Housing crunch a concern as Banff seeks workers for ski season

Ski season is nearly underway, which means both chilly weather and job seekers have swept in to Banff National Park.

The new cohort of workers will need places to live while they work for the winter — a tall order in a housing market that remains one of the most expensive in the province, with vacancy rates among the lowest. 

"I found lots of jobs, and got lots of job offers, but the accommodation is still the hard part to find," said 18-year-old Daniel Tyler James.

James said he doesn't have a place to live in town, so if he can't find a job with accommodations within the month he'll be headed back home to Chilliwack, B.C.

Anis Heydari/CBC

Catherine Bohn, a recruiter with Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, said it's been challenging to fill positions this year.

"I think it has to do partially with housing. It's very expensive to live in the valley. We're trying to offset that by offering subsidized housing for all of our employees," she said. "Demand for housing is huge."

Nearly half (44 per cent) of jobs in Banff and Canmore were advertised with staff housing, according to the most recent Bow Valley Labour Market Review.

The town has a population and development cap set by Parks Canada, and its vacancy rate usually hovers around zero per cent.

Simon Ennals manages Ultimate Ski and Ride in Banff. He said the store's parent company provides accommodation to staff if needed.

"It can be a little bit challenging here in Banff for sure … there's a work to reside rule here as well so to live in Banff you do have to actually work here. Which is fantastic. I've lived in other towns where that doesn't happen and the accommodation is even harder to find," he said.

Michel Dufresne, the director of the Job Resource Centre, said hundreds more job seekers are expected at a ski hiring fair on Oct. 4.

He said most people aren't interested in jobs unless the position comes with housing.

"The people who come here to work are entry level and are just starting up over here so staff housing is very important. It's part of the package."

With files from Anis Heydari.