An Elevated Narrative for Mountain Town Economies

Sustainable career potential actually exists in the mountains. Here’s proof. 

Mountain town economies often get a bad rap. Low wages, demanding working conditions, sparse housing options, and little chance for upward mobility make even the thought of pursuing a career in the mountains challenging. This has proliferated the ‘ski bum’ narrative, which assumes that one must concede to these unfortunate circumstances in exchange for daily access to the slopes and trails. We’re here to tell you that this narrative is tiresome and there is more to discover. “It’s important to highlight the positive growth and new opportunities showing up in mountain communities to inspire and provide resources for everyone who dreams of living in the mountains,” says Aryn Schlichting, founder of Mountain Careers.

The 2021-2022 ski season brought exciting movement on this front. Two of the most distinguished mountain communities in the world are leading the way for a more sustainable future: Jackson, Wyoming, and Aspen, Colorado.

Jackson Hole Mountain Resort announced in December 2021 the increase of its minimum wage for all non-tipped positions to $18 per hour as part of an initiative supporting JHMR staff living and working in the Jackson Hole community.

“We continue to invest in our employees, specifically with increased wages and housing opportunities, because we believe that providing additional means of support is imperative to retaining the fabric of this community as a whole,” said JHMR President Mary Kate Buckley of the initiative. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort also opened the Stilson North housing development and acquired additional seasonal housing options for this winter, with future housing opportunities currently in development.

In February 2022, Aspen Skiing Company announced the increase of its minimum starting wage to $20 per hour as part of an effort to look for ways to invest in employees through workforce housing, transportation, childcare investments, and additional initiatives to address the cost of living in the greater Roaring Fork Valley community. Aspen Skiing Company President and CEO Mike Kaplan said “this is an investment in our employees, our community and our future as a business,” which highlights the strategic significance for the business overall. This is the second notable wage improvement Aspen Skiing Company has invested in over the last several months. In November 2021, the company boosted its base wage to $17 per hour. This latest increase applied to all starting employees and existing hourly employees, as well as a $3 per hour increase for all existing salaried employees (representing an increase of over $6,000 annually). These moves both signify the company’s investment for the long-term sustainability of its workforce.

Schlichting states “entry-level resort jobs are the entry point to these communities. It’s amazing to see such influential companies set a new precedent. There is no doubt this will drive further wage growth in our communities.” Initiatives like these will help make mountain town living more approachable by lowering the barriers to entry for those who want to make the move to these legendary mountain towns. 

While the frontline jobs are crucial to the function of any blossoming mountain town economy, there are also exceptional companies hiring for corporate positions in software development, engineering, marketing, technology, finance, and human resources. Check out the latest openings on the Job Board! It’s got tons of variety for career opportunities in mountain towns all over Colorado, California, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and Idaho.

Let’s rewrite the narrative about what opportunities really exist in the mountains!