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Colorado ski resorts working with international employees to get them home during coronavirus

Posted at 4:46 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 23:02:21-04

DENVER — In 2012, Anabella Panessi said she left Argentina to work in Aspen as a ski instructor with a J1 visa.

"When I came here I found a different world," Panessi said.

Her passion as a ski instructor kept her back for her sixth straight season and she even joined a synchronized ski team. But because of the coronavirus, she said her life drastically changed.

"On March 14, we get the news that the mountain will close the next day and then same day we got the news that the border in Argentina will close two days later so all my friends started to run away," Panessi said. "I didn’t make it."

Aspen Ski Company spokesman Jeff Hanle said Panessi is one of nearly 50 other international workers in Aspen who are stuck.

"We’ve got 47 that work for us," Panessi said. "So those are the ones who work for Aspen Ski Company that we know of. Eighteen of them are in our employee housing units so we’ve waived rent for everybody in those units through the end of April."

Vail Resorts said they had more than 900 international employees on H2B or J1 visas this season.

Although about 94% of them have been able to get home, 57 remain stuck and waiting for their country’s borders to open.

Both resorts said they’re continuing to work with individual employees to help meet their needs while in the US.

Still, Panessi said she is thankful to be healthy even though she worries about being so far from family.

"I consider myself a lucky person," she said. "I have the chance to survive but the situation in other countries, for example my country is really tough."