Breckenridge and Steamboat ski areas open day cares to attract high country workers in child care desert

Steamboat Resort and Breckenridge Resort opened child care centers for the kids of their employees this season. In Aspen, the resort is helping pay for new child care center slots in the community.

Jennifer Brown
The Colorado Sun
Steamboat Springs Resort is the latest in a small number of ski resorts in Colorado that have opened up child care centers for their workers. The region is one of Colorado’s “day care deserts.”
Jennifer Brown/The Colorado Sun

WESTERN SLOPE — Snowboard instructor Dorothy Olmstead and ski teacher Kris Peterson fly small airplanes into the Alaskan backcountry in the summer, then look for gigs at ski resorts for the winter. But with a toddler, the crosscountry seasonal lifestyle started to feel impossible for the couple.

So when Peterson told his partner last summer that Steamboat ski area was opening a child care center for its employees, she didn’t actually believe him. “He was like, ‘Let’s go to Steamboat for the winter. They have a day care center opening,’” Olmstead recalled. “I didn’t even think it was real.”

Olmstead has worked 11 seasons as a snowboard instructor at eight mountains across the West. Not one had a child care center. 

Steamboat Resort is the latest, and still one of the few, ski resorts to open a child care center for its employees. After affordable housing, child care is the top concern of many workers in resort towns, where the cost of living has far outpaced the salaries of local workers. 

Breckenridge Ski Resort opened a child care center for employees’ kids this season, too, a program for 20 children at the base of Peak 9. Aspen Skiing Company is donating money for the expansion of community day care and preschool programs. Winter Park’s child care center was initially started in the 1970s as a co-op by a group of employees who were parents, but has since become a resort-operated center. And Vail Resorts has an employee child care center in Avon for workers at Vail and Beaver Creek. 

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