Skico short by 170 workers | AspenTimes.com

Skico short by 170 workers

Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The Aspen Skiing Co. is still trying to hire 170 employees heading into the holiday crush, but officials said Friday they aren’t sweating it.”Everybody’s feeling good. There’s no panic,” said Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources.While 170 openings sounds like a lot, Laing noted that’s spread over four mountains and roughly 30 departments. The company needs everything from chairlift operators and mechanics to photographers and food servers.But the vacant positions represent only about 5 percent of the Skico’s total positions. As far as staffing levels, the company is in about the same situation at this point in the season as it usually is, according to Laing.”We’re almost exactly where we were last year,” he said. “We’re about at 95 percent [staffed].”Word on the street has placed the Skico in a more dire position. One rumor contended the Skico couldn’t open terrain as fast as usual because of the worker shortage. Laing said that wasn’t the case.”Opening terrain is predicated almost entirely on snow,” he said, noting demand is also weighed in. “We’ve got the employees.”Phased openings of terrain are certainly nothing new. The Elk Camp section of Snowmass, for example, rarely opens before mid-December because the sprawling ski area offers plenty of other terrain for a limited number of customers.Another rumor, which a reporter heard Skico workers discussing, contended the company couldn’t hire as much foreign help this year. Again, Laing said, that’s false.The Skico was able to get 130 H2B visas. That requires the Skico to demonstrate a need for workers from a foreign country because U.S. labor couldn’t fill the positions. The Skico fills out paperwork for the visas, then locates foreign workers. The workers can stay in the U.S. only during the term of employment.The 130 visas of that type were the same as last season, Laing said.The Skico also hires foreign students who are temporarily in the country on J1 visas, also known as student visas. That program also will supply similar numbers as in prior seasons.Laing said the Skico will never have a full staff. It’s a fluid situation, with workers constantly joining and leaving the company. In any given year, the company fills about 3,500 positions and sends out 4,400 W2 forms for tax purposes.”We’re going to be hiring every single day of the season until mid-March,” he said.The lack of housing prevents the company from filling all spots. The Skico will utilize its existing staff by having part-time workers put in something closer to full-time hours and full-time employees logging overtime.”We’ve had some employees actually looking for a little more work,” Laing said. “They’re going to get it starting this weekend.”Skico officials were mum on a rumor that former CEO and President Pat O’Donnell, who surprised everyone by moving up his retirement to November, was being recruited to return as an on-mountain “greeter.”Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com.