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More of Vail Valley working on ski mountains

Melanie Wong
mwong@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO COlorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyCaleb Jack, right, smiles Friday as he watches Griffin Young, reflected in his glasses, enjoying the ride at the Beaver Creek bungee trampoline where Jack has been working since being laid off by a local hotel.
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VAIL, Colorado ” Edwards resident Lisa Kraft traded her office desk for the Beaver Creek slopes.

Kraft, a survey taker for the mountain’s marketing and research team, took the Beaver Creek job from part-time to full-time after she was laid off from her job at VAg Inc. Architects in November.

The mountain job worked out well, she said ” she has a ski pass, the job is less stressful, and she’s able to enjoy winter more.



“I definitely enjoy it,” said Kraft. “I’ve never had this many days in a ski season. I think I have 75 to 80 days.”

Kraft’s situation is not unusual ” more local residents are working on the mountains this season, both Vail and Beaver Creek confirmed. The increase is partly due to the economy and partly due to visa rules that have limited the number of international employees the resorts could hire.



Liz Biebl, Vail Mountain spokeswoman, said that hiring local workers has worked out well for the mountain and that the trend of hiring more local workers might continue into next season.

“We anticipate that this will continue to be the case next year, and we’ll look to use locally based staff first,” Biebl said. “This is a positive for the resort in that locals can share not only their passion for skiing and snowboarding and pride in the resort, but also their local expertise and familiarity with Vail and surrounding areas. Locals also usually have their own housing.”

The seasonal mountain jobs have allowed local residents such as Kraft to look for more permanent jobs without having to leave the valley.



Kraft said she had already worked part-time on the mountain before she lost her job in November, and was able to take on more hours at Beaver Creek. Other friends who lost jobs later in the season were not so fortunate, she said.

“I know other friends of mine who were laid off, and there weren’t any other jobs on the mountain to get by the start of December,” she said. “I already had the part-time job. Otherwise, I don’t know where I would be right now.”

Some are worried that when the ski season ends, many of those local residents working on the mountain may be forced to leave the area.

Business is suffering in Vail, and people are being laid off at the height of the ski season, said Vail resident Kent Logan, a former Vail town councilman and retired investment banker.

He has urged the town’s leaders to make marketing plans for the summer and next ski season.

“The challenge is keeping people in this valley,” he said. “We have to face the immediate situation. We’re in a fight to save small businesses and residents.”

Don Cohen of the Economic Council of Eagle County said he doesn’t think there will be a mass exodus of residents once the season ends, but predicts that some locals will leave.

“We’re watching very carefully what’s going to happen when the lifts close,” he said. “Usually, (the ski) season rolls into the summer and construction trade ” and there are no jobs there. I think in the spring and summer we’ll see a sorting out of the workforce.”

However, Cohen said he thinks many residents will find ways to stay in the valley. Making sacrifices has always been a part of living here for many people, and he expects that will continue.

“There’s the hard reality that ‘This is not what I prefer to do, but this is where I choose to live,'” he said. “There are huge tradeoffs that have been made by residents here for decades, such as working two, three or four jobs.”

Staying in the area certainly came with tradeoffs for Caleb Jack, a longtime local who lost his job at the Ritz-Carlton in December after nine years of working with the company.

“It was a brand new experience for me because I’d never been laid off ” ever,” Jack said. “The Ritz was my main job. I’d made a career out of it.”

Jack started working part-time as a trampoline operator at Beaver Creek, and also at the Avon Rec Center.

The jobs and his severance pay helped tie him over for a few months, but he immediately started searching for a permanent job so he could stay in the valley and keep his Avon home. However, he had trouble landing a suitable job that was year-round.

“I was stressed and praying really hard about it. I was really anxious,” he said.

Finally, he found a full-time, year-round job this month with First Bank in Avon. The job will be a pay cut from the Ritz, but it will allow stability, he said.

“I was so relieved. It’s a lot less money than what I’m used to making, but I’m looking forward to working with the bank,” he said, adding that the pay cut is a sacrifice he is willing to make. “It’s the lifestyle up here that I enjoy. I love the mountains and have a passion for anything outdoors. There was no way I wanted to move back to Denver where I’m from.”

As for Kraft, she’s still looking for summer season work. She has a few prospects, and she wants to find a way to stay in the area.

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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