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January 08, 2010

Holiday Business Up for Aspen - Not Back to 2007 Levels Yet

From the Aspen Times:

ASPEN — The Aspen Skiing Co. had a “relatively busy holiday period” and is running slightly ahead of last season's business pace, spokesman Jeff Hanle said Wednesday.

The number of riders hitting the slopes at the Skico's four ski areas was up about 3 percent from last season, Hanle said. The week before Christmas was down slightly, he said, but the week between Christmas and New Year's was “gangbusters.”

Expectations were modest for pre-Christmas business because the holidays fell on Fridays this season. When that happens, more people travel after Christmas, according to tourism officials.

Customers also seemed to open their pocket books a bit more. “In-resort spending” on ski school lessons and at mountain restaurants was also strong this season, Hanle said.

While Skico officials welcomed the gains, Hanle acknowledged a reality check is in order. Skier and rider visits were down 8 percent during the holidays in 2008, diminishing the favorable comparison this season. Business still lagged behind a typical holiday period.

“It certainly wasn't the best Christmas ever,” Hanle said.

The Skico's season-to-date business through Jan. 3 is also about 3 percent ahead of last season's level.

This is good news in that things are not only stable, but improving slightly. The bad news is that a modest year over year increase in visits does not translate into an increase in revenue because in order to attract folks, most of the businesses at resorts have cut prices.

This is doubly bad because the effect of decreased ski related revenue hurts the resort, but lodging, meal, entertainment, etc., spending is all down meaning far lower sales tax revenues in most of these communities. Add in lower property tax revenues and the situation is very dire.

Again, all we can do is hope that business picks up.

Posted by Justin at 11:37 AM

January 02, 2010

Retrospective of 2009 from Aspen Daily News

Some interesting items to note:

Throughout the year, all the usual economic indicators — sales tax revenue, lodging occupancy, skier visits — were down. The Aspen Skiing Co. ended up 8 percent down from the winter before, after predicting anywhere from a 5 to 15 percent decrease. Sales tax collections were off most months by double digits — the city of Aspen expects to be down in the 15 percent range once all receipts for the year are tallied. And occupancy was not only lower than the prior year — 35 percent down for the summer in Snowmass — but room rates were rapidly declining, putting a double hurt on lodge owners...

Real estate and development, long the driving forces of the valley economy, were perhaps even harder hit. Pitkin County real estate sales are on track to be about 20 percent down from 2008, even though the past three, off-season months have been up. Through November 2009 (the latest figures available), $991 million worth of real estate had changed hands, compared to $2.4 billion in the entire peak year of 2006.

Lien filings and foreclosures rose dramatically in 2009 as homeowners, spec home builders and developers struggled to pay bills and loans. More than twice as many liens were recorded in Pitkin County through September 2009 than in all of 2008 — 671 compared to 302 — before the pace subsided in the final quarter of the year. Foreclosures in Garfield County topped 400, as many as the previous four years combined, and in Pitkin County they hit a 25-year high, with 105. High-profile properties were foreclosed on up and down the valley, including two lodges and a commercial center in Snowmass Village and the nearly 300-acre property between Carbondale and Glenwood Springs on which a 1,000-unit development had been proposed...

A record number of property valuation protests — 4,628 — were filed this year in Pitkin County and there are still more than 100 disputes about property values still being contested at the state level or in local binding arbitration hearings.

As required by state law, the assessor’s office valued property in the county for a two-year period from mid-2006 to mid-2008, which turned out to be the height of the biggest real estate boom in the county’s history.

This is a recipe for disaster. Most communities depend on a combination of sales tax revenue and property tax revenue to pay for services. In Aspen's case, sales tax revenue is down as much as 15%. Property valuations are being challenged and this is an avalanche of bad news because even if assessments do not change this year, the drop in values is going to gut property tax revenues for several years or more.

So how do you balance a budget for a town like this when revenues dry up?

Imagine that a lot of pet projects are going to get scrapped. Municipal services will get hit. Expect sales and property tax RATES to rise to try to offset the decrease in collections due to lower activity.

