Earlier this week President Trump suspended several temporary work visas programs through the end of the year. This move could dramatically affect staffing across the ski industry, which has become increasingly reliant on foreign workers in the past decade.
Each winter thousands of foreign workers arrive in ski towns across the United States through the J-1 travel program. From Colorado to California, HR managers are anxiously awaiting to see how they will fill a variety of positions for the coming season. The suspension of international workers is especially detrimental to an industry that already suffered huge losses when the ski season was prematurely cut short in mid-March.
Currently the Trump administration is closing applications for the J-1 program through the end of the year, but it’s unclear the likelihood of allowing workers to return beyond that point. Trump has argued the action will help save jobs for Americans while unemployment is rampant.
J-1 workers have become vital to many resorts in rural communities, where finding labor for seasonal jobs is difficult. Resorts are optimistic that high unemployment will help balance the loss of migrant seasonal workers, but the available labor pool is still vastly too small to staff restaurants, hotels and run on-mountain operations at normal levels.
The National Ski Areas Association is hoping to work with officials and create an exception so resorts can still utilize the visa program this coming season. Traditionally ski resorts begin filling out the visa applications in August and September.