Finding a job at a ski resort is usually a top concern (if not, the top concern) for anyone heading to Canada to work a ski season. This post is all about giving you more confidence and knowledge when looking for ski season work in Canada.
To add to my own experience and second hand knowledge from other ski season veterans, I also enlisted the help of hiring teams from all the major ski resorts in Canada.
So the advice described here is not just mine but also from the people who actually make hiring decisions at ski resorts. The number one lesson I learned from this research was:
Every Canadian ski resort approaches their seasonal hiring differently. There is no one size fits all approach for working a ski season in Canada!
With this in mind, I will first talk about ski resort job roles, explain the main methods for finding work (before and after arriving in Canada) and then take a look at Canadian resumes, cover letters and essential job hunting tips.
Reading this in 2022? Heads up – Canada’s hospitality industry is in desperate need of workers. This is one of the best years to work a ski season in Canada. Accommodation can still tricky to secure but there is a wide choice of jobs.
This post includes some affiliate links. If you make a qualifying purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
What to expect in this post:
- Ski resort job roles
- Work outside ski resorts
- Finding a job before arriving in Canada
- Finding a job after arriving in Canada
- Canadian resume and cover letters
- Job hunting tips and advice
Ski resort job roles in Canada
Canada’s ski resorts each hire hundreds (some more than a thousand!), seasonal workers every year.
Some of the largest departments are, of course, those who directly work in the snow. Becoming a ski instructor or lift operator are two examples of very popular paths for seasonal workers.
It’s easy to understand why—being out on the snow and in the view of mountains every day is a dream for many. Working at a ski resort, however, doesn’t even have to mean working outside at all.
There are dozens of other roles ranging from restaurant servers and retail assistants to ticket clerks and childcare staff. Whatever your work experience or passion, you’re very likely to find a good fit somewhere.
Read on for a complete guide to ski season job roles, to help prepare you for your working holiday in Canada.
Benefits of ski resort jobs
Let’s get this out of the way now—you’re unlikely to make a fortune working at a ski resort. The experience is all about the work environment and the fun of having the chance to snowboard or ski everyday.
Most ski resorts, however, do offer certain benefits for being a part of the team. These can vary widely but it is not uncommon to receive all or a mix of the following:
- A winter season pass for free access to all mountain lifts and Nordic ski areas
- Free or heavily discounted rental ski/snowboard/Nordic ski equipment
- Free or heavily discounted group (not private) ski, snowboard and Nordic ski lessons
- Retail and food discount at ski resort shops and restaurants
- Discounted or free lunch program
- Staff events—these can range from end of season parties to regular recognition events for ‘star’ staff
- Reciprocal lift tickets at other Canadian (or even some US) ski resorts. This may mean completely free access to another resort’s slopes for a day or two, or potentially (in a few cases) unlimited access.
- Access to low-cost staff accommodation, usually within close distance to the actual ski resort
- Returning staff may find their close family members (spouse/ common law partner and/or children) eligible for free season passes as well
If a staff member quits their position, access to all benefits will be removed.
Unskilled Ski Resort Job Roles
As mentioned, there is a huge number and range of jobs available at Canada’s ski resorts. Over the next few pages, I have detailed common unskilled ski resort job roles that require no professional qualifications needed. Why unskilled? A few reasons.
- The bulk of jobs available at ski resorts are unskilled. Skiing is, by large, a service industry so most job roles are of this nature. This also means they tend to be minimum wage.
- The vast majority of working holiday makers hoping to work at Canadian ski resorts do not have the qualifications for the skilled jobs. This is partly due to the maximum age of the IEC program (30 years old for most countries) and also the specific nature of these skilled jobs.
Having said this, I have included the role of ski instructor for obvious reasons!
When working outside at a ski resort, early starts are common. Be prepared to work in difficult weather conditions. Outdoor work offers the most opportunities for ‘ride breaks’ during work hours.
Lift operator: Lifties have some of the best ‘office’ views of all mountain staff. Alongside the fun parts of the role, there is also a fair bit of responsibility and physical work.
Tube Park Operator: Tubing is a fun non-skiing activity involving a rubber ring sliding down a hill. The tube park staff are usually separate to the main lift operator team.
Snow shoveller: As straightforward as it sounds, this job role involves clearing snow from around the resort. Good physical fitness and self motivation is helpful.
Parking attendant: With hundreds (sometimes thousands) of cars arriving around opening time at the largest resorts, parking lots can get messy without direction.
