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Jobs, the terrain, nightlife and seasonal accommodation in Big White, Canada

Big White - Seasonal Worker's Guide

 

Big White Ski Resort is the third-largest resort in British Columbia, after Whistler Blackcomb and Sun Peaks. Located 56km (35 miles) southeast of the medium-sized town of Kelowna, Big White is a comfortable, friendly resort, popular with Australians. It is also home to a ton of groomed, intermediate terrain and receives an average 750cm (24.5ft) of dry, light snow per year.

The winter season opens in the last week of November and closes around mid-April.

 

Big White Snow GhostsPhoto: Big White's famous snow ghosts

 

Resort and Town Vibe

Being a great mountain for intermediates, the resort attracts a lot of families and has a family-friendly vibe, with less of a hardcore ski bum vibe than other resorts in British Columbia.

You will see familiar faces each day as you walk around and get to know people during the season as Big White is not a big village.

The base has a handful of shops and a total of 19 restaurants, cafes and delis, which includes 8 lounges/bars and two late night pubs. There is also a mid-mountain village that is always covered in snow, allowing you to get around on skis.

One of the most famous features of Big White is the ‘snow ghosts’ that line the runs – trees coated in snow which take on a number of weird and wonderful shapes and dot the mountain like statues. These provide for some great photos over the course of the season.

 

Getting to Big White

The nearest airport o Big White is Kelowna International Airport. Big White runs a shuttle service to and from the airport regularly, which takes approximately 55 minutes door to door.

A round trip will set you back $79.47USD (or $48.89USD one way).

 

The Terrain at Big White

Big White is home to 118 runs, including approximately 50 that are groomed nightly. The terrain is dominated by intermediate territory (54%), and it is a great mountain for intermediates who love groomed cruisers. There are beginner, intermediate and advanced groomers – and its longest run is a hefty 7.2km.

While there are other resorts in British Columbia which have more in the way of steeps, technical lines and expert terrain, there are nonetheless challenging runs at Big White.

The tree skiing and powder stashes in the trees is particularly good at Big White, while the The Double Black Diamond Cliff is popular among those more adventurous alpine explorers and is the most difficult terrain on the mountain. See the photo below:

 

Big White, The Cliff ski areaPhoto: 'The Cliff' at Big White

 

There is night skiing 5 nights a week which lets you get onto the mountain even when you have worked during the day. There is also a lot of cross-country skiing around Big White and staff sometimes use time off to explore the many trails around the mountain.

Big White is also quite near the other resort in the Okanagan Valley - Silver Star - which is well worth a visit at some point during the season.

Mountain Stats

  • Resort Area: 7,355 acres (3,052 hectares)
  • Summit: 2,319m (7,606 ft)
  • Village Centre: 1,755m (5,757 ft)
  • 118 Designated Trails
  • Longest Run: 7.2 km (4.5 miles) - Around the World Route - it runs from the top of the T-Bar to Bottom of Gem Lake
  • 105km (65 miles) of marked runs
  • 777 m (2,550 ft) vertical drop
  • Village elevation: 1,755m above sea level

Temperatures and Snowfall

Average snowfall is 750cm (24.5ft) annually.

Average temperatures are quite mild compared to other resorts in BC. In December the average minimum is -10.5C (13.1F) and the high -6.5C (20.3F) and this is the month with the highest average snowfall. In January, the coldest month, the average minimum is -9.0C (15.8F) while the average high is -5.0C (23.0F).

Terrain Park at Big White

The terrain park is one of the mountain’s most popular features, and houses its own lift, a boarder/skiercross course and beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced lanes, combined with a variety of rails and jumps.

 

Telus Terrain Park at Big WhitePhoto: Telus Terrain Park at Big White

 

Finding a Job at Big White

Big White accepts applications via the employment section on the resort’s website. Jobs are generally posted online from May to September. Certain departments will only allow in-person interviews (conducted at the resort’s job fair held each October in Kelowna), although some managers are open to Skype and phone interviews.

Big White hosts a job fair in Kelowna each year in late October over two days (usually the first day is for scheduled interviews and the second day for drop-in interviews). If you have made an application for a job no later than late September, then you would receive an appointment at the job fair for an interview. You attend the job fair, do the interview and hopefully are offered a job.

