Some Vail Valley businesses get seasonal work visas |

Some Vail Valley businesses get seasonal work visas

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Gary Gilman has never been happier to see one of his checks cashed.

Gilman, owner of SteamMaster Cleaning and Restoration in Minturn, applied earlier this year for 10 seasonal work visas to beef up his crew over the ski season. Gilman thought he’d applied early for those visas, and had sent the package, along with a check to cover the fees.

Last week, Gilman learned that federal immigration officials received his application the same day the agency hit its limit of seasonal visas ” known as “H2B” visas ” and his application would go into a lottery.

In a story last week, Gilman said if the feds cashed his check, he’d feel pretty good about his chances. Still, he was already working to get seasonal workers for his business using short-term student visas called “J1s”.

Last week, Gilman learned that his application check had cleared. Monday, he found out SteamMaster had received all the visas it applied for.

So this winter, a few people from Moldova ” in what used to be the Soviet Union ” and Mexico will come to the Vail Valley to clean carpets.

Gilman was thrilled.

“It cuts down on our re-training, we have less turnover, and it shifts us from filling short-term jobs,” Gilman said. It also creates a little more continuity in the housing he provides for employees.

While Gilman received all the visas he requested, Brian Nolan is still hustling to find employees through student visas.

Nolan, owner of the Chop House restaurants in Vail and Beaver Creek as well as several others, said he got “some” seasonal visas.

“But we’re recruiting for J1s as fast as we can,” Nolan said.

“We’re becoming more J1-dependent,” he added. “But it’s so much more complicated.”

Nolan and Gilman said the student visas won’t allow one person to work through an entire ski season. That means employers have to hire workers in waves. The goal is to time the workers’ arrival and departures to get through the season.

An early return date for employees on student visas hit Vail Resorts hard last year, which put a lot of company managers and supervisors into front-line jobs for the last few weeks of the ski season.

Nolan’s goal is to become less dependent on foreign workers. He said his company is trying to recruit workers from elsewhere in the United States.

“But we’re a resort and we’re seasonal,” he said. “This is our reality.”

And, Gilman said, his jobs involve work that a lot of people in Vail don’t seem to want.

“This isn’t working outside planting flowers,” he said. “A lot of what we do is below grade in crawl spaces. (Visa workers) are happy to be here and do the work we have.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 748-2930, or

Support Local Journalism