Vail Resorts offers jobs to Gulf Coast employees |

Vail Resorts offers jobs to Gulf Coast employees

Nicole Formosa
Paul Sancya/AP PhotoReginald Banks pulls his uncle's tool box through foot high mud in Violet, La., in St. Bernard Parish, Saturday.

AVON – Vail Resorts is reaching outside the realm of recruiting foreign workers and college students this winter to the thousands of hospitality industry workers displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Rick Smith, vice president of human resources for the Avon-based ski company, has been in contact with Harrah’s Casino to gauge whether any of the company’s 7,000 uprooted employees on the Gulf Coast would be interested in spending the winter in the Colorado Rockies or California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.Vail Resorts owns Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail, Beaver Creek and Heavenly in Lake Tahoe. Smith estimates that approximately 5,000 seasonal jobs will be available at the five ski areas.

Smith called Harrah’s to inform him that Vail is ready, willing and able to hire casino workers, he said.”I’ve told him I’d be more than willing to send a bus of interviewers down there and we would be able to bring some folks back,” Smith said. “We’ll have employee housing for folks, local infrastructure in terms of the Salvation Army – as far as clothing, it looks like they’re ready to go. “The hospital is ready to provide any kind of health care needs,” he said. “Spiritual faith-based organizations are ready to provide spiritual, as well as mental health care in the Eagle Valley.”Smith has also sent a job list to Lowry Air Force Base near Denver, where about 1,000 hurricane refugees are living. Smith is prepared to send managers to the base to interview and screen anyone interested in working for Vail, he said.

The available job openings consist of a variety of seasonal and year-round front-line positions including lift operators, housekeepers, cooks and front desk agents.At this point Smith hasn’t heard back from anybody ready to relocate, but understands that companies are still getting organized, he said. “(Harrah’s) challenge down there is connecting with their employees. It’s just getting a hold of them, finding out who’s interested,” Smith said. Alberto Lopez, spokesperson for Harrah’s, said the casino company has received a number of offers from outside companies to employ its workers, including Vail Resorts, but does not know how many, if any people at all, are interested in moving.

“Employees from Mississippi and Louisiana are generally not wanting to leave the region,” Lopez said. “I think this is the case as well with FEMA evacuees and refugees moved from the Superdome to the Astrodome – they just don’t want to leave. They want to get home as quickly as possible.”According the Harrah’s Web site, the Harrah’s New Orleans, Grand Casino Biloxi and Grand Casino Gulfport are closed indefinitely. The company is keeping all employees on the payroll for at least 90 days, paying health insurance premiums and offering jobs at other company casinos, the site said.Vail felt inclined to offer employment after realizing the destruction and damage the hurricane left behind and knowing that people would need jobs, Smith said.

Earlier this month, Vail Resorts contributed $50,000 to the city and county of Denver’s efforts to raise money for victims of the hurricane.Vail, Colorado

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