Imagine what your life would be like if the mountain was your office. With a little bit of preparation, you can live your dream. Contrary to what you may believe, expert ski and snowboarding
skills are not required for ski area employment. In fact, there are many jobs at ski resorts that do not require any athletic skills at all. The State of
Colorado has 17 ski areas. Some are run by major resort conglomerates; some are smaller, more intimate ski areas. Finding a ski resort and a ski area job that suits your personality may be easier than you think.
Ski Area Employment Benefits
Depending on which ski area you work at or which job function you are performing, most ski areas offer free season passes, plus discount passes for your immediate family. Additionally, some ski resorts offer their employees a limited number of free lift tickets that can be given to family and friends.
Some ski areas have reciprocal arrangements with other resorts that allow ski and snowboard instructors to receive free or half-price lift tickets. The larger resorts such as Intrawest allow their employees to ski free at any of their resorts in the and . Some ski resorts also offer discounted employee housing.
Disadvantages of Ski Area Employment
Most ski area jobs have a very low pay scale. Combining that with expensive housing makes it financially unfeasible for many people. Many of the ski area jobs are seasonal. If you decide to stay in
Colorado for the rest of the season, you may need to hustle to find work. If your love of the mountain life renders these factors irrelevant, read on!
Colorado Ski Area Employers
Colorado offers a wide selection of ski areas for every type of aspiring ski bum. Some areas are more isolated. Some, like the resorts in Summit County, have many resorts within the area. Your choice of employer is dependent upon your choice of lifestyle. Do you want to work in an upscale environment, or would you prefer to be around the “locals.” Consider the cost of food and housing. If you want to save money on gas, think about an area served by public transportation.
Locals refer to Arapahoe Basin as “A-Basin.” This ski area is known for its steep terrain, early season opening and late season closing. It has a low key atmosphere that appeals to locals. Employee benefits include a free ski pass for nine other Colorado resorts and free passes for spouse and children. Free breakfast is offered on the day that you work. Full time employees receive health and dental insurance.
A-Basin offers only a small amount of local housing check the Summit Daily news for Summit County listings.
To apply for a job at Arapahoe Basin Call: 1-888-272-7246, ext. 6 for Human Resources or dial direct to 1-970-496-7040
The Aspen Ski area, which has a reputation for glamour and opulence, consists of four mountains:
- Aspen Mountain or Ajax offers the most challenging terrain.
- Aspen Highlands is the area preferred by locals.
- Buttermilk has the most suitable beginner terrain.
- Snowmass is popular with families.
Aspen has a free shuttle service that travels between the four mountains. The shuttle runs from 7:00 am to 1:00am. While some
Aspen area employers offer discounted housing, it may be difficult to find a place to live during ski season. Call the Aspen/Pitkin County Housing Authority at (970) 920-5050, or the Snowmass Village Housing Authority at (970) 923-2360 for housing information. The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News also have listings.
In October, the Aspen Chamber Resort Association sponsors a job fair. Since most employers prefer a face to face interview, it’s a good idea to attend. Call (970) 925 -1940 for information.
To work at any Vail resort location, which include Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge; you must present documents establishing your legal eligibility for employment. For US citizens, acceptable documents are:
- A social security card and a Drivers License,
- A social security card and a birth certificate
- Foreign Applicants can use:
- An unexpired foreign passport with I-551 stamp or attached INS Form I-94 indicating unexpired employment authorization.
- An Alien Registration Receipt Card with photograph (INS Form I-151 or I-551)
- An unexpired Employment Authorization Card (INS Form I-688A).
Within two years of employment, you will be required to obtain a US Social Security number.
Every year, Vail Resorts sponsors foreign applicants for an H-2B Visa. These Visas are job specific. You cannot change positions throughout the season.
Vail Resorts offers health insurance as well as end of year bonuses in some departments. Employee discounts are available at local merchants.
Beaver Creek is perhaps the most upscale resort in the Vail Resorts family. Some employee housing is available for seasonal full time employees. In the fall, beaver Creek conducts job fairs in New York, Philadelphia, Cape Cod, Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison WI., Minneapolis, Austin, Dallas and Denver. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Breckenridge is one of Vail Resort’s two Summit County Ski Areas.
Summit County provides a free transportation system. The town of Breckenridge is a year round thriving resort community, filled with bars, restaurants, shops and cultural activities. Breckenridge Resort has housing for both seasonal and year round employees. If you are unable to obtain housing through the company, the town of
Dillon offers the most economical housing in summit County. The classifieds in the Summit Daily News are a good source of housing information.
