If you want to rack up triple-digit ski days this year, there are ways to be a ski bum that don’t require you to sleep on the floor and eat ramen noodles three times a day. Of course some would argue that this isn’t truly bummin’ it. I say it’s called being smart.
Apply now! Ski resorts and associated businesses get serious about filling positions in September. The year I applied, I was late to the game by applying in early October. I was waitlisted and luckily, the hiring needs changed and I was offered a job at the end of November. However, the sooner you submit your resume, the better. The good news is, getting a job is easy. Getting a good job… that usually takes time.
Consider if you like being around guests or not. Some people LOVE dishwashing because you don’t interact with stuffy guests and you don’t have to put any effort into looking clean. Others love bragging to guests about their rad ski day and end up skiing with them the next day.
Also, you’ll expected to work the whole season, no holidays with the family or days off for a special occasion. If you state something up front (like your twin sister’s wedding) you might be able to work out some sort of a deal with HR, but don’t count on it.
Proof read your resume and then send it out. Hurry!
Do your research so you know what to expect. Quitting a full-time job and moving across country is daunting enough by itself. When you add in the need to: find a job that allows for optimal shred time, find housing, and secure adequate transport for mountain roads all for a five-month season, one starts to wonder if it’s worth it. The answer is yes! Just check out this video about four ski bums in Utah’s Wasatch Range for proof.
Look for jobs at your favorite resort or see what available at Coolworks.com. Research your potential employer. Don’t just go to that business’s website, but also check out reviews on TripAdvisor and Google. These will give you a feel for what guests and locals think about the establishments. Indeed.com also provides reviews from former employees, so you can get a good picture about the job from someone who actually did it. Just keep in mind that disgruntled employees may leave a bad review that was fueled by spite rather than actual facts.
Determine your version
Do want to be a full-on ski bum or a maybe the euro-version: a seasonaire? What’s the difference? Ski bums tend to full-on roughin’ it: living in their car or squatting on a buddy’s couch, surviving on ramen noodles, and perhaps foregoing common hygiene. To get ideas about how to pursue this type of ski bumming I’ve found a few other blogs with tips:
- This article gives good advice about how to ski bum without working, primarily geared at Colorado resorts.
- Snowbrains gives solid advice on how to scrounge on $10 per day as an efficient ski bum with no job
- The New Schoolers discuss the financial reality of ski bum living including some ideas about summer employment to maintain ski bum status.
I prefer to be a seasonaire. What is this you might ask? This is a seasonal worker committed to a job that usually provides perks (like ski passes and housing) for a bunch of workers and generally results in added debauchery because of the closeness we all share.
- Here’s a fun article by a self-proclaimed seasonaire from Europe. When you live with the vacationers as she did (and as you can too in Alta) your worlds sometimes collide. But with the right attitude, you’ll see the comedy in it.
- Here’s a vlog from Alta where it shows that while there is some working going on, skiing is an everyday priority and your co-workers and roommates become your ski squad.
You might be able to find a way to have a job, afford housing, and rack up those ski days anyway. This is usually pretty tough your first year, but as you make connections and learn local hacks, it’s possible.
- This article gives more generic tips about ski bum options that might help you narrow down where you want to go and perhaps what type of job you might seek.
Once you get your job, start preparing:
Aside from tuning your gear and stocking up on ski socks (Put them on your wishlist you can never have too many!), start reading about how to make the most out of your season. Perhaps you’ll figure out a way to make your season on the slopes just the first of many, but don’t squander your time… just in case!
- Outside Online offers some other great ideas about how to make the most of your season ski bumming.
One season or make this a career?
Some people want to ski hard, all-day, every day. If that’s you, scrimping on food and shelter is your answer. Perhaps you don’t work and you just ski. Another option might be snowmaker. In Alta, these jobs were usually over by January. Then you’d have a pass and loads of time to ski. This video by Squaw Mountain comments on the perks of snowmaking, but also one ski bums story of working up to that role.
You too, can try to make a career shift to the mountain. These jobs are rarely (if ever!) offered to a rookie, so you’ll have to put in some time. Want to run the lifts? Start bumping chairs, do a great job, be nice, show up early, offer to cover shifts. With so many co-workers trying to do the bare minimum, it’s easy to stand out and advance!
Want to be a groomer with optimal hours for skiing? Show up early for snow making, stick out, become friends with everyone and let them know you’d love to be on the cat crew. When someone gets injured (and someone always does), if you don’t hear about it first, one of you new buddies will let you know… or tell management for you that you’re interested!
Once you get the job:
Starting prepping for the best season of your life. Here’s a comical video (with great advice) about living in small towns with big mountains.
A few specifics about Alta:
My seasonaire experience was in Alta, Utah. I chose to go there because it was one of the few places I found where most of the jobs offered seasonal employees housing, a ski pass, and full board (food). This means, you don’t have to worry about anything except showing up with enough money for your pass deposit. Even if you don’t have it, you can still show up, you just can’t hit the mountain until your first paycheck.
