PCMR, Deer Valley planned few foreign workers even before President Trump’s visa suspension
President Trump has enacted a suspension of certain foreign worker visas, including two categories that are usually important to the ski industry as resorts attempt to hire large numbers of seasonal workers for the
The president halted H-1B, H-2B and J-1 visas until Dec. 31 with the possibility of a longer suspension. It is a move the administration says is designed to boost the prospects of American workers at a time of high unemployment.
The ski industry normally hires large numbers of foreigners to work at the resorts on H-2B or J-1 visas. The H-2B visas allow someone from outside the U.S. to fill temporary posts outside of agriculture while people in the country on J-1 visas, sometimes called exchange visitors, are allowed to work in certain fields like teaching or instructing.
As Park City Mountain Resort and Deer Valley Resort continue to prepare for the 2020-2021 ski season, with numerous unknowns regarding the potential impact of the novel coronavirus and health orders, resort executives even before the president’s suspension indicated they did not anticipate hiring many foreign workers.
The two resorts expect to craft plans for what would be the first-ever socially distanced ski season. Only limited details have been released, but it seems likely there could be some sort of restrictions on lifts and in gondolas as well as changes to dining operations, among other possibilities. It is also not clear what level of staffing the resorts will hire for the ski season as compared to a typical one based on the likelihood of continued health and economic concerns in coming months.
Mike Goar, the chief operating officer of PCMR, and Deer Valley President and Chief Operating Officer Todd Shallan addressed the situation regarding foreign workers during a recent online event hosted by City Hall. Although the online event was held prior to the president moving against the visas, the comments by the two offered insight into what was under consideration as staffing for the upcoming ski season is discussed internally. The two spoke in response to a question from Park City Mayor Andy Beerman.
Both Goar and Shallan indicated the resorts expected to hire far fewer foreign workers for the ski season than they normally would. They indicated high unemployment in the U.S. and the logistical complexities of traveling between their home countries and Park City created by the coronavirus are influencing the discussions.
“The belief is that we will be, there will be less of a demand, or need, for international workers. Today, given unemployment rates, we clearly would not be hiring international workers,” Goar said, adding, “I don’t think there’s any question that, if at all, those numbers are going to, at a minimum, be less than the prior years.”
He also said it was unclear whether foreign workers would be available for the ski season.
“Even if there is a need for our workforce to employ an international workforce on some basis, there’s a question whether that will be an option. If nothing else, perhaps the difficulty of them being able to travel to the United States,” Goar said.
Shallan said Deer Valley at the time was protecting its options for staffing in the winter, and hiring some foreigners for the ski season was a possibility. In the most recent ski season, he said, Deer Valley hired people holding H-2B visas in five staff categories, but at the time of the online event the resort was considering just one category for the 2020-2021 season. Shallan, like Goar, said it was unclear whether the foreign workers would be able to travel to the U.S.
“I think the need is going to be far less, if at all, I think, with the unemployment rate the way it is and probably won’t improve substantially before we open for winter season,” Shallan said.
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