What jobs are available at ski resorts over the winter season and which one should you apply for? This article gives a brief overview of the types of jobs available at ski resorts and the positive and negative aspects of each. This will help you decide on which job to apply for when planning to work a winter season.
Rental shop: One of the best jobs to get at a ski resort is in the rental shop. You get to speak with people in the shop all day and the job is indoors, which is big bonus in places where it gets particularly cold. Moreover, in contrast to solo jobs such as lift operations, you are surrounded by the people you work with so there is always someone to talk with. Often, you are able to take ride breaks during the day when it is quieter. You get to learn a bit about skis and snowboards too. A downside is that the work gets very repetitive just taking boots off and on the rack all day.
Repairs shop: Probably even better than the rental shop. As repair shops stay open until late in the day in order to tune all the rental skis and boards, repair shops usually do shift work. This means that you can potentially work five days a week but still get in five days riding. Also, the job is one of the more interesting ones as you learn plenty about skis and snowboards and the various machinery such as the stone grinder, the p-tex repair and the edge sharpener. You also get the satisfaction of repairing someone's board or skis and their appreciation when they pick the gear up.
Photo: Sun Valley, Idaho
Lift operator: This job involves a lot of snow shoveling in order to keep the loading and unloading ramps smooth for riders. Additionally, you will be expected to greet all the skiers and boarders, particularly on the busier and beginner lifts. You will be outside the whole time which can get very, very cold at some of the colder resorts. If the lift is a detachable chairlift (a lift is detachable when it detaches as it moves around the terminal, slowing the chair down for easier loading for riders), there will be plenty of simply standing around monitoring the lift. On the other hand, there is usually a great vibe among the lift crew and you get to know the mountain really well. You often get ride breaks during the day, and the break is often quality riding as you are already up on the hill. You also get absolute first tracks on every powder day as you make your way to your lift in the morning.
On-mountain food and beverage work: It can be pretty tough work in the on-mountain food and beverage outlets. You generally get less ride breaks than jobs with peak periods (such as rentals) and the work can be tough just cooking burgers or working on a cash register all day. You tend to get less tips than working in a regular bar or restaurant. The same goes for being a restaurant chef, with work conditions being much the same as in any other restaurant - high pressure to get meals out on time. The plus sides include getting to know the team you work with in the restaurant or cafe, occasional tips and often cheap or free meals.
Bars and restaurants: These jobs are extremely sought after because of the tips you can earn as well as the fun of working in a bar. In many of the good bars and restaurants, you will be able to earn enough from tips alone to sustain yourself, so that you don't even need the wage you earn. You also often get to work at night which means time during the day to ride. The downsides include that the work is much tougher than working in a rental shop, or even on a lift, because of the busyness and the need to serve people constantly. Also, because you will so often be tired after the night shifts, on many good snow days you will tend to just sleep in and miss a good day riding.
Retail shops: Working in retail shops on mountain will usually give you access to discounts on gear. However, the discounts are sometimes not that great and usually bump the price down to whatever you could pick up the same gear for in the major town centers. On the other hand, the work is still pretty fun, being with the same group of people each day means making great friends. You also get to know gear pretty well given that you will be explaining the gear to customers all day. You may end up with less ride breaks though, given that people come in and out all day and the shops can get very busy.
Guest Services: This involves selling tickets and fielding inquiries from the public. The upside to this job is that you are indoors and you get to interact with people during the day which breaks the monotony of simply selling tickets. The downsides are dealing with angry and irrational customers (which will happen to you at some point regardless of how nice you are), that the resort management will keep a closer eye on you being the face of the resort (unlike lift operators on faraway back bowls) and you might not get that many ride breaks as people always need to be monitoring the counter.
Ticket Checker: Ticket scanning for 8 hours a day is tough going for anyone, particularly when it is cold. Like the lift operators, you are standing outside all day, but without the physical exertion of snow shoveling to keep you warm. This is usually one of the most difficult jobs for ski resorts to fill each season as many people quit during the season. Fortunately, many resorts are now replacing manual ticket scanners with gates against which to swipe your lift pass.
Car park attendant: Surprisingly, this job is one of the hidden gems. The work involves directing cars into their spaces in the morning and helping out with directions. You get to work early (likely around 6am), but the advantages are that you often get huge ride breaks during the day (as people don't leave until the afternoon), and you often even get a few tips.
Night Cleaner: Again, another surprising gem. You would start late (perhaps around 10pm) and work through the night until finished. This leaves every day to ride.
Resort Transportation: This involves guest transfers by bus or shuttle. You will need a driver's license to undertake this role, and possibly a special bus permit as well. The advantages are being inside during those cold days. The disadvantages are that you work on your own for the most part (so less chance to get to know your workmates), and the shuttles usually need to go during the whole day, so less chance for ride breaks.
