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Wasatch Back businesses are concerned about hiring enough seasonal help

Soldier Hollow

Hiring winter season employees is an annual event on the Wasatch Back. This year, local businesses, like national businesses, can’t find enough workers.

Opening days for Summit and Wasatch County resorts are not far off on the calendar. Some employers are worried about having enough staff to handle the projected influx of winter tourists.

Last week the Stein Collection announced employees will earn a starting wage of $18.00, up from the previous $15 an hour. In addition, all salaried employees will receive a $3 per hour increase. Stein Collection CEO Russ Olsen said the local market is challenging with the deficient labor pool, costs of commuting, and the lack of affordable housing.

“I told my staff in a meeting last week, in my 35 years of being at Stein Erickson Lodge, this is most challenging time when it comes to employment," he said. "I think that's why we made the decision to increase our pay to our employees and enhance our benefits and provide flexible, unlimited PTO to make sure that we take care of our existing core staff and invite others to come work and be part of our family."

That’s being echoed by many local employers.

Cole Sport has operated for decades in Park City and has built effective seasonal hiring protocols through the years. Owner/Operator Adam Cole said they've increased their hourly pay range to $14 to $16 per hour plus commission for sales staff. They're offering hiring incentives for referrals. If the trend continues, he said, they may have to look at a different operating model for the future.

"We're not desperate, but yeah, I'm slightly concerned, especially with how busy it's supposed to be this winter," Cole said. "Last year we shortened our hours which we're going to keep, and that's helped with not having to hire as many people and then you know, keeping great staff on all summer. We know we at least have good, experienced staff every winter—definitely a key for us.”

Soldier Hollow Day Lodge Senior Manager Rachel Kahler said a new strategy includes hiring 15-year-olds at $11 per hour this year. Hourly wages run from $12 to $15 per hour, with pay as high as $17.00 per hour for supervisors and leadership positions.

"And we really are focusing our efforts in the next two months on recruitment, retaining past employees, and just seeking about 80 individuals to run the tubing, public biathlon, and public cross country here at Soldier Hollow," Kahler said.

She said one challenge is they compete for employees with ski resorts in Park City.

"But what we are offering is closer to home, better hours, more shift work. So, if you're a student here at one of the local high schools, you can come and work after school," she said. "And then our weekends are very flexible in the hours that you're going to work."

Park City Mountain Resort opens November 19, with Deer Valley opening day December 4. The Soldier Hollow tubing hill opens December 17, with a possible Nordic trail opening in early December if they're able to make snow.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.