Big White also does drop-in interviews at the job fair if you have not put in an application by late September. Some departments may have already filled their rosters by this time and may not be available to do drop-in interviews, so you limit your choice by not applying earlier. However, some managers save most of their hiring until the job fair. The job fair is usually held at the Holiday Inn Express.

The jobs usually still available at drop-in interview day include: lift operator, cook, server, events staff, graphic designer, ski patrol, housekeeping, tickets staff, terrain park staff, retail, rentals, repair shop tech & bootfitter.

 

International Applicants

The majority of staff members are Canadian, but Big White is hugely popular among Australians in particular. New Zealanders and Europeans are also represented among staff.

All international applicants are welcome at Big White, as long as they have a valid working visa. See Work a Season in Canada for further information on getting a working visa for Canada. Once this working holiday visa is secured, you are able to apply for a job at Big White like any other Canadian.

International applicants can apply through the website and book themselves an interview in late October along with everyone else. Some departments may do Skype interviews, however, you should expect to attend the job fair when applying. 

International applicants are also able to attend the drop-in interview day at the job fair and apply for a job at that time. There are a couple of hostels in Kelowna at which to stay before you go for your interview, including the Same Sun Backpackers, the Kelowna International Hostel and the Kelowna Okanagan Hostel.

For Australians and New Zealanders

Australians and New Zealanders seeking employment at Big White can secure interviews via the international job programs with which Big White work.

For Australians this program is The Working Holiday Club and interviews are held in June.

For New Zealanders, the program is IEP New Zealand and hiring will usually take place in August.

Roles and Pay

Roles available are standard, including hospitality, housekeeping, grooming, instructing/ski school, food and beverage, events, tickets and lifts. See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for more information on ski resort jobs.

Instructors

Big White’s ski school team members will provide training to staff looking to obtain an instructor’s certification, however monetary assistance is not currently available.

 

Big White, snow ghosts on the runsPhoto: Some of the awesome scenery at Big White

Staff Perks

Seasonal staffers receive a free season pass, 40% off on rentals, free group ski school lessons, free snowshoe tours, 10-15% off at Big White-owned retail outlets, 50% off food and beverage, and discounts on activities and accommodation.

Depending on the demands of each independent role, staff members can expect to ski or snowboard anywhere up to five times a week, including on lunch breaks. Many staff enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and skating in their downtime.

The resort coordinates a mid-season Christmas party for the entire staff, and each department will usually host its own party at some point throughout the season.

Big White has existing reciprocal ski pass deals (meaning free riding) with most mountains in BC & Alberta, including, but not limited to, Whitewater, Silver Star, Revelstoke, Mt Washington, Red Mountain and Panorama.

 

Other Jobs at Big White

There are plenty of small businesses in the Big White area who look to hire staff each winter season, in particular, on-mountain restaurants Beano’s, 6 Degrees, Underground Bakery, Globe Cafe, Blarney Stone, Black Diamond, Snowshoe Sam’s, Santé’s and The Woods are worth contacting.

Jobs may also be available at Big White’s many independently-owned chalets, and at the on-mountain market.

 

Big White aerial shotPhoto: Aerial shot of Big White

 

Finding Accommodation for the Winter Season

Staff accommodation is available though there are not enough beds for every staff member. Rent for staff accommodation averages $135 per week per person, and most rooms are shared in ski-in ski-out accommodation. Almost all staff accommodation is share rooms.

The majority of staff live at Big White but Big White does have a daily shuttle from/to Kelowna for anyone who lives in Kelowna.

Alternatively, many units in the area are rented out privately via their individual owners. The official Big White Facebook group, castanet.net and the Snow Season Central forum are a few options for sourcing winter accommodation. Rent around Big White is usually around $140 per week.

 

Nightlife

Big White’s on-mountain village is reasonably small, meaning everything is within walking distance. The village is home to plenty of bars and restaurants, including popular late-night staff hangouts Snowshoe Sam’s (previously voted Canada’s number 1 nightclub by Ski Canada Magazine) and Raakel’s Ridge, (the two late night pubs on the hill) while many restaurants transform into relaxed bars and lounge-style hangout spots once dinner service wraps up.

Big White Ski Resort does organize 1 Christmas party for the entire staff and all departments have their own parties throughout the season. The village also plays host to a calendar of seasonal events each year

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