Normally, I would describe the bad effects of raising taxes in a bad economy, but the fact is that because the town is mostly a tourist town, only a nationwide improvement in the economy will have any effect on Aspen.

One thing not to cut in Aspen... Police services. Who else will protect Charlie Sheen's wife when he pulls a knife?

Posted by Justin at 11:02 AM

January 02, 2009

Aspen New Years Bomb Threat

New Years got ruined in Aspen by a Bomb Threat:

ASPEN, Colo. - They rang in 2009 a day late in Aspen after a former resident unhappy that his hometown has become a resort playground for the wealthy vowed "mass death" and left four bombs around downtown before killing himself.

Aspen police say James Chester Blanning, a 72-year-old who skied competitively as a teen but had grown bitter about his hometown, walked into two downtown banks Wednesday afternoon and left gift-wrapped bombs made of gasoline and cell phone components...

Blanning's bombs caused the evacuation a 16-block area - nearly all of downtown Aspen. The evacuation lasted until 4 a.m., meaning the resort's hallmark mountaintop firework display and ritzy downtown parties were canceled.

Aspen restaurants and high-end stores tried to recapture the holiday spirit Thursday night with a rescheduled fireworks display. Revelers even started chanting a New Year's Eve-style countdown. But the party numbered in the hundreds, not the thousands...

He gave no motive for the bombs, other than vague statement expressing hatred for President George W. Bush. The he added, "I was and am a good man." Linn said Blanning acted alone.

Aspen residents recalled Blanning as an eccentric who grew up fascinated by Aspen's past as a silver mining town. People who knew Blanning say he became disenchanted with his hometown as it became an increasingly exclusive destination for the wealthy.

Mary Eshbaugh Hayes, who writes a weekly society column for The Aspen Times, knew Blanning as a boy and once employed him as a driver for her trucking company. Hayes recalls firing Blanning, a noted skier in high school, because he was unreliable.

"He was a very good skier, but he didn't really fit into the new Aspen," Hayes said Thursday.

BAT. SHIT. CRAZY.

Posted by Justin at 02:11 PM

December 22, 2008

Great Article on the Economics of Aspen

Interesting read and thanks for the great link from a reader:

To me it has always posed the classic development problem: how do you both improve and preserve what you've got, without setting forces in motion that undermine what you were trying to protect?

Before the housing and economic meltdown Aspen’s future was considered in State of the Aspen Area 2008, a report commissioned by the Aspen City Council and Pitkin County Board of Commissioners to provide guidance for future decisions on issues ranging from housing to growth management to transportation. The goal was to generate a 10-year community vision for the future, but that future may have to be put on hold.

The report highlighted several trends that seemed to pose serious challenges for Aspen. Most prominently, it suggested that the Aspen economy was becoming dangerously dependent on real estate and construction, as opposed to the original drivers of skiing, lodging and retail/restaurants. There were many new jobs, but a decrease in available housing for workers.

Aspen backs up to the Continental divide (closed all winter)! The Roaring Fork Valley is steep and narrow. Low- and middle-income workers must all live and commute “down valley.” But down-valley communities, where one used to be able to find cheap housing, have themselves become too crowded and expensive.

On top of this the Roaring Fork Valley has moved within sight of being "built out." Traffic congestion is expanding up and down the valley (there is only one road – Route 82 – to get in or out of town), reaching intolerable levels during rush hours which start earlier and end later. A population of primary and second homeowners increasingly "aging in place" (with large percentages intending to retire in place), taking both their labor and residences off the market, exacerbate existing housing/lodging/worker imbalances.

The only reason the town "works" now is massive cross-subsidization. The fabulously wealthy subsidize the town budget with high property taxes on their mansions (even though some are in residence only a few weeks a year). They also subsidize the many arts, cultural attractions and charities so ubiquitous to Aspen as well as a range of services for year-round residents, from child care to education, health services, senior services, and police and fire departments.

