Vail Resorts ‘ambassador’ visas for ski instructors stalled
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado ” A ski lesson at Vail or Beaver Creek this season may be less of a cultural experience than originally planned.
Vail Resorts planned to bring in almost 400 international ski and snowboard instructors under the Q visa program, which brings in cultural exchange visitors, but the applications have been stalled by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Immigration officials wanted more information about Vail Resort’s cultural exchange program before any more visas were issued, company representatives said.
The requirements for the visas are very specific, and USCIS wanted to make sure Vail Resorts’ program met the visa’s specifications, said Kristin Williams, Eagle County spokeswoman for Vail Resorts.
Similar cultural ambassador programs have been used in other resort areas such as Disneyland.
“No additional Q visas will be granted until it’s cleared up,” Williams said. “The good news is that we’re fully staffed.”
The company does not expect to get any more Q visas this season, but hopes the program will be ready to go for next season, she said.
“We really hope we’ll be able to utilize this program well into the future,” Williams said. “We do believe in the program, and we’ve put a lot of time and effort into it.”
The idea for the program was that instructors would introduce themselves as cultural ambassadors, and share about their native languages, histories and cultures with guests. The program will also include cultural food, special cultural events and international children’s programs.
Some ski instructors did receive the cultural exchange visas and are working on the mountain this winter, but Vail Resorts is not releasing how many Q visas it received, said company spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga.
Vail Resorts partnered with the American Hospitality Academy, an organization that provides internships for hospitality students, to bring the workers in after Vail Resorts was unable to get the nearly 1,900 H-2B visas it usually uses.
Vail Resorts did not get many of the visas this year after the nationwide cap of 66,000 H-2B visas was quickly reached.
A provision allowing returning workers to be exempt from the cap expired this year, meaning that many international restaurant workers, ski instructors, lift operators and other mountain workers were unable to return this season.
Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.