Recession makes itself felt in Park City | ParkRecord.com

Recession makes itself felt in Park City

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

Unemployment claims in Summit County were up 150 percent in December from the previous year.

Year-end totals put 2008 about 600 claims higher than 2007, but the alarming fact is that half that difference came just from the fourth quarter.

Park City workers are beginning to feel the impact of the recession. But some say the situation might have been different were there more snow.

Chef Mark LaPointe said there were a couple of reasons he lost his job in a local restaurant a few weeks ago, but he believes he’d still be working if there were more skiers in town.

LaPointe said he doesn’t believe in filing for unemployment benefits. There’s no telling how many more people like him lost their jobs in 2008 in addition to the 1,657 that registered with the Utah Department of Workforce Services.

But just this week some workers at Park City Mountain Resort joined one of those two groups.

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Former resort spokesperson Paula Fable Altschuler wrote on her blog, http://www.jewtah.com , that she watched the inauguration of the new president right after drying her tears after learning the news that morning.

"There are lay-offs in every industry, and skiing is not immune," said director of marketing and communication Krista Parry. "We’re not on par with where we were, our numbers are down, so we have to do budget cuts."

The nature of the current recession is such that it’s difficult to look back at a similar situation in history for strategies that worked then. She said the resort has to be conservative and focus on where it’s at now, since changes in the economy aren’t expected soon.

Todd Burnette, vice president for marketing at The Canyons said his company has been avoiding lay-offs but have scaled down hours for many employees.

He said the resort has been constantly evaluating its expenditures and making sure it has appropriate levels of staff. Although they’ve avoided wide-spread lay-offs, he admitted that it was difficult for some people to go from 40 hours a week to only 20.

Bob Wheaton, general manager of Deer Valley resort, said in a telephone message that the resort always tries to run as efficiently as possible and hasn’t yet taken any extra measures in that regard because of the economy.

LaPointe said he’s dedicated to doing whatever it takes to get back to work. If he can’t find a cooking job, he said he has experience in construction he’ll fall back on.

"If I’ve got to work at McDonald’s for the time being, I’ll do it," he said.

Altschuler said she feels blessed because this bad news could not have come at a more opportune time. She’d already begun applying to return to school for a master’s degree when she was told.

"That’s what I wanted for me, this just sped up the timing," she said.

While she had wanted to continue working until then, she said she’s taking advantage of the opportunity to play on the slopes and pursue a long-time dream: maintain a blog.

"I really enjoy writing. Now I get my creative outlet," she said.

Understanding it was a budget issue and nothing personal, Altschuler said she doesn’t feel angry, but admitted that it came as an incredible surprise in the middle of the season.

Parry admitted that cutting people at this time straps the existing staff, but said if budget cuts were prolonged, no money would be saved.

Altschuler said she’s focusing on the silver lining.

"If there’s something you want to go after, do it. Sometimes the push we need is to lose our job. I think you can always find the positives in these things. Keep making good choices and it will work out," she said.

Her blog will be about everyday life and her take on Park City. She said she hopes it will be captivating, funny and creative.

Claims filed in the fourth quarter:

Oct. 2007: 114

Oct. 2008: 199

Nov. 2007: 88

Nov. 2008: 191

Dec. 2007: 87

Dec. 2008: 216

2007 year-end total: 1,056

2008 year-end total: 1,657

Source: Curt Stewart, spokesman for the Utah Department of Workforce Services