AP

Snow jobs: In tight labor market, ski areas up the ante

Oct 26, 2019, 9:43 AM
In this Oct. 23, 2019, photo, a sculpture of a skier and slopes, rear, await the ski season at Suga...
In this Oct. 23, 2019, photo, a sculpture of a skier and slopes, rear, await the ski season at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vt. In the tight labor market, ski areas are having a tough time hiring seasonal workers so they're upping the ante by boosting wages, offering more worker housing and other incentives. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)
(AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

WARREN, Vt. (AP) — It used to be that a free ski pass was enough to lure workers to seasonal jobs at mountain resorts. No longer.

In the current tight labor market, ski areas across the country are having a tough time filling jobs, so they’re upping the ante by boosting wages, providing more housing and offering other perks to fill those jobs before the snow flies.

New Hampshire’s Wildcat is offering a $1,000 bonus for new snowmakers to come on board, and Sunday River in Maine last year increased its hourly wage from $13 to $20 for that job. Utah’s Snowbird is expanding its pool van service to get employees to the mountain, and Sugarbush in Vermont, which has among the lowest unemployment rates in the country, is hiring more foreign college students.

“It’s an enormous challenge for us,” Dave Byrd of the National Ski Areas Association said of the labor issue.

Because ski resorts are by their nature in mountainous areas, they are often far from cities from which to draw workers. And with the national unemployment rate recently hitting the lowest level in 50 years, potential workers would rather have full-time jobs with benefits, said Byrd, director of risk and regulatory affairs for the Colorado-based association.

“We don’t have a lot of ski areas that are in close proximity to major metropolitan areas. And even when we do, like the ski areas in Salt Lake … they’re still struggling to find people,” he said.

The country’s roughly 460 ski resorts hire about 100,000 seasonal workers each fall, he said. Many rely on foreign guest workers for 5% to 10% of their labor, he said.

“We are not able to fill 100% of the jobs we have available,” he said, adding that the J-1 visa program is critical for the ski industry.

In this Oct. 23, 2019, photo, a posters advertising ski season jobs and a job fair are displayed on a bulletin board a at Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vt. In the tight labor market, ski areas are having a tough time hiring seasonal workers so they’re upping the ante by boosting wages, offering more worker housing and other incentives. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke)

The program is intended to give foreign workers who can be scholars, teachers, camp counselors and au pairs training and experience in those fields in the United States. The ski industry uses about 8,000 J-1 visas, Byrd said.

This year, Vermont’s Sugarbush is bringing on more than 100 foreign college students through the program because of the difficulty in filling jobs. A few years ago, it had no one on J-1 visas, spokesman John Bleh said by email. Sugarbush has also been increasing its employee housing over the past several years, according to Bleh.

Housing can be scarce, expensive or both in the remote mountainous areas or resort towns, and online vacation rental services have added pressure to the market by gobbling up a chunk of the available property, Byrd said.

The housing crunch makes it difficult to be ski bum nowadays.

“If you wanted to be ski bum and you want to take a gap year after you graduate college before you go on to getting a real job, that notion of the ski bum in the 1980s and 1990s, those are hard to find, those people, because housing is so enormously challenging for us in the industry,” Bryd said.

And the free mountain pass that comes with the job is no longer enough of an incentive in the era of competitive pass programs that allow skiers and snowboarders to get a bargain without working at the resort, he said.

On top of that, potential workers can now be choosy and opt for a year-round job with benefits.

“When Home Depot and Target are paying $13 an hour, and the ski area 20 minutes out of town — they’ve got to match that,”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories

AP

a man is pictured playing call of duty...
The Associated Press

FTC sues to block Microsoft-Activision Blizzard $69B merger

The FTC’s complaint points to Microsoft’s previous game acquisitions where Microsoft made some game titles exclusive despite assuring it wouldn't.
1 day ago
Respect for Marriage Act...
MARY CLARE JALONICK Associated Press

Bill protecting same-sex, interracial unions passes House

President Joe Biden is expected to promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, a relief for many.
1 day ago
a small boy recieves a COVID-19 vaccine in China...
JOE McDONALD Associated Press

China eases anti-COVID measures following protests

Experts warn, however, that restrictions can’t be lifted completely until at least mid-2023 because millions of elderly people still must be vaccinated.
2 days ago
A memorial is pictured near the scene of the Colorado shooting at Club Q...
COLLEEN SLEVIN Associated Press

Colorado gay club shooting suspect charged with hate crimes

Investigators say Anderson Lee Aldrich entered Club Q, a sanctuary for the LGBTQ community in this mostly conservative city, just before midnight on Nov. 19.
3 days ago
DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: A giant flag of IR Iran on the pitch prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2...
ALI ABDUL-HASSAN and ABBY SEWELL Associated Press

US-Iran match reflects a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

The U.S. team’s must-win World Cup match against Iran will be closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
10 days ago
Irene Cara in 'Fame' (Photo courtesy of Mgm/Kobal, Shutterstock)...
MARK KENNEDY, AP Entertainment Writer

‘Fame’ and ‘Flashdance’ singer-actor Irene Cara dies at 63

singer-actress Irene Cara, who starred and sang the title cut from the 1980 hit movie “Fame” and then belted out the era-defining hit “Flashdance ... What a Feeling” from 1983's “Flashdance,” has died. She was 63.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Snow jobs: In tight labor market, ski areas up the ante