Breckenridge and Keystone ski resorts replace guest service volunteers with paid staff
Former volunteers confused about the reason for the change
*Editor’s note: This story’s photo caption has been updated to correctly identify the subject of the photo as an employee.
Ski areas in Summit County use volunteers to help guests find their way around the mountain. This year, Breckenridge Ski Resort and Keystone Resort discontinued their volunteer program and have replaced the volunteers with paid positions, to some former volunteers’ disappointment.
A program that uses volunteers to help visiting skiers and snowboarders wayfind is commonplace in the ski industry, with the two other ski areas in Summit County, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Copper Mountain Resort, running similar programs.
A-Basin spokesperson Katherine Fuller wrote in an email that the ski area’s guest services volunteer program was paused last season for COVID-19-related reasons, but the program is being resumed in December and all of the volunteer spots are already filled. Fuller noted that the ski area has a group of loyal volunteers that return annually, which seems to be the trend among ski areas with similar programs.
Copper spokesperson Taylor Prather wrote in an email that the resort’s ambassador program — volunteers helping with guest services — has about 145 volunteers this season.
Visitors to Breckenridge and Keystone likely won’t notice the change from volunteers to paid employees helping them find their way, as spokesperson Sara Lococo said the paid employees serve the same function.
“The same role and function of the volunteer guest services program still exists at our resorts, but the positions are paid guest service attendants this year,” Lococo wrote in an email. “Guests will still find resort guest services (in the same, familiar red uniform with the white “i” on the back) in our resort base areas to assist with resort information and wayfinding.”
Wages have been pointed to as one factor in Summit County’s struggle to staff businesses over the past few months, so paying people to help with guest service needs may be a positive move for the community.
However, former volunteers reported that the group was mainly retired folks who volunteered for the social, fun aspect — and a ski pass — more than anything.
Former Breckenridge volunteer John Peterson explained that about 120 volunteers were typically part of the program and would commit to working 20 days per season.
Volunteers would spend the first hour or two of the day at one of the base areas in front of a map directing people, Peterson said. Then they might go to a map higher up on the mountain to direct people or ski around helping people with other needs. In exchange, they would receive a season pass.
Last season, there were only around 30 volunteers participating due to COVID-19 concerns, Peterson said. Volunteers were eager to return in full force this season.
“We got a notice this year that due to ski patrol not having time, so on, that they’ve canceled the program,” Peterson said.
Peterson explained that each year, there was a one-day training the ski patrol conducted for volunteers that included first aid and CPR. He said he was confused why the training was considered too time consuming to continue the program since training was only conducted for one day, and he felt the program was valuable.
“You’d have an hour shift at a map, and you’d be talking constantly to people for that hour — directions of where to go, what’s good snow, where to ski on the mountain and those types of things,” Peterson explained.
Another former Breckenridge volunteer Susan Maples said, as a retiree, she liked participating because it helped her stay in touch with people.
“I really felt like we were a valuable service to the guests who were not familiar with the mountain,” Maples said. “It was kind of a win-win. I think probably 99% of the people who volunteered were retired people who were up here, and I felt like it was a plus for them. It gets us out of the house, and I feel like it was a service to the guests.”
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