Can’t have just one?
EAGLE COUNTY- Jason Decker’s clear blue eyes concentrated skyward as he tallied how many jobs he’s held since he moved to the Vail Valley four seasons ago. His lips moved silently as he pondered, and finally he spat out, “Six.”Decker has toiled in restaurants, on golf courses, in retail and is now a ski technician. Despite earning a mechanical engineering degree in 2002, Decker said his lifestyle “is more fun.””It changes things up,” he said. “I haven’t found something that I like enough to stay. But it’s also annoying (to change jobs) because it’s like you’re starting over every time.” In a valley where people are forever coming and going with the seasons, jobs are doing the same thing. The job as a lift operator in the winter turns into a landscaping job in the summer, which morphs into a retail job when it gets cold again and a position as a Jeep tour guide when the weather warms once more.
“You can actually make a living doing that, and it leaves you a few weeks to steak out your next job, where you’re going to live and take some vacation time,” said John Cullen, who has worked two jobs in the 2 1/2 years in the valley. Matt Sargent has been making a living like that – working for Vail Resorts in the winter and river raft guiding in the summer for years. During the few weeks in the off-seasons, Sargent claims unemployment checks.”No one wants to hire someone for just a month,” said the Vail native who guessed he’s held about 15 jobs since his teenage days of mowing lawns. Sargent also holds a second job at the Bag and Pack Shop in Avon. After a nine-hour day on the mountain, he hustles to his retail job. But if he’s hauling an injured ski victim down the slopes, he may get to job No. 2 late, and he’s grateful for his employer’s flexibility. A second source of income is deemed necessary by many, but hotly debated by those who live on just one paycheck. “You kind of have to hold a couple. It would take a couple of jobs like this to cut it,” said Cullen who works at the front desk of the Comfort Inn in Avon. “People burn through jobs because the jobs burn them out.”
The rare liferIn Jennifer Cooley’s nine years in the valley, she’s held about 12 jobs and almost always worked two at the same time.”It’s very expensive to live here,” said Cooley, who currently works at Edwards Liquors and Frites restaurant in Edwards. “You either need to do a lot of one job or have two jobs. But hopefully it won’t a be a necessity forever.”To Johnny Harris and Jenny Hetei, working two jobs is unnecessary and practiced only by people who can’t hold a job – primarily those who smoke a lot of marijuana. “It’s so hard to find reliable people around here,” said Hetei, who owns Portofino Beads and Jewelry in Edwards.
Ironically, Portofino used to be the stereotypical seasonal employee teaching skiing and delivering pizzas in the winter. “But I was supporting two people,” Hetei justified. “I wasn’t just flaking around.”While Harris admits he’s not “rolling in the dough,” he said he sees no need to get another job. Although Ashley Bliss works two jobs and volunteers every day of the week, she said she could survive on just one job – at least in the winter. “You can make enough to live, but not enough to save,” she said. “And in the summer, it’s really hard.”Bliss said she works full-time at the Red Lion restaurant in Vail to bring in the cash, part-time at Sandy’s Picture Perfect to nurture her love of photography and volunteers for Vail Resorts to secure a free ski pass.After a day of tearing up the mountain, Bliss starts waiting tables in the evening and on through the night. For half the week, she sacrifices time on her snowboard to develop photos. By the end of the week, Bliss confesses to feeling burnt out, but it’s still worth it, she said.
An oddity among the working class in the Vail Valley, Aimee Stalnaker has worked for Christy Sports for seven years, claiming the company’s flexibility and generosity as hooks that have held her. “The people are nice, the boss is nice, the hours are good and they give you a ski pass,” she said. “When I had a baby, they were cool with it… and let me work from home. They’re good to me, so I’m good to them. I’m what they call a ‘lifer.'”Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14621, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado