Local ski areas secure workforce housing to help with staffing ahead of winter

Both Copper Mountain and Loveland Ski Area are opening new developments for their staff this season

The Tenderfoot apartments, an employee housing developments run by Vail Resorts, is pictured Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021.
Sawyer D’Argonne/Summit Daily News

It seems that there are no businesses immune to Summit County’s labor challenges: Restaurants have been forced to close early because of limited staff, Summit Stage is cutting back its service as it struggles to staff up and some entities are prioritizing which routes will get plowed first with drivers hard to come by.

As the rest of the county struggles to maintain a large enough workforce to keep the community running, all eyes are on how the local ski areas are planning to tackle labor challenges and housing for their seasonal staff.

Some, like Loveland Ski Area and Copper Mountain Resort, are working on securing additional units for their staff in advance of the season. Loveland’s Human Resources Director Karen Cameron said this year the resort has collaborated with a couple of real estate agents to iron out details on a master lease to house a portion of its workforce.

“Loveland has not really provided any employee housing and really not much help in the past,” Cameron said. “We embarked on a major project to identify what we could do in the housing space.”

The result was master leasing the former Bearadise Motel in Idaho Springs. Cameron said real estate agents Pam Waltz and Christy Schoonover, both of whom are based in Clear Creek County, purchased the motel and remodeled it for employee housing. Dubbed Lift Landing, the motel will house about 30 of the resort’s employees. Cameron said the resort typically hires 575 to 600 positions each winter.

Though small, Cameron said this development will help the resort secure hard-to-fill positions.

“We have prioritized departments, looking at departments we’ve historically had challenges filling or they are critical departments,” Cameron said. “Those employees have to be working in one of those departments, they have to be full time and they have to be new to the area. If someone has already lived in Clear Creek County, they would not be eligible for that housing.”

Cameron said these departments include lift operations, food and beverage services and rentals. Each room has two to three beds, and employees will pay $700 per month for rent. Other amenities include a microwave, refrigerator, wifi, cable and a clubhouse with a communal kitchen.

Like Loveland, Copper Mountain is in the process of securing more housing for its workforce. Taylor Prather, communications manager for the resort, said housing is divided up between departments. Though she declined to share specific details about how much housing each department is allocated, she did note that the resort’s lift operations, food and beverage department and resort services department have the largest shares because they have the most employees.

Already, the resort has two different housing developments, the largest of which is called The EDGE. The EDGE has about 580 beds that are eligible for the resort’s full-time staff, according to its website. The development has an employee cafe, laundry facilities, resident programming and more.

The resort’s newest development is called Sky Chutes Landing. The first phase of the project opened up 22 units last season, and the second and final phase will open up another 22 units for this year. Prather said though it’s a small amount, she believes these units will play a critical role in mitigating the county’s housing challenges.

“Copper Mountain provides cost effective seasonal and long-term housing for approximately 45% of our total workforce, which I think is pretty substantial for being one of the larger county employers,” Prather said.

Though it’s not securing additional housing for this upcoming season, Vail Resorts has historically reserved housing for its employees. The company — which owns Keystone Resort and Breckenridge Ski Resort in Summit County — has a few developments locally, including its Tenderfoot employee housing apartments.

Company spokesperson Sara Lococo also pointed to the 2019 development of The Village at Wintergreen, which was a collaboration between Vail Resorts, Summit County and Gorman & Co. According to her email, Vail Resorts has master leased 36 units for 10 years, offering 144 beds for Vail’s employees in Summit County through the development.

“It is a model of how communities must come together with developers, landowners and private sector businesses to collectively and cooperatively address this communitywide issue,” she said.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area did not return a request for comment.

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