You’re looking on the internet for ski work, googling ski school after ski school and reading the gazillion blogs you find about working in the snow. And yet, you’re not sure you’re cut out for this or where to begin. A few years ago I was like this, thinking I didn’t want to go to France or Austria because I didn’t trust my language skills and at the same time thinking I would never be hired anyway. And then I went to Australia… So if you’re one of these people who, deep down, really wants to try it, but keeps mulling over it, here are some answers to common thoughts.
Can I add winter sports to a year of backpacking?
Yes! Great opportunities exist in Europe, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. All these countries work with working holiday visas. It is often hard to find a sponsorship in a ski resort unless you are an amazing high-end ski instructor. Getting a working holiday visa allows you to work a season, see if it’s your thing and explore the country at your own pace afterwards.
How good a skier do you need to be to get started?
There are many jobs on the mountain and to become an instructor or ski patroller, you’ll obviously need some decent riding skills. There are many entry-level jobs for which you don’t need to ski at all though. Think about guest services or food and beverage. If you want to be a lift operator, you’ll need to be able to go down a blue/red run confidently. When I started working in Australia I couldn’t ski at all! And still I managed to get a job in the ski school. You often don’t need a lot of ski experience when you teach 3 to 6 year-olds, and sometimes you don’t need any experience at all. If you’ve got experience in working with kids, check out day care, kids ski instructor or assistant positions.
Will I save money working in a ski field?
Working a ski season won’t make you rich. Let’s not get any ideas about that. The rich and famous come to ski and it’s us ski bums that work for them so we get some time to shred ourselves. How much you earn depends on the job, but expect minimum wage wherever you go. What you save is up to you. Ski town is pretty much a synonym for party town and thus you can spend your wages in the bar. If you keep the partying to a limit and keep track of what you spend, you can save enough for a nice trip though.
What will my hours be?
Most of the time you’ll work during the mountains opening times and this can include night skiing. As a lift operator you’ll probably start earlier than the ski instructors. As a groomer you will work nights. All positions have their perks and downfalls. As a ski instructor with high qualifications you might be on a big salary, but get fewer hours than the lift staff. Instructors always have to share the work that is around. During school holidays it might be busy, but after that you take what you can get. For lefties on the other hand, there is work as long as the mountain is open.
Up early in the morning to see the sunrise. Mind you, this is around 8.15AM.
How much time is there to actually go skiing?
Depending on the resort you work for you’ll probably be rostered on for 5 or 6 days a week. This leaves you with one or two days to go up the mountain. This is not all though, you might get ride breaks when it’s not so busy. Ski jobs depend highly on the customer numbers. In holiday periods you might not have much time at all, but you can often make up for this in quieter times, when the slopes are quiet as well. Win win. Besides this your mountain may offer night skiing. And remember, your season pass is free!
What do I need to bring?
Warm clothing and ski gear might come in handy. On the other hand there are usually some sweet deals available in the towns, so you could just get a pair of cheap ex-rentals or last year’s leftovers on arrival. Since you’ll be provided with a uniform you’ll mostly need base layers to keep you warm and some gear to use on your days off. Also, check out what kind of accommodation is available and if you need to bring things like sheets, towels, pillow or even plates and cutlery.
Working in a ski resort is not as glamorous as it sounds, but it is always worth it. Just think about what you want from it. Would you like to try it or make a career in a certain field? Would you like to work indoors or outdoors? What is your main goal? Saving money? Learning to ski? Improving your boarding skills? Making friends? Do something different for a change? The mountain is such an exciting place to work and attracts people from all over the world.
And tell me now, who wouldn’t like this for an office?