Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. announced late Friday afternoon that it had laid off seven full-time, year-round employees including two with the rank of "director."
Company executives said the layoffs were necessary to reduce costs in the face of declining business.
The layoffs came in conjunction with a number of other steps intended to reduce the Steamboat Ski area's personnel costs, President Chris Diamond said. Diamond said the ski area's paid skier days this season were off more than 10 percent from where they were three years ago.
"We saw this coming two months ago," Diamond said. "We established the goal of a 10 percent reduction in our fixed (personnel) cost structure, reflecting the drop in business."
Diamond would not name the employees who were laid off, nor would he specify in which departments the cuts were made.
However, he did say the ski corp. spent seven weeks researching the cuts to determine which positions could be eliminated with the least impact on ski area operations and on the remaining employees.
"No one was let go based on performance," Diamond said. "We don't have any duds on our year-round staff." Instead, he said ski area management tried to determine which positions had become less necessary as a result of the ski area's downward-trending business.
In addition to the seven employees who were laid off, ski area management has elected not to fill three positions that are currently vacant and not to fill three summer seasonal positions that have been staffed in the past. Another part-time, year-round position will be converted to a seasonal part-time position.
Other ski area employees will find themselves working less than 12 months, while retaining their benefits packages, Diamond said. Two people will go on formal 11-month appointments. In other cases, a number of employees within a department will take varying amounts of time off without pay.
The ski area has realized other efficiencies in its staffing late this winter, Diamond said, by shifting some employees from the "mountain side" of the resort to similar jobs across the street at the Steamboat Grand Hotel, which is under the same ownership.
The layoffs at Steamboat reflect a trend in the Colorado Ski Area, Diamond pointed out. Vail Resorts announced May 3 that it was eliminating about 37 jobs at its ski areas, which include Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone and Beaver Creek. Aspen cut 25 full-time year-round positions during the third week in April. Winter Park eliminated roughly six full-time jobs and 30 seasonal summer jobs last week.
Diamond said it became apparent that Steamboat would have to restructure its personnel costs when phone volume at central reservations recorded a precipitous drop in January.
The reduction in reservations was felt later in March, when business was off 20 percent at times.
One prominent Steamboat business leader expressed compassion for the people who had lost their jobs, but said he understands the ski area has to take steps to curtail costs when it endures several years in a row where income doesn't live up to its business plan.
George Noyer, president of the board of directors of the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association, said it's clear to him that the ski industry is changing.
"As any business changes, you have to change your business plan in order to continue to survive," Noyer said.
Noyer said that doesn't mean he's dispassionate about the layoffs.
"It makes perfect sense to me, but as someone who loves this community, I hate to see it happen and I have a lot of empathy for the individuals involved," Noyer said. "But it's got to happen for the business to survive."
Diamond said all of the employees who were laid off have been offered severance packages, but he would not be specific because the severance is part of a contract with the employees.
Other American Skiing Company resorts also are seeing layoffs, Diamond said, but each ski area's situation is different.