Slow going at resorts |

Slow going at resorts

Joanna Hartman
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra Sun Gonzalo Camiruaga waits outside the ski school hut at Homewood to teach a lesson Tuesday morning. Despite the lack of snowfall employees said work is usually slower in January and expect more work in February.

January’s snowpack is about 40 percent of what is considered normal at this time of year, and while area ski resorts are open, some have had to curtail staffing.

Sugar Bowl is not laying anyone off but has had to reduce hours 50 to 80 percent for employees in food and beverage, lift operations and housekeeping.

“We’re on serious cutbacks right now,” said Sugar Bowl human resources director Regina Nystrom. “We’re working everyone as much as we can, but they’re definitely not [working] as much as they hoped.”

Sugar Bowl is trying to subsidize the lack of work with employee dinners, Nystrom said. Still, some employees are leaving for home or to work in places like Los Angeles or Miami.

“If we got business levels, we would raise our hours. When we don’t have business levels, we don’t have hours,” Nystrom said.

Squaw Valley also said they are not laying anyone off, primarily by refocusing staff’s efforts.

“If anything, we’re putting more time into snowmaking … making a push to keep running as many lifts as if there was snow,” said Savannah Cowley, Squaw Valley USA spokeswoman.

Mariana Bore from Peru and Marina Silva from Argentina, said though they are working enough hours at their Squaw Valley jobs, some of their friends are having a more difficult time.

“I have a friend at Sierra-at-Tahoe in South Lake and she has to move to Reno because she has no work there,” Silva said. “Now she’s looking for a job in a hotel or casino.”

Priscula Schaggen of Brazil is a cook at Homewood Mountain Resort and worked only three hours on Monday. She said she has three to four days off each week and is not earning enough money.

“I’m looking for a job,” Schaggen said. “But nobody’s hiring here.”

Each winter, Tahoe resorts hire 200 to 1,200 new employees to man chairlifts, serve food and instruct beginning skiers. At the beginning of this winter nearly half of the seasonal staff at Alpine Meadows were international employees.

Most come on one of two visas, J-1 permits, given to international students, and H2B permits, given to non-agricultural seasonal workers.

Cultural Homestay International, which recruits international employees for seasonal U.S. jobs, used to work closely with the ski resorts hiring individuals with both J-1 and H2B permits. The nonprofit still recruits students from abroad for area resorts and has not yet heard of any employment problems.

“Usually they’re resourceful and find work somewhere else, but we haven’t heard anything yet,” said Cindy LaRue, Cultural Homestay International operations manager.

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