It is often said that finding accommodation at a ski resort is harder than getting a job. In my experience, this does indeed seem to be true (unfortunately).
This post is all about providing you the best advice to try and overcome this issue. Finding ski season accommodation should be your priority on your working holiday.
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The difficulty of finding Canadian ski season accommodation
The towns and communities surrounding ski resorts tend to be small and quite isolated, resulting in limited housing options. Whistler and Banff have the worst shortage, with the number of winter residents rising every year.
There is no easy way to overcome the housing issue but being prepared for it does help.
As mentioned already in this guide, those set on a specific ski resort would do well to make the move early and secure accommodation before even looking for a job.
Not only do ski resort employers actually prefer this, but it will be a much smoother experience to find accommodation before the crowds arrive (usually October).
In addition to private accommodation, there is also the option of staff housing at a number of larger resorts. Again, the demand is high and waiting lists possible but it is a cheap and straightforward option if success goes your way!
Ski resort accommodation
The larger ski resorts have a limited amount of staff housing. This is usually located on-hill and is priced anywhere from $50 to $200 a week, per person. Those wanting staff housing should inquire directly with their supervisor/manager after securing a job.
Advantages of staff housing include:
Location: Staff housing is often located slopeside (ski-in, ski-out), so this means easy access to both resort amenities and skiing.
Cheap: Without a doubt, staff housing is some of the most inexpensive accommodation you will find on anywhere on a mountain in Canada! Low cost staff housing can really with saving money while working a ski season in Canada
Social: Sharing accommodation with strangers is a great way to meet and hang out with other seasonal workers. Some ski resort staff housing is very similar to university halls or dorms and can have a similar vibe (minus the studying of course)
The downsides of staff housing include:
Competitive: Most ski resorts have more demand than spots available in their staff housing. It can get pretty competitive to get a spot, with waiting lists not unusual.
Isolation: This is not true for all ski resort accommodation, but at Sunshine Village for example, staff housing is accessible only via a gondola. After the gondola stops in the evening, staff are unable to leave the mountain except in emergencies.
Can be low quality: Typically older accommodation buildings with basic furnishings. This is not really so much of an issue if you have low expectations and remember the price
Private ski season accommodation
If staff housing isn’t appealing or possible, private accommodation is the other option. This can range from accommodation provided by a non-resort employer (this is more common in Whistler and Banff), shared housing or a private apartment/house rented from a private landlord.
Searching for accommodation is possible before and after arriving in Canada, though the latter is most certainly easier. As with ski resort housing, finding accommodation in a ski area can be very competitive.
This is especially true in Banff, Whistler and Revelstoke due to extremely limited housing stock. Due to this competitiveness, it is often required to move on housing fast.
For this reason, searching in person is a lot easier. The cost of private housing varies hugely between resorts due to location. It is not uncommon for seasonal staff to share rooms with a number of other people to keep costs down.
Here are some helpful resources for finding private accommodation at Canadian ski resorts:
Ski season accommodation
An alternative to both of these options is renting from companies that specifically provide ski season accommodation for working holiday makers.
This can be very convenient option as it can be arranged before arriving in Canada. They can also be very social places, with the accommodation providers sometimes organises parties and events.
The accommodation tends to be of a higher standard than staff housing. The catch to this hassle-free experience is the largest price tag of listed accommodation. A monthly discount is sometimes available for those staying the full season.
Essential ski season accommodation advice
The surest way of finding accommodation is to arrive early. By early, I mean mid August to early September. Students and summer residents generally leave at the end of August, freeing up accommodation for seasonal workers.
Another option is to arrive very, very early and work the summer season before winter. Summer accommodation is generally easier to find, especially in April/May when winter employees are moving out.
WARNING! Accommodation scams are rife in ski towns. Look out for accommodation at a price that seems just too good to be true (it probably is) or landlords who want a deposit before you’ve physically visited the place.
Be sure to know your rights about accommodation before signing any contract. In BC, for example, landlords are allowed to ask for a deposit but it can be no more than half of the first month’s rent. Over in Alberta, security deposits cannot be more than the first month’s rent.
Prepare to share. At the very least, you are likely to need to share a house or apartment during your ski season. Beyond that, sharing rooms is relatively normal in the busiest ski towns. Of course, it all depends on your budget but most seasonal workers decide to prioritise having fun over a private place.
Even if you manage to organise accommodation in advance, it is still wise to book a few nights of accommodation on arrival in whichever Canadian city to fly into. This provides time to get over jetlag and also get a few official things sorted (Social Insurance Number, bank account, Canadian phone number) before heading to your ski town.
Budget options in Calgary – Wicked Hostel, HI City Centre, NUVO Hotel Suites
Budget options in Vancouver – Samesun, HI Central, Moda Hotel
Airbnb is also a great option, especially for couples and groups
Planning a ski season in Canada? Here are some helpful resources
Secure your working holiday visa – your first step to an amazing ski season in Canada is to apply for the IEC program
Research Canadian ski resorts and apply for work – Get the low down on Canada’s huge range of ski resorts and learn tips and tricks for finding a job
Book arrival accommodation – It’s a smart idea to spend at least a few days in whichever Canadian city you land in. Booking.com usually offers the best rates for hostels and hotels, while Airbnb is a great money saving option for couples and groups
Don’t forget travel insurance – A mandatory part of the IEC working holiday program in Canada, travel insurance also protects you against serious medical care costs in case of illness or injury. I have personally used both World Nomads and True Traveller
Get prepared for arrival in Canada – This moving guide includes everything you need to know about immigration, getting a local Canadian number, opening a bank account and more