Whistler Blackcomb, located British Columbia, Canada, in the Pacific Ranges, is one of the largest and most well-known resorts on the globe. It is consistently ranked in the top 5 overall mountains in the world. With its simply incredible amount of terrain, monstrous terrain parks and huge nightlife, Whistler is one of the most popular resorts in the world at which to work a season.
Whistler is about an hour and a half drive north from Vancouver and a 45 minute drive from the town of Squamish. It is accessible by road, rail, air, or bus. While the Greyhound no longer goes to Whistler, other options include Epic Rides and Ride Booker from Vancouver. Pop a Ride is another option for a carpool. Once in town, you will be able to move around using Whistler’s public transit system. Bus routes run north and south of the village to different areas of Whistler. A bus pass is $50 a month.
Mountain and town vibe
Whistler is one of the liveliest and coolest resort villages in Canada, with a huge array of events and festivals which take place over winter. The pedestrian-only village provides a small-town vibe but the huge number of festivals, events, restaurants and bars combined with endless outdoor activities make Whistler one of the most energetic resorts in Canada.
Staff come from all over the world to work at Whistler. In addition to Canadians, there are always plenty of Australians, New Zealanders, British and a few Europeans.
The Terrain at Whistler Blackcomb
What more can you say other than Whistler comprises the biggest combined area for riding in North America, with almost twice as much terrain as the second biggest resort in Canada – Lake Louise.
Whistler and Blackcomb are two separate mountains, and each is awesome in its own way. There are bowls, chutes, steeps, glades and the terrain selection is seemingly endless – there is enough terrain to explore for several seasons and enough that you can ride days without seeing the same terrain.
Between the two mountains, there is a ton of challenging and expert terrain. Additionally, the runs were built and developed over time which provides for an organic feel between the meandering trails and bowls spread across the alpine environment.
Whistler is a bigger mountain than Blackcomb, but is more suited to intermediates with plenty of good intermediate cruisers. There is also some great expert riding off the Peak chair when the weather is good. The bowls up at Whistler are wide and open and are particularly awesome on a powder day.
Blackcomb has more in the way of steeper on-piste runs as well as technical rock lines and narrow chutes. If the bowls at Whistler are closed due to bad weather, then head to Blackcomb Mountain for more protected runs and glade skiing.
Blackcomb Glacier on Blackcomb Mountain is something you have to check out during the season. Access is via the Showcase T-bar followed by a small hike or via Spanky’s ladder (navigating chutes and rocks). The trail out is long, but worth it as the snow quality can be awesome and the views stunning. If you are staying through the summer then Blackcomb glacier is open until late July.
Extreme Couloir on Blackcomb is considered to be the most challenging run at Whistler Blackcomg, and you will hear people bragging about nailing this run in the pubs after work. The Crystal Zone is a nice area for some good steep, trees runs while Ziggy’s Meadow is another great area to check out during the season.
The lift infrastructure at Whistler Blackcomb is incredible with a number of high-speed chairs and three Gondolas. There are 37 lifts in total, including the Peak-to-Peak chair which connects Blackcomb mountain to Whistler mountain.
- Total terrain: 8,171 acres / 3,307 hectares
- Vertical drop at Blackcomb: 1,609 metres
- Vertical drop at Whistler: 1,530 metres
- Trails: over 200 marked trails and many more off-piste
- 16 alpine bowls and 3 glaciers
- 17 mountain restaurants
- Highest lift accessed elevation: 2,284 metres / 7,494 feet
- Village elevation: 675 metres / 2,214 feet
- Lifts: 37 (of which 3 are gondolas)
Snowfall and Season Dates
The season runs from the end of November to end of April.
Average snowfall is 462 inches (38.5 ft) / 11.74 metres per year.
Whistler is closer to the coast and lower in altitude than other major resorts in British Columbia which are further in-land, and as a result the snow is a little heavier than other BC mountains. The snow conditions can vary significantly between the bottom and top elevation, as is to be expected when the vertical between top and bottom is over a mile. But when the powder drops, you can imagine how epic Whistler is with all that terrain to explore.
