How to get a ski season job in Whistler

ok I am going right off the bat with this one. For the most part if you do not already live in Whistler/North America you are going to have to commit big for this trip even before leaving the comfort of your own couch. Accept that now or look elsewhere. If you are still reading let’s start to look at the ‘how’.

I am going to focus this post mostly as a hints and tips guide for those not already living in Whistler, i.e. those most in need. Hopefully this goes some way to point you in a few right directions and helps eliminate some of the minefield of questions you probably have buzzing around your head.

Let’s kick off.  You essentially have two early choices to make.

1. Working for the Mountain, Whistler Blackcomb (WB)

By working for the mountain (now owned by Vail Resorts) you will enter yourself into the volume jobs market. Lift Operations, Tube Park, Parking, Maintenance, Ski School, Snow School, Guest Services, Retail, Food and Beverage. Apply early enough and you are pretty much guaranteed a job of some kind (base rate for 2018/2019 $13/hr*), staff accommodation (2017/2018 season $12.65** a night) an Unlimited Ski Pass worth $1,289 and access to a wide range of various free or heavily discounted mountain events and activities. I can only say that working for the mountain is great for your first season! The support team at HR (The Cabin) is second to non as are the team at Staff Accommodation in Glacier. The pay is well under par, but balance that out with the subsidised staff accommodation, the unlimited lift pass, the range of events, competitions, discounted meals and activities etc. etc. it’s a win! The list is almost endless, you will get out as much as you put in so if you choose to go this route max it and get involved as much as you can.

WB jobs list: https://jobs.vailresortscareers.com/whistler/go/Whistler-Blackcomb-Jobs/3521600/

Top Tip:research all the different jobs available, think about what brings you joy, in-door or out-door and imagine doing it for 5 months straight 4-5 days a week, 35-42 hrs per week. That should help bring it down to a short list. Then apply the ‘zero f**cks’ given factor ” just get my ass here” and you’ll be down.

2. Working for a private company

The winter jobs in this catagory essentially include all things retail, food and beverage and winter sport tourism. Wages are most certainly better (+$16/hr), but you have a zero chance of getting staff accommodation, although some companies will provide you with a ski pass or at least a discounted one. Working as a server in the bars and restaurants will certainly earn you the most dollar, tips can be crazy especially for the girls, but consider why are you coming here? Is it for the money or something else. For me at least, making a wod of cash was never a focus point.

Job groups:

  1. http://www.whistler-jobs.com
  2. https://ca.indeed.com
  3. https://whistler.craigslist.ca
  4. https://www.facebook.com/groups/312798435541535/
  5. https://www.facebook.com/groups/813144602037093/

Ski pass info: https://www.whistlerblackcomb.com/plan-your-trip/lift-access/passes/unlimited-season-pass.aspx

So here comes the chicken or the egg part. How to apply for the job

You can apply to options 1 and 2 almost certainly directly. However most if not all will require a face to face interview and sorry no, video conference is still not widely accepted. If you are living in Europe or Australia for example chances are that hoping over for a quick chat is out of the question. For North America various job fairs are set up across various cities for direct face to face with WB staff which help somewhat. However the rest of you are left up shit creek without a paddle.

WB Partners Programme

The way the mountain get around not having to do face to face interviews for the hundreds of positions available across the mountain and the headache of coordinating that whole interview and accommodation process is by using agencies. Each agency or ‘partner’ typically looks after a particular area.

Top Tip: if you go down the 3rd party route apply early, I mean very early.  February, March, April latests.  These positions fill up fast!

Working Holiday Club

fullsizeoutput_6dc

The Working Holiday Club is looking after most of the high volume jobs, i.e. Lift Operations, Tube Park, Parking, Retail and Food & Beverage. Because the volume is so great the vetting process is pretty chillax here and their back end service is pretty much bare bone essentials.  A ticket in is around $2,250*.

Top Tip: Don’t be fooled by the name. Working for a 5 star resort is no holiday, do not come here with the mind set to doss around on the job. Standards are high and tolerance levels low.  The ‘holiday’ part comes from the lifestyle you can lead, being surrounded by the magic of the mountains, the abundance of terrain, epic pow days, the après (questionable vs. Europe) and the night life (pretty decent!). There is a big chunk of party life here for sure, but work is work, just like any other.

