Work A Ski Season at Snowbird
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Snowbird is located in Utah, just up the road from Salt Lake City, 6 miles from the edge of the suburb of Cottonwood Heights. Snowbird is situated next to the ski resort of Alta, which lies just over the Baldy Ridge. With 500 inches of arguably the driest powder on the planet, and with the longest season of the Utah resorts, Snowbird is clearly one of the best resorts in the US at which to work a season.
How is the Terrain at Snowbird?
This mountain has it all.
The terrain is wild here, with everything in-bounds awesome, and Snowbird can make a legitimate claim to being one of the best mountains in the United States. Certainly, for most hardcore skiers, it has the edge on Alta for its wide open bowls and more technical lines. There is beginner terrain near the base and a beginner area at the Baby Thunder chair. However, Snowbird really comes to the party with its steeps, chutes, trees and hike-to terrain.
In many ways, Snowbird is like a mini Jackson Hole, with some of the most technical and tough terrain available in North America. To go with the Jackson vibe, there is even an aerial tram to whisk you from the base to the summit in one go, all 3,240 feet of vertical. A top-to-bottom at Snowbird is a serious leg-burner.
Snowbird is far more open than Alta, and is great for those who like bowl skiing or snowboarding. There are great rocky lines to tackle up the top. Down the bottom, there are nice tree runs to get among the powder.
A tunnel with a magic carpet at the top of Peruvian Gulch takes you on a journey through the mountain and into the back bowls of Mineral Basin where even more expert terrain is opened up. On a powder day, when they open up Mineral Basin and everyone dives in together, it is truly an incredible sight (and a hairy one if you’re part of the massive crowd diving in at the same time). The Baldy Traverse into the Bowl is usually the site of the Big Mountain competition and you will find technical lines here to last you several seasons.
The resort has 2,500 acres of in-bounds terrain and the vertical is 3,240 feet.
The crowds are a little bigger than other Utah resorts given Snowbird’s proximity to Salt Lake City, but the crowds tend to spread fairly well once everyone is up on the mountain. However, the first tram of the day can build up a big line of up to 45 minutes, or longer, on a powder day.
Thunder Bowl off the Gad 2 lift is less visited than other parts of the mountain and has some of the best riding you can get at Snowbird. Mineral Basin also gets really busy on a good day and the lift can back up significantly.
White Pines is great to go out of bounds, and a clear day will provide you with some stunning views over the mountain range finishing in freshies. Outside the resort boundary the mountain is not avalanche primed, so be sure to carry avalanche gear and be prepared.
How is the Snow and Weather?
500 inches of yearly powder make the mountains in Utah, and Snowbird in particular, one of the best places on earth to find fresh powder and get more face shots than virtually anywhere else one could find. The snow is particularly fluffy as it has such a low water density compared to snow in other parts of the world and you will find many people at Snowbird arguing that it has the driest, freshest powder on the planet.
This is partly due to the ‘lake effect’ of the Great Salt Lake, which dries the moisture even further, to produce extra fluffy snow.
Park is not really a big thing at Snowbird. No-one is coming to such a sweet resort to ride park when powder, face shots and wild terrain lie just up the hill. On middle Emma you’ll get some smaller boxes, rails and a smaller half-pipe. Park rats can head to Park City, which takes about an hour by car from Snowbird.
Town Layout and Feel
The village at Snowbird is tiny, with only a few essential services and not much else . Virtually everyone who works at Snowbird lives down in Salt Lake City. At the end of the day, there is sometimes a DJ in the common area.
Getting a Job and Working at Snowbird
See Work a Season in the USA for information on the various US working visas, including H2B visas and J-1 visas.
The resort offers sponsored H2B visas for certain positions. If you are an instructor with your certificate, then you will certainly increase your chances.
Snowbird will also accept J-1 visa applicants if you have a J-1 visa. Email [email protected] for more information.
