More locals seeking Park City resort jobs
Ryan Summerlin September 25, 2009
Last fall, Park City Council member Liza Simpson was on a personal campaign to encourage residents to open their homes to international workers needed to make the resorts run in winter.
It’s been a long year since, and Utah’s six-percent unemployment rate and accelerating job losses have changed the hiring dynamics in town.
Kim Mayhew, human resources director for Deer Valley Resort, said she’s seen around 50 percent more applications from Utahns this year.
When times are good, people don’t want seasonal jobs. If a student graduates and has the choice to work at a resort or in a fast-food chain, they’ll prefer the resort, but will pick the restaurant because it’s stable, she explained.
This year many locals are looking for any kind of work, and many hope a seasonal job at the resort might lead to a full-time job next spring.
Hannah Bowling, a spokesperson for The Canyons Resort, said the most significant increase in applications from locals is in management and full-time positions.
Chris Lampe, human resources manager for Park City Mountain Resort, said he’s seen a similar trend. He added that if people have to work a part-time or seasonal job during the recession, they like the idea of getting ski-pass benefits with their work.
These trends translate to fewer requests for H2b worker visas those obtained by a company for workers it recruits. And with fewer jobs available, students aren’t asking for as many J1 work visas from their foreign governments this year.
Tim Dahlin, executive director of The Christian Center of Park City, sees a lot of the international workers in November and December as they arrive and begin looking for directions, apartments and a meal before their job starts.
His friends in South America say recruiters are less aggressive this year because they know the jobs aren’t there. He predicts seeing fewer people this winter.
But fewer doesn’t mean none. All three resorts contract with people they like to return year after year.
"Since our demand for employees is so great during the winter season, we must rely upon hiring international employees in addition to domestic employees in order to deliver the standard of service our guests expect," Bowling explained. "We are still bringing our key international workforce."
Lampe pointed out that there is a very limited number of people in the world who know how to drive a snow-grooming machine up a mountain slope. Just because more locals need jobs doesn’t mean his resort is able to hire Utahns for all the openings.
A recent change from the U.S. Department of Labor has made getting those people with specialized skill sets more difficult, Mayhew said. The list of countries companies could recruit in was limited to only 28 earlier this year. Those nations were deemed more cooperative in repatriation of their citizens at the expiration of the visa.
Skiing nations like Sweden and Germany were not on the list.
"It’s craziness," she said.
Because visas have to be requested a long time in advance, Mayhew said it’s a guessing game on how many will be needed. Still, she said there’s a bit of a consensus that fewer are needed this year.
The Aspen Times recently reported that the Aspen Skiing Company will not hire any H2b visa-holders this winter.
It was planning to bring on 57 foreign workers half as many as usual but a U.S. Department of Labor change has made even that many unfeasible. It requires companies to reimburse the workers’ travel costs. Like the Park City resorts, the company had planned to recruit from Europe and South America.
Utah locals can still apply online for positions at the Park City resorts anytime. Mayhew said even some of the harder-to-fill positions are going fast. Jobs are posted and removed from the site frequently, so listings should be checked daily, she said.
Deer Valley will host its annual job fair Oct. 14 at Snow Park Lodge sometime in the afternoon. PCMR’s fair will be Oct. 22, also in the afternoon. The Canyons will be Oct. 29 at the Grand Summit Hotel from 4 to 7 p.m.