The Complete Guide to Ski Resort Jobs
The Complete Guide to Ski Resort Jobs is THE go-to resource for winning a coveted spot working (and skiing) at a ski resort. Only a few hundred spots are available each season, so you’d better get in the know to get on the snow!
From the front desk to the back office and all over the mountain, ski resorts offer a wide variety of opportunities, so there’s a job for almost anyone willing to put on a smile.
Pro-Tip: it’s not just the anchor resort that has opportunities. There are hundreds of jobs at the local restaurants, bars, tour operators, small hotels, logistics providers, banks, grocery stores, and retailers that make up the ecosystem of a ski resort town.
We’ll walk you step-by-step on how to land this amazing opportunity to spend a ski season in some of the most beautiful and exciting places on the planet.
Reasons to Work at a Ski Resort
Want to have the time of your life, in an amazing place, surrounded by inspired people? Oh, and want to ski pretty much every day for a full season? Then, definitely look into jobs at a ski resort. There are a million reasons to get a resort job, but here are a few of our favorites:
- The People: Ski resort towns are full of exciting people from diverse and international backgrounds. Many ski town employees travel from foreign countries as far as Australian and New Zealand to spend the winters here in the United States, making ski towns a unique opportunity to meet interesting people from far away locations. Vacationers are often successful business executives or business owners, which makes service-oriented ski resort jobs a great place to network and advance your future career. But most important is the feeling of enthusiasm among everyone in a ski resort town. One thing they all have in common is that they’re excited to be there!
- The Surroundings: Few places on earth are more beautiful than a ski resort on a blue sky day, which is why 9.2 million skiers and snowboarders made a combined 53 million visits to U.S. ski resorts last season! The natural beauty of a mountain landscape provides the perfect escape from crowded city life. No wonder everyone is so happy to be there.
- The Nightlife: Nearly all ski resorts have a happening après ski scene, and many (think Aspen, Park City, Killington, Lake Tahoe) have a pretty vibrant nightlife. If you like to work hard and play hard, then ski resort living is the life for you. Just make sure to set your alarm!
- The Activities: Let’s be honest with ourselves. The biggest draw to working at a ski resort is the immediate access to fresh powder. It’s not just for wealthy vacationers. In fact, you can ski every day with these 7 jobs. It’s not all skiing and snowboarding, too. Head outdoors for some snowmobiling, ice skating, snow cat tours, and cross-country skiing, or if you’re feeling a little less adventurous, kick back and head to the spa.
How to Choose the Right Ski Resort
While it’s hard to make a bad choice when choosing a ski resort, there are some things to consider in finding the perfect fit.
- Housing: Obtaining housing can be the single trickiest part of moving to a ski resort. First things first, familiarize yourself with the housing situation using a resource like Trulia or Zillow. Are there reasonably priced apartments nearby? If not, how far is the nearest affordable location? For example, while rents in downtown Aspen, CO are off the charts, many employees live downvalley in more affordable locations such as Basalt and Carbondale and take the RFTA bus back and forth. Be sure to check for jobs that have affordable housing included. While on the rarer side, seasonal jobs with housing on site can save you considerable time and frustration.
- Accessibility: This one boils down to personal preference. How far off the grid do you want to be? The variations between resorts can be pretty extreme. Is spotty cell service a horror, or a blessing in disguise? How much action do you need outside of work? How often do you need to travel back home? All of these are important considerations in choosing a good location fit.
- Social Life: Different ski towns have different social scenes and it’s important to understand each. Do you like to go out or enjoy a good bar crawl? Then check out Aspen, Park City, Whistler, and South Lake Tahoe in the West, or Killington and Hunter in the East. If you prefer to chill and read a book after work, then you may feel more at home at Sundance, Grand Targhee, Snowmass, Keystone, or Beaver Creek. Every resort has its own feel, so do your homework.
How to Choose the Right Employer
Once you’ve settled on the location, it’s time to start targeting the employers you want to work for. Here are a few suggestions on what to look for:
- Housing: As mentioned above, housing availability can be critical to your success in working at a ski resort. The first thing to check is whether an employer can help you with housing. Many of the larger resorts have employee housing on site. While this is often reserved for returning employees, it never hurts to ask.
- Benefits: Health insurance can come in handy when jumping off cliffs in the backcountry. Will your employer cover it? If not, will you be making enough money to buy insurance yourself? We can’t stress this enough: hospital visits, even for minor incidents or illnesses, can be astonishingly expensive. Make sure you’re covered!
- Perks: Outside of traditional benefits like healthcare, perks can be an important element of working at a ski resort. Many will include an employee full season ski pass, which alone worth close to $1,000. Discounted use of resorts facilities (gym, spa, pool) can also be a lucrative addition. Discounted parking or transportation passes can be important to overall economics as well.
When Should I Apply For Jobs at a Ski Resort?
Every ski resort is different, but it never hurts to get on the radar screen early. Many resorts in the west try to open in mid-November if the weather cooperates. Ideally, resorts like to fill as many positions as possible beforehand, and will even begin accepting applications for winter jobs in the late summer.
Many of the larger ski employers will host career fairs in September in October. These events can be a terrific way to learn more about the employer and find the best fit for your interests.
