said Jim Laing, the Skico’s vice president of human resources.”It’s not just a job,” he said. “If it’s a toss-up between here and a job at Target, we say go to Target.”
The Skico has been looking for everyone from mechanics to administrators and dishwashers to mountain photographers to fill out the 3,400 the company needs to run its operations. The company keeps 800 year-round employees, and some 1,600 seasonal workers return to fill technical jobs – ski instructors and patrollers, for example. That leaves 1,000 seasonal openings. Skico officials said they still need to fill about 350 positions.Attendance at this year’s midsummer job fair, which attracts mostly locals, was low. Laing said the Skico lost a lot of workers to the oil and gas industry and other jobs downvalley, but Friday’s turnout was good – about the same as last year. Ben Clippinger came all the way from Boston to live with a friend and find work on the mountain.”I’ve always dreamt of being a ski bum for year,” he said. His dad did it in Vail, and he is looking for a job that will pay him enough to live while allowing him to ski when he wants. He has his emergency medical technician certification and experience as a patroller on Stratton Mountain in Vermont. He would like to be a patroller or an instructor, but said, if not, he’d work in a restaurant.
Just an hour into Friday’s job fair, Skico interviewers had met with more than 50 applicants.”We’re right where we were last year at this time, but housing is tighter than ever,” Laing said.The Skico recruits year-round and sends headhunters to Australia and South America in the offseason to line up potential employees who require complicated visas. Students from the Southern Hemisphere – Australia and New Zealand – can qualify for a J1 student visa (winter here falls during their summer break). And visitors from other countries can get an H2B seasonal visa, which lasts six months.
Laing hires internationally only out of sheer necessity and said the process is not easy – the company must prove that it cannot fill positions domestically – but said international employees add to the flavor.The Skico has about 300 beds to offer employees, and Laing said the company is busy trying to build more employee housing but has come up against red tape from the city.”Our objective is for employees to work here, have one job and have fun,” Laing said. “A lot of people say they’re going to come but don’t show up,” he said. “But usually if we offer housing, we know they’re going to show.”Jack Cody originally came from Massachusetts and has worked for the Skico for three seasons as a lift operator. He earned his EMT certification this year and is gunning for a job on patrol: “It’s time to move on,” he said.
Flicka Kuen is an experienced teacher who dropped in to see what kind of work was available for her to teach kids and to make a few extra bucks and to earn a season pass.Skico hiring is ongoing. Applicants can stop by the company’s human resources office at the base of Buttermilk or visit http://www.aspensnowmass.com.Charles Agar’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.