Some Vail Valley businesses using passes, benefits to lure seasonal employees
Housing crunch, cost of living are not a new problem for employers seeking quality help
- 3.6%: U.S. Unemployment rate in October.
- 2.6%: Colorado unemployment rate in October.
- 2.7%: Eagle County apartment vacancy rate in October.
- 3: Pages of help wanted in the Nov. 27 edition of the Vail Daily.
EAGLE COUNTY — As the Vail Valley approaches its busiest season, it seems that most local businesses could use at least a little help.
A random phone survey of business owners and managers in Vail, Avon and Beaver Creek shows most continue to look for winter season help.
The town of Vail is one of the valley’s biggest employers. Vail Human Resources Department Director Krista Miller in an email wrote that the town has been “mostly successful” in its seasonal hiring.
“We started early and overhired in a few areas,” Miller wrote.
Even with those early efforts, Miller wrote there’s already been “fallout” in some seasonal positions.
“We will be monitoring our midseason turnover as that has been a concern in recent seasons,” Miller added.
Not a new problem
Venture Sports owner Mike Brumbaugh said he’s also had pretty good success in winter staffing, with each of the company’s seven stores short about one person each.
“We have (a help wanted) ad running in the Vail Daily, and that’s been helpful,” Brumbaugh said. The company also has some employee housing available, with employee-dedicated units at the Sunridge and Liftview condos, as well as a unit at the old fire station in Avon.
“That helps out big time,” Brumbaugh said.
Rich ten Braak is the general manager of the Comfort Inn in Avon. He acknowledged that the hotel is short a few people, including housekeepers, maintenance and front desk people.
The Comfort Inn doesn’t have housing available, although people coming in from out of the valley can stay temporarily at the hotel.
As with most employers, ten Braak said housing and the cost of living are constant problems.
In Beaver Creek, Park Hyatt Beaver Creek general manager Herb Rackliff said he “feels pretty good” about that hotel’s seasonal staff. In fact, he added, the hotel has doubled its applicant pool from this time in 2018.
Rackliff credited the existing team that’s dedicated to attracting new people. And he added, “we work very hard as it relates to benefits.”
Benefits, from ski and parking passes to health insurance, are starting to become more common for people hiring seasonal help.
Vail Chamber & Business Association Director Alison Wadey said hiring has “been a struggle” for a number of businesses. The main reasons are well known: transportation, the lack of housing and the cost of living.
“It’s just hard to attract a quality employee,” Wadey said. Instead of hiring just anyone, businesses are looking for people dedicated to both their employer and being in Vail.
Wadey said she’s hearing of more employers who help workers with the big-ticket items of a security deposit and the first and last month of rent — a common big-ticket item. In addition, she said, more businesses are buying merchant ski passes. Those passes stay with a business, and not an employee. That means if a person starts in December and leaves in February, the business can still offer a ski pass to the departing employee’s replacement.
In addition, more employers are investing in parking and bus passes for employees, something that used to be reserved largely for year-round staff.
Wadey had good things to say about the PrimaVail program. That new initiative, a joint effort between the chamber, the town of Vail and Vail Resorts, aims to build enthusiasm for working in the resort and help develop a sense of community among new and recent employees.
“We hosted a Vail history class the other day, and there were close to a dozen people in the room,” Wadey said. The guest speaker that day was Pete Seibert Jr., the son of Vail’s founder.
“(Seibert) really enjoyed it,” Wadey said. “It’s what the program’s all about — melding old Vail with the newcomers.”
With all those and other efforts, though, the valley continues to have more jobs than people to fill them.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 970-748-2930.
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