The U.S. ski industry lost an estimated $2 billion last winter, according to the National Ski Areas Association. Visits to the mountains dropped some 14 percent, and the average open days on the mountains dropped from 121 to just 99. That means this season is mission-critical for many ski resorts. The only problem? It looks like there may not be as many people to staff the mountains as we need.
"It is the issue. It's pretty much all we talk about," Mike Solimano, president of Killington and Pico ski resorts, told Vermont Public Radio (VPR). "It's depressing. You go to job fairs in town, and two or three people show up."
According to Solimano, Killington employs about 500 people during the summer. However, in the winter, that number jumps to about 2,000. But, because of the worker shortage, he expects to fall short of that number by 20 to 30 percent.
If there are so many jobs, and so many people looking for one, how can this be happening? The biggest issue: There's simply no affordable housing to be had in most popular mountain communities.
"Condos that were selling for $300,000 two years ago are going for $700,000. That kind of appreciation is just phenomenal," April Norton, Teton County's housing director, told Ski Magazine. According to Norton, rent rates went up 10 percent last year too. "It's challenging to work with families here who have good jobs and have saved up money over the years, only to be outbid by cash buyers from outside the valley, sight unseen."
Now, here's the good news: Some mountain resorts are fighting back by increasing their employee housing and offering higher pay than ever before.
To start, Vail Resorts, the largest ski area operator in North America, increased its starting wage to $15 an hour at many of their mountains, and Mount Snow in Vermont bumped its starting wage by 28 percent. And, as Adrienne Saia Isaac, spokesperson for the National Ski Areas Association in Colorado, told VPR, mountains are also offering everything from signing bonuses to meal perks, flex hours, and discounted child care. At Jay Peak, seasonal employees will also be eligible for paid time off and 401K benefits.
Ready to hit the mountains and earn some cash this winter? Check out your dream resort's employment page, sites like Cool Works, or places like Vail Resort Careers, which currently has hundreds of openings all over the nation ranging from ski and snowboard instruction and mountain operations to guest services. Then, head to the mountains, work a little, play a lot, and hope for snow.