Revenues from the rich and ultra-rich also pay for a town government that has a budget of $100 million plus for a town of 6000 permanent residents. In other words, Aspen could not afford itself if it had to rely on itself. Yet it was assumed the system would continue to work indefinitely because of the belief that "there will always be [a need for] an Aspen," a playground for the ultra wealthy who spent freely and gave generously."

This is the ski industry in a nutshell. No locals anymore. Locals live down valley. Locals live like illegal immigrants do in Phoenix--working the jobs the rest of the folks will not and living in hovels packed 10 deep, sleeping on floors and thankful for their jobs that allow them to live in what to them is Utopia. The only difference between an illegal and a ski industry worker is that most ski industry workers do not send money home to their families in Mexico--except for the increasingly large percentage of ski locals that are indeed from places like Argentina.

It is an industry, not just a town, on the verge of collapse under the weight of high real estate prices combined with no real workforce to build the houses and staff the restaurants that cater to the rich.

Posted by Justin at 05:55 PM | Comments (4)

November 24, 2008

Aspen Times Article on Business Climate at Aspen

Check the article on Aspen preparing for the economic slowdown:

ASPEN — The leadership of the Aspen Skiing Co. anticipates business could drop between 5 and 15 percent this season.

David Perry, Skico’s senior vice president, mountain division, said tough economic times make it difficult to gauge what will happen, but the company is braced for business to go downhill. The projection for a 5 to 15 percent decline is based on current lodge and hotel bookings in Aspen and Snowmass Village.

Skier and snowboard rider visits are the industry standard for gauging business. A visit is the purchase of a lift ticket or use of a season pass for any part of a day.

“This is an unprecedented circumstance we find ourselves in,” Perry said. “It’s really difficult to look historically at the business ups and downs and say ‘Oh, it’s just like ’91 or it’s just like after September 11th.’ It’s not. This is different. It’s global, it’s deep, and there’s still big turmoil...

Some resorts are responding to the global economic crisis by cutting back on staff. Intrawest, one of the giant operators in the ski industry, acknowledged last week it is laying off employees at resorts, including Steamboat, Copper Mountain and Winter Park in Colorado. Intrawest didn’t disclose how many people will lose their jobs.

It is gonna get rough out there. But it is a good time to look for deals.

Posted by Justin at 02:44 PM | Comments (1)

October 23, 2007

Eagle Valley Blog Reports on Big Storm

Caroline at Eagle Valley reports on the latest Storm to come through:

With new snow being frequent and deep, there’s no way that the early season this year will disappoint. A storm over the 19th and 20th dumped 12″ at Aspen and 20″ at Beaver Creek. Though the weather is set to warm up in the valley this week, it will undoubtedly stay cold in the high elevations, and with such a thick base already, will make a complete melt unimaginable.

“Winter is officially here after a weekend storm dropped 20+ inches at the top of Beaver Creek Mountain. With Opening Day, November 21, less than one month away, now is the time to get out your skis or board and get ready for the 2007/08 season.”

Check out the blog. I am adding the blog to my sidebar. I would post to Caroline's myspace blog, but it certainly isn't skiing related, but is hysterical. She dropped me a not about 6 months ago when she was doing design work and I was able to help her set up the servers, databases, and software for the site.

Anyway, check out the link and the site.

Posted by Justin at 01:15 PM | Comments (1)

August 26, 2007

Aspen Raises Ticket Prices to $87

The following article posts some info on new price increases at Aspen:

Aspen Skiing Co. created headlines last week by announcing it would charge $87 for a one-day lift ticket this upcoming season, surpassing the previous high of $85 charged by Vail last season.

As a newspaper guy, I enjoyed contrasting how the news was played nationally versus how it was played in the hometown paper:

Seattle Times? "Nation's priciest ski ticket (so far): $87 a day at Aspen"

Aspen Times? "Skico unveils modest pass price hikes"

Can Vail top $87 a day? Don't rule it out (especially if it's going to be buying The Canyons in Utah, more on that later). We seem a lock for the $100 lift ticket within the next three to five years, and I'll predict right now that it'll generate considerable mainstream media coverage when it happens.