The best way to take advantage of the snow Whistler has to offer is to jump on ‘freshtracks’ – a 7am start with buffet breakfast and all of the fresh powder you can get in for an hour before anyone else gets onto the mountain. Well worth the long line especially if it has just dumped down overnight!
Being such an incredible resort, and being closer to Vancouver than other major resorts in British Columbia, the crowds are bigger at Whistler than most other Canadian resorts. However, there is so much terrain at Whistler that, once you get up onto the hill, you can easily beat the crowds. February and holiday periods are particularly busy at Whistler, so it is best to stay away from the base lifts at these times, especially on powder days as it can get tracked out quickly.
Whistler has probably the best parks in Canada and makes a large effort to keep them relevant. There are 5 terrain parks in total – 3 on Blackcomb and 2 on Whistler which are so big they are visible from Google Earth. The parks range in difficulty and size from small (S) to extra large (XL).
If you love park, there’s really no reason to ever leave. However, if you want the experience of park but with none of the people, then head up onto Blackcomb, get to the top of the 7th Heaven chair and traverse across to Lakeside bowl on the edge of the ski area boundary. Usually there will be somebody who has set up some kickers there, otherwise, this is a good spot to set up your own; it’s a bit of hard work, but certainly worth it!
How to get a job at Whistler
For jobs at Whistler, there are essentially two options: (1) work for the resort itself; or (2) work for a local employer such as a bar or restaurant.
Check out the SSC jobs board for the latest jobs at the town of Whistler.
(1) Working for Whistler Blackcomb
Working for the resort is a good option as it gives you access to staff housing as well as a free season pass.
The best way to get a job is through one of the job fairs (below) or through a job agency (below). However, if people are already in Whistler they can apply directly to a current posting in the fall, in order to attend an in-person interview. Whistler only accepts applications submitted online – it is not possible to hand in resumes in person.
Due to the high number of staff at Whistler as well as the high turnover rate, positions come up all the time during the year, however most seasonal hiring will be completed with the last recruiting fair in November. There are sometimes opportunities for people who are interested in coming around the New Year. Check the jobs board a couple weeks prior to arriving in Whistler to see whether positions are available.
Most seasonal positions are front-line positions that have face to face interaction with guests. See Jobs Available at Ski Resorts for further information on the types of jobs there are at ski resorts.
Whistler holds two recruiting fairs in late-September and early-November. These provide the major way that Whistler hires its seasonal employees. The job fair in September generally has many more job options than the November fair as the November fair often has a lot of part-time and volunteering spots on offer.
In general, the opening for the late September fair will be placed on the website in late August. The fair that takes place in late October/early November usually opens early October.
You apply online to attend the fairs and get an interview during the application periods (see www.whistlerblackcomb.com/jobs) and you are then required to attend the interview in-person.
While there are typically a few walk in spots for the October/November fair, it is not guaranteed that you would get an interview spot so it is much better to apply online.
For Canadians, Whistler also hires during September when they go across Canada for domestic recruitment. These dates are typically posted on the website in June / July. This is in addition to accepting applications for the job fairs in September and November. The tour usually takes place during mid-September. Cities usually visited include Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto, Waterloo, Winnipeg, Calgary and Barrie.
Interviews must be conducted face-to-face in Whistler. The only exemptions are Snow School Instructors who are able to do phone or Skype interviews.
International applicants need to arrange their own valid working permits before they are able to apply at Whistler as Whistler does not assist in the visa process or sponsor foreigners. See Work a Snow Season in Canada for further information on getting a visa to work in Canada and which countries are eligible to participate in the Working Holiday Visa Program.
Once you have your visa, international applicants are able to apply independently for a job with Whistler, as long as they are able to attend an interview at Whistler.
