Away from home, Vail Valley workers make best of holidays |

Away from home, Vail Valley workers make best of holidays

Lauren Glendenning
Vail, CO Colorado

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – As people from all over the country and the world come to Vail and Beaver Creek for the holidays, seasonal workers often find themselves spending the holiday season quite differently than they ever have before.

It’s the busiest time of the year for airports, and the roadways are packed with travelers heading near and far to visit their families and friends. For workers who have to stay put for the holidays in order to serve guests in what is also one of the busiest times of the year for ski resorts, keeping a positive attitude is key.

It’s not hard to stay positive for many seasonal workers, since many of their jobs also mean they get to log more ski and snowboard days on the mountain than most people dream about.

Vern Pettingill, from Michigan, said the snow conditions dictate how much he misses his family. It’s his second year working at Beaver Creek as a lift operator, and he said getting in turns on the mountain just about every day is nothing to complain about.

This Christmas, Pettengill plans to head to Denver to spend time with his aunt, uncle and cousin. It’ll be a nice change of pace since he’ll see family members he doesn’t typically get to see around the holidays when back in Michigan.

“It’ll be nice to eat some good food and get away from the Ramen (noodles) a little bit,” Pettengill said.

Resort workers tend to bond around the holidays when so many of them might be missing their families while they work. Beaver Creek Resort spokeswoman Jen Brown said many of the different departments within the resort have become their own little families.

They’re busy working and often end up celebrating the holidays with each other either with dinners, gift exchanges or small get-togethers either before or after the actual holidays, Brown said.

That’s exactly what Scott Keuss, of St. Louis, did Wednesday night. He works as a lift operator at Beaver Creek and lives in employee housing, where many other seasonal workers got together Wednesday night to cook some food and celebrate an early Christmas.

They made a ham and some mashed potatoes, and other holiday fixings, and got to know each other a little better. Keuss said many of the people have only known each other for a couple of weeks.

“It’s nice just snowboarding all day and to go home and have a great meal and a few drinks,” Keuss said.

‘It’s worth it’

The trade-off is worth it for so many seasonal workers. Sure they miss their families, but they’re having the time of their lives living in a place that feels like an endless vacation.

And if their families can’t have them home for the holidays, many families just travel to them.

Rob Peck, who works at Beaver Creek, is hanging out with his mom all week. Peck, from Connecticut, said it’s great to have her in town for the week because he has missed her since moving here for the season.

“I couldn’t go home, and she wanted to come up here,” Peck said.

He plans to spend his days off next week with his mother before she heads back east. It’s a situation they might have to get used to since Peck plans to return each winter for the foreseeable future.

“There are lots of opportunities to move up (through Vail Resorts),” Peck said. “I’m going to come back every season.”

Maverick Conklin, who works at Surefoot in Beaver Creek, is also getting visitors during his first season living in the valley. His family is driving out from New York and picking up his sister, who attends college in Colorado Springs, on their way.

And for those who will just have to miss their families this year, a little skiing and snowboarding is expected to fix those holiday blues.

“I’m having a great time out here, so it’s worth it,” said Ryne Wilson, who works at High Performance Rentals in Beaver Creek. “I’m probably just going to cook some food with some friends and have a nice Christmas dinner.”

Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or

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