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Working Abroad
Living Abroad

Working a Ski Season in Whistler Canada

June 10, 2024

Applying to work in Canada

I applied to work in Whistler through a company called The Working Holiday Club. You pay them around £700, and they arrange interviews for you and are pretty much guaranteed a job. Through this company, we got a job working for Whistler Blackcomb (aka 'The Mountain'). Whistler Blackcomb owns everything from the ski lifts to the on-mountain restaurants to some of the shops in town, like North Face and some of the bars, so are a really good company to work for.

The £700 felt like a LOT of money for what ended up being a video interview (I couldn't make the face-to-face interview as it was the day of my graduation, and they were so understanding and organised the video interview). But the £700 was so much more than just the interview. They gave us step-by-step guides on the whole visa application process, which was a mission in itself and would have been a lot harder without their help. Also, on arrival in Vancouver, they gave us all the information we would need to set up bank accounts, get sim cards, and do any admin that we wouldn't be able to do in Whistler Village. Also, without going through the Working Holiday Club, I'm not sure if we would have got staff accommodation straight away. The whole process was so smooth, and they really helped every step of the way.

Organising my accommodation in Whistler

Working for Whistler Blackcomb means you are eligible for ‘staff housing’. They have a massive complex, a bit like uni halls, just outside of town. You can only live here if you have a job for ‘the mountain’. Its around $13-14 a night, and they take it straight out of your pay cheque so you barely even need to think about it! I requested to be in a room with my boyfriend, and we were lucky, but not everyone got their room share request granted. You get put in either a 4 or 6 person flat, either with another couple, or all of the same gender. Don’t worry though, this doesn’t mean you’ll be restricted in who you are friends with. The flats are very basic, but I think a lot better than accommodation in the Alps (from what I have seen). We had a relatively spacious kitchen, and each (small) bedroom had a bunk bed, so you’ll only share with one other person in the flat. There was also a little sofa area, which made it really sociable. Each block also had a common room and laundry room (with laundry service like uni where you top up a card and pay per wash).

I would definitely recommend staff housing if you can get a job for Whistler Blackcomb. It’s such a fun place to be and makes meeting friends so easy. It’s about a minute into town on the free shuttle bus, or you can get the gondola up to it while it's running! If you don’t like loud uni halls, it’s not for you, but it’s where all the pre’s and after parties take place.

Some of my friends that I worked with didn’t get staff housing and found a house to rent. My advice would be to start looking EARLY or hope that you’ll get really lucky. And be wary of corrupt landlords.

Top Tips for Working a Ski Season in Whistler

  • If you can, try and take out an old pair of skis if you have them and refrain from buying/using a new pair until there's enough snow on the ground that they won't get wrecked in week one.
  • Save money up for the first month or so that you're there as you might not have that much work and you'll be going out/drinking a lot.
  • Whistler is such a beautiful place - i think arguably more so than the alps. There are loads of tree skiing, and you're free to roam everywhere (on and off-piste doesn't really exist in Canada). So take it all on and appreciate it as much as you can. Remember you're there for 6 months so don't try and do a backflip in the first week - you'll be fuming if you break a collarbone and can't ski for 2 months. Save your park skiing for the spring; you'll get miles better between the beginning and end of the season.

The Job

In terms of training, we had a day where we got to meet everyone and talk about the upcoming season and a day in our place of work, getting to know our way around and learning what we would be doing. The job I was in at a restaurant meant I sort of had to just learn on the job, but the staff and managers were so helpful and never expected too much from you when you were just starting out. In Canada, you get 2 days a week off – I was very happy about this, having experienced friends of mine only get one day off in the Alps! Working in an on-mountain restaurant, I didn't get time off during the day to ski, but we did ski to and from work, which was amazing when nobody else was on the mountain at sunrise and sunset. We met to go to work at 7:15 and were skiing down around 4 most of the time.

My job didn’t get tips as it was just quick service but tipping culture in Canada is big so if you work at a normal restaurant or bar you would get tips! p.s. I worked at Glacier Creek, which is THE best on-mountain restaurant. I’m not even just saying that people at the other restaurants would try and transfer to Glacier Creek. Our managers were the best, and work was just a massive laugh (most of the time).

If I went back, I would try and get a job at one of the Whistler Blackcomb bars, so that I could have some evening shifts and some day shifts, to get more skiing in. These are in such high demand, though, and generally, they want you to have more experience. In Canada, bartending is a profession – your part-time work bar job that you have back home won’t cut it. You get two jobs part-time as well, to try and get more ski time in, or just more money.

Nightlife in Whistler

Apres was the biggest shock to me — it's NOTHING like Europe, unfortunately. Canada and Whistler Blackcomb are big on health and safety, so for that reason, there's no on-mountain drinking or partying. In town, there are a few apres places – the main one being Longhorn's right at the bottom of the slopes. There are a few other good bars, but don't expect Alps-style partying. The clubs were good, with a different event every night. In Canada, I think the focus is on getting a WHOLE day skiing in, going home to relax and eat/no big apres, and then going out in the evening.

The bars get busy; it feels like there aren't enough bars for the number of people in the resort, so get a seat early if there's a big group of you. Also, when you first get there, ask the bar if they have 'local's prices'. Some of the bars will do $5 pints – approx £3 – and cheap jugs, etc., and most bars do happy hours as well – make the most of these.

Essentials for working in Whistler Canada

This is so boring, but get a snood/balaclava – a good one. Temperatures in Whistler got down to -30 some days – and lifts carry on running, so if you work up the mountain, you have to go out in it. You will quickly learn to wrap up warm – I didn't get to experience the spring skiing as a result of Corona, but I was very much looking forward to it; lets just put it that way!

Transport in Whistler

Most of the time, we walked. The town itself isn't that big, very manageable to walk from one side of town to the other. Getting to the staff was either a free shuttle bus or a gondola! If you weren't getting a free shuttle, a single bus ticket was $2.50 – no matter how far you were going. We didn't really leave the resort that much. One evening, we went to Vancouver to go and watch an ice hockey match – they do a deal for staff with transport & tickets for a really good price. There were regular buses to Vancouver and the surrounding towns; if you did your research, you could find relatively well-priced tickets.

If you lived further out of town, it might be worth getting a free bus pass. I think they were around $40 a month, but don't get one until you know you need it. The buses only take exact change! Or you can buy 'tickets' from the supermarket in packs of 10 – v. worthwhile.

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