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Fewer Foreign Workers on the Slopes

Fewer Foreign Workers on the Slopes

[ Tue, 2009-09-29 06:51 ]
Lift Attendant at Snowbasin
Aspen, Vail and others upping their numbers of local hires

Surely you've noticed in the last decade or so that the number of local kids and domestic ski bums manning the chairlifts and ticket windows of America's ski resorts has declined, their roles taken over by Argentines and Kiwis. The reasons for this are debatable -- though we think it has to do with a generation of skiing parents eager to give their kids the ski-bum experience they never had. At any rate, we're about to see more locals in on-hill uniforms this season. With the overall economy in the tank, more people are looking for work -- Utah's Deer Valley has seen an increase of 50 percent more applications from locals this year, and resorts across the country are seeing similar upticks. Another reason: In tough times, a season pass can be an unaffordable luxury. But a part-time seasonal resort job often comes with a free pass, or at least a few days of cut-rate mountain time on the mountain.

But visa troubles are also pulling international workers home. Because of the economic downturn, Aspen Skiing Co. had planned to reduce its number of foreign instructors from 109 to 57, hoping to instead hire unemployed locals. But changes in U.S. policy on H2B visas -- the temporary employment permits allowing foreign workers jobs with domestic employers -- meant Aspen won't hire any foreign instructors. According to the Aspen Times, a ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor would require U.S. employers to reimburse H2B workers their travel costs, which would have added thousands of dollars in air travel expenses for Aspen Skiing. The result? A lot less "G'day, mate" on the slopes this season.