Businesses look to hire winter workforce |

Businesses look to hire winter workforce

Melanie Wong
Steve O'Neal, left, checks in at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Hotel in Avon while being assisted by Paul Murray, center, and Kimberly Herner, right, on Tuesday. Eagle County companies are on the hunt to fill seasonal positions as opening days of the ski mountains approach. East West Resorts will hold its job fair at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa from 2 to 6 p.m. today.
Townsend Bessent | |

AVON — On Wednesday afternoon at the company’s annual job fair, East West Resorts hopes to hire nearly a hundred employees — a sizable portion of its full winter workforce.

The event, held at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa from 2 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, gives potential job seekers the opportunity to mingle with managers and discuss positions in front office, food and beverage, retail, the spa, property management, housekeeping, maintenance and more.

“We hope to get a good bulk of our seasonal workers here and fill number of positions — and that includes some year-round positions as well,” said East West Resorts human resources manager Leah Ott. “The jobs that will be offered are a huge part of our staffing for the season.”

Preparing for the peak

East West Resorts isn’t the only local business on the hunt for winter staff, which typically arrive at their new jobs anytime from mid-November to mid-December. All around the county, companies that grow and shrink with the ski season have been recruiting hires for the last few months.

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The Park Hyatt Beaver Creek started recruiting on the company’s website, on Craigslist and via ads in the newspaper as early as August and September.

“Hiring has been great so far. We have secured most of our seasonal workers and have been very successful in finding talent interested in moving to Beaver Creek for the season,” said Fernanda Montenegro, director of human resources for the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek.

The majority of seasonal hires for the hotel are from out of the state or even outside the country, while other businesses prefer to hire closer to home. Ott, with East West Resorts, said that with the exception of some international workers and a few recruits from Front Range colleges, their hiring is locally focused.

Mike Brumbaugh, owner of Venture Sports, said he prefers to hire people who are familiar with the area, so they can provide a high level of customer service. His staff goes from 15 people in the summer to 55 at the peak of winter, he said.

“Our Vail store jumps from 2 to 25 employees in the winter, and that’s mostly front-line staff — selling retail or helping customers,” Brumbaugh said. “We’re in really good shape right now. We’re almost completely done hiring for the season, with the exception of a few spots left to fill.”

Tough hiring season expected

As most business owners and HR managers will tell you, hiring in the Vail Valley has always been a difficult task. Last year was especially tough for many businesses, thanks to the addition of jobs available through the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships, and a noticeable shortage of affordable housing for workers. This season, many managers said they don’t expect the process to be any easier.

“(For the valley as a whole,) I think it’s going to be worse than last year,” said Brumbaugh. “Housing is always a big problem on everyone’s list, just like it was 10 years ago — brutal. Last season, 2015 exacerbated the situation, and some of Timber Ridge (employee housing) will still be in the process of being renovated this year, so there’s just not a lot of inventory out there.”

Montenegro at the Park Hyatt said they started recruiting early this year in order to give new workers time to find housing.

“The rental market has been one of our biggest challenges, as prices increased significantly since last season,” she said.

A number of employers are combating the problem by offering incentives for workers, ranging from job perks to providing housing. Brumbaugh said his temporary solution is to offer some employee housing and keep his managers on year-round.

“I try to keep more staff on in the summer, and hopefully that helps me keep good people around year round,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for 10 to 12 years now, and we have a good group of employees who have worked for us for a number of years.”

Ott said she understands that relocating and working in a ski town can be tough, which is why East West offers benefits like competitive pay, a ski pass program, seasonal health insurance reimbursement and an employee wellness program.

“It’s a great company,” she said. “We try to create wellness opportunities for people, both physically and for work-life balance. It’s not like you show up to work and you’re expendable. I think our corporate really cares about its employees’ quality of life.”

Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 or at Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.

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