Are you going to work and travel in Canada? In this guide I will tell you everything you need to know before your ski season in the Rocky Mountains!
I have traveled around the world during the past six years. Most of the time it has been absolutely amazing – however not always easy. It takes a while to acclimatise to new environments and new countries with foreign languages. To work in a country like Canada, you need to be patient and you have to be ahead of everyone else while looking for jobs and accommodation. There’s many questions about work and travel in Canada.
That’s why I made this guide about how you can prepare for your seasonal work in Canada.
I worked as a lift attendant during 7 months in Sunshine Village, Banff, 2012-2013. I had many questions and concerns before my trip. Without any results, I tried to find guides who could answer my questions. I now hope that this will help you get a great experience as easy as possible!
Travel by yourself or with an organization?
Before you start planning your Canada season, you should consider if you want to do it all by yourself or through an organization. Most Australians and Englishmen (which accounted most of the seasonal workers in Banff) traveled through Gap Year Canada and they were very happy with them. Another good tour operator that also guarantees a job during your ski season in Canada is GoXplore. They help you with all the documents you need, but if you want to do it all by yourself you can do that too. However – you should apply for a visa.
Apply for your visa early
You need a Canadian working holiday visa – also called – International Experience Canada. It’s for you between 18-30 years old who wants to travel for a year. You can only get one work and holiday visa in your lifetime. If you want to stay in Canada you can apply for a sponsorship at your work and they can then help you to get a second year’s visa.
I struggled with my visa application, because there was a lot of paper to send work. You have to apply for your visa early. You need to organize a lot of things and they only handle out a limited amount of visas. You can read more about the visa at the Canadian Embassy’s website, but here are some things you need to to know.
A copy of your criminal record from all the countries you worked in over a period that is longer than six months. For my sister and I – we have been working a lot overseas – it was a bit tricky. Especially Christine had trouble getting in touch with the German embassy who didn’t speak English. It may take a few weeks to get the papers sent home, be prepared for that.
Money on your account: If you haven’t booked a return ticket you must have a bank statement to prove that you have at least 16 000 SEK on your account. You have to prove you can afford your stay.
Insurance: You need a proof of your insurance for the whole duration of your stay in Canada. I used Länsförsäkringar.
Valid passport that is valid until at least the day after you return to Sweden.
Photocopies, eg passport photos taken in a photo booth or something similar.
ESTA: If you are flying via the US, you will a need ESTA even if you are not going to visit the country. Apply for it here.
Still got questions?
There’s other people who knows a lot more about the Canadian visas than me. If you have any questions about the visa – join the Facebook group International Experience Canada – Nordic Countries, a forum for all kinds of questions about working in Canada. Also, check out the community at Freeride here, where Linda from International Experience Canada tells you more in detail about this.
How you manage to get a seasonal job
Customize Your Resume – it’s important!
It’s a bit different to apply for a job in Canada, unlike the rest of the world. In Canada, there is a law about not judging people from their looks, origin or age. Therefore it is not appropriate to have an image on your resume, nor civil status, religion or sexual orientation.
They also seem to prefer to hire English speaking staff with, they believe that language is a problem for us speaking english as a second language. Below, I have listed some stuff that you need to arrange before you send your resume. If you need help with all of this, you can contact GoXplore – they will help you to work in Canada.
Rewrite your resume completely before you start sending it. We applied with our Swedish CV but received no reply. When we rewrote them the employers started to get in touch. Delete your profile picture. Put out your Canadian address or hostel address. If you don’t have a cover letter that is specified to the company you are applying for, don’t sen a cover letter. It makes no sense to send a cover letter that is not specified to the company and no one expects to get one.
Besides what we usually put in our Swedish resumes, remember to include:
A clear target: Why do you want this job, and what do you expect from it?
A summary of qualifications. Why should you get the job and what makes you so good at doing what you do?
Earlier experiences – tell them more precisely what you have done while working. When I applied as a waitress, I had to write that I have taken care of money, counted the checkout, received the guests, taking orders, made cocktails and so on. In detail.
References that you handle out on a separate sheet in demand. Make sure it’s prepared.
You can read more about how to customize your resume here and you can also download CV templates.
Restaurant and bar jobs
If you want to work in at a restaurant – and you are very experienced – it is still difficult to get a job straight away. Usually you have to start as a hostess and work your way up. Clothing can vary. In finer restaurants you should dress as if you were going to the night club – a short dress and high heels.
