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Employee Update
April 2006

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¡Salud y Saludos!

During the past month or two, I’ve attempted to do as much ‘last-minute’ skiing as possible. I was in Colorado a couple of months ago; then went to Montreal and Quebec City—where I ripped through the beautiful slopes of Le Massif; and just recently tried my luck at Virginia’s Wintergreen and at Sugar Mountain during their last weekend of skiing for the 2005-2006 season.

Jalil IsaOne thing that struck me about the resorts, particularly the first and last two, were the number of Hispanics working them. I find this amusing because chances are they’re like me and didn’t even get a taste of snow until late in the game. In my case, a lifetime spent in Miami early on—combined with a depressing economic situation that prevented virtually any kind of recreational travel—made it impossible for me to travel far enough to see snow for the first time until I was 15. I fell in love with this meteorological phenomenon and decided to take my relationship with snow to a new level two years later. That’s when I tried snow skiing for the first time. I haven’t gotten off the slopes since. And now I’m proud to say I’m a double-diamond skier. I may not look elegant coming down the mountain...but I can come down most terrains.

The first time that I encountered the Latino workforce at a ski resort was a few years ago at Sugar Mountain in western North Carolina. I remember waiting at a parking lot for a shuttle bus to transport me to the base of the mountain. Suddenly, I heard what sounded like an indiscernible language coming from the direction of the two parking lot attendants. Both looked Central American. But their language...their language wasn’t Spanish. I abruptly realized these individuals were speaking a Central American indigenous language! It was my first time hearing one of these languages--of the many--that are still spoken throughout many parts of Central America. I approached them and they quickly switched to their other native language offering more common ground: Spanish. They soon told me how they had ended up working there and how different it was from what they were used to back home.

Recently at Virginia’s Wintergreen, I came across a rather large group of South Americans who had been employed by the resort through a special employment agency in their home countries. In this case, Wintergreen contracted with this employment agency to supply young workers from countries such as Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil—to name a few. The employer officially ‘sponsored’ these workers while they were on break from their university studies. While many South Americans live in places that aren’t far from ski resorts (the nearly six million inhabitants of Chile’s capital, Santiago, for example, reside less than an hour away from ski slopes), the vast majority spend a lifetime without getting an up-close view of the white, fluffy stuff.

While I sort of feel like the residents of the Triangle were mostly cheated from a local winter wonderland this year, most of the folks who’ve lived in this area for a while have had their fare share of snow encounters in the past. But for those newcomers who are arriving from countries south of the border, it’s unlikely they’ve had much contact whatsoever with this kind of weather. This is why I can’t help but be amused at the irony that many of these individuals would find themselves working at a ski resort—tackling a new sport they may have only seen on television, experiencing weather they may have only imagined, and coping as best they can with the new conditions. For some, like myself, the experience is novel and glorious. But undoubtedly, not everyone takes to the wintry weather with the grin that I do. For those who are just there for the work...they make the most of it. They do what they can to survive. And regardless of the conditions they often face, are just grateful for the opportunity. Let’s see what kinds of conditions future seasons await us.


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Last Modified: March 31, 2006





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