SAM Magazine—Aspen, Colo., Sept. 15, 2021—Aspen Skiing Company (SkiCo) will require all active employees to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 by Nov. 15. The new policy is unrelated to President Joe Biden’s announcement less than a week ago that he plans to instruct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require that all employers with more than 100 workers mandate either vaccinations or weekly Covid-19 testing for their workforce.
“We couldn't have pulled it together that quickly. It was something we were working on and discussing and debating for a while now, and the timing is coincidental with the announcement out of Washington,” SkiCo vice president of communications Jeff Hanle told the Aspen Times. “We already picked a date to disclose this and notify our employees and to move forward with it, and then the Biden announcement came.”
The policy says, “Exemptions will only be granted for medical reasons pursuant to the Americans with Disability Act and religious reasons pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”
SkiCo joins Mt. Bohemia, Mich., and Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, Nev., on the list of mountain resorts that will require staff to be fully vaccinated ahead of this winter. That list may grow exponentially once the details of President Biden’s policy are released.
In a notification to its membership, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) advised ski areas that may be impacted to begin planning how they’ll adhere to the requirement. “NSAA recommends that ski areas with over 100 employees prepare for what it will take to require vaccinations for all of your staff members who do not have valid exemptions. Starting the discussion now will give you a jumpstart and NSAA is here to help with any questions you may have,” the notice said.
According to the Aspen Times report, SkiCo has had little pushback about the requirement from prospective staff members. Those who do push back are encouraged to find work elsewhere. With another Covid winter looming, prioritizing the health and safety of staff and guests once again takes center stage, along with the ability to remain open for the entire season.
Hanle said everything is on the table in order to make that happen, including requiring proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test from lodging guests, but no decisions have been made as of yet.
“The discussions we are having are internal: they’re with our ownership group, they’re within the industry to see what other people are thinking, what are the best practices,” he said. “We’re not at any point of making any decisions, both internally and with our ownership and within the industry. But there’s certainly discussions around every aspect of our business to say how do we do what’s best for our community, our employees—and our business, frankly.”