You will likely have to share a room, but being able to ditch your car and spend a whole winter in a powdery paradise is amazing. Also, you have your whole life to live in an apartment or house, five months living in an alternative set up should be considered an adventure! It builds character and you usually end up making lifelong friends and memories!
Questions to ask during your interview: (not necessarily Alta specific)
- What are the typical hours of the shift?
- What’s the housing like?
- What’s the food like?
- How much will I get paid? And are there deductions from my pay check (likely for your housing and/or ski pass).
- Why do people like working here?
What your interviewer wants to hear from you:
- That you love to ski or ride and this will be a priority: This means that instead of staying up late partying or drinking you’d rather go to bed early because you shredded hard all day and you plan to repeat tomorrow.
- That you’re easy to get along with: This means that you understand that you’ll be living closely with co-workers and that everyone you work with isn’t going to hate you. Lodge drama sucks!
- You know the basics of hygiene: this is important for keeping everyone healthy. If one person is filthy, they are spreading germs to everyone in these close quarters. Casually mention that you love to wash your hands and always cover a sneeze.
- Speak properly for the duration of an interview: You can bro, dude, and gnar it up on the mountain, but when you interact with paying guests or customers you’ll be expected to tone down the slang.
- You’re not just a good worker but you have good character: The lodge I worked at called each of my references . They not only want to know if I was a good worker but that I was sane. HR officials can’t legally ask if you’re crazy, but think about your least favorite person at work. Now imagine that you not only work with that person, but you also live with that person, dine with that person, and when you go outside to ski or ride, he’s there too. This is the reality of ski bumming. But guess what? You just gotta find your crew and surround yourself with the people that make life fun.
Alta employment options:
Because the canyon road leading up to Alta would formerly shut down for days due to avalanche danger, all five lodges in town provide housing. The resort has limited housing for some of their jobs (like lifties and groomers). The two in-bounds restaurants also have housing and I hear the one stand alone restaurant has a manager’s living quarter. Here’s what I’ve gleaned from fellow Altaholics.
The Peruvian Lodge: This lodge is great for snowboarders who plan to ride Snowbird on the reg. It’s also home to the locals bar. In general, this lodge is infamous for being the party lodge. The employees live in a completely separate building (on sight), so the shenanigans abound. This lodge also has a full-size pool that employees get to use.
The Goldminer’s Daughter: This lodge has the best housing option for its live-in employees. They get former guest rooms with only two employees per room and two rooms per shared bathroom. It doesn’t get better than that in Alta! Plus, I hear they do profit sharing with the employees, so if the lodge is doing well, the employees will feel a little extra love.
Alta Lodge: This lodge rarely hires employees under 21. This somewhat changes the dynamics of employee living (more mature tomfoolery). This may have changed, but I also heard that some of the employee rooms have blankets as doors.
The Rustler: This lodge usually hires the mos live-in staff because it’s the largest. That means the most opportunity to find your new best friends and an awesome shred squad. The Rustler also lets the employees use its heated pool, hot tub, sauna and steam room. This lodge has the strictest rules about partying, so if that’s your thing you may want to choose one of the other lodges. It also crams employees into rooms (mostly triples some quads and some doubles).
The Snowpine: This lodge has been completely rebuilt over the past eighteen months (and counting). They plan to open mid-season this year and are currently they offer live-in positions to their restaurant servers and resident manager. The server job would be for you ski bums. The resident manager would be a “real” (year round, full-time) job requiring specialized skills… but would probably come with its own room!
Alf’s: This is the in-bounds restaurant near the new Supreme lift. It isn’t really near anything. Because of it’s remoteness and because there are only employees there after hours, this place can get raucous! They host some killer parties and employees from all the other lodges love to trek up there for it… inevitably someone always gets hurt at (or coming home from) these parties.
Watson’s: There are only two live-in positions at Watson’s. Good luck trying to get one! They’re coveted and come with shoveling duties on powder mornings. If you don’t like you’re roommate, this one could get lonely because it’s so remote.
The Wasatch Powder House: This ski shop is headquartered at the base of the canyon, but has satellites at several of the lodges. They have a few live-in spot at the Alta lodge and on powder nights, some of the other lodges might shack you up so guests can tap you for gear tweaks in the morning.
Honestly, if you come expecting to give up all privacy (ex. changing clothes in front of others for five months) and don’t have ridiculous dietary restrictions, all options are great. Be ready to meet your new best friends and have the time of your life (as portrayed by one last video).
Check back soon for my upcoming post with tips on how to pack your ski gear (and not ruin your favorite base layers like I did!).
Thinking about not bringing your car to the mountains? Read: Hitchhiking, a ski bum’s guide for getting picked up.