2nd June 2023
There are so many ways how to do a ski season, and not one way to do it right.
You might have an appetite for adventure, a desire to let yourself go for a few months by partying away the nights after long days of ski instructing. Or you might be one for the smaller things in life, basking in the panoramic mountain views and curling up in the evenings with a hot choc. Either way, there are plenty of things to sink your teeth (and skis) into.
And in this guide to working a ski season, we’ll get you started in the right direction so you can tailor the trip to your needs: pathways, planning and travel advice included.
1.Deciding whether doing a ski season is right for you
You might be thinking “I’m not the right sort of person to do a ski season”, but trust us, anyone can if they put their mind to it. Seriously, you don’t have to be a pro skier or have tons of experience.
Whether you’ve only watched shredding TikToks from the comfort of your duvet or you’ve dabbled in the high-powered world of snowsports before, a ski season is the perfect opportunity to level up your skills, make new friends and create unforgettable memories that will haunt you forever (in a good way!)
You just need to ask yourself about your priorities: would you rather get on with study and work or, is the calling to chase the powder snow just too strong? Which would benefit you more in the long term? And is this opportunity to learn the ways of the board (or skis) too good to pass up? Listen to your gut and you can’t go wrong.
Now that you’re convinced a ski season is for you, it’s time to start saving up. Ski seasons can be expensive, but if you’re working for the duration they don’t have to be.
Start by setting a budget. Work out how much you will need for accommodation, gear (if you don’t already have it) and travel, then keep putting away money regularly. Download a money-saving app that will tuck a few pounds here and there with every purchase – you’ll be surprised by how much you can save in just a few months!
3.Planning your trip
If you’re a bit of a nerd and you love to fill out a big ol’ spreadsheet, then you will love this next step as it involves getting all the details of your trip ironed out. Get ready to whip out your laptop as we dive into the logistics.
It’s in the timing
Let’s start with timing. Ski seasons typically run from November to April in Europe, but they vary continent by continent. For example, in New Zealand, the best months to head out to the slopes are from June to mid-October. Do your research and then pencil in your ideal time away. You might not want to work the entire season, so check out which months suit your sensibilities.
In both Canada and France, December to January are ideal for folks looking to max out their time on the snow. These are some of the quietest times of the year, so you’ll find that you can make the most of emptier runs and slopes as well as a more relaxed ambience. Plus, you can drink in that authentic alpine festive cheer – good vibes all round.
Then February is when things start heating up, though not literally! Prime time for family ski holidays, it’ll be a lot busier, but if you’re a social butterfly that’ll fit you just perfectly. And if your aim is to work with as many students as possible, either as an instructor or a fellow trainee, this is the best time to do so.
Choosing your destination
Your destination won’t just be the background to your selfies or postcards. It makes the trip. But with a whole world of ski resorts out there, how the hell do you choose? That’s where we come in.
Here are a few suggestions with a rich blend of history, culture and skiing opportunities to get your cogs whirring.
Europe offers some of the best ski / snowboard opportunities in the world. Take France’s Three Valleys resort – it’s got a diverse range of terrain to dip your boots into and the finest instructors around. I know we’re biased here, but a ski course in France is well worth your time!
North American resorts
If your wanderlust is leading you across the pond, why not take a look at the North American resorts out there? Our personal favourite is Banff.
Banff is a picture-perfect ski town sat snugly in Alberta’s Rockies in Canada. Rugged mountains, gorgeous powder snow and a long list of activities from backcountry tours to karaoke await you. It’s the perfect mix of work and play.
South Pacific resorts
And for those looking to roam even further, there are some stu-ning resorts in the South Pacific – and by South Pacific, we’re mostly talking about New Zealand.
Cast your mind’s eye to NZ’s most picturesque slopes, and Cardrona where wide open trails stretch out under moody skies. Here you can hike in Mount Aspiring National Park or go kayaking across the dreamy waters of Lake Wanaka. Plus, the locals are rad. So you’re bound to meet some amazing people!
Picking your pathway
There are so many jobs up for grabs at ski resorts, each suited to a different sort of person and on a spectrum from physically to mentally intensive. You might fancy working outdoors as a member of the park crew or you might prefer the comfort of the chalet and your laptop as a digital nomad.
Get a job on a resort
Already well-qualified? Then you’re in a great position to start a job as a ski instructor or take your place as a member of the ski patrol. As an instructor you can earn a good wage whilst doing what you love day-in-day-out, gradually building your leadership skills and flow on the snow.
Train on a ski / instructor course
For those with a hankering for teaching who don’t have the qualifications yet, you can make it happen. There’s a vast number of reasons why you should do a ski instructor course on your gap year or sabbatical. And it starts with the doors it opens for you.
