Photo: A sign you may well encounter at Revelstoke
If the secret wasn’t out already, it certainly is now – Revelstoke is one of the holy grails of seasonal workers in Canada. Since its opening in 2007, Revelstoke has moved from a hidden seasonal worker’s gem to being one of the most sought after ski jobs in the country.
And little wonder why. With the highest vertical drop in the country, some of the most abundant snowfall, and very competitive pay at the resort, a season in Revelstoke is about the best seasonal workers could hope for in a ski season.
However, jobs are very competitive at Revelstoke. Revelstoke attracts experienced seasonal workers and the best of the ski industry head to Revelstoke. If this is your first ski season, there are certainly easier places to find work, such as Lake Louise, Sunshine, Whistler or Fernie which have bigger operations and more job openings.
Revelstoke is located in British Columbia, about 7 hours drive east of Vancouver and 7 hours drive west of Calgary, Alberta. These cities are the closest major international airports.
Revelstoke is located just off the Trans-Canada highway, the major highway linking the west of Canada to the east.
The Greyhound bus runs from both Vancouver and Calgary and provides an easy way to get to Revelstoke. www.greyhound.ca
Kelowna is around 200km away and has a domestic airport from where you can also take a shuttle to Revelstoke. The Revelstoke Connection has a transfer service from Kelowna Airport at $99 one way.
From Revelstoke town, a shuttle service takes riders up to the hill from town for a fee of $5 return or $159 for the season. There are plenty of services in the morning and late afternoon and intermittent services throughout the day. Otherwise, you can take your car up.
Photo: Near Beauty Glades, Revelstoke
The town of Revelstoke was originally a railway and mining town. In Revelstoke, the ski resort followed the town, not the other way around, giving the town an authentic feel.
Revelstoke is built on the shores of the Columbia and Illecillewaet Rivers while the resort base is a two minute drive from town.
The base of the hill also happens to be next to an airport runway, part of a huge development plan that is yet to see its full potential due to the impact of the financial crisis.
Among seasonal workers, and even guests, there are a lot of devoted riders and ski bums who don't spend a lot of money. There are, per capita, many more serious riders than other major resorts, who have plenty of avalanche gear, skins and the like.
At least for the moment, the vibe at Revelstoke is still all about riding hard and finding new powder stashes and is less for families and beginners than other places. However, with the development plans, that feel might give way in a few years.
Supermarkets and general living expenses are higher than in bigger Canadian towns.
In terms of nightlife, Revelstoke is still a fairly quiet town. This is certainly not Whistler.
All the nightlife takes place in town as there is no real après-ski on mountain. Wednesday night is when Revelstoke staff had their big night out.
The Village Idiot is a popular place in town for some food and a few drinks after a long day on the hill, as is the Grizzly Sports Bar. The River City Pub is a popular hangout for seasonal workers in Revelstoke after a day’s work, while the Steakhouse, Bistro and Bar is a decent place to get a hearty meal after a day shredding powder.
Revelstoke still attracts a few slednecks (guys who go sledding). Unfortunately, they try to pick fights and there are more than the usual amount of fights going on in the bars. Being more of a ski bum town, there are usually many more guys than girls in town. House parties are also very popular in lieu of a huge bar scene.
Revelstoke is fast becoming known as the Mecca of skiing in British Columbia. It only opened on December 22, 2007, so the place is under development, but anyone who works in BC for a season will at some point hear how awesome Revelstoke is, and at some point visit the hill and agree.
The mountain is definitely more of an advanced hill, with not a lot of terrain for beginners. Even the intermediate runs are tough, but great fun to carve on good snow days. The best terrain at Revelstoke is accessed by hiking.
The vertical drop is the highest in North America at 1,713m (5,602ft) and the longest ride from top to bottom is truly a leg burner at 15.2km (9.5 miles). There are plans to make Revelstoke rival Whistler in terms of terrain size, though these plans have also been put on hold due to the downturn in economic conditions.
