Seasonal workers left in limbo as Europe battles over opening of ski resorts

Verity Bowman
·2-min read
Giordano Callegari, 59, does maintenance work on a pair of skis at his ski rental at the ski resort of Passo Tonale - REUTERS
Giordano Callegari, 59, does maintenance work on a pair of skis at his ski rental at the ski resort of Passo Tonale - REUTERS

Seasonal workers are stranded in limbo as nations across Europe squabble about the possibility of closing all pistes for the season.

Resorts are desperately trying to salvage the winter, but travel restrictions, the need for social distancing and a disjointed approach from Governments means they are no closer to finding a solution.

At the centre of the crisis are thousands of workers, from instructors and lift operators to catering staff and nannies, who rely on the season for their income.

“I am thinking in the first place of the tens of thousands of seasonal workers, employees and socio-professionals in the mountains who risk being deprived of income,” vice-president of Isère Chantal Carlioz said he reacted to the news that lifts would be closed this Christmas in France.

“The situation is serious. I feel its gravity and perceive the tragedies to come,” he told PlanetSKI.

Numerous UK ski tour operators have already said they will not be sending staff to resorts this winter because there is simply no guarantee there will be any work waiting for them.  

Resorts in France provide roughly 120,000 seasonal workers with jobs, while winter tourism in Italy employs around 400,000.

A closed chairlift is seen at the ski resort of Passo Tonale in the Dolomites  - REUTERS
A closed chairlift is seen at the ski resort of Passo Tonale in the Dolomites - REUTERS

In the Italian village of Sestriere, Giovanni Brasso normally employs 350 full-time staff in his ski lift operating company.

But he fears that if they do not open for Christmas, they may not reopen at all this season.

"We take 45 percent of all the season's revenue over the Christmas holiday. If you take that away, we can't go on," he said.

"I am very bitter because I'm convinced the ski stations could reopen safely, by taking the necessary measures" like they do in Switzerland, he added.

Smaller resorts say they are likely to feel a disproportionate impact.

Many fear they could need “several years to get back on their feet”, according to Michele Bertolini, who heads a lobby group for owners of local businesses in Passo del Tonale.

"We have infrastructure, mainly consisting of ski lifts, which needs a lot of investment," he said.

“If these big investors hit an economic crisis, my great fear is that we won't just say goodbye to next year.”