Working in Salt Lake City
You could also get a job and work in Salt Lake City, given how close the resort is to the city. Some local businesses may accept international applicants with a valid J-1 visa, or may even arrange an H2B visa for foreigners if they have arrived in Utah on another type of visa, or they may offer you a cash job for the season.
Going Without a Job
Another option to ride Snowbird for a season is to save up enough money and simply live in Salt Lake City for a season. Being the capital of Utah, it is possibly to find cheap accommodation and living costs are not too high.
Tourist visas in the US are valid for 90 days.
If you go for this option, arrive after Christmas when the crowds are smaller. A season pass at Snowbird is around $1000 if bought before mid-September, and around $1,200 if bought after mid-September. If you are under 25 or at college, then a season pass is around $650 prior to mid-September or $730 after mid-September. There are also mid-week only passes which are cheaper. You could also get yourself a mountain collective or an icon pass.
Pay and Perks
Minimum wage in Utah is $7.25 an hour and most customer-facing roles will earn around this. You get a season pass if you work for Snowbird. Snowbird also does a bunch of deals with local businesses for employees. See Snowbird employment for some of these benefits.
Finding Accommodation for the Season
There is no staff housing at Snowbird. Almost all employees, apart from the senior staff and ski patrol, stay in Salt Lake City and drive or catch the bus up each day to work. As an employee for the season, you get on the ski buses free.
The best thing to do is to get a group and look for an apartment on Fort Union Boulevard or close to the ski-bus routes. The best area to rent for the season is anywhere in Cottonwood Heights. The bonds are quite huge usually for season workers, probably due to damage in the past, but most people end up getting these back. Apartment complexes can be found for six months, otherwise some people opt for a private house renting the basement or something similar.
Snowbird has connections for employees to a few apartment complexes around Salt Lake City to help staff find accommodation. Alpine Meadows is not a bad option although it is pricier. Try and get in early, because obviously the good ones go quickly.
Another option is to look for shared housing. saltlakecity.craigslist.org
Apartments in complexes are often unfurnished. Wal-Mart is a good option for furniture which is cheap, and Ikea is in Draper.
Bars and Nightlife
Snowbird village has no nightlife to speak of, particularly as most employees live in Salt Lake City. There is some apres-ski in the common area at the end of the day, but it is pretty laid back. The Tram Club is the most popular for employees in Snowbird, even if the beer is only mid-strength and the shots a bit short. The Wildflower has 2 cent hot wings on some nights.
Don’t use a fake ID for the Snowbird bars because they’ll likely check it out with the mountain and you’ll get fired if they find out!
Salt Lake City
Down in Salt Lake City, many of the bars close at 1am. The Hogswallow has pool, beer and live music. The Bayou is a huge beer cafe which always serves up delicious southern-style food on the side. Fiddlers Elbow and Gracie’s are two of the other popular pubs.
Where are the Staff Mostly From
Most of the staff are from the US, with a few more foreigners than in the past given the resort now hires both H2B and J-1 visa applicants.
Girl to Guy Ratio
There are usually more guys than girls working at the resort. However, Salt Lake City is like any other big city with plenty of people.
Festivals and Events
The season starts with Oktoberfest, which includes beer wurst and the rest.
Las Vegas is just 6 hours away, and an option for a couple of days during the season.
The US Big Mountain comp is held at Snowbird, as well as slope style, and other competitions. There’s virtually always something taking place at Snowbird in terms of festivals or events. The Dummy Downhill is an event in which departments hurtle their dummies down a huge ramp into destruction and at which there is always a ton of free pizza ready to take home.
Other Resorts to Visit Over the Season
Big Cottonwood Canyon is accessible with your employee pass. Solitude is way quieter for some guaranteed freshies. Alta Ski Resort is just next door to Snowbird and is worth checking out over the season. At Park City, the ritzier resort, there are a good few days to spend riding and walking around. Park City is also home of the Sundance film festival, and a chance to see some movie stars. Colorado is a weekend trip away, as is Jackson Hole, Wyoming.