With the world relying heavily on seasonal workers, staff shortages are one of the biggest concerns facing BC ski resorts. With the pandemic proving to be a constant hurdle for many trying to enter the country, resorts are now scrambling to find alternative solutions.
With winter fast approaching and the border open to international visitors again, some ski resorts in the province say they are concerned they won’t have enough staff to operate at full capacity this season, especially when tickets are on sale. sales start increasing.
“This is the biggest issue we are dealing with,” said Michael Ballingle, senior vice president of Kelowna-based Big White Ski Resort.
The resort needs 600 employees to keep its mountain running this winter, Ballingale said, and so far, they’ve only confirmed 230 employees.
“I say that’s confirmed – they’ve accepted a job with us. But we don’t know if they’ve accepted a job elsewhere. It’s not until we ask them to report that.” We can really breathe a sigh of relief,” he said.
Difficult for seasonal workers
Bowlingle said Big White typically experiences an influx of applications from seasonal workers during this time, but the pandemic is proving difficult to bring those to Canada.
Pedro Pablo Iturieta is one of those people. Before the pandemic hit, Iturietta was working on a working holiday visa at a restaurant in Whistler, B.C. But when public health restrictions shut down his only source of income, he was forced to go back home to Chile.
Now with a job offer in hand, he wants to return to Mountain Resort Town this winter. But he doesn’t know if it will be possible, as he does not have two doses of the vaccine approved by Canada.
“I’m not an anti-vaccine guy; the moment I could have it, I said, ‘Give me whatever,'” he explained.
Iturieta said it has one dose of Pfizer and one dose of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine. But the latter isn’t approved by Health Canada, so he wouldn’t be considered fully vaccinated here, forcing him to quarantine after entering the country.
On top of the added cost of the quarantine, flights from Chile to Vancouver are more expensive than in pre-pandemic times, Iturieta said.
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“It’s a little disappointing,” he said. “I want to go back because I have a job there, but it’s expensive for me.”
Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, BC, is facing a similar shortage of seasonal workers, particularly in the hospitality sector, for things like housekeeping and food and beverage services, said Christina Antoniak, the resort’s director of communications.
“The ski industry relies heavily in normal times on international staff coming in to support the seasonal aspect of our business,” Antoniak said.
They expect more international staff to apply, she said, but for now, the resort has had to get creative by appealing to Canadian staff to help fill the gap before winter. The resort has expanded recruitment efforts into the local area, Antoniak said, with some success by advertising locally and in other provinces.
Ballingle said he and others in the industry are asking the government to “cut red tape” for many potential workers, who in some cases are waiting for their visa applications to be accepted.
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And with countries like Australia and New Zealand starting to allow flights into Canada again, Bowlingle said he hopes more workers will come and save the day.
“We haven’t hit the panic button yet,” he said. “[But] Labor is the biggest concern on our plate.”