Mt Ruapehu's ski areas may not open on time because they don't have the overseas ski instructors and snow groomers that are needed.
Ruapehu Alpine Lifts (RAL) chief executive Jono Dean said the situation was dire, with border restrictions due to Covid-19 limiting the number of overseas workers.
Most years the mountain's two ski areas are 50 to 60 per cent staffed by overseas visitors - often people who travel the world from ski season to ski season. This year job applications are down 40 per cent.
The Whakapapa and Turoa ski areas usually have 200 ski instructors and four to six snow groomers. This year there are likely to be 60 to 80 ski instructors in total.
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has just approved an application for four specialist ski instructors who will teach others in RAL's apprentice ski instructor programme but applications for it are also down, due to the border restrictions.
The ability to deliver ski lessons, especially advanced ones, was at risk, Dean said.
The ski areas needed four to six snow groomers, and especially a specialist winch cat operator, he said. There was currently one snow groomer and an application to Immigration New Zealand for the specialist position had been declined.
A late announcement by the Government that working holiday visas would be extended another six months had not helped matters. People left the country while uncertainty existed, and Dean believed they would have been snapped up elsewhere.
RAL is not alone in facing problems due to a lack of overseas staff. It affects other ski areas, and industries like hospitality and dairy.
"It seems there is a misalignment between the reality of the business need on the ground and the urgency of Government to support the critical tourism and hospitality sectors trying their hardest to work towards an economic recovery," Dean said.
RAL made every effort to employ local people for jobs, but it did not have enough applicants to fill all the jobs, and of those that applied only half had the relevant experience.
Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, entry to New Zealand remains strictly controlled, Immigration New Zealand general manager of border and visa operations Nicola Hogg said.
People could come into the country if they met criteria to be an "other critical worker", and those criteria were very high. The work had to be so specialised that it would be hard to find a New Zealander to do it, or it had to be urgently needed for an important project.
Requests for "other critical workers" had to be made by employers, and the employers must make the case for the specialised work.
Most (82 per cent) of those requests were processed within 13 working days, Hogg said.
RAL's requests for four specialist ski instructors and one specialist snow groomer were made in mid-April.
After that the ski instructors had to make their own applications, which were also processed within two weeks, Hogg said.
Dean received his reply to the requests on June 13.
Hogg said the extension of 10,000 Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment work visas should also help RAL's situation.
Ruapehu's Happy Valley learner ski area and Sky Waka gondola opened on June 5. The upper mountain at both Whakapapa and Turoa usually opens in early July if there is enough snow.