Sunshine Village is one of three resorts (the others being Lake Louise and Mount Norquay) in the locality of Banff, one of the major ski destinations in Canada, and indeed the world.
Every year, the Banff region attracts thousands of tourists, powder hounds and seasonal workers, making Sunshine Village one of the better places to work a season for those who like to be amongst the action.
The town of Banff is located in Alberta, Canada, around a 90 minute drive from Calgary and a 40 minute drive from Canmore. Sunshine Village is another 20 minutes drive on from Banff.
For those coming internationally, you can arrive at Vancouver international airport and take the Greyhound (12 hours), or transfer domestically to Calgary and take the Sunshine Coach or Greyhound.
Once in Banff or Canmore, there are buses to take you up to the mountain a few times per day. See the schedule.
The resort village at Sunshine is only accessible via the gondola from the car park and base of the mountain.
During the day, the resort is a bustling place with families and young professionals skiing, riding, eating, and drinking. As soon as the gondola shuts down, the stars come out and only 200 or so people remain—this includes guests from the 84-room boutique hotel and staff living on the mountain.
That being said, the village can still get lively. Mad Trapper’s Saloon, a pub open from after dinner until late into the evening, is an old Sunshine Lodge with a rustic ski cabin feel. It has pool tables, lots of Canadian beer on tap and a dance floor pops up from time to time.
The village is flanked by the Rocky Mountains on all sides and the setting lends itself to some great night time walks among the stars and shadowy peaks.
Banff is one of the coolest ski towns in Canada with a multitude of bars, restaurants, shops and clubs. Each year, Banff is packed with tourists from all over the world, in particular Europe, Australian and New Zealand.
It has a permanent population of around 8,000 and is both a major summer and winter tourist destination. Accordingly, it has all the usual amenities of a small town, including banking, a Safeway, a post office and plenty of other shops.
In Banff, some of the popular bars include Hoo Doo, Dancing Sasquatch and Aurora nightclub. There are events on virtually every night of the winter season.
Sunshine offers unbelievable views of the Rocky Mountains, wide-open runs, and some of the most extreme off-piste terrain in the world.
There are some nice cruisers off the Great Divide Express Quad on Lookout Mountain and a good beginner area near the Strawberry Express Quad on Mount Standish. Sunshine Village is a good place for first time season workers as it has a number of good cruising and beginner areas and places to work up your skill level to tackle the tougher terrain.
The Delirium Dive is an internationally famous off-piste area. It has adrenaline inducing cliffs, chutes and rock lines. You will need avalanche gear to go in there and it can often be closed due to avalanche danger. The good thing about working a season at Sunshine is that you will likely get a chance to tackle this terrain and not have to hope it is open, like those on a week-long visit. The Wild West is another crazy, extreme area which is subject to avalanche control openings, but is an area most seasonal workers like to try at some point during the season.
Goats Eye is an awesome expert area with long steeps, bumps, groomers and tree runs down lower that is usually open.
Sunshine is a little flatter than other Banff resorts in that it involves more traversing to move around the mountain and many of the runs have a long, flat tail end to make your way to the lifts, which can be a trap for snowboarders. The home trail to get back to the car park at the end of the day is a winding, scenic route through classic Rocky Mountain alpine terrain, but it can get crowded and a bit icy.
There are 3 terrain parks with a variety of features ranging from beginner to advanced.
The snow at Sunshine Village is one of its major advantages, and it receives the best snow of the Banff resorts. It receives up to 30 feet (360 inches or nine meters) of powder each season on average as it is in a better catchment area than Mount Norquay and Lake Louise.
While other resorts can go a while without snow, Sunshine Village tends to hold its cover a little better, as it stays cold and the cloud cover maintains the snow conditions.
Positions at Sunshine run from early November to the end of May, snow dependent.
Each winter season, Sunshine takes on around 600 employees, with a peak of more than 800 staff. Although that seems like a large number, there are an even greater number of competitive applicants each season.
All full-time spots are posted online at www.skibanff.com/employment. Postings for the winter season go up as early as June or July. Because of the large volume of applications that come in each season, Sunshine does not do Skype and phone interviews for entry level positions (such as lift operators, food and beverage etcs). You must therefore be available for an in-person interview at the hiring fairs run by Sunshine each year in September or early October. Some exceptions are made for skilled roles or jobs through agency partner.
If you are successful through the online application, you will be invited to book an interview spot at one of the hiring fairs in September or October. Get in early, as interview spots tend to fill up quickly. You will probably not hear back if you aren’t successful due to the large volume of applications that come in. Jobs do occasionally come up during the season if you miss the hiring fair and happen to be in Banff already. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
Minimum wage in Alberta is $9.95 an hour and most entry level jobs will pay around that. This usually translates to around $150 - $200 a week to live on. You probably won’t save much money over a winter season, it’s more about hitting the awesome terrain with great workmates. You get paid every two weeks.
All staff get a 'Big 3' season pass to ride Sunshine, Lake Louise and Mount Norquay. Mount Norquay is just 10 minutes outside Banff, while Lake Louise is 40 minutes from Banff.
Sunshine has reciprocal deals with 13 resorts in Alberta and BC to get discounted or free riding on your days off. A car is the best option to get around to the other resorts, otherwise you can take the Greyhound bus. A free bus runs to Lake Louise from Banff to ski there on days off.
Sunshine definitely makes a huge effort with staff to keep the season enjoyable, much more than most other resorts in Canada. Every year, they organize staff trips such as trips to other mountains (such as Lake Louise, Kicking Horse, Fernie), trips to watch the NHL in Calgary, dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobiling and trips to the famous Edmonton Mall.
