Skiing in a country where nobody wants to work and where nobody can afford to live

A friend lives in a $3 million starter home in the Vail valley. He reports having to carefully pick ski days this season due to crowding on the mountain and long lift lines. “They sold a ton of Epic passes in the spring at a discount,” he explained, “and now lifts and trails are closed because nobody wants to work. They can’t find people to drive the snowcats for grooming, so you find that a lot of trails are roped off and blocked by a big pile of snow.”

How did the labor supply change? “The cost of living, especially housing, is much higher than two years ago and the wages haven’t gone up as much,” he replied. “They’re offering a $2 per hour bonus for people who stay through March, but that’s not enough to enable someone to live where the rich people live.”

(I wonder if restrictions imposed with a COVID-19 justification are partly to blame. The last time I was at Beaver Creek I noticed that a high percentage of workers were foreigners, e.g., from Central and South America, on temporary visas. It seems that not too many Americans wanted to spend the winter in a glorious ski resort, at least not at the wages offered. Until November 2021, was it possible for foreigners to get to the U.S., except as asylum-seekers walking across the Rio Grande?)

From a February 2017 trip to Beaver Creek:


8 thoughts on “Skiing in a country where nobody wants to work and where nobody can afford to live

  1. The issue predates COVID-19:

    “Converted from lodging into workforce housing by nearby Homewood Mountain Resort a few years ago, the Tahoe Inn is now used by migrant workers on visas who provide the labor that keeps the resort afloat. In rooms rented by ski instructors and maintenance workers, a bunk bed in a shared room runs $300 a month.”

    It seems the case that U.S. workers do not want to live like teenagers on a school trip, so, to paraphrase the Soviet saying, U.S. whores have to be replaced by cheaper foreign ones.

  2. In the early ’90s, a female family friend relocated from MA to Vail, CO with five girlfriends after graduating from UMASS. The plan was to get part-time jobs and be ski bums. My friend got a waitressing job and an apartment on her first day in Vail. Within a couple of months, the four other girls had moved back to MA. My friend built a life out there, got married, started a successful service business, bought a slope side townhouse, and has been out there for thirty years. And skis a couple of times a week with her husband.

  3. Spent 6 days at Beaver Creek last week. Not much has changed with respect to the workers (on the mountain as well as in the Beaver Creek village and the hotel), mostly staffed by young foreigners from Central and South America – except all of the valets were young males from the US (most likely I assume because they had driver’s licenses!).

    Your friend’s analysis is spot on. Surprising to me was the inability to find snowcat drivers, which I would guess would be a higher paying job. Of course one afternoon we skied down to one of the main high speed lifts, which was deserted except for about 10 lift ops all with scanners to validate passes. I guess none of them wanted to drive (or could driver) a snowcat!

  4. Surely, anyone who can afford a fixer upper can afford to ride a helicopter instead of a ski lift.

  5. Charge $219 for a day ticket – hell, yeah.

    Pay $25/hr to a lift operator or a ski patrol – no, no, no, no.

  6. Same stuff happens at Stevens Pass near Seattle (Vail resort as well, I have Epic Pass) – half of the mountain is ungroomed and closed!

  7. My experience after about 20 years of ski trips has been that a large percent of the service industry jobs at the ski resorts has always been foreign labor. They must not know have to drive snow cats, though.

  8. I would be interested to know what trails the source is finding closed? A cursory search of the Vail status ( shows approximately 9 trails closed. From those trails, it would be further interesting to know if the source would even use the trail. Although I am not in a position to own a “Vail Starter” home, I would think that those in the market would not be looking for the “Avanti Terrain Park” which is showing as closed.

    On a side note, it would be a fun post to read how one does afford the 3MM starter home in Vail and why they choose Vail over Aspen or Salt Lake City/Utah where you can access multiple mountains within 30-45 minutes of your home.

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