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Skico: Leave ponytail alone

Men who work for the Aspen Skiing Co. will be able to save a few bucks on haircuts this winter and perhaps spend the extra cash on another set of earrings.

The Skico announced yesterday it revised its employee grooming policy to allow men to wear ponytails up to 10 inches long. In addition, the company eased the limit on earrings, now allowing two per ear for men and women.

The old policy required men’s hair to be cut above the shoulder, and only one earring per ear was allowed for men and women.

“I think what we’re trying to do is recognize that styles are changing,” said Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources.

The changes will apply to ski operations. The managers of Skico properties like The Little Nell Hotel will still be able to require stricter grooming standards.

The company reviews its policy each season. An employee committee decided by majority vote this fall that it was time to ease the restrictions the company adopted in 1995, according to Laing.

The grooming policy was revised because the committee determined standards have changed in the workplace as well as among Skico customers, he said.

Laing denied that the changes had anything to do with employee recruitment at a time of ongoing worker shortages. The restrictions on hair length and jewelry were never a “knock-out punch” when it came to prospective workers, he said.

“I truly do not believe this will have an impact on our ability to attract applicants,” said Laing.

Although restrictions were eased, the concept of keeping a grooming policy was strongly supported, said Laing. However, managers probably won’t walk around with rulers to ensure men’s ponytails aren’t longer than 10 inches from where they leave the head.

“The focus with the grooming policy is a neat and clean appearance,” said Laing.

The employee committee also reviewed the Skico’s drug testing policy for new recruits and for cause, like a snowmobile accident on the job, and decided to uphold it.

A letter to Skico employees notified them of the change to the grooming policy and broke the news that their share of insurance premiums will stay the same despite rising health care costs.

“This is great news, however, our health care expenses did increase by over 20 percent last year alone,” said the letter from Laing. The Skico spends an average of between $3,000 and $4,000 per employee on health care costs – millions of dollars per year, he said.

While not passing on higher premium costs to employees, the Skico is changing procedures to try to manage costs. Employees who use the benefits more will pay more; those who use benefits less will pay less.

“The goal is to go through this winter season and to evaluate how effective the changes have been before we decide when and by how much employee contributions may need to change,” Laing wrote. Latinos and Anglos alike.


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