By : Chase Davidson

PROLOGUE:

A lot can be said about working a snow season. You may have the idea that it’s a party lifestyle, and you’d be correct. However, there is much more to working a ski season than just partying. Perhaps partying isn’t your niche and that’s perfectly fine. Not everyone that does a ski season is there for that extracurricular activity. To some, working a ski season can be a sense of passage in life. Many individuals who go for their first experience come between the ages of 18-23 which coincides well with either high school graduation and/or university graduation. 


You may be wondering how people are able to travel and do these ski seasons abroad to begin with. Let’s dive into a bit of my personal background on what brought me into what is known as the “Working Holiday” life and the snow seasons that eventually followed.

A Working Holiday Visa is basically a youth exchange or agreement between two nations that allow individuals between the ages of 18-30. However, there are still a few select countries who have extended their age limits up until the ripe age of 35. We will get into where you can see eligible countries for yourself later on.

PERSONAL LOG: 

What I’ve noticed throughout these past 5 snow seasons which have included Japan, France, Canada and Australia is that there is a whole magnitude of personalities that accompany the different resorts. My first Working Holiday Visa came six months after graduating from St. Clair College’s Travel & Tourism program and it certainly wasn’t your typical finish university and enjoy a gap year to “find myself”. 


I initially went to Japan to teach English as a Foreign Language and to gain an understanding into the Japanese culture. In fact, I actually never had much of an interest in skiing or snowboarding aside from watching the X-Games or Olympics on TV. My first snow season came that winter near the town of Shin-Shirakawa of all places at a very small resort called Grandee Hatoriko Ski Resort. It just so happened that the company I worked for was located nearby to the ski resort and offered a 50% off season pass, leftover gear from past members of staff and a free shuttle to the hill on your days off. 

Little did I know at this point how much my life would begin to change. The Working Holiday Visa in Japan introduced me to a mass amount of new people both starting their first adventures abroad, in the middle stages and others who have found what they were after.


Nearing the end of my six months of the Working Holiday Visa, I was asked if I’d like to extend for another six months to continue working for the company, but by this point I was eager to continue travelling. Next came France where I was introduce to the real life of a snow season working at a resort directly in the Chamonix Valley between Switzerland and Italy. To this day, I still consider that year in France one of the most inspirational and motivational years of my life. Why would I state that? Well, there is so many factors that contributed to it. I got to see both sides of the classic party lifestyle and I’ll be honest, it can be extremely difficult to keep up with. By this point in my life, that whole party mentality was behind me and I began gaining more of an interest in photography/videography that went hand in hand with traveling.


In a nutshell, this is where I found out how much fun working a seasonal job can be! There is no asking for scheduled time off work. You already know as you begin roughly when the season will end and you can plan accordingly. That’s a bit of my life story, so now let’s get right into some of the typical questions that accompany snow seasons and a Working Holiday.

How do you afford to live like that?

It’s quite simple really! Save as much as you can during the season you’re working. The key thing is to insure you are able to get close to full time hours in order to balance the cost of accommodation and food while you save. Of course, you’re doing a snow season so you want to be able to enjoy the time outside as well. Therefore, look for job opportunities that allow you to work a night shift or at least have a flexible schedule.


The biggest choice that will eat your bank account is the nightlife. Of course it’s part of the social customs that often comes with doing a snow season but it’s definitely not a necessity. Finding the will power to turn down your friends for a night out can be difficult, but by finding night work, this can be your perfectly reasonable excuse to not go out. Working abroad gives you ample opportunities to find out what you enjoy. Not to say you don’t already have certain aspects of your life that you don’t enjoy but by being money savvy, you tend to find these little passions to keep you occupied in a cost efficient way.

The term “Living out of a suitcase.” Is commonly heard, but what does it feel like?

At the beginning, it can be quite simple or perhaps rough depending on your currently woven habits. For someone who is use to having a closet filled wardrobe and shoes for every occasion, of course it’s going to be challenging to break it down but trust me - It becomes increasingly more easy the longer you do it. This tends to coincide quite seamlessly with being cost efficient. If you don’t have space for it, you can’t purchase it and therefore your savings don’t take a hit.

