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Ski Area Staffing Concerns

ss20

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When I started at Thunder Ridge in 2014-2015 I was one of 70ish ski school applicants that went thru ITC. A few years before that it had been over 100. Recent years (pre-covid) it was 30-50 each year.


It's been talked about ad nauseum here already... but higher wages and cheaper housing is only half the solution (if that). Raise wages and higher housing costs will follow. Destination resorts packing 4-8 employees sharing bedrooms in 1000sq ft condos also isn't conducive to long-term employment. The resorts can help by raising wages and adding employee housing, but there's other factors.

First, the cheap season pass. There's no point in working at a ski area part-time if the pass price is only a few hundred $$$. Back in the 00s when a season pass to a destination mountain was easily $1,000+, it made financial sense to work for the ski resort and get that expensive pass for free. Now you're better off bussing tables, tending bar, or doing whatever else in the resort town and dropping $500 to buy the season pass yourself. In most places you'll get paid better and you can ski during the day and work at night.

Second, the mentality that it's not OK to be a ski bum. The industry has always targeted young college or post-college kids to come to destination resorts and ski bum for a couple years after earning their degree. That was much more accessible/reasonable 15 years ago than today. If I graduated school with $50...$100...$150k in student loans I'm not going to "ski bum" for a season...I'm jumping right into my field to make money and start the monstrous task of paying off that debt. Also, for kids in college, college passes are stupid cheap. Excuse me, that's incorrect. Most pass prices for adults are "stupid cheap". College passes are "7 digit IQ" stupid cheap. I'm a Killington skier and before Vail bought Okemo you could ski Okemo, Killington, Pico, and Sunapee on a college pass, unlimited, for something like $450. Now with just K/Pico it's even cheaper. Why would you have kids attending college working at the resorts on weekends when the pass price is so cheap?

Last...and I wouldn't say this is an "issue" but something the resorts can work on....industry perks. I had no idea how many benefits there were to those in the industry til I joined. It's insane. I'm not saying this has to be advertised on banner ads on ski resort websites, but if more people knew how cheap you can ski just by working part-time I'd bet many more would work at the resorts.


And also to be fair, the industry has not kept up with the times. It's done nothing to erase it's reputation of shitty pay and long hours. For those who haven't seen my "Personal Good News" thread, I'm moving to Utah to continue to teach skiing full-time out there. I talked to several destination, world-class resorts. At one of them the recruiter and I set up 3 separate meeting times to have a second interview over the course of a month and he missed every single meeting (this was in June/July....I got an email 3 weeks ago asking if I was still interested). Another mountain I talked to wanted to give me less money as a salaried ski school supervisor. The salary was less money than I would've made teaching (without tips). I'm a Level 1 PSIA member.... not a level 3 with 30 years of teaching experience... and the instructor pay still would've been more.

I have no idea what Vermont will do. My buddy just moved to Burlington...$1.4k for a 700sq ft upstairs one bedroom apartment. Most of that square footage is the entryway and the stairs up to the actual apartment. It's ridiculous and there's no end/relief in sight.
 

kingslug

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We are moving there probably after the winter..have to sell the house. I'm going to retire and find something to work at up there. Every job whether part or full time is around 20 bucks an hour ..at least the things I'm looking at. Not interested in going back to what I do , can't anyway as I would have to not retire to do that. Ski jobs are all at 15 an hour. They are looking for groomers...I thought that was a job no one left? There are a lot of jobs posted..way more then I ever remember. Guess I'll see how it goes. Maybe start my own business. These days 50% of the job is just showing up on time.
 

icecoast1

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No surprise here. There's a nationwide labor shortage and places paying more than the ski industry can't find people.
 

deadheadskier

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Nationwide affordable housing shortage too. Especially in resort destinations.