Keystone has a large amount of employee discount housing. Their Employee Center offers a $3 Supper Club, as well as free Internet access. Night skiing is open 5-7 days a week, so you can ski or ride even if you have a day job! You can call their job line at 888-SKI-JOB-1.
Vail Mountain itself is the biggest of the companies ski areas. Some housing is offered to employees. Call their Human resource office at 970-479-3062 for information.
Ski or Snowboard Instructor
Teaching skiing or snowboarding can be an exciting and challenging job. Your days as an instructor will have their fair share of rewards and frustrations. Although the policy differs depending on the resort, many ski areas have rookie instructors start in the children’s ski school. The primary complaint that snow sport instructors have is that newer instructors usually teach the beginner classes. If they are teaching full time, they may not get enough time to practice their own advanced skills. However, if you truly love the sport and you are a natural teacher, snow sport instruction can be a rewarding career.
Getting Hired as a Ski or Snowboard Instructor
While many people are excited about learning a snow-sport, some are coerced to come to class by significant others, friends or parents. For this reason, your people skills will be equally, and sometimes more important than your athletic skills. That being said, you skills should be at least at the upper intermediate level prior to applying for the job. At the hiring clinic, you will be judged by your skiing or snowboarding skills, group dynamics and appearance.
A typical hiring clinic trainer will have you teach some sort of activity to your fellow instructor candidates. It will not usually be related to snow sport skills. The trainer will be trying to assess your teaching skills. Your “appearance” qualifications will differ from resort to resort. For example here are some of the appearance/grooming guidelines from Vail Resorts:
- No radical hairstyles such as dreadlocks, mohawks or spikes
- Long hair must be tied back. Male staff must be clean shaven. Beards, mustaches and goatees must be neatly trimmed, and beards cannot be grown during the season.
- Make-up must be conservative
In preparation for the hiring clinic, talking to instructors who work at the resort may be a good idea. If you are an independently wealthy person taking a break from the corporate life to be a snowsport instructor, you might consider attending Keystone’s extensive, though expensive
The Academy provides three course options.
According to their website, the 9-week course prepares the participant for the Professional Ski Instructor of America (PSIA) or American Association of Snowboard Instructors (AASI) Level I exam. The $9750 price includes accommodations from the 6th January to 11th March (9 weeks), as well as
- 5 weeks, 4 days a week of on snow training
- 2 week PSIA level 1 pre course training and exam
- 2 week Pipe & Terrain Park training and exam or PSIA Level II training
- Vail Resort Pass that includes Keystone, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Vail and Beaver Creek
- Video analysis of your skiing or riding
- Ski tuning and boot fitting seminars
- Behind the scene look at ski school operations
- Strategies for becoming a highly sought after instructor
- Presentation and Communication Skills
- PSIA or AASI Level 1 pre-course and exam costs and membership fee Rookie
A shorter, 6-week course is available for $7250, as well as a part time course for $800.
If theses prices are a bit steep for your budget, PSIA and AASI offer a three day Instructor Training Course (ITC) for $55 a day.
Most Colorado resorts offer extensive instructor training workshops throughout the season. Some actually pay you to participate. In Summit County, a dedicated group of instructors meet every Tuesday night for a free Movement Analysis workshop. This happens by word of mouth. If you are working at a Summit County ski area, ask around. The workshop presenters are tops in their industry. Many of them are PSIA examiners, so if you are planning to take a certification exam, you can benefit from their expertise.
Pay Rates and Benefits
Depending upon the ski area, as well as your level of certification, pay rate can be as low as $8.00 an hour for an uncertified instructor at a small resort, and as high as $23 an hour for a National Demo Team member working at an upscale resort. The pay systems at ski areas are often complex and confusing. Some offer a minimal “show-up pay” if nobody is there to take a lesson, some do not. Most areas offer health insurance to their fulltime instructors. Some offer paid vacation, sick days, and a 401k plan.
ski instructors receive a free season’s pass, and either a free or discounted pass for their immediate family. They are given excellent discounts on ski equipment, as well as discounts in the cafeterias and restaurants.
While snow sport instructor and ski patrol jobs require snow sport skills, resorts are always in need of people to work in lodging, food service, lift operations and child care. It is also possible to find work as a ski technician at a ski shop. Although certification is usually required, some shops are willing to train. Most of these positions require you to apply in person, so if you don’t live in the area, you should plan a trip around an interview. Job listings as well as housing can be found at SummitDaily.com, VailDaily.com, AspenTimes.com and MountainREcruiter.com.