Rental of ski resorts for shoulder seasons

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WARREN, Vermont (WCAX) – The ski season is winding down for many local resorts, a time when they are generally less busy. But the spring shoulder season is often when many need the most help with housekeeping staff. The Vermont Chamber of Commerce says a pre-pandemic labor shortage of 10,000 jobs peaked at 30,000 during COVID. As part of our ongoing series on High Demand Jobs, Kayla Martin reports on the labor shortage at Sugarbush.

Triston Green is a housekeeper at the Sugarbush Resort and loves what he does. “I love people, I love taking care of them, so the hospitality industry definitely does that,” he said. “My favorite part would be interacting with the guest and also cleaning the room.”

Anastasia Mahoney, the housekeeping manager, says workers like Green are hard to find. “We obviously have quite a few staffing issues and a lot of people were coming and going,” she said. Mahoney says a low retention rate makes their job much harder to do.

Green is an international worker using an H2B visa and like many of the station’s seasonal workers, he will be gone in April.

“Which is difficult because if we’re a little busy it’s very difficult,” Mahoney said. After all the international workers leave, Mahoney says one of his departments will be down to four full-time employees. “And we have about 110 rooms in this building alone.”

That’s why the Vermont Chamber of Commerce is among those lobbying at the federal level to extend the cap on international work visas. “We don’t have enough Vermonters to fill these jobs – we absolutely need to have avenues to get more people into Vermont,” said Betsy Bishop of the chamber.

There are two shoulder seasons per year, but the hiring challenges seem to change from year to year. Last year, Mahoney says she had hundreds of applicants, but many either ghosted her or didn’t stay long. This year, she says, wrestling simply attracts contestants. “I know that our company has invested a lot of money in hiring. So, I know they use different platforms to spread the word, but from my own personal experience, I haven’t seen it have too much of an impact yet. But I’m hopeful,” she said.

Mahoney says the labor shortage is having a big impact on the kind of customer service and quality they provide, while also putting a lot of stress on existing staff. “There’s been a lot of restructuring and moving,” she said. Some other resorts, she says, have even had to stop or delay taking reservations due to a lack of staff.

Bishop says the shortage is impacting all aspects of the economy. “Difficulty finding accommodation, transportation, childcare,” she said.

“Employee housing – that’s one of their big goals this year,” Mahoney agrees. She says many resorts are in rural areas with limited housing stock. Another issue is the salary. “One thing I hear often is that the money is there. Surprisingly, the ski industry has had a lot of success…I know they allocated some of that money to hiring, but it’s always difficult because you can’t force someone to to work.

Last summer, Sugarbush raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. There’s a long list of perks, too — from a 401K match and health insurance to equipment discounts, local restaurants, and free family ski passes. “I think that’s one of the biggest things that keeps people here,” Mahoney said.

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