Nonetheless, although there are just three main lifts (and two beginner carpets), there is 1,263 hectares (3,121 acres) to carve of some of the best terrain BC has to offer.
Another awesome thing about Revelstoke is the fact that there are virtually no lift lines and no crowds. Apart from one or two peak weekends, the terrain is seemingly never clogged with other riders, especially if you hike a bit.
Photo: About to drop into North Bowl at Revelstoke
Revelstoke does not make a distinction between advanced runs and expert runs. As a rule, runs right under the Stoke Chair are gentler runs than the expert runs further away from the Chair or up in North Bowl.
From the top of the Stoke Chair, a 20 minute hike takes you to North Bowl. From here, you can drop into some the best terrain at Revelstoke including chutes, steeps and drop-offs. However, it requires a hike each time.
If you want to hike even further, you can access untouched powder for days after a dump. The hike to the peak takes around 2 hours and leaves the resort boundary, but opens up some very cool backcountry terrain.
The hike around to Greely Bowl almost guarantees fresh tracks as so few people have the energy to get around there!
All runs from North Bowl funnel down into the same exit unfortunately. Your options are to skirt the boundary down to the Ripper Chair, or cut back in onto an old cat track and hit the Chopper Run.
Additionally, the glades through Revelstoke are some of the best there are as the resort is not impeded by forestry clearance regulations, and is continually working on clearing more terrain to make better glades – particularly near the Ripper Chair. Watch out for the tighter trees and cliffs lower down.
Clyde’s Secret into Iron Glaiden is a particularly sweet run to hit when the powder is abundant.
The Red Bull Cold Rush big mountain competition is held each year at Revelstoke in March. This is one of the biggest backcountry freeskiing events in the country and attracts some of the gnarliest riders around the world (taking drop-offs that are completely insane) – to give you an idea of the type of terrain on offer at Revelstoke.
Revelstoke has a cat ski area in the Selkirk Range right next to the boundary of the resort. It costs around $475 in peak season and is about as close to heli-skiing as you can get without leaving the ground. They tow you out on a SkiCat to untouched terrain where you get to shred for the day with a guide.
Remember your avalanche gear if going into the backcountry country. Even in North Bowl, it can be a good idea as ski patrol is not always in the area.
Also, there are so many drops and so much varied terrain at Revelstoke that it can be dangerous at first when you don't know the hill. You might suddenly come across a cliff you weren't expecting, or a set of rocks which gets you stuck.
With an average of 9m – 14m (29ft – 45ft) of powder and 12m – 18m (39ft – 59ft) on Selkirk Mountain, there is usually plenty of the amazing BC powder to be found at Revvy.
The thing about Revelstoke is that, even if it hasn't snowed for a while, there is so much terrain you can just hike a bit further to find fresh tracks.
Over the course of a reasonable season, you should be able to access powder every day of the week off work. You might see up to a metre a week of snow during the heavy storms.
However, bad seasons have in the past seen only 6m of snow for the winter. Also, with such a large vertical drop, the difference in snow conditions between top and bottom can be considerable. It can rain at the base, for example, and it is also often very foggy at Revelstoke – not the sunny weather of Colorado.
The snow is not as heavy as Whistler, but other BC interior resorts probably receive snow equally as light if not a little lighter. The best snow on the hill is probably in North Bowl due to its aspect.
The Revelstoke region currently holds the record for the snowiest winter in Canada. In 1971/72, 24.4m of snow fell on Mt.Copeland outside town. That is an incredible 80 feet of snow.
It can get down to -20 or so at the coldest part of the season (January).
There is no proper park at Revelstoke just yet – there is just a small rain line near Turtle Creek at the base. People who come to Revelstoke are not coming for a terrain park; they are coming for the terrain. It is a bit of a downside though, because some days when the conditions are great, it would be nice to have a park to jib around in.
The season opens mid-December and finishes usually in April.
