Recreation

Whitefish Mountain Resort Scales Back Operations Due to Staffing Shortages

On the heels of a larger-than-anticipated opening weekend, resort will limit operations due to staffing shortages

By Micah Drew
A mountain biker cruises down Big Mountain as visitors ascend to the summit at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Beacon file photo

Whitefish Mountain Resort (WMR) kicked off its seasonal operations over Memorial Day Weekend, with the number of guests exceeding expectations, resort officials said, likely due to a spate of sunny, summer-like weather.

With the initial opening out of the way, however, the resort announced it is scaling back its offerings for the summer season, attributing the reduced operations to a labor shortage confronting the service and hospitality industries throughout the Flathead Valley — a combination that includes limited J1 visas, a shrinking seasonal workforce, the recent construction boom and a lack of childcare.

Beginning June 12, WMR will be open just five days a week due to staffing shortages, a departure from their typical seven-day-a-week summer schedule that historically runs from mid-June through Labor Day. All mountain operations will be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday of each week, with the exception of Chair 1, which will be operating solely for scenic lift rides to the summit on those two days.

The change was first announced on WMR’s Facebook and Instagram pages on May 28.

“While we can’t wait to see all your smiling faces on the mountain, there will be some changes due to difficulty hiring employees,” the posts said.

Public relations manager Maren McKay confirmed that the change was directly tied to the lack of staffing this summer. As of the beginning of June, about 65% of positions on the mountain are filled.

“We chose to close Tuesday and Wednesday since historically those days typically have the least number of guests,” McKay said. “Another reason we chose to do this is we genuinely don’t want to burn our employees out and overwork the employees we have now seven days a week. That wouldn’t be fair.”

On days when the mountain is fully open, the Base Lodge will be operating similarly to last year— a slimmed down café menu and some grab-and-go options. The Summit House will not have a full menu, but the bar will be open and pre-packaged snacks are available.

The resort’s goal is to continue hiring as many people as possible for open positions in order to get back to seven-day operations as soon as possible, and is actively advertising nationwide.

The WMR website currently lists 17 open summer job descriptions and McKay added that several of the positions require multiple people. In addition, WMR is hiring for five full-time positions including a building mechanic, director of snow sports and summer activities, pool/spa technician and an outlet manager and assistant manager.

Activities and amenities on the mountain will be open over the weekend of June 5-6, and five-day-a-week service will begin on June 12 and go through the end of the season on Sept. 6, unless staffing numbers are boosted.

To incentivize applications for seasonal jobs, WMR is offering a two-dollar per hour bonus that will be paid at the end of the month. In addition, employees receive seasonal lift passes, discounts at WMR and business partners and half-off family and friend vouchers for summer activities.

“We want to encourage people to come up and work on the mountain,” McKay said. “Who doesn’t love to watch smiling faces rip down the Alpine Slide?”

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