They also run staff events throughout the season such as snowboarding movie premieres, Christmas parties, night skiing in the spring, moonlight snowshoe hikes, avalanche training courses, Australia Day activities and end-of-season May Madness parties.
For staff living in Banff and Canmore, Sunshine provides free staff transportation to get to and from work each morning and evening, from mid-October. This brings you to work for an 8am shift and leaves by 5.30pm (5.45pm when spring skiing starts). There is also ROAM transit bus between Banff & Canmore.
Additionally, there is a public skier bus that runs all day from Banff to the mountain every few hours during winter. Staff can purchase a subsidized pass for $25 a month. There are no similar buses from Canmore to Sunshine Village during the day.
Many staff also drive up to the mountain and carpool with workmates. You can park in the back parking lot past the hotel check-in. Just register with Parks Canada and HR.
Sunshine Village does not sponsor or give letters of offer to foreign workers who do not currently have a valid work permit. To work at Sunshine, you will need to organize your own working visa. See Work a Canadian Snow Season for information on how to do this.
Canada allows foreigners on a working holiday visa to arrive in the country without already having a job, so an option is to apply online for a job and then arrive early in Banff for the job fair in October and attend the face-to-face interview. This has the added advantage of allowing you to secure seasonal accommodation early in Banff if you choose not to go into staff housing.
Alternatively, Sunshine Village’s HR team does hiring fairs around Canada and the world including Eastern Canada, Australia, New Zealand.
Another option is to get a job in Banff and buy a season pass to Sunshine. There are literally hundreds of people who turn up in Banff each season looking for work, so you should get in early (October is best) if you plan to take this option. While there are plenty of restaurants, shops and bars that look for seasonal workers, they are flooded with applicants each season and don’t tend to post jobs on-line; there is simply no need for them.
www.banfflakelouise.com/ has a list of shops, hotels and restaurants in Banff to give you an idea of the places at which you could put in your resume once you arrive. http://banff.ca/ has information on the town of Banff.
You will need to get a Social Insurance Number before you can get paid. See Work a Canadian Snow Season for further information.
Meals are provided for staff on-mountain at a subsidized cost if you choose. You can get up to 3 meals a day automatically deducted from your pay check. These average to $6 a meal and are served in the staff cafeteria in staff accommodation. This service is a big bonus to working at Sunshine as it saves the hassle of cooking and shopping and gives you that much extra ride time. Staff cafe hours are: 7:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. (7 days a week).
Sunshine pays directly into your bank account. Banks in Banff include: Bank of Montreal, CIBC, Credit Union, Alberta Treasury, and Royal Bank (machine only). To open an account, you will need an appointment which can take a while. You will need a bit of cash to see you through until you've had time to set up an account and money starts coming in.
Everything in Banff is within walking distance. Having a car is therefore only useful if you want to move around other parts of Canada during the season.
If you arrive without accommodation, the following are hostels in Banff for around $30 a night until you find a place.
In Canmore, www.thehostelbear.com is located one block from the downtown core and also offers discounts for Sunshine staff.
If you're working at Sunshine, your options for accommodation are to live in staff accommodation on-mountain, live in Banff, or live in Canmore.
It is possible to find a room, apartment or townhouse for rent in Banff for the season. A few places to start include
Rent will set you back around $600+ for a shared room in Banff. Places in Canmore are a little cheaper.
Staff Accommodation is provided at the resort village only. The village is only accessible via the gondola which runs from 7:30am – 5:30pm 6 days a week. This means that you are unable to leave the mountain outside these times (except in emergency). Only Sunshine staff are left on the hill at the end of the day, aside from guests at the hotel.
You will need to enjoy living in a small community. However, the vibe is very fun and there is a good atmosphere given the small numbers at the resort village. There are always lots of workers from Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany and Eastern Canada and you get to know your workmates really well. Plus, the setting is spectacular.
There are spots for approximately 200 employees. Each department is granted a certain number of beds, so accommodation is not given to all applicants or for all positions. You need to be in a full-time spot to apply for staff accommodation. Rent is deducted every pay check. It’s $125 for a double room every two weeks (including utilities), which is the most common type of room. There is also a $150 damage deposit, returned at the end of the season if the room is clean.
Each of the 4 staff accommodation buildings has a common room with TV and DVD. The rooms and buildings don’t have kitchens and cooking facilities are therefore limited. Most people end up doing the staff cafeteria deal (see perks, above).
There are a few appliances such as kettles, microwaves, toasters and rice cookers. Each room has a small fridge. There are laundry facilities. You should purchase bedding, towels etc. from Calgary or Vancouver before you arrive. Banff is a small town and prices are expensive for these kinds of household items.
There are seemingly always staff events and activities after work. There is also a restaurant, the Mad Trapper’s bar and movie rentals to keep you occupied. Wireless internet is available at a cost of $15/month.
On Friday nights, there is a late gondola and staff bus (until 10.30pm) to let you get into Banff for the evening. A lot of staff head into Banff on their days off and, if they have the next day off, stay in Banff for the night in one of the hostels (the ones with staff discounts for Sunshine employees), or at a friend’s house.
Popular bars and activities outside of work include: snowshoeing in Sunshine Meadows, yoga classes, workout room, outdoor hot pool, and Mad Trapper’s Saloon on-mountain. Various events around the resort include rail jam and slopestyle events, torchlight parades on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.