A story at Outside magazine suggests that the pandemic has threatened to bring an end to a way of life, that of the modern ski bum. And it could be a big problem for ski towns around the US, which rely on such workers to staff their businesses. The piece by Lily Krass begins by noting a sign on a bar in Jackson, Wyoming, that advises patrons, "Sorry, closed until 5 p.m. due to lack of staffing." Of course, small businesses of all types in the US are struggling with that issue, but the problem in Jackson has an added wrinkle—housing. Mountain towns such as Jackson have seen an influx in new residents during the pandemic, often in the form of wealthy "big-city refugees" willing to pay top dollar. That has pushed real estate prices—and rental prices—sky high, well out of reach of most restaurant workers or ski lift operators.
"I can't get anyone to bus tables because you need to be making a ridiculous amount of money to live here," says Josh Hirschmann, general manager of the Local Restaurant and Bar. Krass notes that the classified section of one local paper had no fewer than 183 job postings but only three listings for long-term rentals, and one of those was asking $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom condo. Part of the solution might come in the form of housing developments that set aside units for lower-income residents, writes Krass. That idea had been in play before the pandemic, particularly in Aspen, Colorado, but the pandemic has intensified the problem. "We need to find a way to keep the ski bum," says Hirschmann. "That's the heart of Jackson." (Read the full story.)