The big visitor rush doesn’t come until the December holiday season, which means resorts and resort area employers continue staffing up into Christmas. That said, the labor market has been so tight recently that many resort area employers were still filling open winter positions into late January and even February. It’s never too late to get involved.
Key Dates for Ski Resort Jobs:
- Job Fairs: Late September & early October
- Job Placements: September to November (some into December & January based on need)
- Ski Season Opens: mid-November (weather permitting or earlier if possible)
- Ski Season Ends: late April
Don’t Forget About Summer Jobs, Too
In any resort town, you’ll meet more than a few locals who “came for the winter, but stayed for the summer.” These are seasonal employees who loved the summers so much that they just never left. Summers at ski resorts can be every bit as beautiful, fun, and exciting as the winters, if not more. Plus, summers require major staffing needs as well, which means plenty of summer job availability.
So don’t worry if you’ve missed the winter rush. Summer hiring season is right around the corner. Most employers expect a spike in visitors around Memorial Day, which means they need to start thinking about staffing needs in March and April. This means that late winter is the time to start thinking about your summer plans, and where you want to live and work, so that you can get those applications in before May.
Job Hunting Hack: Attend Job Fairs
Job fairs are a great way to learn about the local job market and even lock down a position early. Many resorts will host at least one, if not more, heading into the season (usually during September and October).
Job fairs often are held with a “speed dating” type atmosphere. You can indicate interest in different open positions, and then interview for 2 or 3 of them on the spot. This is a great opportunity to meet employers, ask questions, and learn more about the resort and it’s staffing needs. Don’t waste the chance to ask questions! But make sure you’ve done your homework. Research the resort beforehand, and demonstrate your interest by asking “informed” questions.
What Jobs Are Available at a Ski Resort?
One of the great things about ski resorts is the diversity of opportunities available. The opportunities to work for the anchor resort are fairly obvious, but don’t forget all of the small local businesses that need winter workers as well.
Here’s just a small sampling of the jobs available at a ski resort:
- Ski/Snowboarding Instructor: Of course, this is the job everyone thinks of first at a ski resort.The glamourous uniform, the perfect skiing style, these are the kings of the mountain. Hobnob with the rich and famous while tempering your disdain for all the noobs and their snowplowing. Get a job as a ski instructor, and assume your rightful place at the top of the local social scene.
- Ski School / Child Care: Just because you can’t ski like T.J. Burke, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job skiing like Dexter Rutecki. Many ski school positions have a lower threshold for skiing ability, especially at the child care level. And child care itself is a huge need at destination resorts where weary parents just want a quiet day on the slopes or, better yet, a night out to themselves.
- Lift Attendant: Looking for something a little more chill? Lift attendants spend their days outdoors in the fresh air, with arguably the easiest jobs on the mountain. This is a great entry position into a resort.
- Guest Services: The perfect job if you love interacting with customers and solving problems. Be prepared to maintain a helpful and friendly attitude, and always keep a smile on. Listening skills are a must!
- Food & Beverage: F&B has so many options, it could require its own guide (coming soon!). From short order to five star, front-of-house to back-of-house, one resort could have hundreds of opportunities for servers, hosts, bartenders, line cooks, chefs, backservers, floor managers, expediters, bakers, supervisors, and maitred’s. Whatever your level of experience, food & beverage has a job for you.
- Housekeeping: Resorts are always looking for great housekeepers, making this a great opportunity for candidates who don’t mind getting their hands dirty. You’ll be on the front lines of providing top notch service, regularly interacting with guests and keeping the grounds in pristine shape.
- Mechanics & Engineers: If you know your way around electrical, plumbing, painting, or carpentry, there’s a ski resort out there for you. Resorts are highly complex environments- just think about all the vehicles, air conditioning, plumbing, pools, spas, boilers, and don’t forget the ski lifts!
- Shuttle Driver: Very few vacationers show up at a ski resort with a car. That means resorts have to provide all transportation. If you have a clean driving record, consider getting your commercial drivers license (CDL) and becoming a shuttle driver for a hotel or even a bus driver for the local township.
- Financial Analyst/Accountant: Want to move to a ski resort, but feel like you’re more of an office type? Not to worry, get a job as an accountant or a finance analyst at a hotel or local bank. These have the added benefit of being year-round positions so you never have to leave. Or, if you’re worried about lack of experience, check out the local branch bank and apply to be a teller.
- Retail: Retail jobs are a great place to hone your sales skills, and ski resorts have plenty of them. It’s not just the ski shops (where you can also be a ski rental technician), but also many high end retailers that cater to vacationers’ fancier tastes. Start out as a retail associate and quickly work your way up to store manager.
How much do ski resort jobs pay?
How much ski resort jobs pay depends largely on the role and the resort itself. Many start out at minimum wage, but Aspen for example recently raised its minimum wage to $15 from $13.50 the prior year. Vail’s wages have also been on the rise of late.
Time to Get You Hired
Now that you’re up to speed, you’re ready to get out there and find your dream job! So start doing your research and pick out the perfect resort first. Then choose the right employer and start applying for jobs. And don’t limit yourself. We recommend applying to a minimum of 10 jobs to help increase your chances of getting hired.