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Seasonal Worker's World Resort Guide

 

Whether you are after parties, powder or peace, you will find it among this among the resorts listed. Check out the country articles for information on terrain, job and accommodation resources and information on visas. Check out the individual resort pages to compare terrain, snow and nightlife and to find out how to get a job and a place to rent for the season.

 

North America

Canada and the United States are home to some of the best resorts in the world, with incredible big mountain riding and powder through the western mountain ranges in particular.

Resorts in the US and Canada are well-suited to back country riding and are a good choice for seasonal workers who like to hike, find powder and ride big mountain terrain.

Runs are coded as follows:

  • Green – beginner
  • Blue – intermediate
  • Black – advanced
  • Double diamond - expert

Many of the resorts are built in amongst the trees which allows for some excellent glade riding in North America as opposed to Europe (and New Zealand) where the resorts are mostly above the tree line.

Speaking generally, après-ski is not as popular in North America as it is in Europe, with a few notable exceptions such as Whistler.

For foreign applicants, Canada has a more open labour market than the United States. It is much easier to get a working holiday visa to Canada and the restrictions on hiring foreigners are fewer. This makes Canada a generally more attractive option for many international applicants.

 

Whistler BackcountryPhoto: Hiking for powder at Revelstoke in Canada

 

US resorts will often require foreigners to either go through a job program or show a specialised skill according to which they can offer a sponsored work visa.

Nonetheless, US resorts are well worth the effort if you are able to obtain a visa and find a job.

The resorts in North America tend to be single operations. This means that one company operates the lifts and other mountain operations. In contrast, at European ski resorts it may be that several ski lift companies operate within a single ski area.

 

Copper Mountain ridingPhoto: Bursting through the pow at Copper Mountain, USA

 

Europe

The best resorts in Europe are found in the European Alps in France, Switzerland and Austria. There are also resorts and ski areas in most other countries including Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

Many of the resorts are amongst the largest in the world in terms of skiable terrain, due to the fact that the resorts are often interlinked either by bus or ski lifts. The vertical drop is also amongst the highest in the world.

However, the snow in Europe is, on the whole, not as reliable nor as powdery as North American and Japanese resorts and many European resorts do not even report their annual snowfall.

The resorts in the Alps are set up a little differently to North American resorts in that most of the skiable terrain is on-piste, with off-piste terrain often left untouched by resort operations. This is opposed to North American resorts which generally prepare all the terrain within the boundary of their resorts and can provide an easier step-up for riders looking to move to advanced terrain.

As a result, more riders in Europe prefer to stick on-piste and back country is less popular. This is manifested in resort size measurements which are usually in piste kilometres rather than skiable acres or hectares.

This is changing, however, as riders discover the incredible back country terrain available throughout Europe.

Runs are coded as follows:

  • Blue run – beginner
  • Red run – intermediate
  • Black run – advanced

Après-ski is huge in Europe and has probably the best ski resort nightlife in the world. Many seasonal workers are attracted to the Alps for the nightlife more than the riding.

While EU citizens are able to work freely in the EU, foreign applicants will have to navigate the individual visa laws of each country. Of the European countries, France has the most open labour laws for foreigners.

A large number of ski tour companies operate in European resorts. These cater to foreigners, British in particular, and offer full package ski holidays. As a seasonal worker with such a company, you would work as a host, guide, nanny, housekeeper or other job related to the ski package holiday.

The major tour operators are British. Many of them will hire only British applicants, while some may also hire EU passport holders or other foreigners.

 

Skiing in LaaxPhoto: Taking a cliff in LAAX, Switzerland

 

Asia

Japan is home to the best resorts in Asia. With arguably the best powder in the world, Japanese resorts are an incredible place at which to work a winter season.

In Japan, the terrain is not the biggest or the highest in the world, but the incredible powder more than makes up for this.

Additionally, seasonal workers are able to experience the remarkable Japanese culture which includes sauna, sake and sailor moon.

Japan has the easiest and simplest working holiday visa program for foreigners. However, if working in Japan, you will likely need to work for a foreign company operating at a Japanese resort such as a tour operator or a shop catering to English speakers.

Outside of Japan, there are reasonably established ski resorts in South Korea, although the snow and terrain is not nearly as good as in Japan. The labour market is quite restrictive in South Korea and difficult to enter as a foreigner, though not impossible.

There are also emerging ski resorts in China which are meeting growing demands from the Chinese middle class. For foreigners, working a winter season is probably only possible if you were to work as a ski instructor - due to reasonably restrictive labour laws, the fact that wages are still quite low and that this is the one job where English may be useful. 

Iran has a handful of internationally known resorts which are excellent to visit but probably quite difficult to work at as a foreigner. The best of these is Dizin, near Tehran.

There are also a bunch of undeveloped ski operations in Kazakhstan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.

 

Dizin, IranPhoto: One of the open faces at Dizin, Iran


Oceania

There are ski resorts in both Australia and New Zealand. Of these, the better resorts are in New Zealand but, for a southern hemisphere winter, there are plenty of good resorts between them at which to work a season.

Resorts in Australia and New Zealand are both relatively small in terms of skiable terrain. The terrain in New Zealand is a little better than Australia with more to offer in terms of back country.

New Zealanders are particularly fond of back country riding which gives many of the resorts a good vibe among seasonal workers.

Runs are coded as follows:

  • Green – beginner
  • Blue – intermediate
  • Black – advanced
  • Double diamond - expert

The snow in both countries is variable and not the same quality as Japan, North America or even Europe. White-outs and deep fog are not uncommon as are high winds.

Resorts in New Zealand are more exposed than Australian resorts and mostly sit above the tree line. As a result, they will sometimes be completely closed due to increment weather.

Australian and New Zealand labour markets are relatively open to foreigners and both countries offer accessible working holiday visa programs for citizens of a number of partner countries. Each season will see a large number of foreigners working for the resorts.

Wages in New Zealand and Australia are amongst the highest in the world for seasonal workers, with Australian wages being higher than New Zealand wages.

There are no full package ski tour operators in Australia or New Zealand. However, you are able to work for resort operations in addition to local businesses in the towns.

 

Perisher, AustraliaPhoto: Back side of Perisher, Australia

 

South America

There are ski resorts in Chile and Argentina located in the Andes Mountain Range. Resorts here are relatively undeveloped compared to North America, but are increasing in popularity and are more developed than the emergent ski resorts throughout Asia and Eastern Europe.

The terrain can be good if you are willing to hike or go into the back country. Remember your avalanche gear.

However, the in-bound terrain is not more exceptional than anywhere in North America.

 

Cerro Catedral, ArgentinaPhoto: Cerro Catedral, Argentina

 

Although the resorts are higher than in Australia and New Zealand, the snow is not necessarily any better. The snow still depends on the luck of the season and the conditions on the day.

Both countries have working holiday visas, but it is still quite difficult as a foreigner to work at resorts in Chile and Argentina as they often will not hire foreigners, with the exception of ski and snowboard instructors. Additionally, wages are quite low.

Chile has a more open labour market than Argentina and an easier working holiday visa program.

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