Terrain Park Crew: Terrain Parks have to be designed, built and continually maintained for visitor’s safety and enjoyment. Ski/snowboard experience is a requirement.
Snow maker: Some resorts use snow maker machines to guarantee some coverage. Usually limited to an early season (October-December or November-January) role.
Food and beverage
Late starts are common (you can ski in the morning!) with food and beverage jobs.
Restaurant staff can expect tips of around 10-20% on top of most bills. Tip distribution between service and kitchen staff depends entirely on the restaurant/bar.
Anyone serving alcohol as part of their role must have the relevant certificate to do so. In BC, this is Serving It Right. In Alberta, Pro Serve.
Host: A host greets and seats guests at full service restaurants, providing a smooth transition to their server.
Server: Taking orders, delivering food and drinks and arranging payment are all roles of a server in a full service restaurant. Tip potential is substantial.
Bartender: This role usually involves preparing drinks for servers in addition to serving directly to customers.
Busser: In some restaurants, bussers help servers deliver food, clean tables and restock supplies for the next guests.
Cashier: Most ski resorts have a cafeteria or coffee shop with self service food options. Cashiers accept the payment. A more sedentary role than a server.
Dishwasher/Kitchen Porter: Depending on the location, this role can be limited to just washing dishes or also involve some food preparation.
Line Cook: A line cook is typically the lowest level of chef at a restaurant or cafeteria. Some cooking experience (1-2 years) is usually required.
Guest services and ticketing
Working in guest services requires patience and a preference to work face-to-face with customers.
Ticketing Agent: This job mainly consists of selling ski lift tickets. Most tickets are sold around morning opening time but some resorts also have night skiing. Ticket checking is sometimes required in addition to sales.
Guest Services Agent: Guest Services is the place resort guests go if they need directions, recommendations or to complain.
Note: It is not uncommon for these job roles to be combined
Rentals and lessons
When considering a job in a snow school or rental department, be prepared for extremely busy and hectic mornings. You must like working with people.
Ski instructor: CSIA Level 1 (or equivalent) is the minimum requirement, though the higher the certification, the more likely you are to get hired. Amount of work is usually not guaranteed—it depends entirely on demand.
Sales Desk Assistant: Lessons and rentals are usually booked and processed by a sales desk assistant located in the rental/ ski school area.
Rental Assistant: After a rental sale has been processed, a rental assistant finds the correct equipment (skis, snowboard, boots, poles etc) and assists customers with fitting.
Rental Technician: Rental Technicians typically adjust ski and snowboard bindings, maintain and repair rental stock.
Note: Some Ski Resorts will combine the last three job roles
The larger ski resorts own their own guest accommodation. Housekeepers generally work office hours but front desk agents can have a variety of different shifts
Front Desk Agent: The face of a hotel or lodge, front desk agents welcome guests, process check-ins and resolve customer service issues.
Housekeeper: The main task of a housekeeper is to clean and turnover rooms. There may be a range of accommodation, from hotel rooms to cottages and lodges.
Reservations agent: Usually office based, reservation agents spend most of their time taking bookings over the phone. Good phone manner is, of course, a must!
Other ski resort jobs
Most ski resorts have at least one store selling skis, snowboards, clothing and accessories. Retail Assistants help customers and processes sales.
Caregivers look after children in the on-site childcare facility that some ski resorts have. Childcare facilities are usually busier during the Christmas and Easter school holidays.
Many regular ski resort visitors have a season pass, purchased from a dedicated Seasons Pass Sales Assistant. Some resorts sell season passes from the regular ticket or guest services office instead.
All advance telephone bookings (events, lessons, rentals etc) are usually processed by a dedicated Reservations Agent.
Some resorts look for part-time Event Staff and volunteers to help with on mountain races and competitions. Tasks may include helping with set-up, take-down, security, safety and photography.
A Custodian is bit of a ‘jack of all trades’ covering snow removal, cleaning, security and building maintenance.
Alongside paid staff at ski resorts, there is usually a strong continent of volunteer staff. One popular volunteer role is that of a ‘Snow Host’ who welcomes new visitors to the resort.
Skilled or ‘experience essential’ job roles at ski resorts include Grooming Operators, Race Coaches, Sous Chefs, Ski Patrol, IT Technicians, Lift Maintenance Engineers, Electricians, Accountants, Payroll Staff, Avalanche Technicians and Ski Patrol Dispatch.
And, of course, there are also various supervisory and management positions available as well.
Note – The job roles are known by a variety of names at different mountains.