Photo: Sharpening the edges on a ski
Ski and snowboard instructor: This can be great if you have your proper qualification and you can teach above the kid's level. However, the ski and snowboard schools are usually hierarchical so that return instructors get precedence for the lessons over the new instructors. Junior instructors may earn very little in bigger resorts - in some cases not enough to even support themselves for parts of the season. Be prepared to bring extra cash if you are a junior instructor at a larger resort. Kid's instruction can often be characterized less as instructing and more as child minding on the bunny hill while the parents head out for the day. On the other hand, the advantages are obvious if you are getting work. Plenty of ride time, potential to earn tips, supreme knowledge of the mountain and you will be out there for every powder day of the season, plus the satisfaction of teaching people to ride.
Avalanche crew: These guys work on avalanche priming and bombing for the mountain as well as looking out for avalanche areas and providing rescue in case of an avalanche. You will also scope out unopened terrain and make sure it is safe in terms of avalanches to open. You need to be extremely competent on skis or a snowboard to do this job. Mostly, the crew are on skis as they are more versatile in getting around the hill. These guys are probably some of the best skiers and riders on the hill.
Ski patrol: You will need to be very capable on skis to do this job. Boarders are unfortunately very rare for ski patrol, due to a lack of versatility. The job can be long, and can be tough when you have to deal with serious injuries. Usually these guys have worked a number of snow seasons and in many cases this is their full-time professional work.
Park crew: One of the most sought-after jobs because you get to maintain and, in some cases, design the terrain park. You are in the park all day and if you love jumps, jobs and rails then you get to do this all day - maintaining the park in place and testing new features.
Snow-making: These jobs usually start before the season officially opens in order to prepare the runs for opening day. You usually work through the night, which leaves the day for riding if you aren't too tired. The downside is that your job becomes redundant before the end of the season as snow-making usually finishes before the official resort closing date.
Snow groomer: Similar to snow making, you work through the night preparing the runs for the next day. The upsides are getting to crank your own music as you wind your way up and down the slopes, the fact you only work nights and so have, in theory, every day free to ride, and that you get to use a cool piece of machinery. The major downside is having to work through the night every night which can ruin your sleeping pattern and make it difficult to get up for the best powder days.
Many European resorts have tour companies running full package ski holidays for tourists. These tours provide everything to guests, from pick-up and transfer at the airport, to guidance around the mountain and chalet accommodation and food. Be aware that these jobs can be considerably hard work, often involving up to six days a week, and can be much more taxing than the resort jobs mentioned above.
Ski and chalet host: You generally work six days a week on with one day off. It will involve picking up guests from the airport and being their guide for the week - settling them into the hotel and skiing around the mountain with them. It can involve long days and some of the guests can be quite frustrating. It can also be demanding very early on when guests ask questions about the mountain to which you do not know the answer. But you can end up with decent tips, and usually the pay includes accommodation, food and a season pass so all you need to pay for is going out. There is usually a good vibe among the tour operator workers as well and lots of places will give you discounts if you bring your guests in. However, for pure ride time on mountain, there are better jobs.
Chef: Similar to working as an on-mountain food and beverage chef, chalet chefs are expected to work under pressure and produce high quality food to demanding guests. Usually, chalet chefs are more experienced than on-mountain chefs and will require experience in order to be considered.
Nanny and childcare: This involves looking after the kids while the parents go out to ski. While this is not a job which immediately springs to mind when looking to work a snow season, it has a number of advantages, including being one of the best paid jobs. Nannies tend to make pretty decent tips (the parents are extremely grateful to anyone taking their children off their hands for a day!), and you do not need to deal with the stress of irritated guests. The downsides are that it can be a bit isolating being only with kids all day, and you don't get many ride breaks during the day which means you can only ride on days off.
Hotel / Area manager: These jobs require you to manage a hotel, its staff and keep the guests happy. This is a professional undertaking so, while the remuneration matches this, it comes with the accompanying responsibility. This also goes for other professional jobs such as a financial manager.
Kitchen and night porter: Working overnight, you will generally keep watch over the chalet and/or help clean up the kitchen after the guests' meals are done. Plenty of ride time, but the job is anti-social as it often involves working at night by yourself.
Cleaner and chamber person: Usually requires you to make beds and tidy up the chalet during the day. This eats into your ride time, but at least you're indoors and the job is not too taxing, in general.
Don't forget that many ski resorts are located at permanent townships so you will find the usual range of jobs that you could usually find in a small town.
Some people love the mountain life and end up working as lawyers, doctors, in the bank, in the supermarkets, as a mechanic or a plumber and spend the weekends skiing. There is no reason why you can't look outside the obvious ski resort jobs when looking for a job.