All non-tipped workers for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will now make at least $18 an hour, after the company’s second minimum wage increase in the lead-up to the 2021-22 season.
In September, the resort increased its minimum wage from $13.50 to $15 to compete with other ski areas and accommodate Jackson’s ballooning cost of living. Leadership offered the same explanations for the second increase, though Chief Administrative Officer Ty Hoath also said it was a response to the “Great Resignation.”
“We do need to recruit a little bit more,” Hoath said. “We have seen decreased applicant flow in the people applying for positions. Our applicant flow is down about 10%.”
That statistic doesn’t mean 10% of the resort’s 1,800 or so positions are unfilled, but rather that fewer people are expressing interest in primarily entry-level jobs.
“Before, we very much leaned on, you know, ‘You can come out here and have a fantastic season and make these great memories and then you go home to wherever your regular life is,’ ” Hoath said. “Now we’re trying to say that we are more of a long-term career option.”
The resort is also looking at moving staff from nonessential services to more essential roles, he said, while trying not to lessen the guest experience.
To account for the wage increase, Hoath said, management has raised prices across the board, not just for season passes, which the resort tries to keep accessible for “a wide and varied audience.”
“We never want to be perceived as price gouging,” Hoath said.
The summer price for an adult Rendezvous Peak Pass increased from $1,955 to $2,229 this year, and an adult Grand Pass jumped from $1,655 to $1,829, the Jackson Hole News&Guide reported in April.
Most resort employees get ski passes for a reduced price or for free.
Ski patrollers and ski instructors are still applying in droves, Hoath said. There are significantly fewer applicants for food and beverage, janitorial and night shift positions.
Part of that is competition. Jackson’s worker shortage has driven up base pay for entry level positions across the valley, with workers also requesting benefits such as housing. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort has housing for only one-fifth of its staff. People staying in employee housing are required to get vaccinated for COVID-19.
Hoath said the resort typically operates with 3% of its positions unfilled, though he wasn’t sure what to expect this winter.
“I only do that analysis in February,” he said.
In a Thursday press release announcing the minimum wage hike, resort President Mary Kate Buckley stated: “We believe that providing additional means of support is imperative to retaining the fabric of this community as a whole. This investment speaks to the value all our employees provide to Jackson Hole and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.”
The resort also hopes the wage increase will help retain current staff.
“There are times to make very level-headed business decisions,” Hoath said. “There are also times to make decisions that lead with our heart.
“Rather than try and look after our employees in a retroactive manner, we decided that we would make a big leap, and have a position with our minimum wage that supported them into the more long-term future.”
This article has been updated to correct Ty Hoath's position with Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. He is Chief Administrative Officer and Vice President of Human Resources. — Ed.