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Okanagan ski resorts facing staffing challenges

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Staffing shortages impacting several Okanagan ski resorts
Several ski resorts in the Okanagan are just weeks away from opening up to the public, but a staffing shortage being felt across B.C.'s ski resort sector is causing some concern. Jayden Wasney has the latest – Oct 28, 2022

Several ski resorts in the Okanagan are just weeks away from opening up to the public, but a staffing shortage being felt across B.C.’s ski resort sector is causing some concern ahead of the new season.

“It is at an all-time struggle,” said Apex Mountain Resort manager James Shalman.

“I don’t know what is going on. I’m not sure where the staff are.”

Shalman says he’s looking to fill at least 150 positions but it’s been a struggle. He says the hill is hosting a hiring fair on Nov. 2 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

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“We need to hire positions, really in every single field,” said Shalman. “So that could be lifties (chair lift operators), snow school (instructors), sales and marketing. Everything. Even a Zamboni operator.”

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Shalman said he’s looking at the possibility of adding more incentives to attract workers, like offering ski deals at other local ski resorts. That strategy was employed by Silverstar Resort, and now they say only a few job postings remain vacant.

At Big White, they’re not only experiencing a shortage of workers, they’re also dealing with a shortage of space to house them.

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“Twelve-hundred people normally, prior to COVID,” said senior vice president of Big White Michael J. Ballingall of the number of staff they used to have.

“This year, we’re somewhere around 600 right now, and we know we have about 450 beds on mountain for staff.”

Ballingall says a shortage of staff and staff accommodations may lead to some changes up at the resort.

“We’re working with some developers down in the valley, but there might be some parts of our business, especially in the hospitality sector, that we might not be able to open for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Ballingall.

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“So, it’s really not going to be tested until opening day.”

Ballingall said he’s remaining optimistic that after the winter holiday season, more rental spaces at the resort will free up.

“After Christmas, often times a lot of accommodations become available,” he explained.

“Whether the owner is just using it over Christmas time, or they’re getting the revenue from the tourists, we know that if we can make it through the Christmas season, a lot of beds will open up.”

Scheduled opening day at Big White is Nov. 24, while Silverstar hopes to open its gates on Nov. 25 and Apex plans to open on Dec. 10.

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