Working outside ski resorts
Ski resorts are not the only place to find work on a mountain. There are plenty of non-resort owned businesses that sit alongside the ‘official’ ski resort facilities.
In Whistler Village, for example, there are plenty of privately owned restaurants, bars, hotels, lodges, hostels, retail shops and grocery stores. Alongside this, there are also heli-skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing and ziplining operations, all with their own seasonal staffing needs.
The Whistler Blackcomb Resort itself is just the tip of the iceberg for employment opportunities. It is a similar situation in every resort and their surrounding ski towns.
While many people aspire to be hired by a ski resort, keep in mind that it is not the be and end all of mountain employment. There are other opportunities!
Non-ski resort job benefits
Working for a business outside of the main ski resort does have its own benefits.
It varies hugely between companies (some will other nothing, others will offer a lot) but I have seen instances of the following:
- Discounted season pass. The staff member usually purchases the pass and then the employer will pay them a portion back after completion of the season.
- Discounted transport pass to travel to the ski resort from nearest town
- Low cost or included accommodation
- Discounted meals
- Regular staff parties and events
Another benefit to working outside a ski resort is the greater potential for a year round job role. Many ski resort shops and restaurants close in spring while regular in-town businesses continue operating all year long.
Finding a job before arriving in Canada
For most people, securing a job before arriving in Canada (or before arriving in the ski resort area) is the absolute ideal situation for a ski season.
The quick answer is, yes, it is possible. But it depends wholly on the individual employer. I know, it is a frustrating answer to hear but it is the truth!
There are two main ways to find work before arriving in the ski resort area:
- Applying online, direct to the ski resort, and having a successful interview on the phone or via Skype
- Paying for the services of a working holiday company that guarantees a ski resort job interview
Using a working holiday company
This is the most easiest and most straightforward way to secure a ski season job in advance. It also, however, comes with a (high) price tag.
Working holiday companies include BUNAC, the Working Holiday Club, Global Work and Travel.
The process is usually as follows:
Ski resort workers who choose to use working holiday companies do so because it saves both hassle and time.
Having a job (and often accommodation) lined up in advance also reduces the need to arrive at the ski area early, especially useful for anyone who is travelling elsewhere or wants to continue working another job until the season start.
Register for a ski season job package with a working holiday company. A non-refundable deposit is common. This job package may also include ‘assistance’ with applying for the IEC working holiday program, which may be a simple instructional guide or they may apply on your behalf
Once your IEC application has been finalised, the working holiday company will organise a ‘job opportunity’ before your departure to Canada. This may include a telephone/Skype interview with a ski resort/other ski town business OR an in-person interview at a job fair local to the applicant
After the interview, the applicant will travel to Canada and receive further support from the working holiday company. This includes assistance with applying for a SIN, opening a bank account and getting a Canadian cell phone number. Ski resort accommodation is often also pre-organised.
Is it worth using a working holiday company?
While the price of using a working holiday company is usually quite high (typically around $800-1500), some people decide that the cost is absolutely worth it to save time and also for peace of mind.
For some people, paying just less than a month of wages (at minimum wage) to have almost everything organised in advance is no big deal, while to others….that is far too much! (I’m in the latter group).
Applying online independently
The other way to have a job lined up in advance of travelling to Canada is to look for work online and secure a job via a successful telephone or Skype interview.
I contacted every large Canadian resort to find out how common this is.
As it turns out, this method of finding work is bit hit and miss because:
- Some ski resorts hire most of their employees without in-person interviews. A second interview is sometimes required once in country for confirmation
- There are a few ski resorts who require absolutely all candidates to have an in-person interview. This is because they prefer to hire people who have already made the journey to the local ski area and have potentially already found accommodation for the season
- The majority of ski resorts are somewhere in the middle—a number of staff are hired via Skype/phone but most have an in-person interview. Ski resorts are usually more flexible to hire from a distance for skilled or harder-to-fill job roles (e.g. ski instructing)
To apply for work at a ski resort before leaving your home country, simply keep an eye on the official ski resort websites from July onwards.
Each ski resort has a dedicated employment or careers section – I have listed the major ski resort job application websites below. Job listings are usually posted by each individual department.
Some ski resort departments start advertising as early as May or June (ski instructors!) or as late as October.
If you have firmly decided on a ski resort area, take some time to also research businesses in the local community e.g. hotels, restaurants, ski rental shops, to see what other job opportunities may be around.
In places like Banff and Whistler, the larger hotels will also have dedicated employment sections on their websites.
