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How to Work a Ski Season in Canada: A Complete Guide

Want an office with epic mountain views and lunch breaks with runs down the slopes? Dream of picture-perfect powder days in the alpine with no one else in sight?

Sounds like you should do a ski season in Canada! I originally came to Canada to work one ski season in British Columbia and ended up working a total of three (and eventually became a Canadian citizen!)

If you also want to do something similar, read on for essential tips and advice to get your own ski season happening ASAP!

For more comprehensive info (including exclusive tips from the ski resort recruitment teams themselves) check out my brand new ski season website.

Back view of JR with snowboard looking out over Monashee Mountains at SilverStar Mountain Resort
Snowboarding at Silver Star Ski Resort near Vernon, British Columbia

How to apply for a working holiday in Canada

The International Experience Canada (IEC) program enables young citizens of over 30 countries (usually 18-30 but 18-35 in some cases) to travel and work in Canada.

The working holiday program is just one of three youth mobility schemes within the IEC. It is the easiest way to work a ski season in Canada.

  • The IEC working holiday program offers an open work permit that allows the holder to work anywhere in Canada
  • The length of the work permit depends on each country’s reciprocal agreement with Canada. For the UK, Australia and Ireland it is 24 months maximum
  • Applications for the IEC are online and candidate selection is random
  • The application season usually run from October to September every year. This means that anyone wanting to work a ski season in Canada must think ahead and apply for the program at least a few months before season start
  • Citizens of countries with programs that have high demand and a low quota of places (such as the UK), need to apply even further in advance. Even then, it may not be able to secure a place. Plan early! Once approved, you have 12 months to actually activate the work permit.
  • Everything you need to know about the IEC can be found in my comprehensive application guide
Snowy chairlift at Baldy Mountain Ski Resort, one of the many ski resorts you can work at in Canada
Baldy Mountain Ski Resort, British Columbia

Choosing a mountain: all about Canadian ski resorts

With Canada being such a huge country, there is a correspondingly huge choice when considering where to work at a ski resort.

Most working holiday makers head straight to Banff or Whistler, but there are a number of other great (and totally underrated!) options for a ski season in Canada.

There are affiliate links in this article, which means if you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small percentage at no extra cost to you. 

Ski resorts in Eastern Canada

Found at lower elevations than their western cousins, ski resorts in Eastern Canada still pack a punch. Though typically smaller in size, Eastern resorts are still incredibly popular and draw thousands of visitors every winter.

Snow is usually good quality, however, it can be thin on the ground some years.

Ski season dates: December – April

Example resorts (largest first): Mount Tremblant, Blue Mountain, Le Massif, Marble Mountain

Rocky Mountain ski resorts

If you don’t like to be limited to just one ski resort, head to the town of Banff in Alberta. There are three resorts in the local vicinity – it would be difficult to get bored here! Snow is less abundant than further west but the powder is wonderfully dry.

The downside is extremely cold winter temperatures; be sure to pack your layers. Note that the minimum wage is higher in Alberta than BC and taxes also lower.

Ski season dates: November – May

Example resorts (largest first): Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, Marmot Basin, Mt Norquay

Interior British Columbia ski resorts

Light, champagne powder is the hallmark of this region. Temperatures are cold, but not usually extreme. Resorts range from huge, super family-friendly resorts like Big White to tiny two lift operations like Mt Baldy.

In between these are a dozen characterful, quiet and challenging mid-sized resorts such as Whitewater, Red Mountain and Revelstoke.

Ski season dates: Late November/early December – April

Example resorts (largest first): Sun Peaks, Big White, Silver Star, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Panorama, Apex, Hudson Bay Mountain

Coastal British Columbia ski resorts

The West Coast resorts are home to powder. Lots and lots of it. It’s not the crisp, dry stuff seen further east but when it’s this much, who cares? Whistler Blackcomb is the granddaddy of all Canadian resorts and provides what some would call the ultimate ski season experience.

Grouse, Seymour and Cypress offer a part-time ski resort experience for those who don’t want to travel too far from city comforts.

Ski season dates: Late November/early December – April

Example resorts (largest first): Whistler Blackcomb, Mount Washington, Grouse, Seymour, Cypress

Snowboarding down a slope at Baldy Mountain Ski Resort in Canada with endless mountains in the distance
This could be you while working a ski season in Canada!

How to find work at a Canadian ski resort

Generally, ski season jobs are divided into two main categories; at the resort and in the local resort town. For your ski season in Canada, it is best to be flexible and open to working for a non-ski resort employer. 

Types of work at Canadian ski resorts

There is a huge range of winter ski season jobs available. Most IEC participants at Canadian ski resorts work unskilled (i.e. no professional qualifications needed) jobs. These tend to be minimum wage so don’t expect to be making a fortune while working at a ski resort in Canada!

Some examples of unskilled ski resort jobs include:

  • Ski lift operator (or ‘liftie’)
  • Retail shop cashier
  • Ticketing and guest services clerk
  • Server (note: required by law to pass a liquor-serving qualification)
  • Bartender (note: required by law to pass a liquor-serving qualification)
  • Housekeeper
  • Hotel front desk clerk
  • Restaurant busser
Back view of JR snowboarding at Sunshine Village Resort in Alberta, with snowy hills opposite
Snowboarding at Sunshine Village in Alberta

Canadian ski resort job benefits

Though ski resort work may not earn you a fortune, there are some other benefits.

