Snowboard instructor won’t cut his hair, so the Skico cut his job
Yaromir Lahulek sacrificed his job as a snowboard instructor at Buttermilk Monday to protest an Aspen Skiing Co. grooming policy that dictates hair length.
Lahulek said he reported for work as usual at 9 a.m. Monday, with his ponytail intact, and was told he was suspended.
“They also asked me to return my pass,” said Lahulek. He wouldn’t comply, but it was a moot point. The ski pass cannot be used while he is suspended. “It’s just a piece of plastic,” he said.
Lahulek, who was in his third year as an instructor at Buttermilk, said two of his supervisors informed him he was suspended until he gets a haircut.
“They took it pretty personally,” said Lahulek. “I told them they shouldn’t take it personally. It wasn’t directed at them, but at the company policy.
“I really believe it’s completely unconstitutional.”
Lahulek’s boss tends to differ. “The policy is pretty clear,” said Weems Westfeldt, director of the Ski School operations.
Instructors are well aware of the company’s grooming policies when they accept jobs. They are often given multiple chances to comply before the Skico takes drastic action, according to Westfeldt.
If they don’t adhere, “being a totalitarian company, we execute them in the morning,” Westfeldt joked. In reality, there’s usually a subtle effort by Skico school supervisors to make sure ski and snowboard pros comply with the policy.
“We don’t try to beat people up about it,” said Westfeldt. “We try to nudge them to it.”
Making an exception for Lahulek or anyone else is out of the question.
“My whole take on this is I want to be consistent,” said Westfeldt.
Although he didn’t intervene directly in the decision to suspend Lahulek, it was a “clear-cut” issue, he said.
“I hope he adheres,” said Westfeldt. “He’s a nice guy.”
He declined further comment because it is a personnel matter.
Lahulek said he has no intention of cutting his hair, which falls between his shoulder blades while tied in a ponytail. His girlfriend likes it, he noted.
“The hair is not the issue,” said Lahulek. “It’s the policy. It forces you to do things you don’t want to do.”
He hopes his actions inspire other Skico employees to mount their own protest.
“They can suppress one voice, but they cannot support many,” he said.
Lahulek doesn’t see any point in further negotiating with the Skico and litigation “is a threat I wouldn’t make,” he said. So, he remains suspended as a snowboard instructor and will depend on his part-time job at an Aspen ski shop.
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