Welcome to Part I of my three-part series on working a ski season at Big White Ski Resort. When I moved from New Zealand to Canada in 2016 to do a ski season at Big White, I couldn’t find a comprehensive guide written by someone who had been to Biggie before. So here it is- my complete guide on how to work, live and play at Big White Ski Resort!
My heart was set on Big White after hearing about it from my friend who had done a season. I loved my first season so much, I went back for a second! There are many people who claim they only came to do one season and are still there several years later.
Why Big White?
Aside from the obvious (Okanaghan champagne powder anyone?) Big White is a ski resort that has everything you could want. I love Biggie for three reasons:
- It’s ski in, ski out. You can literally walk to your back yard, strap in and make your way down to the chairlift. You can ski every day if you choose to!
- It has a lot of variable terrain. Whether you like sticking to the groomers, tackling double diamonds, tree runs, hitting the park or surfing through powder- there is something for every type of skier.
- For a large resort, you hardly ever have to line up. Big White hasn’t quite hit its status as a tourist destination. Unlike Whistler, where you can wait in line for ages, I have never had to wait in a chair lift line for longer than 5 minutes (even on Christmas Day!)
Benefits of working for Big White
Free ski pass. All Big White staff members receive a free season’s pass valued up to $1298 plus taxes. If you work for Chamber of Commerce, you will be able to buy a season’s pass at the discounted rate of $719 plus taxes.
Discounts on food. Receive up to 50% off food at Happy Valley, 10% at The Woods, 50% off at Black Forest and Moonlight Bistro at Gem Lake, and 30% off at the Ridge Rocket.
Discounts on ski gear. Up until mid-December you receive 25% off at The Rider, Dizzy’s and Altitude retail stores. From then onwards you will receive 10% off.
Unlimited free ski and snowboard group lessons. This has got to be one of the best perks of working for Big White! If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, you can take lessons right from Level 1 to Level 6 and be a pro by the end of the season.
Finding a Job
Finding a job at Big White is easy provided you are organized. There are a variety of jobs you can apply for, some you will need experience and qualifications, and others will give you training on the job.
Here are the types of jobs you can apply for:
Working as a lift operator is one of the easiest jobs to get at Big White. You require very little experience as training is given on the job. One of the downsides is you are working outside into temperatures that can reach -35 degrees. Also, if you need a job where you constantly need to be doing something, I wouldn’t recommend applying for a job as a lifty. Some people, however, like to get paid for doing very little! Your main job is to ensure people get on and off the lift safely, driving the chairlifts and guiding people onto the lift.
I actually worked two seasons as a Ticket Agent and I found it to be one of the best jobs on the mountain. The hours were great as we alternated between day and night shifts, so I had plenty of time to enjoy snowboarding. All of these roles have you as the first point of contact for many customers, so you will need good customer experience. The only downside to this job was the pay- you will earn minimum wage unless you are a supervisor. You won’t earn money in tips however, so unless you have good savings it can be difficult to survive.
To work as a ski or snowboard instructor, you will need to be certified. Many ski bums will obtain their qualifications while working on a ski hill in a separate job, so this job is more suited to those wanting to do a second season (or more!). You will earn minimum wage as a ski school instructor, but you will also earn tips from happy clients.
You will need to be at least 18 years old and a strong/intermediate nordic or alpine skier or snowboarder to join. For more information on how to join Ski Patrol, click here.
Are you obsessed with snowboarding or skiing and want to get as many days riding on the mountain as possible? Apply for a job with at the terrain park! Most of the guys and girls in this crew clock the most days on the mountain, and that is partially due to the fact they ski to work. You will need to be a fairly good skier to apply for this job, and you will spend most of your shifts building and grooming jumps.
Food and Beverage
If you want to make money, get a job as a server. While you’ll earn minimum wage you will make your money in tips! These jobs are highly sought after, so you will need to have experience in hospitality. You will also need a Serving It Right qualification to legally work as a bartender or server. You can obtain this qualification online, and it usually takes 6 hours.
Housekeeping is another fairly easy job to get. It is good job for those of you who like to sleep in (most shifts don’t start until 9-10am) so if you know you are going to be into the party scene, this is one of the biggest perks. Housekeepers also get paid slightly higher- around $13 an hour. You also get to keep any loot guests leave behind, such as food. The one downside is the hours aren’t that suitable if you want to be skiing regularly (unless you really love night skiing!).
How to apply for a job at Big White
Pay a company to find you a job
This is what I did back in New Zealand because I was overwhelmed with the task of finding a job. Companies such as IEP in New Zealand and Australia will help you apply for your visa and set you up with an interview with a ski resort. They hold job expos throughout the world and fly the recruiters from each ski resort to one location for you to interview with.
Pros: You are almost guaranteed a job. Having a start date for work made it easier for me to make travel plans. IEP provides you with a mailing address in Vancouver for your mail to be sent to. They then contact you to arrange delivery to where ever you are in Canada.
Cons: It is expensive. It cost me $800NZD to find a job through the IEP programme.
Although you’re 99% likely to get a job, it isn’t promised. In hindsight, I wish I had saved my money and applied through the Big White website or gone to a free job fair.
Apply directly with Big White
You can apply for jobs directly with Big White via their website. TIP: Ensure your resume is Canadian-style!
Pros: Getting a job with Big White directly is the best case scenario. If you’re lucky enough to land a job this way you’ve saved yourself money going through an agency.
Cons: You may need to be present for an interview. Also, Big White tend to do a lot of their hiring via IEP or at their job fair, so unless your resume is stand-out this channel is fairly competitive.
Apply at a Job Fair
Big White holds a job fair in Kelowna each October. There are a variety of jobs available at the job fair. This option only works if you are already in Canada at the time.
Pros: This is by far the cheapest and easiest way to find a job on the mountain.
Cons: Ideally by this stage you should have a place to live (if you already have accommodation this will work in your favour) as houses tend to be rented out as early as August. You may not be selected for a job if you haven’t organised accommodation yet.
I hope this guide gave you a good idea on how to find a job at Big White Ski Resort!
Do you have any questions? Feel free to comment below!
Read Part II: How to Find Accommodation at Big White Ski Resort