To get to serve alcohol you have to take a course online. If you want to earn a lot of money, working at restaurants might be your only option. Most wages are usually $10 an hour (today that is 66.78 SEK), but sometimes they can be up to $14. Eating out, you have to add around 15-20% tip. In that way you can earn a lot of cash.
Work at the ski resort
If you work at a ski resort you might want a job on the mountains, of course. You get to ski every day, you get free ski passes and often discounts or free ski passes at other resorts. There are many advantages, but you earn the minimum wage of $ 9-11 per hour. It is barely that you will be able to make any money. If you want to make money and work on the mountain – look for a job at a restaurant.
If you don’t care too much about money, you can get a job as park-, or Trail Crew. They might be the best jobs on the mountain unless you are ski patrol. Park Crew ensures that the park is safe by hitting the jumps. Trail Crew goes skiing all day and takes care of fences or removes ice and snow from signs. A pretty sweet job if you want to ski around every day. In order to get these types of jobs you have to apply early. They have interviews in October. I worked for Sunshine Village, check out their employment site. You only earn about 65 SEK per hour (if you work the whole season you will get a bonus of $ 1 for each worked hour), but – you have more fun than everyone else! At Sunshine Village they did a lot of activities, there were many staff trips and parties all the time. You will meet a lot of new friends and you will have a lot of fun!
There are many banks to choose from, but be sure to choose one that is close to you. Many employers pay you with paychecks and you must redeem every two weeks to get the money in your account. In Canada, you get paid twice a month. We used BMO which worked very well and it was easy to start up, easy to have online banking and easy to close.
If you have an unlocked phone it still may be some problems with obtaining a Canadian simcard. It depends which model of phone you’ve got. People often had to buy new phones. The only thing I can tell you here is that we would have chosen Bell instead of Rogers, because they were cheaper – but our phones did not work with them. At Rogers, you had to pay $ 12 extra a month to be able to see who was calling.
Social Insurance Number
The SIN-number you will get at a Service Canada office. You need this to be able to work. Read more here.
You should get a big part of your tax back, you will easily do it for free online at Turbotax.
Alberta Health Care
As a local resident, you can apply for an insurance for free. It is very useful, it is free to get and it costs you nothing to go to the doctor. But if you don’t have it, it can cost you a fortune if you get injured on the mountain. (Although you can certainly get it back from your travel insurance, but in this way you will not have to spend any money at all). And people hurt themselves, all the time. Learn more about Alberta Health Care here. There are certainly similar insurances in other provinces.
Write an unique ad
From my own experience, it was quite difficult to get an accommodation. There are many young people who comes for the winter looking for accommodation – you have to write an unique ad. At Kijiji you will find rooms for rent, apartments and jobs.
The normal price of accommodation is around $ 400-650 a month. We stayed five people in a basement, two in each room for $ 490 per person a month and a single room for $ 600. This included everything except washing and internet. Most of the people from Gap Year Canada were living in big houses together with 15 people more or less, most of their accommodation you can find on Banffaccommodation.ca. Those who didn’t find accommodation got cheaper deals at the hostel when they stayed for long term or even all the season.
Cost of living
Det är dyrt i Kanada, framför allt på skidorterna. Det är även dyrt i mataffärerna så pengarna springer lätt iväg. Om man vill äta ute finns det en online guide för Banff där man kan hitta olika erbjudanden för olika veckodagar, kolla in Taxi Mike’s Guide. Däremot är det hyffsat billigt att dricka ute, en 50 cl burk öl på krogen (ölen serveras på burk) kostar runt $4. Tänk på att det tillkommer skatt utöver priset på allting du köper. En besvikelse varje gång du betalar i kassan…
There were many people who bought a car in Banff, but I didn’t and therefor I don’t have much experience of it. However, I know that you may drive on your Swedish driver’s license during the first three months. After that, you need an international driving licenses that’s valid for three years. Get it at Motormännen.
Check out what we packed for Australia and Latin America:
Where in Canada will you be working?
What brought me to Canada was the snow, I’m going to tell you about the most famous resorts near Banff. I have not been in all the places, but at Nordic Skibums website you can find Facebook groups for each special ski resorts with people who have worked there before.
I don’t regret for one second that I chose to spend my six months in Banff. My plan had always been to do a season in Whistler, but after we read about it, we thought it was a bit boring with so many Swedes, and it might be too big for just us. In Banff, we were around 30 Scandinavians, which was perfect! Otherwise the big crowd came from Australia or England, and Banff is very famous in those countries, unlike in Sweden. I had never heard of it before.
Banff is perfect for those who like to party. Every Thursday and Sunday all of the locals goes crazy. There are many bars and nightclubs and it is always crowded. During the weekends lots of people travels from Calgary to go on ski-, and party weekends.
