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Will Colorado Ski Resorts Be Short Staffed This Winter?

As the Trump Administration entertains the idea of cutting federal visa programs, seasonal workers might be harder to find.

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Every year, ski resorts confront the same question: Will there be enough snow? This year, though, they might face another predicament: Will there be enough workers? In August, as part of President Donald Trump’s Buy American and Hire American executive order, which seeks to boost employment rates for American workers, the White House announced it was considering cuts to the State Department’s J-1 visa exchange program. The initiative annually grants about 300,000 short-term work permits to international visitors such as au pairs, camp counselors, and seasonal workers—especially university students working or studying in the United States on their summer breaks (winter, in the Northern Hemisphere). During the past five years, Colorado’s ski resorts have relied heavily on J-1 employees—as opposed to temporary workers under the H-2B visa—to fill such public-facing jobs as hotel clerks, lift attendants, and ski instructors. Last year, the state welcomed 8,489 J-1 participants (the 12th most in the country), and in Crested Butte, for example, J-1 visa holders comprised about 10 percent of the resort’s staff. At press time the program was still intact (an executive order could eliminate it at any moment). But if it gets slashed, Centennial State skiers could see cuts to their ski days due to something even more unpredictable than the weather: politics.

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