You’ll get to ride and ski often, make great friends, spend a lot of time hungover, all while living in a small cramped apartment not earning much money.
1. You won’t make much money
No one goes to work a ski season to make a lot of money, with lots of the jobs paying minimum wage. If you work full time, you will be able to cover the cost of rent, groceries and going out to the bar a few times, but there won’t be much money left over.
The exception would be servers, or any jobs that make tips.
If you want to earn some decent money, I would work a job that is easy to get full time hours, like lifts, custodial, or the retail or rental departments.
If you are a new instructor working for the ski school, you might get a higher hourly rate, but don’t expect many hours. It is pretty common for level 1 instructors to have a hard time getting hours and making ends meet.
2. Common jobs on the mountain
Lift Operator / Gondola Operator
Out in the cold all day, trying to make sure everyone can get on and off the lift alright. They won’t, and you’ll get frustrated that people struggle to sit down on a moving chair.
Building, raking and maintaining jumps and features. Out in the cold all day, but you’ll get to ride the park while you get paid. Plus you can get angry at all the little kids who use the takeoffs for rails as jumps.
Same as a retail job anywhere. You get to work inside where it is warm, but you’ll still have to deal with customers complaining that everything is expensive.
You’ll be fitting ski and snowboard boots, choosing skis and snowboard for people and setting them up. Get ready for stinky boots, and customers who have never worn ski boots telling you how they should fit, ignoring everything you tell them.
Waxing, tuning and repairing skis and snowboards.
Cooking and serving food, most places will have a cafeteria style place, as well as coffee shops, restaurants and bars. Or maybe just washing dishes.
Basically being a janitor, cleaning stuff, emptying bins. Although it doesn’t sound good, you might get lucky and get early or late shifts, that will either let you ride before or after work.
Working as an instructor, teaching people how to ski and snowboard. They might not tell you, but don’t expect many hours (or money) if you are a new or Level 1 instructor.
Taking care of people’s kids while the parents are out skiing. Hopefully the kids don’t vomit and cry too much.
Answering lots of customer questions – you’ll end up knowing everything about buses, hotels, restaurants, tickets and prices. Chances are you will work inside and get a chair to sit on, so that’s a good plus.
3. Work for the mountain or not?
When I say work for the mountain, it means working for the ski or lift company that runs/operates the mountain. They would be the people that run the lift department, ski school, terrain park, and often retail and rental stores.
There are a few pros and cons if you end up working for the mountain.
It is pretty common if you work for the mountain to get a season pass included with your employment, as well as staff discounts at the stores that they run. Ski or snowboard lessons might be free, or much cheaper than they are for regular customers.
I’ll talk about it later, but often you can organise a bed or room for you in staff accomodation with your job if you are working for the mountain.
This all sounds pretty good, but if you make a mistake, are unlucky, or just end up with a bad boss, it can all go very wrong very quickly. The problem is that you can end up with your season pass and your accomodation tied to your job, so if you lose your job for any reason, you will also lose your ability to ride and your place to stay.
I have always been lucky, and never been fired, but I have known a few people who turned up late to work, only to find that they have lost their job, pass and accomodation in one shot.
The other option is to get a job for a business that is not run by the mountain. You might not get a free season pass with you job, but you will probably get a discount. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hourly rate will be higher than working for the mountain too.
The safest bet would be to buy your own pass early (they might have a discounted early bird season pass) and organise your own apartment and job. If things go bad and you lose your job, at least you can will have a place to live and your season pass.
At the end of the day, the job you work won’t matter too much. If you are super keen to get as much riding or skiing in as possible, try get a job that has ride breaks. Otherwise, you’ll just have to live with going out on your days off, or going out night skiing.
One of the best things that I have found working a variety of job during seasons, is the good attitude that everyone has. At a regular jobs in the real world, there always seems to be someone there who hates their job, and is only there because they have to be.
The big difference is that no one working a ski season is working to make lots of money, they are working because it lets them ride. Compared to a real job, there is always an end date when you are working a ski season. So even if you job isn’t that great, there will only be a few months left.
You end up meeting people who have all sorts of qualifications, have lots of training and who used to earn lots of money – all working the same easy, low paid job. If anything is going to help you realise that money isn’t everything, it will be living in a fun environment, working and riding with good people.
4. Living situations
If you have ever stayed in a hostel, then you are going to have a good idea of what living in staff accomodation is going to be like. Chances are, you are going to be sharing a small room with a bunch of other people. If you are lucky, you might only have to share a room with one other person, or maybe even 3.
If you organize you own accomodation, you will most likely end up with a nicer place than staff accomodation, but it will probably cost more.
I had always heard that the people you meet working a season will end up being your friends for life, but I never really believed it. It turns out I was pretty wrong, I still hang out with people that I met years ago working my first season.
Because you end up working, living and riding with the same people, they will quickly end up like family.
On top of that, you will end up meeting people from all around the world, that you will keep running into years later. It won’t be a surprise when you end up working with the same people in different countries a few seasons later.
5. The bad stuff
It’s very hard to save money
It’s not to say that it can’t be done, but you won’t have much spare money, especially compared to working a normal job. But you will probably be able to save enough money to buy a flight to another country, ready for another winter.
Even if you organise your own accomodation, chances are you will still have to share a room with someone. If you like your privacy, this might end up being harder for you.
The real world seems scary
At one point you realise you will have to get a real job somewhere, but it will be a big change from the fun and exciting life on a mountain. It always seems easier to just do another season. I know a lot of people who are always have “just one more” season.
Your Facebook is going to be filled with friends still following winter.
If you do end up taking a season off, you will be constantly reminded with constant photos and updates from your friends about how good the snow is.
Should you do it?
Absolutely, it is by far the best thing I have ever done. I earn much less now that I used to, but I have gotten to experience so much. I have met amazing people from all around the world, and the amount of snowboarding I have been able to do is crazy.
Friends from home might not really understand why you do it, because it is hard to explain – it is one of those things you just have to try for yourself.
The amount of time you will get to ride, no matter your job, will make you a much better rider – its easy to image how far you can improve if you get an extra 50 to 100 days of practicing.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.