Be flexible and try not to have your heart set on a particular type of ski resort job. If you’re not having much luck finding work in your ideal job area, try your hand at something new. It may be possible to switch later.
Finding a job after arriving in Canada
If you haven’t secured a job before leaving to Canada, try not to worry. As mentioned above, the many ski resorts prefer to hire their employees via in-person interviews.
There are two main methods to finding ski resort work after arriving in Canada:
- Applying online and being selected for a in-person interview
- Attending a ski resort job fair
I’ll explain a bit more about the latter in a second, but first,I’m going to share my number one tip about finding work after arriving in Canada:
Travelling to your preferred ski area offers a better chance of finding a job
Finding Canadian ski season work in person
By being present in the local area, the ski resort knows:
- You are here and ready to work when the season starts
- You have chosen to work at this ski resort
- You are likely to already have accommodation arranged
All three points are huge bonus points for your application.
Many hiring managers I spoke to said they would prioritise applications from those who were already in the local area rather than ‘faraway places.’
To put it simply, ski resort managers have no guarantees that candidates applying from a distance will actually make the effort to travel to the resort.
On the second point, every manager I communicated with emphasised the desire for employees who wanted to work at their ski resort.
They realise there is plenty of competition for work but also that there are hundreds and thousands of applicants. They want to hire the people who really want to be there.
Thirdly and finally, as I will go into more in the next chapter, ski resort accommodation can be a deal breaker. Finding accommodation, in most cases, can be harder than finding work.
Having a potential employee who have already secured their accommodation is therefore a huge bonus to a hiring manager. It also shows their dedication to a particular ski area, which was my second point.
Ski resort job fairs
A job fair is usually a one day event in which prospective employees have the opportunity to meet with multiple department hiring managers.
Job offers are often given on the spot or the same day for larger departments such as lift operations.
The majority of Canadian ski resorts hold a job fair (sometimes two) in October and November. Some ski resorts do not have a job fair at all—Sun Peaks, for example, does not.
Job fairs are typically held at the resort but can sometimes also be in the local community. In my opinion, it is absolutely worth going to a resort’s job fair if they have one.
At the resort I used to work at, a large percentage (over 50%) of new staff were hired at the annual job fair.
Keep an eye on the resort’s website and social media for updates on job fair dates. Occasionally, job fairs will be invite only so be sure to register quickly if necessary.
Some of the larger hotels and restaurants in Banff and Whistler put on job fairs to find staff in both summer and winter.
After the job fairs
If you can’t make the job fair, there may still be other opportunities to apply in person at the resort. At the resort I worked at, the Human Resources (HR) manager put aside one afternoon a week to meet with candidates.
As the season draws closer, job availability diminishes. The vast majority of resort jobs will be filled at least a couple of weeks prior to opening day.
There are however always staff members that don’t work out (or don’t even turn up for their first day!) so be sure not to give up.
The period after Christmas is actually something of an ‘unofficial’ second hiring season as there is a high dropout rate after the holidays are over. I was actually hired at this time.
Canadian resumes and cover letters
A crucial part to your ski resort job application will be your resume and cover letter. In 99% of cases it is expected to have a tailored resume and cover letter for every job you apply for
The following advice has been gained from personal experience (both applying for work as well as hiring staff) and an interview with a WorkBC Employment Counsellor.
Canadian resumes are probably not hugely different to what you’re used to at home (where it may be referred to as a Curriculum Vitae or C.V for short) but here are the basics.
Canadian resumes are generally quite concise and prioritise skills over education and experience. For a minimum wage job, two pages is usually the maximum length of a resume (one is fine too)
Always keep in mind that employers are likely to only spend a few minutes looking at a resume, so one clean, concise and well-organised page is ideal
Focus on what you have to offer the employer in terms of hands-on skills and qualifications. It is common to find ‘Highlight of skills and qualifications,’ ‘Key Skills,’ ‘Summary of skills’ near the top of the page
Work history and education are also important, but are usually listed later (in that order). Your listed skills should relate to the requirements of the job role as described in the job listing.
If you’ve had a lot of jobs, don’t assume you need to include every position you’ve ever held in the work history section if it not relevant
Always, always, always personalise each and every resume and cover letter for the job and resort you are applying for. It takes longer but your chances to be interviewed will be a lot higher.
Objective statements (or ‘profiles’) are exceptionally common on Canadian resumes. Directly underneath your contact details at the top of the resume, many applicants add a short sentence
outlining their career or short term work aim
If you are already in Canada, put a Canadian address at the top of your resume. My number one pet peeve as aretail store manager was receiving resumes with non-Canadian addresses listed, despite the person actually being in Canada!
