Getting vaccinated paid financial dividends for some Aspen Skiing Co. employees

Company held several $1,000 drawings and one for $10,000

Ice forms on the outside of a Silver Queen Gondola car while taking skiers to the top of Aspen Mountain on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Aspen Skiing Co. gave its employees 25,000 reasons to get vaccinated against COVID-19 this season.

The company held 15 drawings for $1,000 each and a grand prize drawing of $10,000 in December.

Skico president and CEO Mike Kaplan announced the vaccination mandate in September. While the vaccination rate was already above 90% for full-time, year-round employees at the time, it was lagging in some departments, and the company had a horde of seasonal employees lined up for ski season. The company had about 4,000 workers at the peak time over the holidays, according to Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications.

“We wanted to do everything we could to have a healthy workforce” and ensure the safety of customers, Hanle said.

The company required all employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 15. Unvaccinated employees were not allowed to start work until they got the jab.

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“We had a number of employees who decided to move on because they didn’t want to get vaccinated,” Hanle said. “It wasn’t a significant number.”

To sweeten the pot, Skico started holding the $1,000 drawings in June and continued through the fall. Employees had to submit a vaccine card anyway, so they were urged to also fill out a vaccination form and enter the drawings. Early winners ranged from ski instructors to bartenders and ski patrollers, according to a September employee newsletter.

A worker at the concierge desk at the Little Nell Hotel won the big prize and pocketed $10,000 in December. She declined a request for an interview.

Even with the vaccine mandate, Skico’s ranks were hit hard when the omicron variant swept through the valley. Skico had COVID-19 testing sites at each of its four ski areas during the holiday period and urged employees who felt symptomatic or were exposed to take time for the slopeside test.

The Roaring Fork Transportation Authority was another major employer that offered incentives for workers to get vaccinations. The bus agency did not mandate vaccines but offered $500 bonuses to employees who got their shots. RFTA decided earlier this month to offer an additional $250 bonus for boosters. As of mid-January, 77% of the nearly 400 workers had been vaccinated. The booster rate wasn’t known.

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