Oyster Worldwide

oyster-logo

Oyster’s core is essentially about taking care of the Whistler Kids ski school programme. As a result they have a more in-depth vetting processes. A package including getting your level 1 ski instructors course, one nights stay in a Vancouver hostel, transfer to Whistler, a hoodie, a group meal once a month and to be fair an excellent support network UK and local i.e. local rep Tory, should you ever need advice or additional support. Tory is in fact A1 gold, her alone is almost worth the eye watering $8,350* fee. Oyster also have other more basic job roles available including Whistler Kids kitchen staff, hotel work or new for the 2018/2019 season Tube Park, which are all available for around ca. $4,500*.

Alltracks

Alltracks offer a similar program as Oyster, but are more orientated towards the adult/older kids ski school programmes. Expect to pay in the region of $7,800*.

Full list of WB Partners: https://jobs.vailresortscareers.com/whistler/content/Whistler-Blackcomb-Hiring-Events/?locale=en_US

So there you have it. If you live outside of Whistler you essentially have to go through these agencies to work for the mountain. Aside from the guaranteed job (provided you don’t majorly screw up the telephone and face to face interviews) is the guaranteed staff accommodation at an unbeatable rate, membership straight into the mountain community and a lift pass worth $1,289*. These companies are affiliated partners of the WB-Vail cooperation, but the fact that is hard to dispute is that aside from the Working Holiday Club which offer a bare bone service, costs-in are high!

Top Tip:  Try and get over the cost aspect as soon as you can, work some extra shifts,  accept it and make your peace, come get on a plane and come have the time of your life!

There is always more than one way to skin a cat – another way – coming over early

Sure a ‘hop’ over could be an option (return flights around $1,200 from the EU or AU), but you would have to get your accommodation sorted first. Hotels (starting at ca. $500 a week, most at $1,000) and Airbnb is expensive, there are 3 Hostel options, but do not expect to pay the €12-22 euro a night you can get in Europe inc.breakfast. Hostel prices start at around $35-$55 a night excl.breakfast. If coming over in October/November when most of the local job fairs*** are on and paying for short-stay hostels until season starts (generally mid/late November) and hope that you get a slot in staff accommodation is not viable you could look at going for a more mid-term plan and going all out for a season in private accommodation. Rents in shared accommodation generally float around the $750-1,000+ area. However this makes no sense if you are looking for a staff accommodation job and I guess most land lords will have little interest in taking you in for 1 or 2 months (but you never know Sept-Oct is low season).

Hostels:

  1. Whistler Lodge Hostel: https://goo.gl/maps/kvecaHyjxAD2
  2. Alpine Lodge Hostel: https://goo.gl/maps/PLFQ3o19Vi82
  3. Southside Lodge Hostel: https://goo.gl/maps/tFDt1uEKeTF2

Private rentals:

  1. https://whistler.craigslist.ca
  2. https://www.piquenewsmagazine.com
  3. https://www.facebook.com/groups/680662395408425/
  4. https://www.facebook.com/groups/105948296221882/

*all prices in $CAD at the time of print (March 2018). [GBP to CAD @1.8] [CAD to GBP @0.55] [CAD to Euro @0.63] [CAD to AUD @1]

**to be updated once staff 2018/2019 accommodation rates are released

***please cross check the dates


If you have useful comments, hints and tips for newbies to Whistler please leave in the comments section below – thank you 🙂

yoga before breakfast

it was on a cold snowy morning that not for the first time, but in a long time I practiced yoga before breakfast. As part of the Whistler Club Shred programme free yoga classes are provided twice a week at 18 Below Base II. Tuesday’s @17:30-18:30 and on Thursday morning’s @6:00-7:00. This was the first time I had gotten up so early (5:15) to do a yoga class, it was still dark outside, gently snowing and cold!

Upon arrival I was warmly greeted by our Canadian yoga teacher Laura. As we started our practice I became fully focussed in the present. There must be something about doing yoga just after waking up that helps the mind focus. Now I come to think about it it makes sense right, the mind is fresh, there is no junk in there from the days activities, it’s a blank canvas ready to begin, new again. As we neared the end of the practice I remember feeling surprised at how focussed I had remained throughout. The feeling was lightening.

Coming to the end posture Savasana my mind always tends to wonder off into a hazy dream. This time I drifted back to my time in Portugal 2017, a different place that was warm and full of light, a place where the sun shone and every practice was accompanied by the gentle sound of the ocean. During namaste I gave thanks to the person who gave me this special memory @Cecilie Ragnhildstveit.

