Aspen’s Tenants for Turns participation up for second year running
The Aspen Times
It takes a lot of employees to keep a ski resort running, let alone four in the same valley. From instructors to guest services professionals to lift operators, each Aspen Skiing Co. employee needs a place to live. Skico officials were forced to get creative to combat the employee housing shortage, and so the Tenants for Turns program was born.
The program debuted last year, where an estimated 40 employees were able to find housing. This year, numbers so far are trending upwards, with 61 total rentals — 29 of which have been rented out. Officials estimate that up to 100 beds will become available.
What’s in it for the landlords who rent out their extra bedroom, in-law unit or guest house? Incentives include a complimentary Premier Pass, 10 single-day lift ticket vouchers, or a $1,200 gift certificate valid for any Aspen Snowmass product.
Housing is a huge deterrent for a lot of prospective Skico employees. Jonathan Ballou, vice president of mountain sales and schools, estimated they lose up to 15% of potential employees due to lack of housing. It is also plays a large part in why employees don’t return after one season.
“Our departments have close to an 80% return rate,” he said. “There’s two bulk reasons (employees don’t return). One is a life change. The other largest reason is ‘I can’t get my housing.’”
Sarah Henrikson, who is renting out her extra bedroom to a Skico employee for the second year, said it was a no brainer when the opportunity arose.
“I think everyone wins. Someone gets a place to stay, usually just short term, and then the homeowner gets to choose what perk they want,” she said.
She has been a ski instructor at Aspen Highlands for over 20 years and understands how difficult it can be to find housing in the valley.
“I thought I’d help out a fellow ski instructor,” she said. “I knew this would be a pretty legit program, and it benefits me, and I hope it benefits someone else.”
Henrikson chose the gift certificate as her perk and can now enjoy a free meal after a long day of instructing or replace an old pair of goggles.
“It’s a big perk,” she said.
Ieva Urbon-Purkene, a Skico ski instructor from Lithuania, took advantage of the Tenants for Turns program when she moved to Aspen last year. She heard about the program from her colleagues and said going through it was a good way to avoid being scammed — something that nearly happened to her when she first moved.
“I think to have that proper platform where you can see everything with the right information, I think it’s a really good way to (find housing),” she said.
She added that, as a newcomer to the Valley, it is easy to be scammed because you don’t know how things work around here. After spending two years here, she knows to look out for people who are just trying to scam.
She was lucky enough to find housing outside of the Tenants for Turns program this year, but said she still checks the website to see if there is anything available for her colleagues in need of housing.
Ballou said the program was very successful for his department last year and continues to trend that way this year. He estimated they had over 30 employees find housing through the program last year, and, so far this year, they are already at 30 and expect to see more.
Although his department is over 1,800 employees, he said “a bed is a bed. Every bed we offer is another employee we either retain or acquire.
“Housing is too big of a problem for any single program to solve. But, 30 beds is 30 beds. That’s 30 people who couldn’t live here otherwise. So, to me, that’s very impactful because it’s 30 humans who get to do what they want to do, which is be here,” he said.
The program will stop accepting applications after Jan. 1, 2023, but there is still plenty of time for community members to offer up a bed in exchange for a high-value reward.
“(Tenants for Turns) is a connection to the community,” Ballou said, “and something that this community is really good at, historically, is sharing why we love to be here. And, if we can inspire people and help people to be here and the next generation of people to make a home out of here, we’re creating sustainability in the community and sustainability of our values in this community.”
To reach Audrey Ryan, email her at email@example.com.
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