Summit County ski resorts look at minimum wage, employee housing ahead of winter 2019-20

FRISCO — Aspen Skiing Co. announced last week that it would raise its starting hourly pay from $13.50 to $15 for winter. The move originally was made in June for summer employees, and the company said it would carry over to ski season. Ski Co. said the change also will increase wages for second- and third-year employees.

So where do Summit County resorts stand?

The four ski resorts — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, Breckenridge Ski Resort, Copper Mountain Resort and Keystone Resort — keep their wages similar to one another to stay competitive in the area. 

Each year, ski resorts re-evaluate their employee wages. Minimum wages at ski resorts tend to be higher than state and national averages because the cost of living is higher in resort towns, even if you are lucky enough to score employee housing.

Breckenridge and Keystone fall under Vail Resorts’ Colorado entry-level wage, which is $12.25 per hour. Copper also has established a $12.25 per hour entry-level wage, which was raised last year in anticipation of the upcoming 2019-20 ski season. Arapahoe Basin has not finalized its starting hourly pay for the coming season, but spokeswoman Katherine Fuller said the ski area is looking at the surrounding market to consider options. 

While the starting pay at Summit ski resorts is below Aspen’s, other factors, mainly a difference in cost of living, give context to these differences. The Summit ski resort minimum wage of $12.25 is more than $1 above the state minimum wage of $11.10. As for cost of living, Aspen is 2% higher than Summit County. Looking specifically at housing, the cost in Aspen is 6% higher than Summit County.

But the minimum pay doesn’t always reflect cost of living. All of Colorado’s Vail-owned resorts have the same starting pay, putting Vail and Beaver Creek employees at the same rate as those at Breckenridge and Keystone despite a cost of living in Vail that is 6% higher than it is in Summit County. 

Employee housing, which all of the mentioned ski resorts provide in some form, is often what makes an entry-level ski resort employee salary liveable. Monthly rent can be as low as $337, which is the standard rent at Copper’s main employee housing facility, the Edge

While an uptick in Aspen wages could affect Summit County, the four Summit ski resorts are more dictated by wage changes at Vail Resorts.

As we inch closer to ski season, Summit County resorts turn their attention to employee housing, with new affordable housing projects underway at Keystone, which will be made available to employees across the county, and Copper Mountain.

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