Lack of snow, visitors prompt aid to ski workers

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — The lack of snow and visitors to ski resorts this warm early season has left ski resort employees facing hard times.

Aspen Skiing Co. is helping by picking up dinner for its workers.

The company has revived an effort to help ski workers during dry seasons, The Aspen Times reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/X5aTB1 ).

The company offered free dinner this week to employees who had their work schedules altered because of lack of snow

Company vice president Jim Laing said 88 diners showed up to Bumps Restaurant at the base of Buttermilk Mountain. Most were seasonal employees who are new in town and scraping by on limited funds, he said.

"The level of astonishment is high," Laing said of the workers.

The company has a history of feeding employees at Bumps when the season gets off to a slow start. Dinners have been offered about six times in the past 15 years, Laing said. The last time dinner was served for a stretch to start the season was five years ago.

The dinners will be served "until we resume normal operations — normal for this time of year," Laing said.

Even with a limited start to ski season, the company will employ the same number of workers as the past several seasons, according to Laing. The company didn't pare down when the recession peaked during the 2008-09 winter. It hired fewer people but only because more people wanted full-time jobs. However, it isn't eliminating positions.

At peak season during Christmas and New Year's Day, Aspen Skiing Co. will employ 3,700 people, including temporary workers, Laing said. About 2,400 of those workers will be on-mountain at the four ski areas.

The others work in the company's hospitality division, and the remainder are full-time, year-round staff.

The company isn't relying on workers from other countries to fill on-mountain positions. Four years ago, it hired 400 workers using the H-2B visa program. The company gets the temporary work permits, and workers apply to fill the positions.

This season, only two or three positions will be filled that way to secure workers who speak specific languages, Laing said.

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