Ritz-Carlton looking for locals | VailDaily.com

Ritz-Carlton looking for locals

Matt Zalaznick

Jason Ernst, who knows nothing about bath salts, has already fulfilled the dreams of many a northern-born American male by driving the Zamboni at the Beaver Creek ice rink. But, Ernst said, a career change is the reason he showed up at the employment information session held by managers of the Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch, set to open in November.

“We had some royalty at the ice rink last winter. I don’t fear the big-wigs or the big athletes or the movies stars,” Ernst said. “They’re just people, too, taking a break.”

But the big question is will Ernst’s Zamboni expertise help him at the Ritz-Carlton? Does the five-star hotel have an ice rink? Does it need a Zamboni?

“We do need drivers to drive the hotel’s Suburban, but we don’t need a Zamboni driver,” said General Manger Todd Harris, a former hockey player. “We have snow-melting equipment all over the hotel. We don’t even need a snow blower.”

Like Beaver Creek Village, the Ritz-Carlton will have underground heating pipes to melt snow in the hotel’s courtyard and other outside areas. The 237-room, ski-in ski-out Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is scheduled to open in November at the base of the mountain. The back door will be just a few feet from Beaver Creek Mountain’s Bachelor Gulch Express chairlift.

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The hotel has 400 positions to fill, including concierges, reservations agents, banquet staff and ski valets.

Some Ritz-Carlton hotels have bath butlers that come to your room with a menu of aromatic bath salts and bubbles to enhance your bathing experience. Ritz-Carlton may or may not have a bath butler, but if they do, is won’t be the former Zamboni driver.

Ernst failed the following bath salts quiz:

Question: A lavender scent is for?

“I have no clue,” said Ernst, who’s aiming for a bellman or valet position.

Answer: Lavender scents are supposed to be relaxing.

You don’t have to be a regular guest of five-star hotels to work at a five-star hotel. If that was a requirement, the Ritz-Carlton might have some trouble hiring anybody from the valley –at least in this dimension.

“In another life I stayed in five-star hotels,” said Sheila Peterson, an Edwards resident who works at Red Sky Ranch. “And if there were six-star hotels, I stayed in them.”

Most valley residents are more accustomed to tents than penthouses.

“I don’t make a habit of staying in five-star hotels,” said Paul Burns, a Ritz-Carlton applicant who also works at Red Sky Ranch. “I’m a backpacker. I stay in youth hostels. I prefer to rough it rather than be pampered.

“But I’m willing to pamper other people,” he said.

Rugged locals do admit, however, that they would give up a night under the stars for a night in the lap of luxury.

“I prefer to camp,” said applicant Dani Karre of Gypsum. “But if I have a chance to stay in a five-star hotel, I’ll take it.”

Karre, like our friend the Zamboni driver, said she was also looking for a career change at the Ritz-Carlton.

“I’m looking for something in sales. I’m a non-practicing chef working as a waitress,” Karre said. “In five years from now, I don’t want to be in the kitchen.”

Another applicant, Brandy McLaughlin of Eagle-Vail, says she splurges occasionally and spends a night or two in a five-star hotel.

“It’s nice to treat yourself once in a while and feel like a queen,” McLaughlin said. “They make an effort to make everybody feel pretty special and it’s fun to be a regular Joe and go in and have them say, “Hello Ms. McLaughlin, is there anything I can do?'”

McLaughlin said she’s ready to make the Ritz-Carlton’s guests feel like kings and queens, too.

“You treat people the way you would want to be treated and it comes easy,” she said. “But you have to have patience. Having lived in a ski resort my whole life, I know it’s important to be patient.”

Plus, the name Ritz-Carlton looks nice on a resume, McLaughlin said.

“The name speaks for itself,” she said. “It’s definitely prestigious and it would be nice to have your name associated with it.”

But other applicants said they might need some pointers on making folks feel like royalty.

“I think they’d have to train me,” said Holly Miller, who just moved to the valley from San Diego. “But I’ve been in customer service a lot and I do pretty good.”

Nobody was hired Tuesday. The afternoon session was held so managers could meet and screen locals interested in working at the hotel. Hiring won’t be done until this fall, said Nigel Dagnall, the area director of Human Resources.

“We’re trying to capture people who live here on a permanent basis or are leaving in the next month,” Dagnall said. “We want them to know the Ritz-Carlton is here and that we’re going to be looking for them.”

Harris, the general manager, said there’s been intense interest in the Ritz-Carlton from around the country.

“The interest has just been fantastic,” Harris said. “The day we post a position on the Internet, we get flooded from all over the country. People all over the country want to live here, and this gives them a good excuse to come out.”

Peterson –the Edwards woman who claims to have stayed at six-hotel star hotels during the Renaissance –said she understands the Ritz-Carlton has high standards when it comes to hiring. That’s why she said she was a tad anxious about the impact on her breath of sardine and onion sandwich she had for lunch before coming to chat with her potential bosses.

“There’s a certain glamour attached to working for the Ritz-Carlton,” she said. “I think probably they’ll only hire the best people. They have a creme-de-la-creme reputation to uphold.”

But Peterson was pretty practical about dropping off her resume.

“I’m sure they have a great employee meal,” said Peterson. “In this day and age, the bottom line is the benefits and the pay.”

And applicant Mary LaBossiere, who just moved to Avon from White Bear Lake, Minn., was really practical.

“I just need a job,” she said.

For more information on The Ritz-Carlton, Bachelor Gulch, http://www.ritzcarlton.com.

Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 606, or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.

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