Most resorts will offer a free season lift pass plus free (or discounted) rental equipment and group skiing and snowboarding lessons. A discount for purchases at resort restaurants and stores is often included too.

Having a staff season pass usually entitles the holder to reciprocal tickets at other Canadian ski resorts. This may mean completely free access to another resort’s slopes for a day or two, or potentially even unlimited access.

Applying online

Most resorts start advertising positions online in July and August. Some resorts will be happy to conduct Skype interviews with those not already in Canada. Others will only pursue applications from people obviously already in Canada.

With hundreds of applications, it is understandable that some employers are wary to make job offers in advance to people who do not have a physical work permit yet (since it is issued on arrival) or may cancel their trip last minute. Be prepared to look for work in person – going to ski resort job fairs is the easiest way to do this.

View of downtown Banff with shops on left and right and huge Cascade Mountain in background
Banff is a beautiful place to spend a ski season (photo from March)

Job fairs

Most Canadian ski resorts hold job fairs in October and November. These are usually held at the resort and are an opportunity to meet with hiring managers from multiple departments in the same location.

Job offers are often given on the spot or the same day for larger departments such as lift operations. At the resort I used to work at, a large percentage (over 50%) of new staff were hired at the annual job fair.

Applying in person

As the season draws closer, applying for ski resort jobs in person is essential. Most resort jobs will be filled a week or so prior to opening day. There are however always staff members that don’t work out (or don’t even turn up for their first day!) so be sure not to give up.

The period after Christmas is something of an ‘unofficial’ second hiring season as there is a high dropout rate after the holidays are over.

Snowboards in snow in front of a chairlift at Apex Mountain Ski Resort in BC
Apex Mountain Ski Resort, British Columbia

How to find accommodation at a Canadian ski resort

It is often said that finding accommodation at a ski resort is often harder than getting a job. In my experience, this does indeed seem to be true.

Ski resort accommodation

The larger resorts have a limited amount of staff housing. This is usually located on-hill and is priced at $400-700 per person. With a small amount of staff accommodation available, it can be pretty competitive to get a spot.

The downside of staff housing can be the issue of isolation at some resorts. At Sunshine Village for example, staff housing is only accessible via a gondola. After the gondola stops in the evening, staff are unable to leave the mountain except in emergencies.

Private accommodation in a ski resort town

If staff housing isn’t appealing or possible, private accommodation is the other option. This can range from accommodation provided by a non-resort employer (this is more common in Whistler and Banff), shared housing or a private apartment/house rented from a private landlord.

It is also possible to rent from companies that specifically offer ski season accommodation for working holiday makers.

What is important for accommodation is to search early. Demand is so high in Whistler that it can be hugely beneficial to arrive in September, organise accommodation at that time and then wait it out until the season starts.

Here are some useful resources for finding accommodation for your ski season in Canada.

Pique Classifieds (Whistler)

Castanet (Big White)

Crag and Canyon Classifieds (Banff)

Kijiji (Multiple locations)

PadMapper (Multiple locations)

Craigslist (Multiple locations)

Be sure to check local Facebook groups such as Whistler Housing Rentals for Locals.

Close up of skiers and snowboards riding a chairlift at Mount Washington Ski Resort on Vancouver Island
Mount Washington Alpine Resort, Vancouver Island

Best Ski Season Insurance for Canada

There is no doubt about it if you’re doing a ski season in Canada, you absolutely need to buy travel insurance with winter sports coverage.

For one thing, insurance coverage for the length of your intended trip is a requirement of the IEC working holiday program.

Simply put, if you don’t buy insurance, you may not receive your work permit to work a ski season in Canada. 

Secondly, medical care in Canada is very, very expensive for visitors. A visit to the emergency room, for example, can start around $750 without any tests or scans included.

Even calling an ambulance in British Columbia has a flat $80 fee. A broken leg may cut your ski season short, but breaking it without insurance may well ruin your entire Canadian experience (or worse).

All of the following offer ski season insurance for Canada. 

Ski season insurance for Australians

Cover-More provides 12 month long travel insurance policies for Australians, with three levels of coverage – Basic, Comprehensive and Comprehensive Plus. All provide unlimited funds for overseas medical expenses. Winter sports coverage is available for an additional fee.

For 24 months of IEC coverage, purchase 2 x 12 month policies. Cover-More allows policies to be started while abroad, though there is technically no coverage for the first three days of that policy.

Fast Cover – Ski season workers can purchase an initial 12 month policy and then extend for another 12 months on the departure date (24 months total). The policy allows for unlimited trips home, departure from Australia on a one-way ticket and a return ticket home is not required in order to claim. Please note that Fast Cover cannot provide policies with a return date after December 2022 at this time, hopefully this will change soon.

