Work a Ski Season at Hudson Bay Mountain
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Located on the southeastern flanks of Hudson Bay Mountain, the aptly named Hudson Bay Mountain Resort (HBM) is the largest ski area at which to work in Northern British Columbia, being approximately a 15 hours drive north of Vancouver. ViaRail and Greyhound offer regular service to Smithers, the town which sits at the bottom of HBM, and it is possible to take flights on both Hawkair and Air Canada from Vancouver to Smithers.
Smithers is nestled on the banks of the Bulkley River between the peaks of the Hudson Bay and Babine Mountain ranges. Smithers has a permanent population of around 5,000, although its seasonal residents vary tremendously from summer to winter. The town also has two close neighbours; Telkwa and Moricetown – 15km east and 30km west, respectively. Smithers has a large rural service area as it is surrounded by hundreds of kilometers of back roads.
Smithers has worked hard to maintain their downtown centralized around Main St with most shops, restaurants and stores being found there. It is a picturesque town with a Swiss mountain village look and the grandiose Hudson Bay Mountain as a backdrop. There are lots of great restaurants, warm pubs, 6 outdoor stores, and funky shops. The art and music community is large and active, with almost always something to go see, listen to or participate in. Many people come here for a season and end up staying.
Hudson Bay Mountain has been the location for three Hollywood productions: Disney’s “Eight Below”, Liam Neeson’s “The Grey”, and TNT’s “The Last Ship”. Hudson Bay Mountain itself is only around 6km from the resort as the crow flies, but it is a 24km road from town up to the main lodge.
The Terrain at Hudson Bay Mountain
20km up a windy, well-maintained mountain road from Smithers is the ski resort of Hudson Bay Mountain Resort.
Rising from a base elevation of 1,142 metres (3,747 feet) to a height of 1,650 metres (5,413 feet), the mountain is serviced by two T-bars (Prairie and Panorama) and the Skyline chairlift with a lift-accessed vertical drop of 533 metres (1,750 feet). HBM is a family friendly hill with the majority of the runs being rated as intermediate, but lots of beginner and advanced runs are also clearly marked and easily accessible. The Prairie T-bar area hosts the cozy seasonal cabin community.
The 36 runs range from open powder bowls, to groomed steeps, to spaced glades. On the north-facing side, there is also 110 hectares of expert, unpatrolled out-of-bounds terrain with a marked egress trail to get you back to the chairlift.
The average annual snowfall at HBM is 16.6 feet (5.06 meters) while the average snow depth throughout the season is 4.5 feet – 6 feet (135 – 180 cm)
The natural topography of the mountain ranges and ferocity of northern Pacific weather systems has created a snow system that results in some of the lightest, fluffiest snow in B.C. HBM gets all the precipitation that hits the coast, moves inland and cools down enough to fall as, more often than not, light, dry powder.
A local board shop called Rayz partners with HBM to sponsor, design and create the terrain park. The park is home to over 20 features; from little jumps, boxes and picnic tables to roller coasters, rails and large jumps.
It offers good freestyle skill progression for kids to adults. Rayz Terrain Park hosts multiple big events regularly attracting over 50 participants in each event. Events include boardercross, Ladies in the Park and Trix in the Stix to name a few.
Where the Staff Come From
HBM employs an even mix of locals, British Columbians, Canadians and foreigners. As for the foreigners, the majority seem to come from England, Germany and Australia. Foreign applicants need to have a valid Canadian Working Visa to get hired. See Work a Snow Season in Canada for further information on getting a working holiday visa to Canada.
How to Get a Job
Winter operations typically run from late November to mid-April. Available jobs include all resort positions: instructors, guest services, patrollers, rental shop techs, lift operators, mechanics, waitresses, cashiers, janitors and cooks. See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for more information on ski resort jobs.
Applications can be emailed to [email protected]. HBM accepts applications all year round, including during the winter season, but hiring for the winter season starts in September. Phone, face-to-face and Skype interviews are all acceptable.
Training is offered for all positions, but experience is always an asset. Some positions, such as patrollers and instructors, require prior certification. Occasionally instructors are hired on the premise that they will pass their instructor certification before teaching. See Work a Snow Season in Canada for further information on Canadian ski instructor certification.
Staff perks include on-mountain and valley savings. There are staff events every month which can include curling, bowling, curling, wing night at a pub, and even trips to other mountains.
HBM partners with several other resorts to provide reciprocals deals for season pass holders and staff members alike. HBM has ‘Snow Currency’ worth $5 given for exceptional staff performance which can be used anywhere on the mountain: in the café, bar, or retail.
Practical Living and Working
Staff (the ‘Team’) transportation is provided from the downtown office in town. There is also a Mountain Bus that brings up guests on weekends and holidays which can be a last minute backup if you miss the Team van, although it probably won’t get you to work on time!
At the end of the day you can catch the Team van down, or take the unique Smithers Rotary Trail to town. The approx. 8km run (3,775 vertical feet) goes from the top of the mountain to town. Then, it’s an easy 15min walk into town. There is a parking lot at the bottom of the trail to park your vehicle if you don’t want to hoof it every day.
Finding Accommodation for the Season
HBM does not have staff housing but HR at the resort is able to help you out, especially if you are coming from a long way.
A few good sites to have a look for places to rent, as well as for community info, include:
- Tourism Smithers http://www.tourismsmithers.com/
- Smithers Events http://smithersevents.com/
- Interior News http://www.interior-news.com/
- Bulkley Browser
- BC Classifieds http://www.bcclassified.com/
Rent for places is usually around $800 – $1000 per month and is much more affordable if you get roommates.