Resort facilities

Aspen Skiing Co. Drops Vaccine Requirement for Indoor Facility Workers and Guests

Aspen Skiing Company lift operator Luis Ramirez of Mexico helps people board the cabins of the Silver Queen Gondola at the base of Aspen Mountain on Monday, March 14, 2022. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Aspen Skiing Co. on Friday relaxed COVID-19 policies for workers and customers in accordance with Pitkin County health guidelines and declining statewide and nationwide case counts.

Workers will no longer be required to be vaccinated. Customers will not have to show proof of vaccination to enter Skico accommodation properties, sit-down restaurants or snowcats used for powder excursions.

“With declining infection rates and high vaccination rates in our community, we are removing all vaccination requirements for customers and employees,” Skico announced on its website. “We are grateful for everyone’s cooperation throughout the season and for the rise of the Omicron variant. It has allowed us to open up and stay open.

COVID vaccines will still be recommended but will no longer be required of Skico employees. Additionally, Skico will welcome back employees who quit this season rather than take the hit, according to a bulletin released Thursday. Employees wishing to return must reapply for vacancies for which they are qualified.

Returning employees will get their lost employment year credit back as long as they return before a year’s absence, the bulletin said.

About 10 employees quit rather than get vaccinated, according to the human resources department, Skico vice president of communications Jeff Hanle said. It’s unclear how many prospects declined to apply because of the tenure.

Hanle said it was “impossible” for the company to yet assess whether former employees would be interested in returning this season with the days shrinking.

“People probably had to leave and find jobs,” he said.

However, there are incentives to return. Skico increased the general wage by $3 an hour last month for those paid by the hour and the equivalent for employees. The Skico newsletter says returning employees may be eligible to re-enroll in Skico’s insurance plan rather than waiting 60 days for it to take effect.

Employees with exemptions to get vaccinated this season were required to undergo weekly testing. This test was eliminated on Friday.

Skico is the largest private sector employer in the Roaring Fork Valley, so its policies are influential. Skico employs approximately 4,000 full-time and part-time workers at the height of winter. The company announced Sept. 14 that vaccinations would be mandatory for employees for the 2021-22 season.

Skico maintains policies in place for sick employees. A vaccinated and boosted person must self-isolate for five days if they test positive for COVID. “You can return without a test as long as your symptoms have improved and you don’t have a fever,” the bulletin said.

A vaccinated but unboosted employee must self-isolate for five days and can return after having a negative rapid COVID test or 10 days if they have no symptoms but do not pass a test.

Unvaccinated employees who contract COVID must self-isolate for 10 days and show no symptoms or fever.

“We will continue to follow the advice of our local county health boards,” Skico advised Thursday in the newsletter. “If COVID restrictions were to return, we would consider these policies again, but it’s the right decision now for where we are today.”