The thing is, though, in many ways skiing is cheaper today than it was 10 years ago. For less than five of those $87 lift tickets you can buy a season pass that'll give you ten days of skiing at Vail or Beaver Creek and unlimited access to Breckenridge, Keystone and A-Basin. Now, of course you have to physically be in Colorado to buy that pass, but Vail Resorts also sells a "Perfect 10" ticket on the Internet that last season cost around $400 for 10 days of skiing at Vail Resorts properties. Again, pretty darn cheap.

Last week we also talked about the Tahoe Six Pack (six great days of skiing for $249) and Monarch Mountain's $299 pass that also gives you free or heavily discounted access at 10 other ski areas.

Now, to be fair, there aren't a lot of deals for Aspen.

I guess short of getting some comps for Aspen, I won't be skiing there any time soon. But then again, upper middle class fathers of three are probably not their demographic either since at $87 a ticket, most of us cannot afford to ski there. Gonna have to hit the lottery pretty quick.

Posted by Justin at 06:44 PM | Comments (1)

Interesting Take on Aspen's Lack of Rental Properties

A recent letter to the editor in the Aspen Daily News makes a good point about the spiral of escalating real estate prices at Aspen:

This resort town desperately needs more hot beds to revitalize and support the shops in the commercial core. Your stores and your community are suffering due to the increase in real-estate prices that are causing landlords to ask for higher rent and many residential properties are being removed from the rental pool. If you don't provide more hot beds that will bring new and more visitors to this town, then you will create a situation where this town and its citizens may not be able to support themselves. As real estate prices continue to rise and the existing residential real estate gets sold at higher prices, the rental income cannot and will not support the investment made by the purchasers. As these units change hands, they are being gutted, rebuilt and for the most part they are being taken off the rental pool. The new owners can afford to carry their investment without the income.

Property values continue to rise because of a lack of new building. So wealthier and wealthier folks are all that are able to buy at Aspen and they immediately gut places doing remodels. They don't want to or need to rent their units, so these former rental units are off the market. The rising real estate prices also cause a rise in commercial rents for businesses.

But if units, instead of having renters packing them throughout the year, are now in the hands of folks that no longer rent them out and who also only spend a couple of weeks a year at the resort, there are gradually fewer and fewer people in town at any given time. This decreases revenue for locals that own businesses who are already stung by rising rents for their businesses. Effectively this guts the commercial core because folks can no longer afford to live at Aspen and their businesses no longer make money. This is a scary trend as the baby boomer population continues to age and retire.

I look at my unit at Brian Head and that is exactly what I did. I bought a former rental unit that was a POS and completely gutted and remodeled it. You think I would rent the place out? Not a chance. And as prices rise, your average owner becomes more and more affluent becuase the sport becomes more and more expensive. If you got the money, why have a trash heap of a condo and why rent the place out to make $2000-3000 a year off of rental income and have somebody destroy your place? And if I am not up there and my place does not have someone in it, it means there are less people buying stuff at the resort. Brian Head is mostly a "daytrippers" resort, but Aspen is not. Daytrippers have other choices that are less expensive and closer.

Posted by Justin at 12:04 PM

January 24, 2007

Skiing for a Family of Four

I want to expand further on the rising cost of skiing and pricing families out of the market. I want to post the real economics of skiing for a family that isn't addicted like I am and doesn't have season passes, their own equipment, and a condo at a resort. I am going to talk specifically about Brian Head, which represents a good "budget friendly family resort", but these costs are fairly representative.

Cost per Day Cost for 3 Day Weekend
Lift Tickets $50 per person = $200 $600
Rentals $25 per person = $100 $300
Condo Rental $200 $600
Food (and remember how expensive resorts are) $100 $300
Gas to and from the resort (rough guess) each way = $50 $100
--------- ---------
Total $1900

Now, remember that you can stay at a hotel in town and eat at Taco Bell, so maybe we can cut a few hundred dollars out of the budget for food and lodging. For that matter, you could drive a Prius hybrid and get 45 miles per gallon (however snow really sucks for passenger cars). We start cutting those costs and you are still over $1000 for a three day weekend of skiing for a family of four. You can make the argument that this is on par with Disneyland or the other major attractions. Maybe this seems reasonable. But this is FOR ONE WEEKEND of skiing. I can't imagine going to Disneyland three or four times per year, but I can certainly imagine going skiing more than one weekend per year. Most of that cost is in lift tickets and rentals. If you want to ski Aspen, you better double that number or possibly more. And again, this demonstrates the value of the Colorado Pass, discounts, owning gear, going to small resorts, and cutting costs.

