|Nancy Vogel, a Durango Mountain Resort
snowboard instructor, queues up for the Six Pack with a
student in tow last week. Vogel, who has taught at the resort
for years, is among a growing number of employees who returned
to their jobs at DMR this year./Photo by Ben Eng.
Aspiring ski bums dreaming of a resort job
that comes with a free ski pass and plenty of time to use it
may find themselves out in the cold this season. Unlike years
in recent memory, when many of Colorado’s resorts found
themselves chronically understaffed, the ski industry job market
for 2002-03 is shaping up to be a tight one – throughout
the state and southwest Colorado.
“We do have a few openings, maybe five,” said Mary
Helyn Kirwan, Telluride Ski and Golf Co.’s communications
manager. “Usually, we have 20 positions available at this
time of year.”
Telluride is not alone in the trend, said Kristin Rust, communications
director for Colorado Ski Country USA.
“From what I know, all the resorts are full,” she
At Steamboat Ski Resort, for example, the annual job fair was
cancelled. Heading into the busy season, the resort estimates
only 20 positions will need to be filled. Southwest Colorado’s
other major ski areas – Durango Mountain Resort and Wolf
Creek – also are reporting few job openings. However,
DMR spokesman Matt Skinner said the trend at DMR is not quite
as dramatic as that seen in the rest of the state.
|Longstanding DMR employee John Bowers
checks a skier’s lift ticket last week./Photo by Ben
“We have about two or three openings right now, which
is about normal” he said. “In Durango, we’re
lucky not to see giant fluctuations in the job market because
we happen to be a town that has a ski hill, not the other way
And although he said it is typical for the resort to fill its
positions after the fall job fair, the recruitment process was
expedited this year by Mother Nature.
“With early snow like we had, we were seeing more applicants
coming up looking for jobs,” he said.
Roseanne Pitcher, marketing and sales director for Wolf Creek,
said her ski area is also an anomaly in that it typically fills
its positions early in the season – without the benefit
of a job fair. However, she did say interest in jobs at the
resort was up.
“We did have more applications than last year, so I guess
there’s more people looking for work,” she said.
Ski industry officials point to a number of economic factors
that may be responsible for the job crunch.
Rust, of Colorado Ski Country, said shrinking profits have
forced some of the larger resorts to make lay-offs, thus diminishing
the amount of jobs available. “A lot of resorts have cut
back on the jobs they have,” she said.
However, Skinner and Pitcher said neither of their ski areas
have cut jobs this season. In fact, Wolf Creek increased its
“We actually hired a few more than we usually do,”
Rather, she and Skinner point to low turnover as a contributing
factor in keeping job openings to a minimum.
“We did see more people returning to their jobs this
year,” Skinner said. “We had a 20 percent increase
Pitcher believes the low turnover rate is a result of the poor
economy and rising unemployment.
“I think with the economy, people are hanging onto their
jobs,” she said. “People know a good thing when
they have it.”
Regardless of the various factors that caused the ski industry
to arrive at such a point, resort officials agree on one thing:
the few openings that remain are seeing some stiff competition.
“At our job fair, numbers were par for the course, but
in the quality of the applicants, we saw a substantial improvement,”
said DMR’s Skinner.
Wolf Creek’s Pitcher said she believes the greater competition
is a result of an influx of new residents.
“For a long time, it was hard to find qualified people,”
Pitcher said. “But now, more people are moving into the
area; and the more people, the more qualified people there are.”
Further complicating competition is the issue of recent or
soon-to-be college graduates, who often are willing to work
for little or no pay. Kirwan, of Telluride, said her resort
has hired an unusually high number of interns for the season.
She theorizes that less than promising prospects in urban areas
may be fueling the increase.
|Greer Bohan, left, and Deb
Shultz stand ready to dispense information to inquiring
visitors at DMR last week. As of this week, the resort was
reporting only two or three job openings for the season./
Photo by Ben Eng.
“Maybe these kids coming out of school aren’t going
into the corporate world,” she said. “It’s
hard to get experience these days, and I think that’s
why we have a lot of interns, because it’s hard for them
to get their foot in the door elsewhere.”
According to Rust, the incidence of well-educated people working
ski resort service industry jobs is a common one throughout
“There’s only so many corporate jobs to be found
in a ski town, so you tend to find over-qualified people tending
bar,” she said
And although an increased pool of qualified candidates may
make the decision-making process more difficult, Pitcher says
it’s a quandary she can live with.
“Not every position needs a master’s degree, but
it’s nice that there are a few more people to choose from,”