Jobs at Revelstoke are extremely competitive due to its reputation.
Additionally, there are not a huge number of jobs available. Revelstoke is still a relatively small operation compared to larger resorts such as Whistler and Big White, plus a large number of jobs also go straight to local residents each season (particularly bar jobs).
For example, there are just 3 chairlifts (so not a lot of lift operators), while the rental and repairs shop has just a couple of people in it while the cafeteria is relatively small. There are also volunteer ski patrol positions available each season.
If you are planning on finding a job in town, make sure to get there mid-October to late October, that is, five or six weeks before the season starts. Anecdotally, you will hear shop managers say they have 'mountains of resumes' by the end of October. Know also that, if working in town, you will not have enough time during your lunch breaks to go riding at the hill.
In fact, each season a number of people end up not getting jobs and just staying until their money runs out. Season passes are around $1,129 in peak season and $789 for students at a Canadian university or college - cheaper if you buy in advance.
Among Canadians, you will find a number who find summer jobs then get laid off for the winter and claim the "Employment Insurance" unemployment benefits for the season, allowing them to spend the season without working.
It seems that up to 90% of the people working at Revelstoke have already done a season elsewhere or at Revelstoke.
Consequently, the average age of people working at Revelstoke is a little older. The average age of ski patrollers is around 35, compared to about 25 in other places.
Whereas other major resorts such as Lake Louise, Sunshine and Fernie usually take a lot of foreign staff, at Revelstoke the staff are mostly Canadians, with just a few foreigners. The foreigners are generally Australian, New Zealand, British or South American.
Jobs for Revelstoke resort are advertised online at www.revelstokemountainresort.com/resort/employment
You will need to send through a resumé and cover letter to the manager at the email listed.
Working for the resort is a good option as the pay rates are generally higher than at other resorts, plus you get a season pass.
The Revelstoke Times Review has an employment section which may have job listings in Revelstoke town. www.revelstokereview.com/. But you will need to do more than just answer the ad. You will have to go in and speak to someone in person, otherwise you will probably be passed up.
There is a hotel by the base lift called the Sutton Place hotel. www.revelstoke.suttonplace.com. Staff here get ride breaks when it is not busy and have a good deal with more regular work.
The Work BC Employment Services Centre may also have job listings www.workbc-revelstoke.com.
Have a look at Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for an outline of ski resort jobs.
If you work for the hill, you can get half price tickets to most other hills in the area, including Lake Louise, Sunshine, Fernie, Red Mountain, as well as a season pass to Revelstoke. There are generally less perks for staff compared to established ski resorts.
Photo: Hiking up near North Bowl
There is no staff accommodation for employees at the hill. While finding seasonal accommodation is still a pain, it is not as difficult to find as at bigger resorts such as Whistler.
Everything is pretty central in Revelstoke as it is such a small town. You can easily walk everywhere and, as such, there is no distinctly preferable area in town to live.
It is possible to find places from upwards of $400 a month per room if you are in a share house with friends, though you should expect to pay around at least $500 a month (i.e. $1,500 a month for a three bedroom place).
If you are sharing with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you might be able to find a one bedroom place for around $600 a month between you.
Many of the places you will look at are not furnished. However, there is a second hand place in town where you can furnish your room for about $100. It's a little locally owned place that recycles all the seasonal furniture passing through.
PLAN AHEAD! You can't just do a season at Revelstoke off the cuff. Plan to get there early, plan to have some extra cash saved up, plan to get your gear before going, and plan on some of the most awesome terrain you will find anywhere.
There are not many shops to buy gear at Revelstoke and the ones that do sell the best stuff there is for really expensive prices. You are better off landing in Vancouver or Calgary, or going there first, and picking up cheaper gear if you need it.
You don't really need a car for a season at Revelstoke.
If you get a cell phone, make sure you get a Revelstoke local area number. If you don't, then you'll have to pay long distance every time you make a phone call.