Looking up to colourful buildings on a blue sky day at Silver Star Ski Resort near Vernon
Silver Star Ski Resort near Vernon, British Columbia

Ski season insurance for British and EU citizens

True Traveller  A 24 month IEC-specific policy is available from True Traveller. The policy can be started if you’re already travelling.

Unlimited visits home are allowed with True Traveller (cover is suspended) plus there are no minimum residency requirements. I’ve used True Traveller during my own working holiday and ski season in Canada. 

Ski season insurance for Kiwis

Working holiday travel insurance options for New Zealand citizens have become even more limited since the start of the pandemic. I previously linked to Down Under, who had a 24 month IEC specific policy. I do not believe they are currently trading.

Cover-More offers one year policies for New Zealand citizens, with winter sports coverage available for an additional fee. For the other 11 months, Kiwis will need to source another insurance policy.

One option for the second policy would be BestQuote, who are travel insurance specialists partnered with some of the largest and most reputable insurance providers in Canada. There are various coverage amounts available (most starting at $100,000) and adjustable excess levels as well.

Ski season insurance for other nationalities

World Nomads – Insurance from World Nomads is available for travellers from over 140 countries. Easy to buy online, policies can be started if you’ve already started travelling.

Ski season workers hoping to go to Canada for two years will need to buy 2 x 1 year policies from World Nomads. Please note that World Nomads is not currently selling policies to some nationalities due to government travel advisories

An alternative is BestQuote, as mentioned above. IEC specific insurance policies are available with up to 2 years of coverage. Basic (non-competitive) ski cover is included as standard with these IEC policies. Some options also include coverage for Covid19 related claims.

Covered beginner conveyor belt lift at Mount Washington Ski Resort with mountainous background
Sunset views at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Essential tips for your ski season in Canada

  • Organise your SIN (Social Insurance Number) before heading to the resort area of your choice. This all-important number (you can’t legally work without it) can only be applied for at Service Canada locations. These can be fair and few between in some areas.
  • Be flexible and try not to have your heart set on a particular type of ski resort job. If you’re not having much luck finding work in your ideal job area, try your hand at something new. It may be possible to switch later.
  • Don’t forget about the smaller resorts. Whistler and Banff are exceptionally popular but you may enjoy life more (and find more accommodation options) in a smaller ski town. Resorts like Silver Star and Fernie still have hundreds of job opportunities every winter season.
  • Before booking your flight to Canada, check sports baggage allowances. Air Transat, for example, allows one free ski bag on flights between Europe and Canada.
  • Join my IEC Facebook discussion group ‘O Canada!’ to meet other people also wanting to work a ski season in Canada
  • Head over to our partner website, Ski Season in Canada, for more tips and advice about securing work and accommodation for your ski season in Canada!

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Love champagne powder and want to ride it all winter long? You need to do a working holiday in Canada! Everything you need to know and more in this complete guide by a three-time ski season veteran!

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Check out these other posts about working holidays in Canada


Monday 10th of April 2023

Hi - What are your thoughts on the ski instructor programmes available (thinking about ski instructor programme plus guaranteed job afterwards)? Is there any particular organisation you would either recommend or advise to avoid? Many thanks


Monday 10th of April 2023

Hi Lisa,

If you don't have the qualification already, then this type of program definitely makes sense. Otherwise, it is fairly 'easy' to get a ski instructor job. Ski resorts usually advertise for instructors in June and July for the following season. So you can secure a job early and be sure of work (which will allow you to secure accommodation early as well, which is usually the hardest part of working at a ski resort). I don't have any specific recommendations for companies, sorry!

Rebecca Bradley

Wednesday 9th of October 2019


Was just wondering if there is an age maximum for working a season in Canada


Wednesday 9th of October 2019

Not if you already have the right to work in Canada. If you do not, there are age limitations on the IEC working holiday program, which is the most popular (and easiest) way to work a season in Canada.


Tuesday 21st of May 2019

Hi Gemma

I am from Australia planning to work in a Canadian Ski resort for the winter. There are companies that charge up to $1000 and this includes a guaranteed job, one night's accommodation and support with all other things like Visa etc. Would you recommend this or is it preferential to just DYI? Cheers


Wednesday 22nd of May 2019

Hi Maia,

If you're limited on time and have the money to spend, it can be worth it. Personally, if I was to do this I would go with a company that organises accommodation too for the season. It is generally harder to find accommodation than a job so that would make it more worthwhile.


Saturday 21st of July 2018

Hi Gemma! Thanks for writing all the info down. Super useful. In your experience, can one actually save money when working in a ski resort? Looking at possibly seeking work there to use for travelling. Thanks in advance.


Tuesday 24th of July 2018

Hi Ursula

It is possible - many people earn enough to go travelling in the summer afterwards. Some people decide to spend their money during the winter instead.


Sunday 5th of November 2017


Thanks so much for your informative posts for working holidays in Canada- it is so hard to find any decent answers to my questions online! Your blog really helped me in the visa application process too. Heading out there in January, I hope to find a resort job- fingers crossed!


Monday 6th of November 2017

Thanks Emma! I'm glad you have found my guides helpful :) I've got my fingers crossed for you for a fantastic ski season in Canada!