This is a guest post written by Ben Lloyd, who works ski season and other seasonal jobs to support his travels.
Having worked at a summer camp in New York, I knew that I had my summers covered for employment. I now needed to find a job that could sustain a traveling lifestyle during the winter months—and what better way to do that than working a ski season?
Working a ski season in Canada was the perfect opportunity—allowing me to spend my summer in the U.S., use my income to travel for a few months, then fly north to Canada to bury down for the winter.
Best of all, it lets me earn a steady income to support my snowboarding addiction on the stunning slopes in Banff.
Working a seasonal job like a ski season gives you the ability to continue to travel year after year without ever having to come home to save up money for your next trip.
What more can you ask for?
This guide is going to act as your introduction to ski season work in Canada, walking you through the process of how to get a job and how to survive your first season on the slopes.
How does a ski season work in Canada?
The actual ‘skiing season’ in Canada runs from late-October to April each year—the period of time when the conditions are suitable for skiing and snowboarding – i.e. when there is enough snow.
Ski Resorts (and the towns around them) need to employ hundreds of seasonal workers during this time to cater to the influx of tourists and guests to the resorts each year.
“Doing ski season” basically means finding a seasonal job at a ski resort during this time.
Your reward for working these jobs, along with your wage, is the freedom to ski or snowboard all winter long. The mountains become your playground.
It’s a pretty sweet deal.
Ski Season work is typically geared towards younger people (18-30) who are able to base themselves at a resort for an entire season without ties elsewhere.
Working a ski season is perfect for those on gap years, people looking for winter employment, and individuals that are looking to travel long-term.
That said, some people work ski seasons for their whole lives. Training to become a ski or snowboard instructor is a viable way to secure life-long ski season work.
What are the best ski season jobs?
There are two different types of ski season jobs – Ski Resort Jobs and Ski Town Jobs.
Ski resort jobs are directly connected to the ski resort themselves, meaning that you’ll be working on the mountain itself.
Examples of popular Ski Resort Jobs:
- Ski Lift Attendant
- Ski/Snowboard Instructor
- Front Desk Jobs
- Shuttle Bus Drivers
- Jobs selling Tickets/Passes
- Ski/Snowboard Rental Jobs
Ski Town Jobs are different in that you will be working a role for a business based in a town near a ski resort, but not directly connected to the ski resort itself.
Examples of popular Ski Town Jobs:
- Bar Work
- Hospitality jobs for Hotels – cleaning, front desk, concierge, etc.
- Barista/Cafe jobs
- Retail Work
What does an average day look like working a ski season in Canada?
In Canada, most ski season jobs work a 5 days on, 2 days off schedule. During your 2 days off, you will almost certainly be at the ski hill. After all, it’s the reason you’re going to be in Canada in the first place.
You may even be fortunate to secure a job that required 4 days of work, with 3 days off. They are less common, more competitive, and harder to secure.
If you get a job that requires you to work at night, like bar work, you’ll be able to go to the ski hill every single day before work (although you might need to pound a few shots of expresso first).
I worked at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise as a resort activities attendant. We were on a strict 5 days on, 2 days off rotation, but shifts varied during the 5 days.
Sometimes you’d be working 3pm – 11pm, so you could be at the ski hill all morning. Other times you’d get stuck working 8am – 4pm and wouldn’t have time to hit the slopes.
Whatever your specific work schedule looks like, you’ll likely spend all your free time on the slopes, carving up the mountain all winter long.
Ski resorts are also famed for their lively, party atmosphere, so expect plenty of options for bars and pubs wherever you end up. It’s easy to meet new people while working a ski season. You’ll find travelers from all around the world looking to have a great winter.
Read my post on the realities of working a ski season for an idea of what to expect during your winter in Canada.
How to get a ski season job in Canada
You have 2 options when it comes to securing a ski season job in Canada.
#1.) Applying for a job before you arrive in the country
#2.) Waiting until you arrive in Canada to find a job.
The first option is arguably the less popular of the two and takes significant forethought and planning.
Securing a ski season job before you arrive in Canada means scouring the web for suitable ski resort jobs that you think you would enjoy.
The obvious benefit to this approach is that you are guaranteed a job and income source once you arrive in the country.
The downside is that this process can be difficult and time-consuming. Many ski resorts and associated companies will not accept job applications from anybody that hasn’t already secured their working holiday visa.
Many ski resorts even require in-person interviews.
That’s why I recommended the second option—waiting until you arrive in Canada to find a ski season job.
This route is a little more daunting as you will be traveling to Canada without any job security, but it’s not particularly hard to find a ski season job once you arrive.
Once you arrive at the ski resort you want to work in, you will need to visit as many local businesses as possible and hand out your CV/Resume. The more you hand out, the better your odds.
All Canadian ski resort towns are well-catered for working holiday visa workers and often run job hiring fairs in order for businesses to secure employees for the season.
