Hidden Valley Ski Resort is located a short drive from the city of Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada. It is around 3.5 hours from Calgary on the prairies in Southern Alberta, Canada and offers a very different kind of Alpine experience.
Situated in the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park near Elkwater, 600ft of vertical, 3-4ft of annual snowfall, an elevation of 1234m (same as Banff) and a view that is so different to what you get in the mountains it will take your breath away. You can literally watch your dog run away for 4 days! Yes, you can see that far! Also, the resort is still family run.
When you think of working in the Canadian ski industry you think of the large mountain resorts in the Rockies, bottomless snow, fresh powder and mountain life. But Hidden Valley is not this at all - it's prairie life where the surrounding countryside is mostly flat, and the resort is built one on the small prairie hills.
Hidden Valley is one of many small, local prairie resorts in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The terrain is small with just one main lift and one t-bat taking riders up the hill. Hidden Valley is a nice hill to work on beginner to intermediate technique.
Compared to working in the Rockies, where it is a case of getting up a 6am to get the bus at 7am to be at work for 8am, working life at Elkwater is a little different. Staff transport is just after 8am and the morning briefing is 8:30am. A cup of coffee and a bacon batch from the kitchen and you're set for the morning.
A typical day in the Snow School might look like this:
"It is a school day and we have some 200 school kids to teach. We might be helping them find the correct rental equipment, doing a safety talk or conducting assessments for experienced students. I pick up my first lesson around 9:30am... a mix of 12 students aged 8-12 for their first time.
With the number of beginners today I will have two morning lessons and two afternoon lessons, with the more advanced group before lunch. Sometimes it is only one morning or afternoon group so we get some extra "play" time or help with other lessons. The kids are great and want to learn and progress. We tell them where to meet in the afternoon and what time then set them loose on the bunny hill. The lesson with the advanced group in the morning means heading up the chair and onto the difficult terrain for an hour.
Most of the Snow sports Crew live in Elkwater and we have lunch together which is leftovers from a communal dinner we had last night. Then it is back to meet the morning class. This time we head up the chair so they can explore the hill. From 3-4pm the Head of Snow School take us out for some training…..today is a higher speed session to liven things up. The training is great. Whether it is a technical session on our own skills or a session on teaching strategies for kids the information can be used to help ourselves and do the job better.
There is a large focus on personal improvement and working towards the next level. At the end of the day we have duties to help out close the hill. We could be helping rentals, patrol or the kitchen staff. The team ethos and extra work means much better pay than a typical instructor. Evenings are spent socialising with locals at the Café or round at other staff accommodation. Tonight we are heading to the outdoor Hockey Rink in Elkwater to play a bit of ice hockey. Then a beer by the fire pit. It’s a hard life but somebody has to do it! And next week is Road Trip… Banff… how unfortunate!"
Photo: At the base of Hidden Valley
Hidden Valley will only sponsor you for a visa if you are working in Snow School. All other positions must have a valid work permit. Canada offers working holiday visas for citizens of many countries. Work a Winter Season in Canada has information on how to get a work permit for Canada and which countries are participants in the working holiday program.
Accommodation can be provided in Elkwater or there are plenty of rooms for rent in Medicine Hat. Transportation to and from Medicine Hat and Elkwater is also provided.
Hidden Valley is a short drive from Medicine Hat. With a population of around 60,000, Medicine Hat offers great amenities and night life. Staff can choose to stay here or at the ultra quiet Elkwater townsite and share nature with deer, wild turkeys, moose and cougars (the four legged variety!).
Regular activities and events help to give everyone a real Canadian experience and many staff stay on for the summer where Elkwater turns into a mecca for prairie tourism and mountain style adventures without the mountains.
If you are worried about not getting enough vertical on your sticks or board then take a short 2.5hr trip, on a regular basis, to one of the best kept secrets of the AB Rockies, Castle Mountain. Huge vertical, great snow and some amazingly fun terrain! The resort shares great reciprocal deals with many Western resorts which give discounted, and often free, skiing and riding.