Park City's Resorts See Record-High Job Applications – But Not For Every Opening
With unemployment still high amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resort communities like Park City particularly hard hit, ski areas have seen an increase in job applicants this winter in a traditionally under-employed industry.
Unemployment in Summit County hit an all-time high of over 20 percent at the start of the pandemic, according to data compiled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number has rebounded to a current rate of about 5.5%, but is still well over the pre-pandemic average of just 2%.
With the hospitality industry hardest hit and much of Park City’s economy reliant on those types of businesses, hotel workers and restaurant and bar staff make up a significant portion of the county’s unemployed.
The ski industry also makes up a significant portion of the local economy, but the industry also suffers from issues of chronic underemployment, even in a good winter.
Resort job boards regularly post open positions throughout the season and current employees are often asked to pick up extra shifts.
David Byrd is the National Ski Areas Association Director of Risk and Regulatory Affairs. He told KPCW earlier this summer that the increased cost of living and relative isolation of many resort areas just do not attract enough American workers anymore.
“Americans are not going to relocate, like President Trump likes to argue, for a five-month job in a community with significantly higher housing costs,” Byrd said at the time. “Those days of people taking a job, a ‘ski bum’ taking a job for five or six months, those are long gone.”
With current J-1 international work visa restrictions putting a hold on the hiring of many of the foreign seasonal workers resorts around the country rely on, along with changing unemployment benefits, has the COVID-19 employment crisis changed this trend?
Deer Valley has seen a bump in applicants overall, says Marketing Director Colleen Reardon, but the resort is still looking to fill many jobs that require employees to be indoors like cafeteria and lodging staff during the pandemic.
“We have seen an increase in applications. We have had a good return rate and we’re filling in nicely, we’re doing really well. The only place that we’re looking for a decent amount of staff still is in the indoor positions, in the indoor restaurants. Recruiting is going well, we’re pleased with the results.
Representatives from Park City Mountain Resort did not return KPCW’s request for comment for this story but the Vail Resorts job board lists roughly 70 open positions in Park City, many of them indoors, but many outdoor jobs as well.
This trend is not unique to Utah, either. Squaw Valley in California, which, like Deer Valley, is affiliated with Alterra Resorts, is seeing similar trends. Applications are up, just not in areas where staff is necessarily needed the most.
Reardon believes Deer Valley will eventually fill all of their open positions, but says the process has taken longer than usual.
“We’re filling those slowly but surely. We’re putting our banquet staff to work in restaurants so we’re getting there and it’s going to be fine, but it’s just a little bit more of a slow roll than the other positions.”