Quebec ski slopes are eager to open the season due to a labor shortage

Ski Bromont is already teeming with activities.

The backhoes cross at the base of the mountain, moving the mountain bike racks into storage for the winter. The stairs are removed in favor of ramps for the next ski season.

There are about 300 staff transitioning the site from fall sports to winter, and over the next month training will begin for ski patrollers and new hires, but owner Charles Desourdy says he is still scrambling to find new hires for the 1,200 positions it needs to keep the station fully open.

“We have enough students who like to work nights and weekends, so we’re looking at bringing retirees back into the workforce,” he said.

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

“Most retirees want to work short shifts,” he said, adding that it’s the weekday shifts he struggles to fill.

If Bromont does not have enough employees, it could cut some services to skiers. Desourdy says keeping the lifts running and the slopes groomed are the priorities.

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

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

“We used to have instructors helping us with the chairlift, and we had a shorter menu at the restaurant,” said marketing director Nadya Baron.

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

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

Both mountains offer starting salaries of $15 an hour with no experience.

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

Desourdy hopes temporary foreign workers can fill the gaps in the labor shortage.

“I think the short-term solution is temporary immigrants, like in the case of agriculture. I think the ski industry and tourism will need that,” she said.

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