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Local ski resorts looking for a few good (wo)men

SKYLER BELL, Of the Record staff

In a city widely considered as a winter tourist destination, although it is quietly earning year-round status, seasonal employees can be considered the life-blood of the town’s economy.

With Park City’s three major tourist attractions Deer Valley, The Canyons and Park City Mountain Resort employing almost 4,000 seasonal workers combined, the city’s population booms in the winter months.

Not only does Park City’s population increase in size, it also increases in diversity. Kim Mayhew, human resources director for Deer Valley, said all the resorts recruit heavily outside the United States, but also tour across the country.

"It’s a mixture," she said. "We do recruit in South America and, indirectly, the southern hemisphere, but we also do a fair number of domestic trips to places like Washington State, the Midwest, various golf resorts, Boston and the East Coast. We’re pretty diverse in terms of where we go to recruit."

Deer Valley hires 600 new seasonal employees each year, and generally has 1,200 previous workers return from the last season, bringing their total of seasonal workers to around 2,000 during the peak winter months of November to April.

"One thing we are fortunate with is that last season we had a 67 percent return rate on the staff we had the year before, and that’s pretty awesome," Mayhew said. "It’s awesome for the managers to count on that."

The company employs about 200 year-round full-time staff members, and about 200 seasonal during the summer.

Mayhew said they currently have about 250 spots filled, but that they need 350 more. International recruiting, which started in July, is still taking place, as is domestic recruiting that started in August.

She said the reputation of the resort and the fun work environment makes recruiting easy.

"A lot of times it’s people who are looking for a change," she said. "We have a lot of folks who are early retirees who are retiring from a highly stressful jobs and they just want to be a little more laid back, but there are also newly graduated students or students looking for internships. We also look for folks who tend to share seasons, like golf resorts, who are off in the winter. What we try to do is to build a relationship with the golf course to help the transition with those people to make the work seasonal, and it works out really well for us."

Deer Valley has housing available, although it is limited. They have 180 spots, available only to first-year, out-of-state, or, better yet, out-of-country employees.

"Those who are more local have the opportunity to take their time to see what’s available," she said.

Mayhew said that pay varies greatly depending on position, but that the starting wage for most entry-level positions is $8.50 per hour. There is, however, an end-of-season bonus that gives employees who start the season in December and stay until April an extra $.50 for every hour they worked during the season.

Mayhew said available positions come in every variety, and include lift operators, bussers, cooks, wait staff, janitorial, ski instructors, child-care teachers, groomers, snow makers and office positions.

The Canyons

Much like Deer Valley, The Canyons relies on seasonal workers to get through both winter and summer seasons.

"We wouldn’t be able to operate without them," said Recruiting Manager Nikki Allen. "They are vital to our success every season."

She said that with approximately 900 seasonal employees during the winter, they fill spots similar to those at Deer Valley, but also in hotel and lodging positions, including bell and valet staff, front desk and housekeeping positions.

"We have a little bit of almost every position open," she said. "We have, especially with our internationals, we have about 300 committed now, and we will send out a letter trying to get last year’s workers to come back."

Typically, Allen said, roughly 40 percent of the workers from the previous year return to work the following year, however, she said they have not yet calculated the exact numbers. She did say that the fun, laid-back environment keeps them coming back for more.

"We have a great benefits and privilege packages, including the chance for paid vacation," she said "We offer competitive wages and they come back because of the people. They meet their co-workers and the managers they realize how special the people are here."

Maybe that’s why their recruiting slogan is "Join the family, join the team, join the fun."

Although The Canyons doesn’t directly provide housing, they offer incentives to local homeowners who rent spare rooms to their employees. Landlords receive two day passes when they sign up and two more if they are still housing workers at the end of the season.

Park City Mountain Resort

Linda Cooley, recruiter and trainer at Park City Mountain Resort, said they are in the throes of the hiring process. She just returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand and the human resources director is currently in Peru.

"It’s summer down there during our winter, so they work their ski season and then come here to work ours," Cooley said. "Plus, they don’t have the snow there that we have here and they hear about it, so they come to check it out."

She said that many people make a career out of resort hopping, even if it’s internationally. Ski instructors, groomers and other industry specialists will work at a resort then travel to the other side of the world where the snow is just starting to fall.

"We recruit from Lake Powell, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone National Park, South America, Australia and New Zealand, and we have staff all over the world," she said. "We probably have 15 to 20 different countries that people are coming from. The benefits are the same for our international staff as with our domestic staff, but it’s nice to have the international workers to add to the ambiance of the resort. It’s also nice because most of them can come and work for the entire season."

In its peak season, PCMR has about 1,300 employees and volunteers. About 800 of those are seasonal employees. They also return over 50 percent of previous employees.

Because each department does its own hiring, Cooley said she wasn’t sure how many were already hired, but she said there are still spots available in every department, including positions in terrain park management.

PCMR does not provide housing directly, and is not currently involved in any incentive programs, although they intend to be.

"What we’re trying to do is get them lined up with different resources to help them out and we give them the information in advance," Cooley said. "If they already have a job, they’re looking for housing now. We will be participating in an incentive program, but we aren’t sure at what capacity."

Much like the other resorts, Cooley said people want to work for PCMR because of the atmosphere and the fact that the company tries to take care of its employees.

"PCMR wouldn’t operate without seasonal employees. We’re a ski resort so our main revenue comes between November to April, so the seasonal employees play a big part in that."


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