Over the course of a single weekend ski resorts from all over the state of Utah went from bustling ski metropolises to abandoned ghost towns due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 virus. What should have been a successful and fruitful wrap-up of the 2019-2020 ski season has instead become an indefinite halt of all working procedures for both resort and resident.
Paul Vatterott, a bookkeeper at Alta ski resort’s Rustler Lodge recounted the weekend and its impact on the resort’s employees. Approximately 70 of the 110 employees worked seasonally and were housed at the lodge itself. By Wednesday Paul estimated about 20 remained. While some workers may have family, friends, or other work to fall back on others are not as lucky. Those who rely on seasonal work not only expected it to carry on into mid-April or early May, but may also miss out on work in the summertime due to the increased preventative closures in fear of the incoming virus.
Unfortunately, seasonal employees are unlikely to qualify for unemployment benefits. To help mitigate the damage caused by both the virus and lack of unemployment benefits, employers themselves are aiding their employees who have found themselves unexpectedly jobless and homeless. Rustler Lodge, for example, is allowing employees to remain using the Lodge employee housing for as long as needed. This comes with concern, however, as this may lead to a high concentration of individuals living together where, if the virus were to hit, it would spread rapidly.
Most resorts are also extending employee payment to the end of the month, along with end of season bonuses and, in some cases, payment for the remainder of the planned ski season. International employees are also allowed to use company housing/lodging through the previously planned closing dates. Resorts such as Alta also noted that health insurance and healthcare benefits would not be affected.