Zalaznick: Solving Vail’s worker surplus |

Zalaznick: Solving Vail’s worker surplus

Matt Zalaznick
Vail CO, Colorado

Your lunch options in Vail Village are dwindling faster than the polar ice caps.

One of Vail’s favorite restaurants, Sweet Basil, is cutting lunch two days a week. But there’s no need to fret that either this ” or threats from other businesses to cut back hours because good help is impossible to find ” is an early warning sign of a labor shortage.

We may have run out of competent, unemployed kitchen workers, but the truth is local businesses have far too many employees right now. For one thing, all employees really do is demand things like affordable places to live, parking spots, health insurance and raises ” each one a drag on the economy; particularly when many minimum-wage workers buy all their stuff online or in Denver, Silverthorne or Glenwood Springs because they can’t afford the local prices that are set on a second-home owner level.

What do all these perks for employees do for you, the tourist? Make the stuff you buy on your hard-earned vacation more expensive. So why not sacrifice a little customer service for some serious ski-town discounts from shops who aren’t burdened by salaries and Christmas bonuses?

The reality ” the reality this labor lull is forcing Ski Country to face ” is that customer service is vastly overrated.

Let’s take restaurants ” quick, reliable service makes time fly doesn’t it? I mean, you order, you get your food, dinner’s over, you take a nice stroll along heated streets back to the lodge and before you know it, you’re back in Sheboygan headed to your cubicle at the insurance firm.

Why not stretch your vacation with a long, frustrating dinner at which your food never seems to arrive?

Check this out: Through the window you can see the snow falling, shoppers strolling by laughing and the creek trickling through the ice, and still your veal bongananza with leeks drizzled in licorice-truffle-anchovy oil hasn’t come.

Why not enjoy the time-dragging ordeal of having to send your entree back to the kitchen two or three times because the restaurant’s one waitress has 47 tables and has no hope of keeping the orders straight?

Why not be repulsed by your meal when it finally comes because the sous chef ” whose culinary experience is limited to heating Ramen noodles in a microwave ” can’t tell an anchovy from a habanero pepper?

And what about those heated streets? It can’t be that easy to find someone who knows how to work those, either.

As a visitor, you ought to demand icy streets that make it difficult to stay upright. Hey, you might slip and break your ankle and have to spend a few days in the Vail Valley Medical Center ” maybe you’ll miss your flight home. Vacation prolonged again!

Just picture it: No one to work the chairlifts, sitting in the maze while hours of not-skiing ooze by. That kind of boredom turns a day into a week ” and who couldn’t use, say, five or six weeks off?

But those who insist on treating customers “better” by staffing up should at least seek alternative, less needy ” dare I say, more environmentally friendly ” employees, such as retired avalanche dogs.

They can’t drive, so that gets cars off the road, and they can tolerate extreme cold, so they don’t need energy-gobbling heating systems to power their homes. Come to think of it, they don’t really need homes, per se, just a bit of an awning to keep out of the rain and some old blankets ” much easier to acquire than hundreds of acres of land for hundreds of affordable homes.

When it comes down to it, employees are at the root of all sorts of problems for Ski Country.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or

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