Imagine hitting the slopes every day before work. Hell, your "work" may even require you leave your skis on all day! According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, there are about one million Aussies living and working overseas at any one time. A good chunk of them ditch the rat race for a season of fresh pow and parties and most will agree it's the best decision they've ever made. But could it be for you? Read on to find out.
Why do a ski season?
Are you a social, active person looking for a change of pace? Perfect. A working holiday at the snow gives you the freedom to experience a different way of life without the need to save up, and you'll walk away at the end of the season with lifelong friends, mean mountain technique, and maybe even a few extra bucks in your pocket.
If it's eons of skiable terrain and even more places to party you're after, Whistler Blackcomb
(referred to as 'Australia's best ski resort' due to the volume of expats in the British Columbian village) is for you. If you're more of a culture vulture, head for the slopes of Valle Nevado
, Chile or polish your French in Val d'Isère
, France. Check out resort websites and employee blogs to get a feel for which ski field will suit you best.
What will I do for work?
Seasonal employment can consist of anything from operating ski lifts to waxing snowboards, selling ski jackets to serving food. Resorts usually offer their staff subsidised (or free) lift passes and accommodation with flexible shifts to boot, but in return you'll work for peanuts. Most will agree, however, that the unglamorous work and dismal pay is far outweighed by the opportunity to hit the mountain every day.
But I don't want to live on the breadline …
Taking on professional employment (in restaurant or hotel management, for example) will guarantee a larger pay packet, but your ski time will likely be limited to weekends when the slopes are packed with tourists. Chefs, servers and bartenders arguably get the best of both worlds (especially in countries with a tipping culture), but it's not easy getting out of bed to catch the first ski lift after clocking off work at 5am.
How do I apply?
Many wannabe seasonaires like the security of teeing up a job from home. European and North American resorts begin recruiting for winter from around May, while Australian resorts typically begin accepting applications during the New Year.
For Aussies, Brits and Kiwis, Overseas Working Holidays' website www.owh.com.au is your go-to for Canadian resort jobs, while International Exchange Programs' site www.iep.org.au can help Aussies find work in the US. Browse for European resort jobs at www.natives.co.uk
and explore opportunities in resorts from Japan to New Zealand at www.snowworkers.com
If you're after a hotel job, check websites for vacancies. Local newspaper websites and Craigslist
are also worth keeping an eye on.
Ensure you have the correct background checks and working visas before leaving home these can be very costly to secure when you're overseas.
And if I want to be an instructor?
For ski and snowboard enthusiasts who want to maximize their time on the hill, instructing is a dream job. Companies such as All Tracks Academy
Australian Professional Snowsport Instructors
offer courses that certify you to instruct around the world, but be warned programs are costly, and when there's no snow, there's no work.
Can't I just wing it?
As the first snow falls, hundreds of young people arrive in ski towns with little more than a battered board under their arms and hearts full of dreams. If this is how you roll, time your arrival to coincide with the end of the low season and start networking to get a leg-up on your competition snow holiday towns can be very cliquey, and who you know will often speak a lot louder than your resume.
Any experience in the service industry will be a definite asset, and First Aid certification may also give you leverage. It may help to know that massage therapists, aestheticians and chefs are always in high demand.
Where will I live?
Most seasonaires opt to live in staff quarters, while others prefer to take out a seasonal lease on a chalet or unit. Expect to share a room, as singles are costly. But while housing can be cramped, most premises come furnished, which takes off some financial pressure.
What kind of commitment will I be expected to make?
Seasonal employees are expected to stay on for the duration of the season (usually six months). Some companies even offer a bonus for sticking around. Shorter placements are often offered to university students ask your learning institution about current opportunities.
I'm thinking about staying on…
For some, one winter just isn't enough. And to most people's surprise, winter resorts are usually even busier in the summer. While many winter staff will be laid off at the end of the season, some resorts offer year-round positions, while other opportunities arise as the snow melts to make way for summer activities such as hiking, biking, golfing, zip-lining and white-water rafting.
*The author left Australia in 2009 to work a winter at Whistler Blackcomb (host venue of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games) … and never came home.
Have you worked a ski resort? Share your thoughts on securing a job below.
Think you've seen it all? Check out the Top 10 Places to Ski or Board Before you Die.