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Seasonal resort employees are leaving. That means changes for PCMR and Deer Valley

Park City Mountain Resort

Seasonal foreign student workers, also called J1s, are leaving Park City in the coming weeks to head back to their home countries.

Every year, hundreds of students from the Southern Hemisphere take advantage of temporary J1 visas to travel to Park City and work during their summer vacation – our winter.

School starts soon in the Southern Hemisphere, and that means those workers will be traveling back home, leaving employment gaps at already strapped local businesses.

Many locals have already lamented changes to service and closed signs on places they like to eat.

Chris Colpitts moved to Park City in early 2020 with his wife and two-year-old son. Many people are on spring break in March and he says he’s worried closures anywhere on the mountain could lead to a bottleneck of people elsewhere.

“That will lead to more crowds at the places that I consume my food and beverage, but if the J1 departures impact actually being able to operate lifts, that’s going to be a huge issue for everybody,” he says.

Colpitts says when he and his wife bring their son to the mountain, they opt to bring a backpack of hot cocoa and snacks instead of heading into a lodge for their break.

According to Deer Valley Senior Communications Manager Emily Summers, 11% of the resort's winter staff is here on J1 visas. She says the resort plans for their departure every winter and most of them will stop working at Deer Valley before closing day.

Southern Hemisphere back to school doesn’t just affect resorts; restaurants depend on foreign labor as well.

Kevin Valaika co-owns Main Street’s Shabu restaurant and says he also has a handful of J1s on staff, but they are committed to work until the end of the ski season. He says J1s are a valuable part of the winter workforce in Park City.

“They’re great workers and we need them," says Valaika. "We’re going to need to figure out in the future a way to keep the resorts open when we lose those guys.”

Summers says Deer Valley will be scaling spring operations based on visitation and staffing levels, something she says the resort has done in previous seasons. Summers did not specify which operations could be affected.

At Park City Mountain Resort, Communications Manager Emily McDonald says the resort also plans for the spring departure of J1s. She says this year, Vail Resorts is offering an $800 travel stipend for employees of other Vail-owned resorts around the country to travel and close out the season at another Vail property. She says “multiple waves” of new employees will be traveling to Park City to finish the season.

McDonald says Eagle Lift will be closed this week, but the terrain is also accessible by riding King Con or Crescent Lift. Indoor seating is also no longer available at Summit House, but food is still available at outside windows. Mid-Mountain lodge is currently open.

PCMR has seen employee shortages cause lift closures before, with many workers calling in sick during the omicron COVID-19 surge in January.

When it comes to attracting and retaining employees in the future, Vail Resorts announced a company-wide $20 an hour minimum wage for the 2022-23 season and increased investments in human resources, housing, and benefits.

Both PCMR and Deer Valley have planned closing days of April 17th.

Sean Higgins covers all things Park City and is the Saturday Weekend Edition host at KPCW. Sean spent the first five years of his journalism career covering World Cup skiing for Ski Racing Media here in Utah and served as Senior Editor until January 2020. As Senior Editor, he managed the day-to-day news section of skiracing.com, as well as produced and hosted Ski Racing’s weekly podcast. During his tenure with Ski Racing Media, he was also a field reporter for NBC Sports, covering events in Europe.