In our case, we own our equipment. A good set of adult skis bought on E-bay runs $250 plus another $150 for bindings and mounting. Boots run $150 for a low end cheap pair, but probably more like $250 for adults and $100-150 for kids. So for each adult, we are talking at least $600-700 for skis, boots, and bindings and these are E-bay prices for new equipment. Kids gear is cheaper so that number is more like $300-400 per kid for their skis, boots, and bindings. So for a family of four, let's say $2000. Then you have coats and ski pants. Plus gloves, face masks, walkie talkies, helmets, hats, long johns. Figure it is at least $300 per person for these items when they are bought on sale in April when things go on clearance. That is another $1200.

Rough estimate is $3500 for gear, plus another $300 or so per year because kids outgrow stuff or you lose stuff. Then you have season passes which in my case run $200 per kid plus $300 per adult. Figure that is roughly $1000 per year. On top of that, you still have to eat and have a place to stay. We have our own condo, so we cook most times (which helps tons).

Prices are going to keep rising unless there is some competition, and honestly I don't know if competition will even help. Skiing already competes with other sports and other entertainment for our budget dollar. If average Americans can't afford the sport without major sacrifices, how do we keep the sport from getting out of reach?

Posted by Justin at 01:30 PM | Comments (1)

December 25, 2006

Interesting Info on Aspen's Green Program

I wrote briefly about Vail and Aspen using Wind Credits to offset their power usage in September. I got an e-mail from Neal Dikeman from Cleantech Blog about an entry he had posted after visiting Aspen:

Then while taking a brief time out from skiing (I am not actually very good) I went in to drink coffee in the sunny lodge of the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. The first thing you notice walking through the front door (besides the massage chair, which I really needed after a day of skiing) is the plaque which bills the Sundeck as one of the first 10 LEEDs buildings in America. Details of the Sundeck Restaurant project here. The total cost was $9.8 mm, or an eye-popping $425/square foot (I assume driven partly by LEEDs requirements, and partly by the top of a ski resort location!). But the part I liked the most was the re-use of 86% of the materials from the previous Sundeck building. Because at the end of the day, despite all the advances in cleantech - the real answer to our energy issues is still the same - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

Aspen also fuels its snowcats with biodiesel, from Blue Sun Biodiesel. The best part is they actually publish on their website an interesting description of the impact of the biodiesel use: "In the winter of 2002, ASC experimented with an 80% diesel/20% biodiesel blend. Mechanics noticed that the fuel, which makes snowcat exhaust smell like french fries, radically reduced black tailpipe smoke and that the snowcats ran smoother, a result of biodiesel’s higher lubricity, a quality that also extends the life of mechanical components. Based on our testing, ASC has now switched its entire fleet of snowcats to biodiesel. The cost is about 20 cents more per gallon, a small cost to pay for benefits that include hydrocarbon emissions reductions of 20% and CO and particulate reductions of 10%. The one drawback is that biodiesel typically increases NOx emissions by 2%."

I really dig the move to biodiesel, but have a major problem as I wrote about in the previous article with Aspen paying their ticket clerks $9.25 an hour, yet being willing to pay that extra $.20 a gallon for biodiesel. Do the math on $9.25 an hour times 40 hours per week ($370 less taxes) times 4 weeks in a month ($1480 a month). And also keep in mind that most of these jobs are only part-time. It is a mixed bag for me. I am always one to say that before you worry about global issues, have your own house in order. That means pay your workers enough and have affordable housing for them before you save the world. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't minimize your impact on our natural resources. It just means that I am not going to get all ga ga about being environmentally conscious until wages and housing are also addressed. But putting that aside for a moment, it is awesome that Aspen is reusing their old materials and using biodiesel and wind credits.

