Two-week spring break will be mandatory for Aspen Skiing Co. workers
Aspen Skiing Co.’s headquarters at the Aspen Business Center and auxiliary office in Basalt will go dark for two weeks after ski season.
Skico President and CEO Mike Kaplan has ordered all full-time, year-round employees to take a two-week vacation from April 23 through May 4 as a cost-cutting measure and opportunity to “disconnect and recharge,” according to Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications.
“It’s not an unpaid vacation. It’s not a furlough,” Hanle said. “We’re calling it spring break.”
All offices will be shut down to eliminate expenses ranging from cleaning services to transportation. Only a skeleton crew will remain to pay the bills, handle vital public relations and prepare for summer operations. Otherwise, employees were ordered not to perform any work — not even answer or send work-related emails, Hanle said.
“The intent is to try to shut down as much as we can,” Hanle said.
The mandatory vacation will affect between 800 and 1,000 employees. The Limelight is exempt from the directive and will continue to operate through the offseason.
Skico didn’t release an estimate of how much money it will save. The steps were announced internally about one month ago.
Hanle said one of the biggest savings will be getting accrued vacation time off the books before the start of Skico’s next fiscal year June 1. Employees who don’t have two weeks of vacation time built up will be able to borrow from time they will accrue in the future, he said.
Hanle said Skico won’t meet its financial goals this season because of the poor start. Snowfall was significantly below average in November, December and January. Cumulative skier visits at Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk were down 20 percent as of the end of December. Updated skier visits through the end of February will be released by mid-March. Skico is a private company, so it is unknown how far revenue was down.
Prior to winter, Skico undertook several expensive capital improvement projects, including construction of an alpine coaster at Snowmass and groundbreaking of the Limelight Hotel at Snowmass Base Village.
“We did a lot of big things in a financially challenging year,” Hanle said.
“All in all, it’s been a challenging year and this is a creative way” to try to offset some of those challenges, he later added. Kaplan earned his MBA from the University of Denver in 1993.
Hanle said Skico didn’t skimp on seasonal help despite the slow start to the season.
“We didn’t limit any of our operations when we weren’t forced to by snow,” he said.
Skico set up a soup kitchen in November for seasonal workers who couldn’t start work and collect a paycheck because of the lack of snow. It put people to work as quickly as possible as terrain started opening. If lift operators weren’t employed in early season at certain areas of the mountains, they were put to work elsewhere in other mountain operations, for example.
Hanle said the reaction to the mandatory vacation has been positive from what he’s witnessed.
“Everybody’s going around saying, ‘Where are you going for spring break?’” he said.
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During what turned into a 30-minute conversation that got heated Tuesday night, Aspen Mayor Torre voiced his frustration with the city manager’s office in not putting together a community event sooner than the first of the year, while Councilwoman Rachel Richards said some of the mayor’s frustrations and comments were “unfounded.”