Holidays away from home leave some sad, others smiling |

Holidays away from home leave some sad, others smiling

Hundreds of international students make their way to the Lake Tahoe and Truckee area each year to spend a winter working and riding on the slopes. Leaving behind their native languages, families and holiday traditions, international workers try to celebrate Christmas as though they were home.

“We’ll get together for a big dinner in one of the houses and cook something, like we do in Argentina. But it’s hard because we’re not with our families,” said Hernan Virgolini. “[At home] we party a lot. Like it’s New Year’s.”

Most ski resort employees will work during the busy holiday weekend, but have plans in the evening to get together with friends ” old and new.

“If we find a house, we will cook rice and beans and beef and pasta,” said Renata Robles. “And probably make a ‘Secret Friend.'”

Robles works in guest services for Squaw Valley USA, but has yet to find housing. She moved here from Brazil by herself because she was looking for a new experience.

“I’ve never seen snow in my life,” Robles said. “I called my mom and said ‘White city.’ It’s beautiful.”

Robles said that the most difficult part about being away from home for the first time is missing her family and friends, whether or not it’s Christmastime.

“I think I miss my family too much, like hugging and kissing them,” she said.

The students from Argentina, Brazil and Australia said they have similar Christmas traditions to those in the United States ” they eat big dinners with extended family, decorate the tree, give Secret Santa gifts and party into the night. But in the southern hemisphere, the holiday season means warm weather.

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas because there is snow here,” said Dominic Schiafone.

“It’s just different because we’re away from home,” said Zac Mattschoss.

Schiafone and Mattschoss are from Australia and work as lift operators at Squaw Valley USA.

Because resort towns are tourist-dependent, many residents ” local and international ” must work over the holidays. Rachael Woods, Alpine Meadows spokesperson, said the international employees spend the holidays just like the American employees ” working.

Alpine Meadows hosted a company party last week and the employees had the opportunity then to celebrate both the holidays and the new snow.

Squaw Valley also hosted a barbecue Dec 21, where all the employees could gather for free hot dogs, sodas and ski movies before the big holiday rush.

Dave Pierce, director of lift operations for Squaw Valley USA, said the international students know how to celebrate.

“They party like rock stars,” Pierce said.

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