Mountain News: Vail seeking Puerto Rican bus drivers 

VAIL, Colo. – For well more than a decade, Vail town officials have filled the ranks of bus drivers with recruits from Australia. But it’s getting harder to recruit Australians, and so Vail is now planning recruitment in Puerto Rico — a place where the Aspen Skiing Co. also went looking.

Puerto Rico has the advantage of being a territory of the United States, so no H2B visas are necessary. Such visas are now in short supply.

But although Aspen Skiing got 12 employees for the winter, spokesman Jeff Hanle says it wasn’t a panacea. “It wasn’t a gold mine by any means,” he told the Vail Daily.

Some of the Puerto Ricans apparently didn’t like Aspen’s winter, and unlike employees hired under the H2B visa program, they were free just to leave.

One of the Australians who has driven buses in Vail for several years, Graeme Rowe, said Whistler and other resorts are providing more competition, and the faltering U.S. dollar has made overseas employment less attractive to Australians. As well, the mandatory interviews and other hurdles now required by the Department of Homeland Security make U.S. employment less attractive.

 

Vail, Aspen real estate flattens

ASPEN, Colo. – Real estate sales that began slowing mid-way through last year have fallen hard in several of the major resort markets.

The Aspen Times reports that the dollar volume of real-estate sales in Pitkin County plummeted 42 per cent during the first two months of this year, as compared to last year. Just $258 million passed hands.

In Vail-dominated Eagle County, the story was much the same. There, looking only at January, the Vail Daily found the lowest sales volume in four years. The newspaper, however, did not do a comparison with last year.

Real-estate agents contacted by The Aspen Times acknowledged the down-turn, but warned against making too much of it. “You have brokers saying the market is in the tank, the prices are declining,” said Mike Russo, managing partner of Aspen Land and Homes Sotheby’s International Reality. In fact, he said, the sales volume — if down significantly from last year — is still better than three of the previous five years.

“It’s not the great cause for alarm that everybody thinks,” he said.

But, if not declining in value, real estate isn’t likely to appreciate at the 20 to 30 per cent annual clip of recent years, said Chuck Frias, managing partner with Frias Properties. Like Russo, however, he sees no particular reason for alarm.

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