In Banff for example, they run a job hiring fair at the beginning of the season (early October) and again at the beginning of January.
So, the first step is deciding what location you want to work in, then figuring out when the job fairs are for that location. For example, this page has all the information for the Lake Louise Ski Resort Job Fair.
It’s simply a case of turning up to the job hiring fair, approaching employers at the stalls, and asking for an interview.
It’s best to do some research before you arrive at the fair though. It always looks better to potential employers when you seem as though you are approaching them directly for a specific role you’ve already researched.
Keep in mind that you will have to factor in money for accommodation while you are searching for jobs. You may be fortunate to pick up a job within a couple of days of arriving. But if you’re searching for a more specific job, it may take up to a month before you find what you’re looking for.
I arrived in Banff in the first week of October and didn’t start working until November. This was because I wanted a specific job working with children that included accommodation.
If you are willing to accept any job, regardless of accommodation status, you will easily secure a job within a week of arriving in Canada.
My guide on how to find ski season jobs includes useful resources and an in-depth breakdown of how to secure ski season work in Canada.
How to apply for a working holiday visa in Canada
In order to work a ski season in Canada, you will need to apply for a working holiday visa through the International Experience Canada (IEC) scheme. It is an online visa process that, if you are accepted, allows you to work freely in Canada for up to 24 months.
The process begins by applying to join the ‘pool’ of IEC candidates. You essentially fill out all your information, ensuring your eligibility for the appropriate visa, and you enter into the pool.
Candidates are then picked from the eligible pool at set points throughout the year. Unfortunately, this means you can be waiting for a long time before you hear back from the Canadian government.
As a UK citizen, I applied to enter the pool in February 2019 and didn’t get my acceptance email until June.
Another thing to consider—depending on where you are from, you may need to provide your biometrics (finger-print details) before you arrive in the country. You should have registered centers in your country that will be able to do this, but it can be a hassle to arrange.
You’ll also likely need to provide a full medical report before being accepted. This can be a costly process once you factor in the additional CAD$156 for the visa itself.
Current processing times for the Canadian Working Holiday Visa are estimated to be up to 48 weeks. That means you need to apply for your visa 9-12 months before you are due to arrive in Canada.
For a full breakdown of the working holiday visa and relevant eligibility criteria, visit the Canadian Government Immigration Website.
One requirement for this visa is that you purchase adequate travel insurance. For a full breakdown of your options, check out this guide to the best travel insurance plans for long-term travelers. Before choosing a policy, make sure to read the fine print to make sure skiing is covered. For example, this cheap travel insurance covers skiing and snowboarding as long as you stay on designated paths.
How much money do you make working at a ski resort?
Your ski season pay in Canada is entirely dependent on the job you land.
The minimum wage in Canada is CAD$11.06 per hour, and it is illegal for businesses to offer you less than this. Based on an estimate of working 40 hours a week, you can be expected to earn CAD$440 a week, or around CAD$1800 a month (at minimum).
Most jobs based at the ski resorts themselves offer staff accommodation and take rent directly from your pay—somewhere in the region of CAD$80-120 per week.
Jobs that are associated with businesses in ski towns are less likely to offer accommodation, so you will have to factor in the price of rent in the town itself.
Here’s what it looked like for me:
I worked a 40-hour-a-week contract at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for CAD$16 per hour. Accommodation was included in the job, so CAD$200 was taken from my wages every two weeks. This left me with plenty of spare money to save and use to travel at the end of the season.
Fairmont is a huge, reputable company that is renowned for treating their staff incredibly well—both in terms of wage and lifestyle—so I was very fortunate to secure a job there.
If you have particular qualifications or skills (Eg. trained chef, ski/snowboard instructor), you can expect to be paid at a far greater rate than minimum wage.
Many ski season jobs, whether based at the resort or in a ski town, will offer you a free or reduced-rate ski season pass as part of your contract. Normally, these seasonal passes start at CAD$1000 for the most basic mid-week package, so being able to secure one at a reduced rate with your job is a huge perk.
Working a ski season in Canada: Advice for first-timers
- Don’t worry about needing lots of money to buy your winter gear and equipment. Most Canadian ski resorts have plenty of affordable second-hand gear options.
- Keep an eye on Facebook Marketplace. The nature of seasonal work means that people will be constantly leaving throughout the year. Take advantage of this by searching the Facebook Buy and Sell pages for cheap, high-quality gear that people need to get rid of.
- Be patient. The working holiday visa process can be frustrating, but it’s worth it in the end.
- Bundle up. Canadian ski seasons are significantly colder than European ski seasons. Lake Louise gets to around -35C (Below -30F) degrees in the depths of winter, so don’t expect any spring skiing in just a t-shirt.
Ben Lloyd is a Snow Sports enthusiast from the UK. He spent a year working at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Canada and is the co-creator of Ticket4Twoplease – a travel blog that offers advice and inspiration for couples seeking long-term travel options. You can find him on Instagram and Pinterest.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).