It is tough for me to be an "environmentalist" or think like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club opposes snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks at Snowbowl because it uses reclaimed water in Flagstaff, yet they also opposed Aspen using water from Snowmass Creek to make snow at Aspen. The environmental movement doesn't want skiing to exist (see AZ Snowbowl) or wants to stop things like snowmaking that allow the industry to exist. They have opposed expansion projects at Snowbasin and most other projects including the new Village at Wolf Creek that Colorado Wild and the Sierra Club oppose. In addition, the Sierra Club opposes nuclear power as an alternative to coal based power, saying, "Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack." But that does not make them wrong about things like reuse and recycling. It does not make biodiesel less of a great idea. It does not make wind power a bad idea either. And Aspen doing these things is good for all of us.

I hope that the ski industry is able to adopt policies that allow for moderate expansion, upgrades, improvements, and growth so that we can get more people to enjoy the sport I love and enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The biggest problem in skiing that I see is that due to the scarcity of resources and the high cost, the sport is unattainable for anyone but the upper middle class and above. Simple supply and demand dictates that if there are more lifts and more areas and more space, prices would be lower resulting in more skier visits. But this goes contrary to the exclusionist image that the industry wants. They want the sport to be more expensive and fewer people to be able to do it. I don't have all the answers, but I know this, the people working at resorts make next to nothing and your average middle class American cannot afford to ski because of the high prices, part of which results from lawsuits like the one at Arizona Snowbowl funded in part by the Sierra Club. Going green is great, but not at the cost of worker wages and housing and not at the cost of making the sport even more exclusionary with higher and higher prices.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 PM | Comments (2)

September 03, 2006

But Foreign Labor is Only Used to Keep Aspen Affordable, Not to Increase Profits

Aspen keeps their costs low so that they can pass along the savings to low income folks through low lift ticket prices:

The super-early price reflects the discount available to employees of Aspen Chamber Resort Association-member businesses. Without the ACRA discount, the "early-bird" price is $1,649.

The cost of the Premier Pass - the one that's good for unlimited skiing on all four local mountains - is going up $50 from last year's super-early, ACRA-member deal. And last season's price for the Premier Pass was up $50 from the prior season. The cost of the pass has gone up in each of the past four seasons.

The price of the two-day and one-day passes are increasing, too, as is the cost of a Classic Pass.

The single-day, walk-up lift ticket rate will peak at $82 this season, up from $78 last winter. The daily rate generally gets a great deal of attention, in comparisons among various ski resorts, but Aspen Skiing Co. executives have long said that comparatively few people actually buy single-day tickets, opting instead for multiday deals that bring the price down.

The Skico unveiled this season's lift ticket and pass prices on Tuesday.

Pass prices generally go up annually, but the Skico pays particular attention to the price of the Premier Pass with the early-bird and ACRA discounts. That's the one most locals purchase, according to David Perry, company senior vice president.

"We give it the most scrutiny, I think, and try to keep it reasonable for locals," he said.

So if you work at Aspen making $10 an hour (the prevailing wage) for 40 hours per week during the five month season, you would earn approximately ($400 per week x 20 weeks) $8,000. If you don't work at the resort and are just another local, you can simply shell out $1600 for a season ski pass, which works out to 20% of your income for the 5 month ski season. Basically, you either work at the resort, mooch someone elses pass, or better have some serious savings or rich relatives if you want to be a ski bum.

Posted by Justin at 08:42 PM

More on Wages for Employees at Aspen Skiing Company

Again, it is evil and wrong to shop at Walmart, but totally OK to vacation at Aspen. It seems that Aspen cannot hire enough college kids from the US, so this last year they relied on over 350 Foreign Workers, here on temporary work visas.

Like ski bums of bygone days, they are often college students who come into town for a little work, and maybe a little partying, for a season. But these workers are often from the Southern Hemisphere - Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa - whose summer breaks coincide with Colorado's ski season.

