Struggling ski resort industry frets over Trump’s ban on immigrant worker visas |

Struggling ski resort industry frets over Trump’s ban on immigrant worker visas

Jason Blevins
The Colorado Sun
An uphill skiers heads out of the Snowmass Base Village area Sunday morning just before 8:30 a.m., which is the time the Village Express lift usually opens.
David Krause / The Aspen Times

The ski resort industry, reeling from early closures in March, suffered another major blow this week when President Donald Trump extended a ban on visas for immigrant workers through the end of the year. 

Citing soaring unemployment, Trump’s proclamation applies to H-1B visas used by technology companies, H-2B visas and J-1 visas. The resort industry has spent years relying on visa workers, especially J-1s, many of them college students from the southern hemisphere who spend several months at resorts teaching skiing. 

“Tourism is the hardest hit business sector from COVID-19. Throw in the fact that rural communities have been hit hard by the pandemic and our ability to open back up come November and December is really going to be strained if we don’t have a labor force to help us,” said Dave Byrd, the policy director for the 400-plus member National Ski Areas Association. “There is a huge amount of anxiety right now. If you are an HR director at a ski area, you are panicking right now.”

Labor has been a stress point for ski areas for many years, with the skyrocketing cost of housing in rural resort communities challenging resorts large and small when it comes to filling food and beverage, lodging, housekeeping and on-mountain jobs. For years, resorts have relied on H-2B visa workers and more recently, J-1 workers to fill empty positions once taken by American college students and locals.

In the last few seasons, as unemployment rates in Colorado’s high country hit record lows, the dependence on visa workers grew even more. It’s not uncommon to see local businesses in resort towns — like restaurants — closed on Sundays and Mondays because they don’t have enough workers to remain open every night of the week. 

For more on this story, click here.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at