International applicants who don’t fancy applying independently for a job with Whistler are also able to go through one of Whistler’s overseas recruiting partners which are listed below. These agencies arrange a job interview with Whistler in your home country and allow you to arrange a job with the resort before heading to Whistler. Interviews are typically held in June and July.
For people from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France: (interview locations Australia, NZ, Sweden, Denmark & London): The Working Holiday Club
For Australians and UK citizens: All Tracks Academy
For UK citizens: Oyster Worldwide
Pay and Ride Time
Front line positions start at $13, in line with the minimum wage in British Columbia, but will vary depending on department and the position. Staff usually get onto the hill a couple of times a week. Some departments will have ski breaks for their staff that work mainly in offices. Other positions have their staff work 4 days which allows them to ski or ride on their 3 day weekend.
Ski and Snowboard Instructors
The minimum requirement for Snow School Instructors is a Level 2 CSIA/CASI or foreign equivalent. There are a couple partners Whistler works with who assist potential employees in getting their certification: Yes Tours, All Tracks, and Oyster. However, you are not 100% guaranteed a job once you complete your certification.
Staff get a full season pass to Whistler Blackcomb. There are also food and retail discounts as well as access to staff housing. Staff have the opportunity to join “Club SHRED” for an extra payment each pay cheque which gives further discounts on activities and accommodation in Whistler.
(2) Jobs in Whistler Village
See Jobs Available at Mountain Resorts for a description of ski resort jobs.
There are plenty of stores and restaurants in the town of Whistler not operated by Whistler resort which look for seasonal employees each season. For these places, it is better to arrive in town and hand out your resume – preferably in September or October to beat the hordes which usually arrive around November / early December.
There are typically more than enough people walking in with resumes to local employers that these local businesses don’t need to advertise jobs online. It is very competitive for jobs in Whistler. Since there are so many people going for jobs, you need to be proactive about finding work – call employers back rather than waiting on them to call you.
October / November are the quietest times in Whistler so even if you are offered a job at that time, remember that you might not get many hours until the season ramps up in December. It is advisable to save up a bit of money before arriving to see out this period.
Working for a shop or restaurant in town has the disadvantage of not getting a season pass or access to staff accommodation. However, you may get into a job which has night shifts and so more time on the hill over the season.
Apply for every job that you may like, and start applying as soon as possible. Many people end up in jobs different to those they went over to get.
During your season, you will pay both federal and provincial taxes on your income. It is likely around 15% of your pay will go to federal tax and 5% on BC provincial tax. You should be able to claim some of this back at the end of the season. See Getting Your Tax Back for information on how to claim back tax at the end of the season.
Finding accommodation for the season
All Whistler Blackcomb employees are eligible for staff housing. However, staff housing comes on a first come, first serve basis (in relation to your job offer). After accepting an offer with the mountain, you will be contacted with regards to housing. If you are wanting to arrive with a partner or friend, apply at the same time and once your housing email comes through, you can request to be together. This is not possible if you apply too far apart as housing is offered based on priority.
Staff housing is no longer a guarantee for first year staff and the number of people per unit has increased compared to previous years to help get more people beds.
Rooms that were formerly single rooms at Glacier will now be double rooms. The majority of rooms are bunk beds.
Staff housing is a very attractive option, given that rents in Whistler has increased significantly since AirBnb started to take hold. This is partly why there have been changes to the staff housing arrangements.
Glacier Park is located on Blackcomb Mountain near Base II. To get there you can take the Gondola up, however this closes when the lifts stop operating each day. This means a short walk up the hill after each night out. There are 5 buildings with each apartment holding 3 – 4 people. There are also a limited number of single rooms. Glacier Park is the biggest staff housing.
Brio is located just on the outskirts of the Whistler village, a 5 minute walk into town via the Valley Trail. There are one and two bedrooms rooms which hold 2 and 4 people respectively.
