When visitors arrive in Park City at the beginning of the 2022-2023 ski season, they’ll be greeted with a brand new seven-building complex on the West side of S.R. near the Canyons Village. But this shiny development won’t be full of surplus rental units for the visiting skiers and snowboarders in search of some dreamy Utah powder, it’ll be home for 1,153 employees who work Park City Mountain and businesses in the Canyons Village base area. The idea behind the workforce housing project—signed into agreement in 1999—may not be new, but it couldn’t come to fruition at a more crucial time.
All types of businesses in Park City are having an increasingly difficult time finding employees for seasonal work thanks to a multitude of contributing factors. Overall unemployment is currently low. High housing costs in Park City—driven by an ongoing real estate boom and the degradation of the long-term rental market in the face of apps like VRBO and Airbnb—mean fewer employees earning relatively-stagnant seasonal wages can afford to live locally. Others aren’t willing to commute from the Salt Lake Valley for those same wages. On top of all that, the result of affordable multi-mountain passes like Epic and Ikon has rendered the complimentary employee season pass—once an essential perk to attracting large numbers of workers—increasingly less enticing.
The result is businesses, particularly area ski resorts, operating at less than full capacity despite hikes in starting wages. Several employees at Park City Mountain who spoke with me on condition of anonymity said that despite ample early season snowfall in 2019 the resort wasn’t able to open more terrain prior to the holidays due to employee shortages in areas like lift ops.
Canyons Village Management Association (CVMA) is stepping up to make a tangible difference, partnering with Columbus Pacific to develop the workforce housing after submitting a project application to Summit County in fall 2019. “This is an invaluable project and one we are thoroughly excited and proud about,” Dave March CVMA Director of Marketing and Events said via email. The development’s location will provide fully furnished “pod-style” living accommodations to more than 1,100 employees on a 7.5-acre lot with easy access to Kimball Junction, downtown Park City and area resorts. The development won’t just house a critical mass of workers, but also will keep those same employees from having to commute and thereby contribute to Park City’s perpetual traffic congestion.
A single development, even one of this magnitude, won’t alone solve ongoing workforce shortages, but it’s a start. Park City’s service-based economy relies on a growing workforce to thrive, and it’s refreshing to see employers get on board to provide affordable, available housing for workers. Hopefully more will soon follow suit.