As winter approaches and the border is once again open to international visitors, some ski resorts in the province fear they will not have enough staff to operate at full capacity this season, especially since ticket sales are starting to increase. “This is the biggest problem we face,” said Michael Ballingall, senior vice-president of Big White Ski Resort Kelowna.
The resort needs 600 employees to operate its mountain this winter, Ballingall said, and so far they have only confirmed 230 employees.
“I say confirmed – they accepted a job with us. But we do not know if they have accepted a job elsewhere. It is only when we ask them to report that we can really breathe a sigh of relief, ”he said.
Difficult for seasonal workers to enter
Ballingall said Big White normally sees an influx of applications from seasonal workers during this time, but the pandemic is proving difficult to bring these people to Canada.
Pedro Pablo Iturrieta is one such person. Before the pandemic hit, Iturrieta worked at a restaurant in Whistler, British Columbia, on a working holiday visa. But when public health restrictions shut down his only source of income, he was forced to return home to Chile.
Now with a job offer in hand, he wants to return to the mountain resort for this winter season. But he doesn’t know if that will be possible, as he does not have two doses of a vaccine approved in Canada.
“I’m not an anti-vaccine guy; When I was able to get it, I said, “Give me anything,” “he explained.
Iturrieta said he had a dose of Pfizer and a dose of the Sinovac vaccine made in China. But the latter has not been approved by Health Canada, so it would not be considered fully vaccinated here, forcing it to self-quarantine after entering the country.
In addition to the extra price of quarantine, flights from Chile to Vancouver are more expensive than before the pandemic, Iturrieta said.
“It’s a little frustrating,” he said. “I want to go back because I have my job there, but it’s expensive for me. ”
The Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, B.C., faces the same shortage of seasonal workers, especially in the hospitality industry, for things like housekeeping and food services, said Christina Antoniak , director of communications for the complex.
“The ski industry normally relies heavily on international staff to support our seasonal aspect of our business,” said Antoniak.
They’re hoping more international workers will apply, she said, but for now the station has had to get creative in bringing in employees in Canada to help fill the void ahead of winter. The resort has stepped up its recruiting efforts in the region, Antoniak said, finding some success in advertising locally and in other provinces.
Ballingall said he and others in the industry are calling on the government to “cut red tape” for many potential workers, who in some cases are simply waiting for their visa applications to be approved.
And with countries like Australia and New Zealand starting to allow flights to Canada again, Ballingall said he hoped more workers would come and save the day.
“We haven’t hit the panic button yet,” he said. ” [But] work is the biggest concern on our plate. “