Colorado’s mountain towns scramble to find summer staff, but even hiring incentives aren’t making much of a difference

Martina Lynch is the Director of Talent and Culture at the Jerome Hotel in Aspen. She was at the same job fair that Sanders attended. She fared slightly better than Sanders, but still struggled to find qualified job seekers.

“Job fairs aren’t what they used to be. You used to have a job fair and you got so many applicants showing up,” Lynch said. “Now there are 40 companies and 30 people looking for jobs.”

She’s trying to grab a table right out front so it’s the first people see when they walk in. But that’s not the only thing Lynch does to stand out. Hotel Jerome recently launched a program to pay for certain educational expenses – as long as the degree the employee is pursuing is related to their job.

“If someone in food and beverage wants to be a certified sommelier, we’ll pay part of the cost if they’ve been here for a year.…The longer you’ve been here, the more you get reimbursed and allocated.” she says.

Probably the biggest advantage an employer can offer in Colorado’s mountain towns is affordable housing. Many companies like Hotel Jerome offer subsidized rents, but there just aren’t enough for everyone.

Rose Rossello is the Human Resources Manager for the Viewline Resort and the Wildwood Hotel in Snowmass. They house about 100 employees at the Wildwood – and they rent out other units around town. But Rossello still struggles to fill key positions and believes housing costs are a big part of that. A position in accounts payable had been open for six months, Rosello said. She just completed it this week.

“There’s definitely a big struggle out there,” she said. “The servers and bartenders are also very tough,” she said.

The most critical roles come with housing when available, Rossello said. To further sweeten the pot, there is a $1,000 signing bonus.

Finding affordable housing is not a new challenge in Colorado’s mountain communities, but it has certainly become more acute in recent years. It’s hard to pinpoint a single cause, but locals point to the proliferation of short-term rentals, people flocking to remote locations during the pandemic, and skyrocketing housing costs across the United States.

Aspen Skiing Company is the largest employer in the area and has the resources to provide great housing deals to its workers. But even they are feeling the slump recently, according to spokesman Jeff Hanle. The resort operator typically puts its corporate accommodations back on the market during the summer months, as winter is much busier for ski activity. But not this year, Hanle said.

“In the past…we didn’t need housing [in summer]. But it’s gotten to the point where we need housing all the time now,” Hanle said.

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