Without daily drop-in clients, Treehouse offers more child care to employees
More alternatives still needed, Skico director of children’s programs says
Visiting families won’t find short-term child care at the Treehouse this winter: the daily drop-in infant and toddler offerings are on pause due to COVID-19 precautions.
Instead, the child care center and ski school hub in Snowmass Base Village has shifted its focus to long-term services for staff at Aspen Skiing Co. and other local businesses. Employees can register their little ones (between 8 months and 2-years-old) on a long-term basis with month-to-month contracts.
The employee-oriented focus isn’t entirely new, said Sue Way, the director of children’s programs at Skico. For several years, the Treehouse has operated a room specifically for children of Skico employees with offerings seven days per week, a key distinction for mountain staff who must often work weekends.
But in previous years, the facility was limited in its capacity to take in children of employees. Colorado licensing requirements and a lack of space have prevented any major expansions of the program — there is only so much room the Treehouse has available. Building out on that space or adding a new facility would hinge on land availability and use regulations.
“We try our hardest to do what we can to balance ski school business with employee child care,” Way said.
The absence of a drop-in program this season has allowed the Treehouse to offer services to “every employee who needs it,” Way said.
And there’s certainly a need among Skico employees. Gray Warr, the adult alpine ski school coordinator at Snowmass, drops off his daughter at the Treehouse when he goes to work; Warr said the program is “just wonderful” amid a dearth of other options in the valley.
“I don’t know what I’d do without them,” Warr said. “Day care in the valley is just horrendous. … If I didn’t work here, I don’t know what we we would do.”
Way recognizes the lack of other offerings for employees. Skico often works closely with KidsFirst in Aspen — where Way is a co-chair of the advisory board — and with other organizations in the Roaring Fork Valley to meet the demand for infant and toddler care for employees.
Way acknowledged that COVID-19 has changed that demand — and the supply — for child care in the area. But from the “long view,” Way said, “we have to constantly continue to look at how to expand infant and toddler care throughout the valley.”
Some of the parents who utilize the services at the Treehouse while they go to work at Snowmass commute from midvalley towns like Basalt and El Jebel, but the child care offerings there may already be full with waiting lists, Way said.
“That’s why we’re not going to stop looking for other alternatives,” Way said.
“Allowing families to be able to go back to work and have quality care is the mission,” she said. “That becomes all of our missions, and it’s my mission here at (Aspen Skiing Co.). I’ve been trying to do whatever I can to ensure that we have opportunities for — and spaces for — ASC employees to be able to bring their kids.”
This is the third entry in a multi-part series on child care in Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley. New articles will run every other week through the end of January. Parents and child care providers: share your experience by emailing Kaya Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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