BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Labor shortage impacts hospitality and ski industry, could offer new careers

Oct 28, 2021, 7:05 PM
labor shortage ski industry...
FILE --Skiers and snowboarders enjoy the freshly fallen snow at Brighton Ski Resort, Utah, Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. A Snow maker adds to the snow depth. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The ongoing labor shortage is now affecting the ski industry as well as resorts, hotels, and restaurants. And some worry the lack of workers will have a detrimental impact on tourism this winter. 

Hotels scrambling for employees

The Utah Hotel and Lodging Association represents the hotel industry from Logan to St. George in government matters. It also has an ear to the ground on current trends and problems within the local hospitality industry. Its goal is to be the eyes and ears for hotel and motel operations while they focus on temporarily housing people from all over the world. 

“If we don’t have the staffing that we need to accommodate these people, everything else falls to the wayside,” said Executive Director Jordan Garn about the importance of tourism to the Utah economy.

Read more:  Utah labor shortage affects mostly lower-skilled workers

Garn said some hotels have told him they are operating at limited capacity due to the lack of employees. This troubles him and the partners he represents. 

“We were hit tremendously hard because of the pandemic. And now that we’re seeing a rebound … both business and leisure travel on the uptick, it’s frustrating that some hotels are having to keep at least some of their doors closed because they don’t have enough staff to keep up on the demand,” he explains. 

Read more: Utah labor shortage: Why employees are quitting and where they’re going

Difficulties in hiring international employees is also a big worry, according to Garn. He said travel restrictions and trouble obtaining J-1 Visas (non-immigrant visas) present other challenges on top of having more jobs than local workers. 

“We’d love to see the availability of J-1 Visa workers increase in the state of Utah. Those serve a specific need where we are falling woefully short in the market. To the extent that those can be increased, the hotel industry as a whole would be much better off,” said Garn. 

Labor shortage leaves ski industry understaffed

Employment pages on the websites of Utah’s world-class ski resorts show dozens upon dozens of job openings. Everything from ski lift operators to kitchen staff and people to man the ticket office is needed right now. 

A spokesperson for Solitude Mountain Resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon said they have enough workers to successfully open for the winter on November 19. That said, the resort is currently hiring for roughly 50 open positions. Up the Big Cottonwood Canyon road, Brighton Ski Resort is looking to hire about 25 new employees. Open jobs include parking lot attendant, ski instructor, and line cook. 

Snowbird Resort told Deseret News it is not fully staffed at present but doesn’t need to be in order to open for the season. Furthermore, the resort said it has noticed a decline in applicants this year compared to previous years. Snowbird’s careers page has about 60 job openings. 

Time for a career change? 

While short-staffed ski lodges, restaurants, and motels might be tough on the tourism industry this year, it might not be a bad time to be looking for work. 

Ski Utah spokesperson Alison Palmintere says there is a silver lining to all of this. 

“I think this is, honestly, such a great opportunity for anybody who’s looking for a career change to get into the ski industry,” she said. 

In addition to working in a field primarily associated with enjoyment, she says the industry is a great way to leave the desk job and get a dream job. 

“Such a fun industry, highly recommend it,” Palmintere said. 

Nearly all resorts are offering bonuses and incentives to new workers, according to Palmintere. Some, including Solitude, are offering referral bonuses for current employees. 

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Labor shortage impacts hospitality and ski industry, could offer new careers