Westside is the newest staff housing. It is located a few kilometres south of Whistler Creekside, which is a 10 minute drive from Whistler Village. This is the most spacious of the staff housing. Creekside is much quieter than Whistler Village, and has a grocery store, various retail and rental stores, restaurants and 2 pubs. All units are shared, holding 2 or 4 people.
Staff housing starts at around $12 per night for a shared bedroom. Single bedroom starts from around $19 per night The atmosphere in staff housing is very fun. Staff housing is a big dorm and there are parties and other social events going on all the time.
Renting a Place for a Season
If you are not eligible for staff housing, or you wish not to live in staff housing, there are a number of ways to look for a place. There are hundreds of people who look for a place each season, so get in early – September or October. October is the best time to find a place as most people have not yet arrived for winter but many have left after the summer season.
Unfortunately, rents have really risen in Whistler due to many more landlords now renting out on AirBnb.
Alternatively, you could come and work for the summer season first (June – September) when housing is a lot cheaper and secure a 1 year lease through the winter.
Bear in mind that some employers in town are reluctant to take staff who have not yet found a place, given the possibility that the employee might not find anywhere cheap enough to live and have to leave.
For winter, expect to pay $700-900 each per month for a shared bedroom. Most rooms are offered to couples and can range from $1400 – $2000 per month for winter. The best option to secure housing is to arrive in the summer.
Options to look for a place in Whistler include: Pique News (the local paper which come out every Thursday); the Whistler Question; and Craigslist. Almost all available rental properties will be up on one of these places. You can also have a look at the noticeboards in Gone Bakery, the Alpine Cafe, the Springs Building, the Core Gym and Meadow Park Gym.
Where to Live?
There are quite a few little villages around Whistler which include: Whistler Cay, Cay Heights, Nesters, Whistler Village, Tapleys and Brio and Blueberry. These are all close to the village. Living in one of these areas will allow you to avoid having to get a bus pass which is around $65 per month. It also just makes life easier if you can walk everywhere. These areas are the best options for living in Whistler unless you want much more peace and quiet or cheaper rent. Other areas include Alpine Meadows, Emerald Estates, Creekside, Tamarisk and Westside for which you will need to take the bus, although really anywhere you will mostly take the bus due to the cold. Emerald is the furthest town north of the village, and Cheakamus/Function Junction the furthest south.
Creekside has buses until about 3am which take around 10 minutes. It is a quieter area with 2 pubs and a few shops. Alpine Meadows and Emerald Estates have buses until about 2am and takes about 15 minutes. There is no real nightlife in these areas. Tamarisk and Westside are around 30 minutes away.
Being so popular, Whistler is an expensive town and it is very difficult to save money over the season. For those with hospitality jobs receiving tips, you will be better off and possibly able to save a little.
Bars and nightlife
Whistler is one of the biggest resort towns in Canada, if not the world. The bars and pubs are open until 2am (1am on Sundays) and there is something on in town every night of the week.
There is après-ski, DJs from all around the world, and a party scene so huge that some people come up from Vancouver just to go out in Whistler. The food also can be exceptional in Whistler.
If you want some more atmosphere there go for somewhere like Crystal Lounge or Merlin’s which often have live music. Other popular bars in town include: Dubh Linn Gate, Amsterdam Pub, Longhorn Saloon and Tapley’s Pub. The big clubs include: Garfinkels, Maxx Fish and Tommy Africas.
Girls to Guys
There are more guys than girls in Whistler, but Whistler is generally more even than other resorts due to its popularity.
Other tips for working at Whistler
If you are not working for the hill, buy your season pass early. If you do get a job where you get a season pass, you can trade it in for a refund. If you get a cell phone, make sure you get a Whistler local area number. If you don’t, then you’ll have to pay long distance every time you make a phone call. The turkey sale in October is a good time to get some cheap gear.
You should save extra money before coming to Whistler. It has so much going on that it will be difficult to save the money you earn, and you will likely spend much more than you think on all the great nightlife, festivals, gear and food.