Early season job situation challenging in many resorts 

Returning staff, summer hirings mean lots of competition at fall job fairs

Whistler had one of the most frenzied hiring seasons in its history this year but it was not alone; several other resorts in B.C. have also had a lot of people seeking jobs this fall.

This trend suggests guests at most resorts around B.C. and Alberta may experience a better level of service, as employers have more people to choose from. But it also means that a lot of people, particularly younger thrill-seekers, will go without jobs this season.

Michael Ballingall from Big White and Silver Star Resorts in the Okanagan said his resort had "a huge turnout" of potential employees at their job fair but they were not hiring for many positions because they already had a lot of staff.

Big White and Silver Star are both owned by an Australian family and Ballingall said the resorts get the majority of their staff several months before the start of the season from international job fairs and from applications over the Internet.

"We actually take part in big job fairs in Australia where we work with travel wholesalers STA Travel to put on job fairs in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, so it’s easier for us to get the cream of the crop," said Ballingall.

"What we’re finding now is that it’s easier to staff resorts in advance. By the time we hired for our job fair we had 50 per cent of our staff already hired and living here. In our job fair we were just looking for lift operators and for other people like that."

Ballingall said the Internet had become such a convenient way of hiring staff that younger people should be referring to it as often as possible.

"With the Internet it’s so much easier to send resumes around to every resort in an hour," he said. "We don’t need to necessarily see someone to hire them; we can get referrals because it’s easier to place someone when they’re interested in August.

"It’s a competitive market to get staff…and I can see resorts dealing with visas earlier and earlier."

Christopher Nicolson from Tourism Sun Peaks said Sun Peaks had not had more applications, but the standard of the applicants was better than in previous years.

"We had a fairly normal job fair but the quality seems to be higher than past years," said Nicolson. "Just the types of people and their attitudes; there is a certain percentage of people opting out of their urban career for the lifestyle."

Nicolson said Sun Peaks has had a 100 per cent return rate in many departments but they were still looking for some cooks and technicians, particularly carpenters.

Dave Hampshire from Mount Washington on Vancouver Island said his resort had about an 80 per cent return rate because the mountain hires a lot of Canadians that live in the area.

"We don’t get as many people from Australia, New Zealand or Europe because we don’t have the accommodation," said Hampshire. "But we have about an 80 per cent return policy. There’s a lot of five-year employees, a good 15-20 per cent of our people would be.

"Our current president was our first employee that we hired in 1977 so that kind of speaks to how good a working environment we have here."

Hampshire said Mount Washington had seen more young people this year at their job fair and he agreed that many of these younger people had a better chance of succeeding by getting experience at smaller resorts.

"You can’t go putting all your eggs in one basket," he said. "There’s lots of people working here now that started working in real small places… and then we’ve had people join us from Whistler as well. But you can often get great experience at the small hills."

The news for enthusiastic ski-bums south of the border is also not as promising as it has been in previous seasons. Melanie Roberts from Vail Resorts in Colorado said Vail had reduced the number of visas it was offering this year due to high unemployment in the U.S.

"We have dropped from offering 1,500 visas (across our four Colorado resorts) to 1,200," said Roberts. "Due to unemployment rates being higher… we are relying less on international applicants."


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