Banff is a national park – it is incredibly beautiful and there is lots to do besides skiing, such as rock climbing and canoeing. The wildlife walks around the village. In the spring, it is very likely to see bears.
Banff also offers great skiing. There are three mountains around Banff; Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise. Get a Banff Ambassador Pass to get a bog discount of the ski pass and a variety of other locals discounts on activities and attractions, the value of the card is $ 500. The pass only costs $ 5 and you get a course of the history of Banff and a wildlife tour.
Do you go backcountry-skiing? Get this book: Lake Louise Sunshine Banff Ski Touring Guide. There you will find information about how to find the right tracks, alternative slopes as well as photos and maps to help you find the best hidden tracks!
It’s a small mountain but great for those who like park and night skiing. Norquay has five lifts.
They are open until the 20th of May and they get the most snow once it snows. It is a family resort which is great for us who like powder! The families doesn’t go backcountry, that’s why there is much untouched snow for many days after a snow dump. There are nine chairlifts and a gondola with varied skiing and close to backcountry opportunities. There are no fake snow because it is not needed, everything is 100% real snow (besides the ski out). They have a pretty large park. The downside of Sunshine may be that it is a bit flat in some places.
It’s steeper than Sunshine Village but can be a bit icy if there aint any fresh snow. If it is snowing, it is really good with large areas of backcountry skiing nearby. The park is the best in the area. They have seven lifts and one gondola.
This is an awesome resort for those who live for skiing powder. It’s a really cool mountain. It only has two gondolas and from them, there is one chairlift that takes you further up on Canada’s highest mountain. There is another chair lift further away, but that’s the only two. The rest you have to hike. If you go here you can’t be afraid of hiking a lot and you need to know how to use avalanche gear. There are endless surfaces with powder but also endless hikes. It was a really cool experience, but I don’t know if I could handle it for a whole season, with all those long hikes in steep terrain and deep snow. There is no park. The village is very small and there is not many pubs around. Many Scandinavians comes here so expect to encounter Swedes everywhere. There’s a rumor that Revelstoke will be forced to shut down in the future because of increased tourism, make sure to go there before it’s too late!
The Champagne Powder Capital of Canada, as they call themselves. Kicking Horse has 3 chairlifts and one gondola, but it’s a pretty wide area so you can ski in many places. Here it is also mainly powder skiing that people chase for. I think there was a lot of great skiers, therefore, it was hard to get the first tracks at powder days. If you want to ski powder – Kicking Horse is a great option. However – in Banff the snow stays longer because there’s less advanced skiers chasing the snow there. The village is small and therefor there’s not much partying going on. There is no park at all.
This is a awesome ski resort in many ways! There is a great park with its own chairlift. It also has good assets to powder fields and the ski resort is very big and wide. There are 11 chairlifts and one gondola. Unlike most other ski resorts in Canada the village is located on the mountain and you can strap on the board right outside the door. The village resembles a bit more like the Alps and there are street lights in some slopes for those who skis home after the pub. Although, there is only one main bar that you go to. If I could do another season in Canada, Big White would be my next place!
is located in Jasper National Park, it is a beautiful area with lots of wildlife and glaciers. I never traveled to Jasper even though I really wanted to go there. The mountain has six chairlifts and a lot of steep areas.
The Largest alpine bowl skiing in the Canadian Rockies. I never traveled to Fernie either which makes me a little sad when I think about it. I heard so many stories about Fernie. So much snow and incredible powder opportunities. They have seven chairlifts and two lifts. There is a small selection of bars what I have heard of.
is a small ski resort with just three ski lifts and the slopes can become a bit repetitive if it doesn’t snow a lot. But they usually have around 12 meters of snow each season and it is not as well known as other resorts across Canada so you will keep the mountain to yourself.
is the largest ski resort in Canada’s with over 30 lifts. It is known for snowing a lot and often. The snow is said to be a little wetter over there because it is closer to the sea. Because it is so large and popular, it’s extremely crowded there. It has also become even more popular after the Olympics. So if you want to party and ski great powder along with the rest of the world you should definitely go there. The rumors of Whistler is very good, but I think it would have been too big for us. We have been told that you have to get up at five o’clock in the morning after a dump to stand in the lift line – and only manages to get fresh tracks on the first run. We have also heard that it is difficult to get a job because it is so popular and it’s also very expensive to live there.
This was my Canada Guide, I hope you got some tips and ideas. Since I have not been to all the places I’ve written about, just comment if you want me to add something!