MILWAUKEE (AP) - Wisconsin ski areas have hundreds of seasonal jobs to fill, and they're even turning to college students from tropical Brazil and other South American countries.
Some Wisconsin ski areas have trouble hiring enough local help even when the jobless rate is high, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Thursday.
Randy Axelson, spokesman for Cascade Mountain near Portage said it's an inherent problem because the work is seasonal. Cascade will employ 40 college students from South America in jobs that will last until March, he said.
Axelson said a surprising number of South Americans come back for a second year or more. Though Brazilians can be shocked by the cold, he said, other students come from Argentina and Peru, where it can get just as cold as Wisconsin.
"I remember picking up one fellow at the airport, and when the doors opened and it was 5 degrees outside, he started crying. He said, 'I can't do this. I can't do this,'" Axelson recalled.
But after a brief adjustment - and some proper winter clothes - the Brazilian student finished the winter and returned to work two more seasons.
"I can say that almost 100 percent of them are not coming for the money. They're here because work experience in the United States will help them get a job when they graduate from college," Axelson said.
Little Switzerland ski area, in Slinger, scheduled a job fair Thursday aimed at filling about 100 positions, including ski lift operators and cafeteria workers. Its pay scale for seasonal jobs ranges from minimum wage to about $12 per hour. For most people, it's part-time work.
"One of the perks for working here is you get to ski for free, which is as important as the wage for a lot of our employees," co-owner Mike Schmitz said.
Sunburst Ski Area, in Kewaskum, is gearing up to hire more than 100 employees and already has begun testing snow-making equipment.
"It's been slow, and we aren't quite sure why," general manager Steve Voss said about applicants for jobs that have starting wage of a $7.25 per hour but include free skiing.
Often, a ski hill is the first job experience for teenagers and young adults, said Chris Stoddard, president of the Midwest Ski Areas Association.
"It's an important role for them, learning the importance of coming to work on time and accepting the responsibilities that come with a real job," Stoddard said.
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