Top tips, hospitality internships, ski-schools and links for finding winter resort work in Canada
Canada is a prime destination for winter sports enthusiasts and an increasing number of people choose to work a winter season. If you’re thinking of spending 5 months working on the slopes the following tips may help you secure a job.
Canada winter resort work in 15 seconds
- Most resorts recruit well before the season starts
- Don’t just search for work in Whistler, look at other resorts
- Make sure your travel insurance covers winter sports and resort work
- Ski/snowboard instructor courses are popular but expensive
- Get a SIN (tax number) on arrival
- Prepare a CV/resume to match the needs of the Canadian employer
- Holiday companies may need chalet and resort staff
Common types of winter work
- Ski/snowboard guides
- Ski/snowboard instructors
- Ski/snowboard technicians
- Lift operators
- Room attendants
- Chalet staff
- Waiting staff
Hotels and winter resorts recruit surprisingly early, well before the season starts. Plan in advance – it may be advisable to travel a few weeks earlier than you’d planned so that you can attend recruitment fairs.
Whistler Blackcomb is the operational organisation responsible for many businesses in and around Whistler. They are the largest employer and hold recruitment fairs throughout Canada and also overseas. If you want to work in Whistler this is a great place to start. Check their website for details on how to secure a place.
Finding a job through a work abroad company
A number of work abroad companies have relationships with Canadian employers and they can arrange your job interviews before you leave home. They tend to focus on skilled positions (snow-school) and less skilled (housekeeping/room attending). Places fill fast and you pay for the service. However, if you are anxious about the prospect of finding work on arrival these companies could be the answer.
Companies offering an employer introduction include:
Jobs can rarely be guaranteed – they will be at the discretion of the employer. Make sure you check the terms and conditions to understand what happens to your payments if you don’t get selected by an employer (Working Holiday Store will provide a full refund if we can’t find you a suitable placement). Also, have a plan B. What will you do if you don’t get a job or don’t like the job? Will you still go to Canada and look for work on arrival?
All of the above companies will offer advice regarding the visa process, but they cannot guarantee the visa or make the application on your behalf.
If you are working a season, does your policy cover winter sports for the full period? Base your cover on the skills you will develop, not your ability now. (After a couple of months you’ll be off-piste & messing around in powder for sure!)
If you are planning your trip independently the following websites are also useful:
- Whistler Chamber of Commerce; provides a comprehensive job database for the area
- Fairmont Hotels and Resorts are a top-end luxury hotel brand with properties around Canada. As with other hotels they have a need for experienced seasonal staff
- Workopolis is (predominantly) a retail jobs portal. Our experience is that for entry level retail positions your best approach is to visit shops and stores in person. However, if you have good retail experience you may find a suitable opportunity through this website
- Go2HR is the leading free job board for tourism and hospitality jobs in BC.
Don’t just focus on Whistler. There are hundreds of amazing winter destinations in Canada and the more places you consider the better your chances.
Natives is a great resource for season workers (summer and winter) with loads of useful info as well as job listings.
The Canadian Tourist Commission has a comprehensive list of resorts on their website.
There are dozens of ski instructor companies operating in Canada. They can be expensive, but you can get some of the best tuition in the World and with the possible exception of France your qualification will be recognised in any of the ISIA member countries. Finding work as a newly qualified instructor isn’t always easy, not least because your course will typically finish mid-season when resort staffing is sorted.
However, some instructor companies will help you to find work when you successfully graduate and some even guarantee you a job which is reassuring – read the small print to be clear on what they are offering and have a plan B just in case things don’t work out. You may have to see the season out working in a bar, but you’ll be well positioned for work next season (subject to visa limitations).
There are too many companies to list, but check out some winter sport forums, research properly and make sure you know what the cancellation T&Cs are. Check your travel insurance carefully. What would happen if you had an accident on the first day of the course and couldn’t continue, would the course provider or the insurer issue any refund? Here are a few to start you off:
More useful information
Canadians will refer to it as a resume, not CV and the formatting may be a little different to what you are used to. Some tips:
- If you are looking for work while in Canada, get a Canadian SIM so employers have an easy way to get in contact
- List your email address and remember to check for messages regularly
- Keep the document short and to the point (2 pages max). Don’t waste space waffling on about unnecessary things!
- List details in reverse chronological order (ie most recent jobs first) and update it during your trip adding any new work experience as you get it
- It should be specific to the job that you are applying to; for example have one for retail and another for hospitality
- If you are intending to work in Quebec you are recommended to have a resume in French
- Canadian law prohibits discrimination so you do not need to include age/date of birth, gender or a photo
- Your document should be set up for Letter sized paper (8.5” x 11”), not A4. Its only a slight difference but its worth getting it right from the start
Remember that it is a competitive job market. You need to stand out from other applicants so spend time writing and formatting your resume and a suitable cover letter.
Your employer will expect you to have a Social Insurance Number (SIN). It’s the Canadian equivalent of UK National Insurance, Aussie Tax File and US Social Security Number. Without it they won’t be able to put you on the pay roll and make appropriate statutory deductions.
Get your SIN as soon as you can from the arrival airport, Canada Post outlets or a Service Canada office. Once completed take it (along with your passport and Canadian work permit) to any Service Canada office and the SIN is normally issued on the same day.
You will be taxed at 15% of your pay for annual earnings of less than CAN$30000; higher earners will pay more. Tax returns are filed by April of the following tax year. Deductions are based on a set of assumptions and at the end of the tax year they review your tax payments and reconcile any discrepancies. Subject to your circumstances your deductions could be correct, you may owe some tax or you may be owed money. For guidelines on making a tax return visit the Canada Revenue Agency website: http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/menu-eng.html
If you want help with your tax return you can use the services of a local tax expert or alternatively use an international tax claim company; they’ll do all they can to help you achieve the maximum tax return (one of the biggest is taxback.com). In either case there will be a fee charged.
Unlike some countries, in Canada a service charge is not automatically included in the bill and wages reflect this. You are expected to tip as standard. Following is a guide to what is considered to be a acceptable:
- Waiting/serving staff 20%
- Bartenders (at the bar) $1 per drink
- Taxi/cab 10-15%
If you are working as a server/waiter your hourly salary may be low, but you will more than make up for this with the tips that you earn (assuming you are good at your job!).
The minimum legal drinking age in Canada is 19. Except in: Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon where it is 18.
Working a winter season is a great way to improve your skills, meet new people and add an overseas element to your CV or resume. However, remember it will be hard work and you won’t get every afternoon off to go snowboarding!