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BC ski resorts try to find staff amid visa delays for foreign workers




As COVID-19 restrictions rise and travel increases, the ski industry is anticipating a busy season ahead.

But it can feel uncomfortable if Canadian ski resorts continue to have difficulty finding staff to use wheelchairs and hamburgers at their top-of-the-line restaurants.

According to the Canadian Ski Council (CSC), up to 30 percent of vacancies at ski resorts across the country may remain vacant until ski season arrives.

Critical staff shortages prompted CSC President Paul Pinchbeck to send a letter to Canada’s economic development and immigration ministers, urging the federal government to extend work visas for visitors who are still in the country, and whose visas will expire from now on the end of the ski season. The letter asks the government to grant an extension until May 1, 2022.

A work holiday visa is a temporary work permit offered to young people from participating countries to work in Canada for 12 or 24 months.

Pinchbeck also urged the government to allocate more resources to process new visa applications.

Big White says it needs hundreds of other employees

At Big White Ski Resort, in Kelowna, BC, senior vice president Michael J.Ballingal says that while they typically require 600 to 700 employees to run the mountain, they have only 250 employees confirmed for next season.

“To run [a ski resort] you need hundreds upon hundreds of people. “Right now we do not have it,” he said.

Sun Peaks Resort, near Kamloops, BC, is also short on staff, with about 100 vacancies and only about a month until the start of the season.

Christina Antoniak, communications director, says about 50 percent of their staff are usually from outside, but that has dropped to about 20 percent this season.

At Revelstoke Mountain Resort, all ski lift jobs have been completed, but the roles of food, drink and hotel operations have been challenging to fill, according to Peter Nielsen, vice president of operations.

“Quite is quite unprecedented,” he said.

Lindsay Bennett has run Dizzy’s Ski Shop, a specialty shoe store, in Big White for 17 yearswithHe currently has less than half the boot mounts he normally needs to run the store.

Bennett says some future employees had to cancel their plans to come to Canada to work for him as they were unable to obtain a visa.

“These are people who have an extraordinary ability that I need. When you find someone and then you can’t put them in, it ‘s really frustrating,” Bennett said.

“The ski industry in North America relies on internationals. When they can’t come, the ski industry hurts. And now, they can’t come,” Bennett said.

Lindsay Bennett assists a customer with a matching boots at Dizzy’s Ski Shop. (Brady Strachan / CBC)

Anthony Voiturin from France had secured a job at Dizzy’s for the upcoming winter season. It was scheduled to start on October 12th. He started the process of getting his visa in July, but has not yet received it.

Voiturinis is now debating whether to stay in France for the winter.

Pinchbeck said in the CSC letter that if left untreated, labor shortages could result in businesses operating part-time or shutting down altogether.




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