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Fitness required for ski employees

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ASPEN, Colo. – Some Aspen Skiing Co. workers are hitting the weights and sharpening agility skills to get ready for new annual fitness tests ahead of ski season.

About 1,500 ski instructors, lift operators and ski patrollers will be required to take fitness tests starting Oct. 1. Previously, fitness tests were administrated only to new employees, not returning employees.

It’s part of a broader wellness initiative to encourage health and fitness and to reduce workplace injuries, said Jim Laing, Skico vice president of human resources and retail operations.

The fitness test has eight components, which change slightly depending on department. Ski patrollers, for example, have a repetitive weight lifting drill.

“I think there’s a full range of perceptions over this,” Laing said of the fitness test.

The reaction probably follows a classic bell curve, with most employees in the middle. They don’t mind taking the test and will likely pass with varying degrees of preparation, he said. A small number of employees won’t give the test a second thought and will be able to pass it easily just by following their usual fitness and outdoor regimens, he said. And an equally small number objects to the test as irrelevant to their job, according to Laing.

The fitness test represents a change, he said, and some people don’t like change.

Corporate brass and administrative workers who spend more time behind a desk than on the slopes technically don’t have to take the test. However, many of those employees help load lifts during busy times of the season, so they will also be required to prove their fitness, Laing said.

Probably the most rigorous component will be repeatedly stepping up onto an elevated platform for five minutes, Laing said. Other components include 15 push-ups, standard or from knees, in one minute; hopping sideways; and balancing on one foot on a foam pad.

The “Work Ready” program has been thoroughly tried and tested and has been put into use by all sorts of employers, Laing said.

Vail Resorts follows a similar program.

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