UTAH (ABC4) – In August, local workers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, made headlines when it was revealed that the exorbitant cost of housing at the resort had forced them to live on their cars or in tents. While this is an extreme scenario, the increased cost of living is also affecting resort employees in Utah.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in the cost of living,” said Lee Moriarty, who joined the Park City Ski Patrol in Park City in 2018. Many colleagues who used to live in Park City have to commute from Salt Lake and Heber and other surrounding communities. “
Aside from the general rise in housing costs across the country, Park City is particularly struggling to accommodate seasonal workers due to a lack of long-term options.
According to Lana Harris, a Park City-based real estate agent with Team Schlopy, this is because many buyers in the area are looking for a second home and prefer to rent out their properties when they are away. Nightly rentals – as opposed to monthly or longer term rentals – tend to be more profitable for homeowners.
“Trying to find workforce for the ski resorts has become increasingly difficult as real estate values âârise,” says Harris. âWhen buyers have bought a property, many of their criteria are allowable night rents. In our area, night rentals tend to have a higher ROI in the winter season than in the long term. “
That trend has accelerated over the past five years, Harris says, and she is now seeing fewer seasonal workers who can live in the Park City area.
Moriarty is one of the lucky few to stay, but it wasn’t easy.
“I’ve now managed to get one of the few remaining annual rentals in Park City, but that search has been a real challenge,” she says. “As a fourth year patrolman, it’s a little daunting to think about how much longer I’ll be able to find this place to stay if I continue my patrol career here.”
According to Harris, the average two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Park City costs between $ 900,000 and $ 1.2 million. The average rent is around $ 1,900 per month.
While these rates are too expensive for many, they are especially difficult for resort employees, whose minimum wage is $ 15 an hour.
Moriarty says ski patrols are also given opportunities for performance-related pay increases, but the size of the raise is usually between 3% and 3.5%.
âThat’s less than the increased cost of living. It doesn’t match the rate of inflation, âshe says.
Park City’s ski patrols are currently protesting their wages and their union has been negotiating their contracts with Vail Resorts – the conglomerate that owns Park City Mountain Resort – for 14 months. The final step in the negotiation process is lobbying for a raise.
“We want wages that reflect the experience of our patrols that flow into the deductibles.” [of employees] and thus security and also enables us to actually live and be part of the communities in which we work, âsays Moriarty. “We want to be valued as important members of the Park City community.”
But the increased cost of living isn’t just affecting Park City employees. The workers at the resorts in the Cottonwood Canyons are also struggling to pay their expenses.
Slade Dahlen, who has been teaching ski and snowboarding lessons in Brighton this winter since 2017, says this is the first year he had to take a second job to make ends meet.
âI just can’t afford it,â he says. “When I have a light check, I don’t have enough of the other checks to float.”
Dahlen, like Moriarty, is fortunate enough to have a rental apartment near the resort, just a mile from the mouth of Big Cottonwood Canyon. But he knows from the support of his colleagues that it can be difficult to find accommodation in the area.
The scarcity and cost of housing is causing some resort workers to move further west, where rents tend to be cheaper. According to Dahlen, however, it is important, both financially and comfortably, to live as close as possible to the resort.
âIf I lived further away, I couldn’t justify the drive, the gasoline, all of that [to work at the resort], “he says.” I have a few friends who live closer to West Valley, and most of these people don’t work there for more than a season. They add half an hour or 45 minutes to your trip either way on top of that Junk show that the Canyon offers that day. “
And resorts don’t cover commute time or gasoline for workers, Dahlen says. Some days it can take up to three hours to climb the canyon. If the resort workers live far away, this excessive commuting time eliminates the possibility of having a second job in the evening.
âIf I lived any longer, I wouldn’t even think about it,â says Dahlen of his decision to find a sideline.
Whether it’s ski patrols protesting for fair pay amid sky-high property prices in Park City, or resort workers in Cottonwood Canyons unable to justify an unaffordable commute, it’s unclear what will happen when the resort’s staff one due to these financial troubles have to find other work hurdles.
âThey calculate when you get a passport and you can work in a great place,â says Dahlen. “That’s definitely true, but I can’t pay my rent with a season ticket and I can’t buy groceries with a nice view.”