If Amazon / Bezos sees this problem such that they feel they need to invest $2B towards affordable housing in their headquarter cities, the ski resorts need to look at similar major investments.
 

abc

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First, the cheap season pass. There's no point in working at a ski area part-time if the pass price is only a few hundred $$$. Back in the 00s when a season pass to a destination mountain was easily $1,000+, it made financial sense to work for the ski resort and get that expensive pass for free.
It's simple math. The "total pay package" of working in a ski area is x, which include a free pass as a substantial part. When the pass cost goes down, they need to make it up so the TPP remains the same.

I once work for a small company that provides free lunch. No just a few energy bars, but catered lunch. When the company got bigger, the catered lunch got too complicated/expensive to manage. So they took the lunch away but only provide free soft drinks. They know enough to raised the pay of the employee to compensate. Same principle.

Last...and I wouldn't say this is an "issue" but something the resorts can work on....industry perks. I had no idea how many benefits there were to those in the industry til I joined. It's insane. I'm not saying this has to be advertised on banner ads on ski resort websites, but if more people knew how cheap you can ski just by working part-time I'd bet many more would work at the resorts.
But again, the cheap passes erode the value of those perks too. The perks are not worth as much when you can get it in other ways for less.

The real problem is ski area doesn't need to pay more for instructors. There's a line of new trainees "hobby instructors" waiting outside! They're willing to get paid next to nothing. I should know. I was once one of them "hobby instructors". My take home was only enough to pay for my gas to get there and back! I resorted to bringing my own lunch so I at least break even. It took 2 season before I concluded it's not worth continuing. But in that time, I already introduced two others like me, who also quit after a couple seasons. Resorts can actually sustain with these rotating cast of hobby instructors. Guest experience? Well, you know that already.

The current Covid related shortage is temporary. I think resorts will be hesitant to raise pay too quickly.
 

deadheadskier

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I do for one do not feel that the Covid related shortage is temporary and likely the only way to keep it temporary is a massive increase in foreign help.
 

drjeff

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I do for one do not feel that the Covid related shortage is temporary and likely the only way to keep it temporary is a massive increase in foreign help.

Agree.

These past 18 months or so have certainly caused many a paradigm shift in people's thinking about their jobs and what they, themselves want to do/how they live their lives, and for a decent number of folks, they simply don't want to go back to what they were doing/how they were living before (yet atleast).

Now one can certainly make the case that there may very be well some over the top, simply not true, fear based reasons why some are choosing to do this, as well as some government based financial incentives (and not just the added unemployment benefits monies that were around for so many months) however it's definite more than just those things.

Not quite sure if things ever get back to a pre COVID "normal" staffing level across so many businesses, or if this ultimately is the true starting point for mass scale automation of so many lines of work and thus the building irrelevance of so many workers and the jobs they once did?
 

thetrailboss

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Why the shortage of labor?

On the Vermont macro level: demographic changes accelerated due to the unintended consequences of adopting a progressive public policy stance for several years now when the economics don't support it. Increasing taxes and cost of living have driven out the people who would do these jobs.

On the micro level: low wages, inability to tap into foreign help, and high costs of living associated with the above have shrunk the labor pool. Plus, as ss20 said, another unintended consequence of cheap passes is that people aren't motivated to work for one anymore.
 

thetrailboss

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These past 18 months or so have certainly caused many a paradigm shift in people's thinking about their jobs and what they, themselves want to do/how they live their lives, and for a decent number of folks, they simply don't want to go back to what they were doing/how they were living before (yet atleast).
Yep. And in Vermont, with a very small labor pool as it was Pre-Pandemic, this really has hurt. I now know of one local NEK restaurant that closed for good because of no labor. I know of at least two others who have scaled back significantly because they can't get help.
 

ss20

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It's simple math. The "total pay package" of working in a ski area is x, which include a free pass as a substantial part. When the pass cost goes down, they need to make it up so the TPP remains the same.

I once work for a small company that provides free lunch. No just a few energy bars, but catered lunch. When the company got bigger, the catered lunch got too complicated/expensive to manage. So they took the lunch away but only provide free soft drinks. They know enough to raised the pay of the employee to compensate. Same principle.