For summer resorts, it's more likely workers from the Czech Republic or Romania serving up coffee or cleaning sheets. The Aspen Daily News reports on this foreign army of workers in its Mountain Business Journal. "If you got rid of the foreign workforce in Aspen, there wouldn't be anybody working there," said Norman, Okla., immigration attorney Jon Velie, who helps a number of clients obtain visas to work in Aspen. "There's a handful of Americans, just not enough to fulfill the need."

Aspen Skiing Co. hired nearly 350 foreign workers last season - that's about one of every 10 SkiCo employees - who came in on H-2B short-term worker visas and J-1 foreign exchange visas. "We've tried to (fill those jobs domestically)," said Jim Laing, SkiCo's vice president for human resources. "We've not been able to. And we've been able to substantiate that with the U.S. government. ... We have to substantiate the need. We actually run ads domestically, with all the applications being sent to the Department of Labor to show that we don't have enough applicants to supply the demand that's out there."

Other ski areas across the state hire hundreds more. Each year, the federal government hands out 66,000 H-2B visas, divided equally between winter and summer seasonal employment. Employers gobbled up those visas so quickly, last year the government exempted thousands more workers who had held the visa for more than three years.

Aspen Skiing Company has lots of pet "PC" projects that do not include living wages for their employees.

ASPEN (AP) - The Aspen Skiing Co. is supporting a lawsuit seeking to require the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate vehicles’ greenhouse gas emissions.

The Supreme Court agreed in June to take up the case brought by a dozen states and others including the Sierra Club. Aspen Skiing Co. filed a friend of the court brief supporting the petitioners Thursday.

And then there is this about Vail following Aspen's lead in buying "wind credits":

Vail Resorts Inc. will buy enough renewable energy to cover electricity use for all of its ski areas, hotels and headquarters, making it the nation's second-largest corporate user of wind power behind Whole Foods. The "green" energy will cover power use at its five ski resorts, its lodging properties, including RockResorts and Grand Teton Lodge Co., all 125 retail locations operated through Specialty Sports Venture and its new corporate headquarters.

"Companies need to start diversifying their energy sources," said Vail CEO Rob Katz, who made the announcement at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science along with Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo. "We view sustainability as integral to our company's future success." Vail, which recently moved its headquarters to Broomfield from Avon, will buy about 152,000 megawatt hours of wind-power credits from Boulder-based Renewable Choice Energy.

Vail will not actually be powered by wind. Instead, the credits will pump more wind energy into the nation's electric grid, reducing the amount of coal and natural gas used. The publicly traded company would not disclose the cost.

Here are the jobs posted for Aspen Skiing Company at their website:

  • Child Care Attendant: Starting wage - $9.27/hr
  • Lift Attendants: Starting wage - $9.25/hr plus a possible $1500.00 end of season retention bonus if you finish out the season.
  • Guest Services Hosts/Hostesses: Starting wage - $9.50/hr
  • Retail/Rental Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Ticket Seller Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Mountain Photo Sales Clerk: Starting wage - $9.38/ hr
  • Cafeteria Server or Waiter/Waitress (Informal): Starting wage - $9.21/ hr (Does not guarantee 40/hrs./wk.)

So guess what, when you pay $9.25 an hour to folks to live in a town where they cannot afford to rent an apartment, the only takers you get are immigrants. In some elitist circles, we call this movement of jobs from highly (or lowly) paid US workers to cheap foreign labor "OUTSOURCING". Gone are the days of ski bums. Wages are so low, even the ski bums won't take them. Yet the folks at Aspen can still get all kinds of Liberal Kudos for being environmentally friendly. Because Spotted Owls and Global Warming and Al Gore have families to feed unlike the underclass of marginally employed workers that serve us our coffee at the resorts. But Aspen supports wind energy and reducing greenhouse emissions. Sure, they have to import workers because pay is so low, but they pay lawyers to file briefs against the Bush Administration's environmental policies.

Posted by Justin at 08:13 PM