Image: Skiers ride the chair lift at Park City Resort
Lucas Jackson  /  Reuters file
Skiers ride the chair lift at Park City Resort in Park City, Utah, on Jan. 17. Instead of cutting out skiing during this recession, many winter sports enthusiasts are embracing part-time jobs at resorts so they can still hit the slopes.
updated 2/16/2009 2:56:25 PM ET 2009-02-16T19:56:25

Business was good when Rick Daniluk, a self-employed Internet technology consultant, bought a house in Colorado ski country last summer.

Then the economy tanked and his clients' budgets shriveled. Daniluk, of suburban Aurora, faced a 75 percent drop in income this year.

So he became a part-time ski instructor. Thursdays to Mondays, Daniluk works at Winter Park Resort, near his mountain home in Tabernash. Home life in Aurora and his IT duties are squeezed in the rest of the week.

"I realized I was not going to be able to afford to spend much time skiing unless I do something to make it affordable," said Daniluk, an avid skier at 56. "It's really hard to call it a job when you're having that much fun."

It's unclear how many resort jobs have been snapped up by skilled workers looking to supplement their existing jobs. But Winter Park human resources director Karen Gadberry said her department has noticed a jump in interest in middle management jobs and jobs in sales, marketing, finance, accounting and IT. In some job categories, the number of applicants per posting doubled, she said.

Numbers of applications for skilled and service jobs at Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. tripled this season to about 30 to 40 per posting, said Trish Sullivan, vice president of human resources.

"It's the economy. There are fewer jobs out there," said Sullivan. "In our ski school, former instructors who moved into selling real estate or went into the mortgage industry came back to earn more money."

Emptier slopes, less crowded classes
In December, Vail Resorts Inc. said it was laying off about 50 workers and eliminating nearly 100 vacant posts due to a drop in advance bookings. Aspen Skiing Co. said it planned to leave about a dozen mostly salaried positions open.

Intrawest, which owns or operates Copper Mountain, Steamboat and Winter Park, also had layoffs this season. Steamboat trimmed 16 positions from its year-round staff, and three positions were affected at Winter Park, executives said.

Don Nieters, a Winter Park private lesson instructor, said the economy has meant emptier slopes and less crowded ski classes.

"I feel like I'm a part-time employee. There isn't much work," said Nieters, 41. "I go into work and there isn't any, so I go skiing."

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Nieters said he'd work 20 days straight last season to teach students who specifically requested him for lessons. He guessed his schedule has dropped about 25 percent this year.

While Denver customers seem to be visiting more often, he's hearing less from loyal clients for whom Winter Park was a destination vacation, Nieters said.

"A lot have lost their jobs. They've got problems with their homes," he said.

Finding ways to keep skiing
At Winter Park, private lessons start at $150 for 90 minutes and run up to $529 for a full-day, private group lesson.

"It's nice that the gas is lower so people can afford to get out here a little more, but not when they lose their homes or their health insurance or their jobs," Nieters said.

Daniluk expects his resort job will make up about a third of the drop in IT business he expects, so he and his wife are cutting expenses. They haven't cut skiing, though. His work at Winter Park gives the couple passes to ski free this season at Winter Park and other resorts.

"It just seemed to work out," Daniluk said of his second job. "It helped supplement the income, cut expenses and let us do what we like doing."

Spring may not be the end of Daniluk's days of working on the mountain.

"At this point I'm liking it so much, I'm looking to get deeper and deeper, if you will," he said. "It could turn into that bit of a career change as I get up there in the years."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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