Ski resorts across the country traditionally rely heavily on international employees. These youngsters come to the U.S. under a J-1 student visa and work for the winter season. With the ski area staffing shortage becoming more problematic by the week, ski areas are eager to welcome back these “J-1s”.
According to a report from CBS Local Denver, Colorado ski resorts had nearly 7,000 J-1 international workers in 2019. Last year, there were less than 300. The return of international workers for the 2021-2022 season is nothing short of critical.
The return of international workers is certainly a positive sign for Colorado resorts. One major challenge is that potential international employees will need to provide proof of a recognized COVID-19 vaccination. This is a bit more difficult than it may sound. A large number of J-1s come from South America where lesser-known vaccinations are more common.
The other issue that keeps rearing its ugly head is the lack of housing in Colorado ski towns. The housing crunch keeps rearing its ugly head and poses a huge problem for hourly employees. According to the report, Loveland Ski Area has partnered with nearby Bearadise Motel to provide employee housing. This is a positive step as Loveland had not previously offered employee housing. Aspen Ski Company has added more beds to its employee housing but still can’t meet demand.