Low unemployment makes it harder for ski resorts to attract seasonal staff

Posted at 10:46 AM, Oct 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-29 12:46:38-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- It’s almost time for ski resorts around the country to open for the season. However, with the good economy and low unemployment rates, many resorts are struggling to find seasonal workers.

Here in Utah, we have many resorts preparing for the upcoming season, including Snowbird.

“We’re taking a look at the cold temps, we’ve got our snow-making guns in position, and we are going to see what the weather does and see when we can fire those up,” said Brian Brown, Snowbird Communications Manager.

Brown said Snowbird is lucky to have the employee base that they do.

“Snowbird typically has a pretty loyal seasonal following with employees, so a lot of the more popular outdoor jobs are the ones that people apply for first and then there are other great jobs that are inside if, you know, being out in the cold and snow isn’t your thing," Brown said. "A lot of retail and restaurant job opportunities, so it’s certainly a challenge, but we’re pretty lucky that we attract the employees that we do."

However, finding enough staff isn’t always easy for every resort.

Dave Byrd with the National Ski Areas Association said this year has been hard for resorts to find seasonal help.

Many of the struggling resorts are in rural areas, like Telluride, Jackson Hole, or those on the east coast. Part of the problem is the low unemployment rate, which allows people looking for work a lot of options. A lack of affordable housing in rural areas is also a problem.

Luckily here in Utah, Salt Lake City is so close to many of the resorts that finding employees isn’t as difficult.

“A lot of the people who work here seasonally, this isn’t their primary source of income, so they have other trades," Brown said. "They’re river guys, they have other outdoor jobs throughout the summer, so it works out pretty well that right when those summer jobs end we start staffing up for our winters."

Many of the resorts around the county offer incentives to get people to work for them. This year they are having to up the ante to make it worth it for people to drive all the way out to rural area resorts to get to work.

Snowbird also offers incentives to employees, and this year they are adding more van pools to help employees commute to work.

Brown said while they don’t struggle as much as some of the other resorts around the country, it can still be difficult to staff all the open positions. Right now, they are still hiring for the upcoming season.

They hope to be fully staffed by opening day on November 29th.