 

 

How do you choose what to pack in your suitcase when traveling?

You’re going to want lightweight but also reasonably durable clothing for the environment you’re going to be visiting and/or living in. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the most expensive gear you can find but it is wise to do your research in order to find a product that has a reasonable balance between cost, comfort and purpose.

Don’t be scared to check out your nearest second hand store and see what kind of gems may be hidden away. Make a list of items you’ve researched and then keep tabs to see if they go on sale. Ask others that you see wearing a piece of clothing you’ve had your eye on how they like it. Most of all, read the reviews!


Since we are talking about snow seasons, you will need to pack a bit more than a summer getaway. Depending on where you’ll be travelling will definitely play a role in what you pack. For example, an Australian winter is fairly warm with temperatures rarely reaching -14 Celsius in the Snowy Mountains. However, a winter season in Banff, Canada could see temperatures reach -25 Celsius for weeks at a time.

Here is a bit of a checklist that I go by when packing for a winter snow season:

• Winter Jacket (It’s winter…) Like this one..

• Thermal Pants & Shirt (Best to be ready for when the harsh temperatures hit) 

• Two T-Shirts (Great for leisure and while inside) Maybe these ones.. 

• Hoody (Those spring days of riding) The Evolution hoodie

• Pair of Pants (Great for work and recreation) The Trailhead Adventure Pant 

• Pair of Shorts (Hot springs, indoor pools or in the house) The Trailhead Adventure Short 

• Joggers (Great for relaxing) The Evolution Joggers 

How do you go about finding work abroad?

This has got to be thee most popular question and for good reason. When you have bills to pay, how scary can it be if you’re unsure about your income? Terrifying! If you’ve made the choice to begin a Working Holiday Visa and/or do a snow season, you may not have many bills to pay aside from your phone bill, a Spotify account, student loans, etc.

Either way, I know how strenuous it can be to find a job and you’ll just have to trust me when I say, there is jobs EVERYWHERE! This is where the snow industry is great. Come winter time, small villages increase their workplace demand ten fold.


TIPS FOR FINDING WORK ABROAD:

- Find a seasonal job ideally for the winter season that also carries activities throughout the summer season. By building a genuine reputation within the organization, this could set you up for the upcoming summer season* without worry of applying for jobs.

*Please note that this could change if doing a Working Holiday Visa in Australia, as their rules are slightly different and require 88 days of regional work if you’re looking to extend your visa for another year.

- Look for opportunities that cover the cost of accommodation and/or food. This will help you save quite a bit more than you may think.

- Begin looking for jobs way ahead of schedule. If you’re looking to obtain a job for the winter beginning in November, you should probably begin applying in the summertime. There will be a lot of applications coming in and resorts look to fill those positions as fast as possible.

- If there is one thing I can’t stress enough is that you don’t have to be picky. A common phrase I hear in life is “There just isn’t any jobs available.” There is always jobs out there! Sometimes they aren’t the most rewarding but they give you an open door into the organization and you could have the potential to move around once you’re in.

- Don’t stress over interviews, but do your research. If you’ve looked into the company, know what they stand for and a bit about the local area. That puts you ahead of many applicants. An interview isn’t a lot of time to get to truly know someone but interviewers don’t expect that. They are simply looking for a genuine person who has good character and a positive attitude. You could be the most highly skilled person in the field you’re applying for but if you have zero people skills and communication, there is a good chance they could take the risk on training somebody less qualified.

What countries can obtain a Working Holiday Visa and what is the process?

If there is one site I can’t recommend more, it is:

Global Goose

https://global-goose.com/working-holiday-visas-countries/

Global Goose is basically your one stop shop to everything Working Holiday. Simply click on the country you are interested in traveling to, and you’ll find the list of accepted countries with a link leading you to the application process.

 

Stay tuned for next week posts where I interview four different awesome people, and their experiences working abroad.