Bag your ski instructor or snowboard instructor qualifications on a season course and you could kickstart a career abroad, hopping from one resort to another when the time calls. As you get more advanced certifications, you’ll see yourself climb up the career rungs and be able to teach trickier skills on more difficult terrains, training the next Olympians, who knows?
Take a skiing internship
Here’s another option: ski internships are a brilliant way to ease yourself into working a ski season. You’ll experience the best of both worlds: you’ll get all the training you’ll need to certify as a Level 1 Instructor and get paid to teach people to ski. And all in one season!
Go with the flow
If you’re already well-versed on the slopes or don’t feel like the instructor life is for you, fair enough. You can do your ski season solo, working in the resort full- or part-time.
You might want to “be a ski bum”, maximising your time out on the slopes in your time off. Or you might simply want to fill in the winter months of your gap year with adrenaline-fueled fun. Just make sure you don’t miss out on the camaraderie a course could offer – the FOMO is real.
Pick which is right for you
Whichever path you choose, make sure it’s the one for you. Write down all the details you glean from your research and store them somewhere safe so you can come back to them later on. You’ll need them when you start thinking about booking travel arrangements and your ski or snowboard course.
4.Working your way through the paperwork
We’ve come to the less glamorous part of working a ski season. If you’re anything like us, reading through reams of information on passports, visas and insurance might send your brain off to sleep. But it has to be done. So let’s dive on in.
Visas and passport
Before you start looking for a job, you’ll need all the right documentation that will allow you to stay and work in your chosen country. You’ve probably heard it before, but get this done as early as possible – you never know, there might be a holdup and this will cause serious stress, which we want to avoid.
The same goes for your passport – make sure it’s renewed and up-to-date well in advance of your trip and you can’t go wrong.
Choosing insurance for your time away in the snow can be quite a pickle if you’re uncertain of what you’re looking for. You’ll need to consider things like emergency medical expenses and cancellation/curtailment as well as your standard holiday insurance. Often you can find this type of cover advertised as ‘seasonaire insurance’.
5.Getting a job in the bag
As we’ve mentioned, the vacancies available on and around ski resorts are plentiful as seasonaires practically run the place! From ski instructor to bartender, these same core steps are required:
- The right qualifications and experience
- A solid CV
- Great interviewing skills
- An open mind and bags of self-belief
Sending in applications
If you’re confident you check all these boxes, you’ll want to get applying. But when is the right time to start? Going off the fact that most companies and hospitality venues tend to start filling their vacancies from the end of the previous season to the start of the following one, you’ll want to time things right. Check job listings such as Ski Jobs as early as you can and get those applications written pronto.
6.Packing everything you need
This relatively simple step is easily overlooked. After all, what could you possibly need that you wouldn’t take in your standard holiday suitcase? Well, to start you’ll need thermals, ski socks, goggles and a waterproof jacket, plus your indoor gear and entertainment.
Ski gear is bulky and specialized, so make sure you do your research and pack appropriately. Don’t forget your essentials like toiletries – it does happen!
7.Make the most of the experience when you hit the slopes
For wannabe instructors
For those aiming to become ski instructors, use your time on the slopes to improve your skills and gain experience in the most effective way you can – we all have different learning styles, so find one that works for you.
Take advantage of any training opportunities offered by your resort and work hard to develop your teaching abilities by chatting with ski veterans and fellow trainees. Who knows, you might even be offered a job for next season?!
A thirst for knowledge and a thirst for adrenaline don’t always come hand-in-hand. But when they do, it’s a match made in heaven. If your priority for the ski season is to drink in the experience from a cultural point of view, take advantage of any cultural or language classes offered by your resort. Learn a new language or skill, immerse yourself in local customs and make the most of this unique opportunity.
For working holidaymakers
You’re here for the experience, all the rest is the cherry on top. If you’re out on a working holiday, make sure you don’t just stick to the confines of the resort when there’s a whole world of beauty and culture right on your doorstep. Whether that means joining a hiking tour or visiting a local cultural site, there’s plenty of memories to be made.
8.Last but not least… have fun!
This is a good point to step back and think about why you signed up to work a ski season in the first place. Let’s be honest, it probably wasn’t to go flat out, all work and no play. So remember to live in the moment and give yourself plenty of downtime (and plenty of drinks).
If you’re feeling uncertain or notice yourself tensing up at the thought of this big step into the unknown, take a deep breath; drop those shoulders; and unclench that jaw. You’ve got this! And you’re going to have so much fun.
Plus, our friendly team is here to gladly talk you through your options to help you find the course that is your match made in heaven.
Full steam ahead!
Yep, that’s everything on how to do a ski season to ensure you have the time of your life.
Hopefully, this guide has given you a leg-up on your competition, so you can get off to a flying start and impress all of your Snowskooler buddies. Just imagine their faces as you rock up as a shining example all raring to go….