Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO on Why the Ski Industry Needs Foreign Workers and Immigration Reform is Essential

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Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO. Credit: Vail Daily

An open letter from Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO

The United States has a long and rich history of welcoming generations of immigrants who have enhanced our country and our culture by contributing their talents, traditions, and entrepreneurial spirit. It saddens me to see how our current immigration system—broken and in desperate need of reform—contradicts these long-standing commitments to diversity and equality.

Vail Resorts runs 14 world-class mountains, including 12 across the United States. In each of our communities, there are significant populations of undocumented immigrants. These people, many of whom have resided here for years, have added tremendous economic and cultural value to our country. Yet, without the opportunity to work legally, these individuals are forced to live in uncertainty and fear, instead of being treated as full members of our communities.

Like other businesses in the travel and tourism industry, our company relies on seasonal workforces to fill a variety of essential guest-facing and back-of-house positions, from lift operators and ski instructors to cooks and housekeepers. Despite significant efforts, we are consistently unable to fill all these seasonal positions with domestic workers, in many cases due to a shortage of affordable housing in our communities. And yet we are unable to hire undocumented workers who are already a part of local towns and cities, live near our resorts, and are highly qualified candidates.

Consequently, our resorts have sought and hired international workers through federal visa programs. Our communities are greatly enhanced by the diversity, and our business benefits from having staff who can speak other languages, understand different cultures and provide a welcoming, supportive environment for our international guests. One of the most valuable exports the United States can offer the world is tourism, attracting travelers from other countries to our cities, beaches, mountain resorts, and other amazing sights. This international workforce is a critical part of supporting it.

However, without comprehensive immigration reform, American companies will likely be unable to continue their current pace of growth. The near-historic low unemployment rate means that the workforce that many existing and growing businesses need is simply not here. Past proposals considered by Congress would have increased the GDP, reduced the federal deficit, and bolstered many industries, including tourism. The Center for American Progress estimates that proposals to provide a path to citizenship for just one segment of the undocumented population—undocumented youth, or DREAMers—have the potential to add more than $300 billion to the American economy by 2030 and create more than 1.4 million jobs. These are game-changing figures for our country.

While the environment for reform remains contentious and challenging, we must continue our demand for comprehensive change. It’s necessary to bring greater security to our economy, to support all the people who contribute to it and to uphold our enduring American values.

Vail Resorts, like many businesses, strongly supports immigration reform and the signal it would send to the world that all the people in our communities, documented or not, and all the brave and ambitious employees who work at our company, domestic or international, are welcome and valued in the United States.

This was written by Rob Katz and first published on Outside Online.

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3 thoughts on “Rob Katz, Vail Resorts CEO on Why the Ski Industry Needs Foreign Workers and Immigration Reform is Essential

  1. This clown needs to go back to school for economics 101. It’s pretty simple. If you pay your employees minimum wage and make a dirt cheap ski pass for everyone, nobody will want to work for your resort. Zero incentive. Your corporation makes huge profits by selling local real estate to out of towners and any somewhat affordable housing is an hour away. Vail is the majority owner of the real estate company that conducts over 70% of the local real estate transactions.

    Instead of paying a living wage and retaining employees, these clueless corporate bean counters prefer to attempt to train new staff every few months because that is about how long you can sustain on minimum wage in a ski town. Throw in 5 different languages being spoken and you wonder why that gluten free garden burger you ordered is a cheeseburger on a wheat bun.

    I love how Katz tries to turn the problems that Vail created into a political issue. Blaming someone else for your mistakes is a sure sign of weakness and never makes a great leader.

    Corporate avarice has no business in the ski business. GTFO.

    1. I I can totally agree with the above responses. I have skied at Vail Resorts for years now and paying their workers minimum wage is outrageous, I have family and friends who work for Vail and have struggled to make ends meet. Pay your workers and you will have more productive, happy, and appreciative workers who want to work there and can afford to live the the area. Rent is 1,800 for a small studio if you are lucky enough to find a needle in a haystack. Writing an article like this is crap and must make all the workers at Vail Resorts angry. Sorry hope in the future they wake up and pay their workers better.

  2. Complete bullsh*t

    Raise the wage enough and you’ll have plenty of people wanting to work at your resorts. No need for cheap imported labor.

    Good try though!

    People are seeing right through this. Would love to know what Rob Katz salary is.

    Maybe he could take a pay cut to increase the wages of lift operators, instructors to attract more people to work at his resorts.

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