People pass through the Silver Queen Gondola turnstiles on Saturday while an attendant (right) looks on. Economic headwinds and uncertainty about business will lead Aspen Skiing Co. to eliminate about 50 positions, its spokesman has confirmed.

An Aspen Skiing Co. spokesman on Saturday confirmed some details of an internal memo about personnel layoffs that President and CEO Mike Kaplan shared with employees last week, and which were published yesterday in The Aspen Times.

Jeff Hanle, vice president of communications, confirmed that about 50 positions will be eliminated due to the challenging business landscape the company is facing.

“With the uncertainty around business levels this year and the economic headwinds we are all facing it is with deep sadness that we have decided to eliminate a number of positions and lay off a number of employees,” Hanle said in a prepared statement. “This is the first time in nearly 20 years that we have taken such action.”

Hanle declined to provide the internal communication between Kaplan and SkiCo employees.

His statement continued: “This will impact nearly 50 positions across the company including some openings that are currently not filled, some early retirements and nine individuals whose positions were eliminated.

Aspen Skiing Co., the largest employer in Pitkin County, has a workforce of about 4,000 in the winter and 800 people in the summer.

Kaplan was not available to comment for this story. But last week, he praised his employees, especially those on the front line this summer.

“They truly are the glue that holds our company and our community together,” Kaplan said.

The statement about layoffs provided Saturday by Hanle continued:

“While we took these actions out of fiscal responsibility to the company and the rest of our employees, this does not diminish the severity of impacts on the affected individuals. We are working with all involved to support them during this transition.”

Hanle declined to provide details about when the job changes would become effective, information about severance or the nature of the positions impacted.

“Any other details are confidential, internal personnel matters,” he said. The impacts of COVID-19 are still being felt in the local economy, despite some upward indicators, including that a six-month low on unemployment claims in Pitkin County, and statewide, was recently hit. Unemployment for the month of July in the county, 9.4%, while an improvement over double-digit unemployment figures in May, was still up substantially from the 2.3% unemployment rate in July 2019.

“Colorado and its mountain communities have seen an upward trend in employment but there is still a lot of ground to make up,” Joe Winter, chief economist for Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, told the Aspen Daily News last week.

Madeleine Osberger is interim editor of the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99