There is something exciting about working at a Canadian ski resort that draws thousands of young Aussies in every year. Whether it is the unknown of living, working and playing surrounded by snow unlike any snow found here in Australia, maybe it is the images of the party lifestyle that communal living conjures up or maybe it is the appeal of living in a country where the culture is familiar and yet strikingly different that leads to Australians between the ages of 18-31 packing their parkas and making their way to the big, beautiful country that is Canada.
There are a number of myths that do need to be dispelled and some facts made clear, as the Canucks gear up for their next winter season and their first bout of recruitment in Australia and New Zealand through IEP's Work & Ski Canada Job Fairs.
Before jumping on in and making your way to Whistler (because let's face it most Aussies haven't heard of anywhere else) there are a few pointers that can save you time, money and bitter disappointment.
- Make sure you are able to stay for an entire season. If you need to return to uni at the beginning of March, chances are employers are not going to be interested in hiring you. With most winter seasons running from late November until April (or even May) resorts do not want to re-recruit half way through the season because half their staff turned in their lift passes and headed home. 5-6 months is generally required.
- Many employers will hold independent job fairs in Canadian cities at the beginning of October. If you rock up in November or December hoping you can land a job and a bed in staff housing, chances are you'll be competing with hundreds of others with the same idea. With most jobs already taken, you could end up spending way too much money on hostels and too much time on panicking that you won't find a job. On IEP's Work Canada Fully Loaded program, you will get the inside scoop on which employers are holding their interview days in Canada in October, so you don't miss out.
- If you can't arrive in Canada that early, then securing your job before you leave Australia is definitely the best idea. IEP holds job fairs in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland in August, taking the hassle out of the recruitment process.
- There is more to Canada than Whistler! There is no doubt that Whistler is a massive, beautiful resort but Canada literally has hundreds of resorts that offer a more unique Canadian experience where life is cheaper and more laid back. Whether you are after massive slopes, a party lifestyle, a more wholesome lifestyle, a great place to learn to ski or even an employer that isn't a resort but is set amongst some picturesque scenery, there is an option out there for you. Don't limit your choices by insisting on heading to the resort your brother/cousin/mate worked at-there are SO many options out there.
- The pay will probably suck. Many ski resorts pay anywhere from CA$8-$15 an hour but keep in mind the experience you are having and the awesome benefits many employers offer. Free or heavily discounted season passes (sometimes to more than just their own mountains), free and discounted meals, cheap housing, cheap rentals and snow equipment purchases. Many employers will run staff trips and parties.
- You will need working rights for Canada. The most common option is a working holiday visa. For Australians you need to be over 18 and apply before your 31st birthday. The visa is $190, proof of funds is AU$4000 and you can apply at www.whpcanada.org.au (if you are on an IEP program we can help you with getting the visa).
- Don't expect time off over Christmas and New Year (unless the resort closes on these days) as this is usually the busiest time. Similarly, for 2010 if you have a contract for the entire season, you will probably not be allowed time off to go and check out the winter Olympics in Vancouver.
- Employers don't control the snow. Expect less hours at the beginning of the season especially if the snow starts falling late and make sure you have enough money behind you to get by.
Wherever you end up, working a winter season in Canada is bound to be one of the most exciting experiences of your life. Keep your options open, remain flexible and make the most of the incredible winters Canada is famous for.
If you have any questions about working a winter season in Canada (or a summer season) you can reach me on firstname.lastname@example.org