Working a Ski Season in Whistler 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 own 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 we’re 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 and 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.
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 bunkbed in, so you’ll only share with one other person if 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 whilst its 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.
In terms of training, we had a day where we got to meet everyone and talks 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, in 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 with 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.
What was the nightlife like?
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 on everynight. 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 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 theres 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.
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!
Top 3 Tips?
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 staff was either a free shuttle bus, or the gondala! 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.