Aspen Skiing lays off 22

Ski corp. also faces market 'challenges'

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— The top executive at the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. said Thursday's announcements of layoffs at the Aspen Skiing Co. doesn't surprise him, but he declined to discuss whether or not similar layoffs are in Steamboat's future.

Steamboat Ski Area President Chris Diamond acknowledged that Steamboat faces the same challenges as Aspen while company officials work on next year's budget, but he would not comment on his company's strategy. Diamond has already said that Steamboat's skier days this year will be down over 2000.

"It's nothing unusual that (Aspen) is being faced with these decisions," Diamond said. "It's no different than what we're all going through at this time, depending on our different circumstances."

Aspen announced the elimination of 22 full-time staff positions after it posted numbers from its four ski areas that were essentially flat. Aspen Skiing Company operates Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Snowmass and Buttermilk.

The ski areas were up about 5 percent this year, but Chief Operating Officer John Norton attributed the increase to local skiers.

The number of destination skiers visiting the four Aspen ski areas was about the same as the previous year, he said.

Aspen employs about 3,000 workers at its ski areas during the height of the season.

Steamboat employs 2,114 people to operate the ski area and the Steamboat Grand Hotel.

Some of those employees work both on the mountain and in the hotel.

Diamond said all of the nation's ski areas are up against a market that has been flat for years. But the challenges vary from resort to resort.

"All of us in Colorado are facing the challenges of a stable or declining skier market on a national level," Diamond said. "How we're all impacted depends largely on our location, brand strength, ease of access, for example direct airline flights, and resort size. We're all impacted differently."

Aspen Skiing Co. President Pat O'Donnell said in addition to cutting full-time positions, his company would evaluate how many seasonal workers it needs and make reductions by next season.

O'Donnell said it became apparent by the end of January that his company would need to cut expenses for the next fiscal year, which begins June 1.

O'Donnell said he didn't act on a mandate from his employers to make cuts across the board. Instead, senior staffers went position by position to determine where cuts could be made.

Positions were eliminated from the planning and marketing staffs as well as the mountain operations department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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