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At Aspen Skiing Co., fewer positions and far more applicants

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN, Colorado – The Aspen Skiing Co. had about 200 fewer seasonal positions to fill and roughly twice as many applicants as usual to choose from, company executives said this week as they prepare to start a new ski season.

The company typically fills 1,000 seasonal positions – from chairlift operators to snowmakers and restaurant workers. This year it had about 800 openings, according to Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources. He estimated the number of applicants in the thousands, including applications via the Internet.

Laing, who has headed Skico recruitment efforts for 15 years, is used to the opposite problem – scrambling to find enough workers to fill the openings. Often in the past, the Skico had to rely in job sharing among part-time workers to get everything covered because there weren’t enough full-time workers available.

“It’s always been a challenge to find enough qualified people,” Laing said.

Even last year when the recession was unfolding, it was more of the normal preseason “ramp-up,” Laing said. One year into the recession, conditions are a lot different. The Skico has many more employees than usual returning to seasonal positions. That eases pressure to find new bodies.

Skico Senior Vice President David Perry said the recession has obviously affected the work force. There are fewer jobs available and fewer entrepreneurial opportunities, so more people are staying put with the Skico and other employers, he said.

In addition to having fewer positions to fill, the Skico hired more Roaring Fork Valley residents to fill them. “We have more locals working as a percentage overall than we’ve had in a decade or so,” Laing said.

The last of four job fairs scheduled this fall to recruit workers for mountain operations wasn’t needed earlier this month, Laing said. The company used that fair to fill the last positions at its hotels instead.

The company has tried to make it clear on its website that positions won’t be available for job seekers who are accustomed to showing up when the season starts and finding a position.

While the Skico will have fewer people working for it this season, the number of positions is roughly the same as prior years. “The plan is to have zero reduction in hours worked,” Laing said.

The company strategy is to rely on full-time workers rather than cobble together part-time workers in numerous positions as it had in the past. That works well because so many job seekers want full-time positions this year.

The Skico avoided layoffs and wage reductions last year. Company officials said they weren’t willing to compromise customer service to reduce expenses. Wages are frozen for Skico employees this year, but their health plan premiums are also flat, Laing said. And like last season, the Skico is making it clear that it won’t lay off employees.

“We didn’t want anyone asking, ‘When is it going to happen to us?'” Laing said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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