But again, the cheap passes erode the value of those perks too. The perks are not worth as much when you can get it in other ways for less.

The real problem is ski area doesn't need to pay more for instructors. There's a line of new trainees "hobby instructors" waiting outside! They're willing to get paid next to nothing. I should know. I was once one of them "hobby instructors". My take home was only enough to pay for my gas to get there and back! I resorted to bringing my own lunch so I at least break even. It took 2 season before I concluded it's not worth continuing. But in that time, I already introduced two others like me, who also quit after a couple seasons. Resorts can actually sustain with these rotating cast of hobby instructors. Guest experience? Well, you know that already.

The current Covid related shortage is temporary. I think resorts will be hesitant to raise pay too quickly.

I can't tell if you're agreeing with me on the cheap passes being a negative for staffing. Prices prices have gone down, benefits cut, and wages extremely slow to grow. Your "total compensation" is less now than when passes were expensive.

Your bit on there being more than enough instructors is completely wrong. I don't know of any local area that has enough. On a margin-basis ski school is the resort's biggest profit-center. Big mountain or small mountain if you have a strong day of work you'll make the mountain $1,000-$1,500 in lessons alone and see 15-30% of that. Even less for new instructors and more for the top few veterans. I'm not turning this into a "instructors aren't paid enough" argument, but you can clearly see that only being able to sell 70% of your supposed ski school capacity due to being short on labor would have pretty big implications on finances. And that's just lesson revenue... beginners still need to buy lift tickets, rentals, and burgers.
 

ThatGuy

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Ss20 is definitely right its not easy to find patrollers or instructors right now, let alone people to man ticket booths or work in food and beverage. Also there are more perks than just ski tickets to being an instructor/PSIA certified.

This is a paradigm shift resulting from people realizing their priorities as stated above. Why would you work for a resort when you can get a part time job in town for $20+ an hour. The cost of living is going up significantly faster than most non corporate businesses can afford to offer so we are seeing the ramifications of that. People are also becoming tired of the abuse endured in most menial min-wage jobs.
 
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ss20

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Ss20 is definitely right its not easy to find patrollers or instructors right now, let alone people to man ticket booths or work in food and beverage. Also there are more perks than just ski tickets to being an instructor/PSIA certified.

What's concerning too is for every ski instructor or patroller under 30, there's at least 5 over age 50. Very little new talent coming in to replace old-timers.

My ski instructor mentor/friend went to the big PSIA Eastern jam events at Killington til he started complaining they were all too old and didn't really do anything fun.

He's in his 50s.
 

ThatGuy

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Here’s an example of shortages.

September 28 QUICK UPDATE:

Based on some event and food & beverage staffing shortages, our ability to pull off a multi-band, multi-stage, heavily attended BrewGrass Festival is not ideal. So we are unfortunately canceling the music portion but still hope to have fall foliage rides for this Saturday to Sunshine Corner with a grill going and brews flowing (cash only), plus some cornhole. Making progress on the Green Lift maintenance and hope to have it approved by Friday. Still TBD until we know for certain, but it is in our plans. Tickets would go on sale Thursday online at our ticket store for foliage rides 10/2, 10/9, 10/10. Thank you for your understanding.


If a small independent mountain like Magic is already having trouble staffing just imagine the large resorts this winter (pack a lunch).
 

Hawk

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Ski School, food service and service is not what will kill ski areas. Lift machanics and ski patrol will. State regulators have certain quotas you have to have on the hill before you can open lifts. That is the most important staffing that need to be resolved.
 

2Planker

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I guarantee that ski patroller jobs will be hard to fill. Again 15 bucks an hour to do that is insane. We shall see.
Yup $15/hr after you take over $1,000 of courses. Wilderness EMT, CPR/BLS, NSP
Or you can volunteer and get a free pass which will work out to about $3/hr
 
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