Skiers love to complain. Sometimes it’s over minor things like the snow being a bit windblown. Other times, complaining is absolutely justifiable.
The last Northern Hemisphere winter saw the number of dysfunctional ski resorts increase dramatically. Australia’s largest resort has joined that category due to chronic problems accessing the mountain.
So what exactly is a dysfunctional resort? Well to put it mildly, they are shit shows. And not just a few days a year. They are consistent shit shows throughout the season.
I’m talking about massive lift lines not caused by wind holds or poor snow conditions. I’m talking about parking chaos and no other options to get to the slopes. I’m talking about road closure stopping people getting to resorts, and I’m also talking about massive labour shortages creating lousy experiences for both guest and seasonal worker.
I won’t talk about the guest experience because that discussion has been done in many other places. This post is about the seasonal worker experience in a dysfunctional resort.
Seasonal workers put up with cramped living conditions or long commutes, and low wages for one key reason. They want time off to ski. Take that away and it’s pointless being in the mountains. They could quite easily get a bar job at some nice beach resort and go surfing instead.
Employees at dysfunctional resorts are under constant pressure to work extra shifts. They are working incredibly hard in kitchens that need 2 extra chefs every shift. Lifties aren’t getting ride breaks because there’s nobody to replace them at their stations. And they are dealing with guests who have had an underwhelming day. Front line workers get yelled at because of problems they didn’t cause but have to deal with. Seasonal employees burn out. That’s a reality.
The millionaire to seasonal worker ratio at ski towns has to improve. Towns can’t keep driving out people who keep the places running and replace them with high maintenance people who get looked after by a small army of seasonal workers.
You can hardly blame seasonal workers when they leave half way through the season, making the situation worse for those who stay. If seasonal employees do last until closing day, they probably aren’t coming back next year, and they certainly aren’t encouraging their friends to join them for a bit of resort life.
Turning around a dysfunction resort is not easy and it requires some truly hard commercial decisions, like limiting pass sales and introducing (or increasing) parking fees that people hate. It also requires massive investments in employees, especially in their housing (which doesn’t grow on trees). That bad reputation a resort got from last year is going to impact their ability to find staff for the next few seasons.
Yes some resorts are trying to turn things around, but these problems are decades in the making. Problems can’t be fixed in the short term and require significant structural adjustments.
Until resorts can consistent create incredible experiences for seasonal staff like the one above (Thanks Kicking Horse for the beautiful image), dysfunctional resorts will struggle to attract staff. This is not good for guests or those loading people on chairs and fitting visitors with ski gear.