Quebec ski slopes are anxious to open season amid labor shortages

Ski Bromont is already a hive of activity.

Backhoes cross-cross back and forth at the base of the mountain, moving mountain biking racks into storage for the winter. Stairs are removed in favor of ramps for the upcoming ski season.

There are about 300 employees turning the site over from fall sports to winter, and over the next month, training will start for ski patrol and new employees, but owner Charles Desourdy says he’s still scrambling to find new hires for the 1,200 positions he needs to keep the resort fully open.

“We have enough students who like to work nights and weekends, so we’re looking at getting retired people back in the workforce,” he said.

The problem is boomers don’t want to work long hours.

“Most retired people want to work short shifts,” he said, adding that it’s the weekday shifts that he’s having trouble filling.

If Bromont doesn’t get enough employees, it could cut some services to skiers. Desourdy says keeping the lifts running and the trails groomed are the priorities.

“Service will be limited but certainly not on lifts, grooming and snowmaking, which is our main thing that we’re selling,” he said. “But for instance, rentals, we won’t be able to rent full time, so you’ll have to reserve online. Same thing for ski lessons. The bar will open, but all the places on the mountain we can sell food and drinks might not. We might have a machine and you’ll buy it with a credit card.”

It’s a similar situation at Mont Sutton, where 50 employees are needed to keep operations running to capacity.

“In the past we had instructors help us with the chairlift, and we had a shorter menu at the restaurant,” said marketing director Nadya Baron.

The business is holding a recruitment day on Sunday in the hopes of attracting new employees.

“Even if you only speak English, you can have a job here at Sutton,” she said.

Both mountains are offering starting salaries of $15 per hour with no experience.

Currently, the minimum wage in Quebec is set at $11.40 for employees who can receive tips. The minimum wager without tips is $14.25.

Desourdy hopes temporary foreign workers might be able to fill the gaps in the labor shortage.

“I think the short-term solution is temporary immigrants, same thing as agriculture. I think the ski business and tourism will need them,” she said.

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