For a long time, ski resorts in the Mountain West were able to reach a full staff just by offering employees a season pass. It was the kind of deal a ski bum couldn't turn down.
"Those days are long gone," said Dave Byrd of the National Ski Areas Association.
Historically low unemployment rates have made it more difficult to find seasonal workers to keep resorts fully staffed. They've grown to depend on foreign guest workers with the help of the J-1 visa program, Byrd said, but that's not a perfect solution because of immigration restrictions.
"Throw in the fact that the housing market is also radically different than it was 10 or 15 years ago, thanks to things like VRBO and Airbnb," said Byrd, adding that such rentals take seasonal housing out of the market while driving up home prices.
In order to sweeten the deal for prospective lifties or ski instructors, Byrd said resorts are bumping up their wages and offering housing assistance. And finding somewhere to live is a big deal in many Mountain West ski towns that typically lack sufficient workforce housing.
"In Western communities, especially where some of our ski areas are, those resorts are the economic engines for the rural economy," Byrd said.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.