+ shout out to these bad ass Whistler yogi’s: @Laura Davis @Erin Grier

Further info:

Whistler Blackcomb Staff Club Shred Programme: https://www.wbclubshred.com/events

Surf & Yoga re-treat Portugal: http://www.balilihouse.com

Further free practices are available at the B7 Yoga Lounge staff housing with Erin Grier on Saturday’s at 18:30 & 19:30.

arrival in Whistler & staff housing

After a couple days in Vancouver I joined up with my group and headed north, up the sea to sky highway, route 99 to Whistler. Looking out of the bus window and gazing up onto snow crested mountains it all started to come together. Taking it all in I found myself drifting into to thoughts of my mothers time here. The fact that she had travelled along the exact same road 43 years ago. I felt a connection, that fuzzy skin tingling kind of sensation you often get with a good movie. I felt content and full of anticipation about my arrival in what was going to be my new home. I knew then I had 100% made the right decision.

Whistler Blackcomb (WB) aka the mountain have 3 staff housing sites. Glacier, Brio and Westside. Most units are set up pretty much the same, 4 people per unit, 2 people sharing a room (bunkbeds – yey!). The units are compact and functional. It works. It’s actually ok. Key for me was to have engaging flatmates that were fun, clean, respecting and tidy. I got lucky and we all live together quite easily, happily and stress free. Sure it could be bigger, better, blah blah etc. etc., but it’s not forever, for a short time it works! Rent is $12.65 a day and is billed bi-weekly at $177.10. There is a wax room, small gym and yoga studio all on site. At 18 Below Base II (5 min walk) staff meals are also provided for $7 for a pretty decent sized feed. Combined with various planned activities WB do a great job here.

IMG_2662
Roomies. Day 1 photo. From left to right: Jack, me, Scott, Tom.

Some first impressions of Whistler & Blackcomb

Glacier staff housing is ski-in skit-out right onto Blackcomb mountain. For me it’s a 10 minute walk to work. To get into town there is the option of the free number 7 bus (operates 5:45 am – 2:40 am). A walk/run down the village run/staff hill ski slope (5 min) or the option to take the Excalibur Gondola (operates 8:00 am – 6:30 pm).

Best things about staff housing

  1. Your roomies (if you get good ones)
  2. The rent at only $354.20 a month (all bills included)
  3. 100% reliable hot showers with gusto…sooo good!
  4. The rooms are always warm!!

Worst things about staff housing

  1. Your roomies (if you get bad ones)
  2. No oven to cook with (makes cooking options somewhat limitted)
  3. Bunk beds (several factors here!)
  4. Will need a good deep clean when you move in
  5. Internet speed maybe slow to begin with (invest in a new router and/or call the operator)

Extra staff housing info:

  1. https://www.housewb.com/about1-c2ak
  2. https://jobs.vailresortscareers.com/whistler/content/Whistler-Blackcomb-Housing/?locale=en_US

why Whistler?

Some honest words. Lets face it, it’s probably fair to say a large proportion of the working population that come to Whistler for the Winter season are not really here to work. Work is just a way to be able facilitate spending as much time on and off the  mountain as their wallets will allow.

For me I had a slightly different angle.

My mother emigrated to Vancouver in 1974 with her girlfriend to further progress her career as a Physiotherapist and to escape the failing British economy. Post WWII Great Britain had developed into a Welfare state that was loosing its grip on common sense. During the early 70’s the trade unions and the miners strikes were holding the country to ransom. Combined with high unemployment and double digit inflation peaking at 20% times were tough for many – I can perfectly understand her decision and respect her courage to leave the UK and seek a better life.

During my childhood my mother would sometimes talk of her life in Canada. Mostly of her long weekend trips out of Vancouver to the ski slopes of Whistler. In that day Whistler hadn’t even been developed. The resort if you could even call it that was operating out of Creekside, it wasn’t until 1978 that the start of the construction of Whistler village even began. During her 4 years in Vancouver my mother made frequent trips to Whistler and actually met my Biological father (Larry Edward Cunningham if you’re out there), an American at a pig spit roast at the Roundhouse. In 1980 I was born, not in Canada but in Bend, Oregon. It is thanks to this time that I became an American and a Canadian citizen.

I think these stories must have built up in me over the years. I came to Whistler to go back to where it all began. To seek my routes. My intentions were to work, to integrate, to live a mountain life, to let it be the place where I would start a new life. Sure to party and play, but they were not my primary objectives. After all Whistler is where it all began so it would also be the place where I would start my new beginning, a new life.

Fact: Whistler Blackcomb is the largest ski resort in North America and the 12th largest in the world with 8,171 acres, 37 lifts and more than 200 trails across a variety of glade skiing, open bowls and 3 glaciers.