A cover letter is expected for all but the most casual ski season jobs. The purpose is to introduce yourself to the employer and motivate them to interview you.
- The most important part of the cover letter identifies how you are qualified for the role and why you are the best candidate. Match your work experience, skills and achievements to the requirements in the job specification, providing examples
- Explain your interest in the job role and for ski resort work specifically, discuss why you would like to work at this particular resort
- It is worth mentioning that you are legally able to work in Canada. Opinions vary whether you should give specific details of your working holiday status, so it is really a personal thing how upfront you want to be
Before sending your application, always double check that the ski resort referenced in the cover letter and resume is the correct one. It sounds obvious, but there is nothing worse than sending a letter to Sun Peaks explaining how much you’d like to work at Big White.
Job hunting tips and advice
To get the best tips and advice for securing a ski season job in Canada, I went straight to the top—directly to the hiring teams.
I’ll share some of their specific advice in a second, but first, let me share some general guidance that was shared by a number of resorts.
Focus on customer service. Ski resorts are all about the guest experience and a crucial part of this is having a friendly and helpful team of staff
Put your personality into the cover letter. With so many applicants, you need to be memorable. Show your enthusiasm for the mountains!
Don’t be too picky. Sure, have an ideal job in mind but being flexible is important
Food and Beverage is one of the largest departments and often has the highest turnover, especially in the kitchen
Not having any ski or snowboarding experience is not a disadvantage. Many resorts advised that they could work around it, even if the applicant wanted to work an outdoor role e.g. lift operations
At mountains with more aggressive terrain (such as Kicking Horse), it can, however, be an asset to ski or snowboard to a reasonable level
Securing accommodation ahead of looking for work was specifically mentioned as an advantage by at over half of the ski resorts I spoke with
Not all resorts have summer operations, but if they do, an easier way to find winter work is to first get a summer job at the resort.. Summer employees usually have priority for winter roles
Some ski resorts offer a video application. If you want to gain an advantage on other candidates, seriously think about sending a video application
Morale tends to drop when staff leave mid-way through the season. Those who can commit to staying the full season have an edge on other candidates
Ski resort advice for finding ski season work in Canada
How can candidates stand out in their application?
Passion! Our philosophy is that we can teach you how to run a lift but we can’t teach you how to passionate about the industry or skiing/snowboarding
People [who] like working with people—who are not afraid to engage with people and guests, and understand their needs and wants.
They can stand out if they are willing to start in any position (even housekeeping or kitchen helper) and be cross trained in other areas. This may fill a much needed vacancy and then when the next season arrives they have a good chance of getting into a department that they would prefer.
A professional resume tailored to the position they are applying for. An applicant who takes the time to fill out the application properly and completely stands out. [Someone
who is] professionally dressed for Skype interview with prior research done on the resort.
Do not just send a standard job application. Tell people about yourself. Why is it your dream to work at [our mountain?] Always send a personalised cover letter. [Include your] most memorable skiing experience, hotel experience or guest services experience. Explain how you will provide guests with an amazing service
We’re looking for enthusiastic, young at heart professionals who are friendly, outgoing, and presentable. Candidates who have thought deeply about, and can describe with examples, of how their previous experience(s) make them a great fit really stand out.
Additionally, whether we are speaking to candidates via Skype or in-person at Hiring Fairs, those people who can demonstrate their professionalism, regardless of the position sought, via body language, actual language used, and professional attire tend to stand out.
Personalized applications [stand out] rather than generic, [including] references to why specifically people have chosen [our mountain]
We are looking for all types of people and have a variety of positions that don’t require a lot of experience. The key thing is demonstrating positivity, enthusiasm and a warm, welcoming demeanour.
What other application advice can you share?
We want people who are independent thinkers, who work for themselves, have [a strong] work ethic, are safety minded, guest service focused. Smile, be bold, present yourself and get [your] way through the door. Be excited about the opportunity.
Employees with certifications as ski instructors are our most widely needed employee, potential employees who may have certification and have made arrangements for accommodation are what stand out for our management team, we often pass by resumes from distant locations as they are not likely to travel or find accommodations.
If you’re new to skiing or snowboarding, don’t let that hold you back from applying.
Do your research, come prepared, and wow us with your zest for guest service and life. We get thousands of hopeful candidates applying every year and those who are most successful have done their research, apply early, and online.
Other important factors —[whether someone] already has their work permit, date range/availability, willing to stay for the season. Guest service experience with customer service values stands out.
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