Working in the winter time
Working as outdoor instructors we have plenty of work opportunities in the United Kingdom through the summer months. But as the grey and miserable part of the year we call winter sets in, work tends to be a bit more sparse around these parts. So why stick around? Why not get away for the whole winter and experience it in a different location? Jet off to somewhere for a proper winter with white fluffy snow rather than brown sludgy mud! In this post we will explore our top three winter work destinations for you outdoor instructors…
Top of the list for a very good reason! One giant playground of adventure and natural beauty, Canada is one of our favourite countries on the planet. For outdoor enthusiasts it has everything; from stunning sandy surf beaches to snow covered mountains and everything in between.
Canadian winter destinations
Canada is one of the largest countries in the world by area and thanks to vast areas of untouched wilderness, there is plenty of skiable terrain which makes it a top winter work destination for outdoor instructors! There are many ski resorts in Canada and as you can imagine, some are better than others. In our opinion, there are two stand-out provinces to spend the winter; British Columbia and Alberta.
British Columbia boasts both coastal and in-land ski resorts. With the coastal resorts comes much wetter snow but there is plenty of it! You also get the option to do your favourite watersports and plenty of whale watching during your winter season which for us is an enormous bonus! A particular favourite location would be Mount Washington Alpine Resort – the only full-service ski resort on Vancouver Island with stunning views of the Georgia Strait.
Further in-land the snow is much lighter and dryer and this is where you will be able to experience that famous ‘champagne powder’ Canada has to offer. Our favourite interior BC resort is Big White Ski Resort who recruit many UK nationals into their resort teams and ski school every year. There is a good variety of slopes on offer to suit everyone from beginners to expert making this resort a popular place for tourists, meaning plenty of work!
As you travel further in-land, you reach Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Another ideal winter destination where temperatures regularly reach -40 Celsius! There is less snow on average than British Columbia, however it is more than made up for with spectacular scenery and arguably some of the best skiing and snowboarding terrain in the world. It’s also worth noting that generally, working in Alberta will mean higher pay and lower taxes than if you worked in British Columbia.
How to apply for your Visa
First things first, if you want to work in Canada you will require a Visa. People between the ages of 18-30 from the UK can apply for a 2 year IEC (International Experience Canada) Working Holiday Visa. Visit Immigration Canadato find out all you need to know about visa requirements and the application process.
If you are over 30 years old and you want to apply for a work visa, you would need to be sponsored by a Canadian company. For this to happen you would need formal qualifications which may be useful to the employer such as higher level instructor qualifications.
Jobs for the Outdoor Instructor
If you’re wanting to experience a working holiday in Canada, there are many different jobs in ski resorts. If you are already a qualified Ski or Snowboard Instructor you can make use of your qualifications and apply for work at a ski school. If not, there are many other jobs to apply for such as lift operator, ski technician, retail assistant, housekeeper to name a few.
It is quite common for season workers to take their Ski and/or Snowboard Instructor exams during a season and either move over to the ski school or return the following year as an instructor. I actually worked as a lift operator during my time in Canada and managed to gain both my level 1 and 2 instructor certificates in both skiing and snowboarding before the end of my first winter season there. I was then able to transfer to the ski school and the following year I went straight in as an instructor at another resort.
How to find accommodation
Depending on where in Canada you choose to spend your winter, some resorts will offer staff accommodation or at least help you find it. Private rented accommodation can be found on Kijiji and Craigslist if you would prefer to look for your own place to live. Some people arrange staying in a hostel when they first arrive and find more permanent accommodation later on once they get their bearings in resort.
2. France & Switzerland
Up until about two years ago, writing this part of the post would have been incredibly easy and extremely informative. Since Brexit though, everything has been blown out of the water and finding work in magical European destinations has become increasingly harder. Most of our experience working seasons in Europe was pre-Brexit, but with the hope that visa processes will ease in the near future and the fact that some of you will be lucky enough to hold an EU passport, our next perfect winter work destination would be the French & Swiss Alps.
Why France and Switzerland?
If you have been to a French or Swiss ski resort, you will know exactly why these countries are perfect winter destinations. The combination of incredible terrain and stunning views coupled with idyllic chalets make the resorts feel like a place you just don’t want to leave. Our first season was at a resort in France: Courchevel 1850. We loved it so much that we even enjoyed taking the bins out! The stunning views we got to admire more than made up for doing such a mundane task.
How to apply for work and your visa
There are plenty of websites which advertise jobs in European ski resorts. If you literally Google ‘ski jobs’, you will be spoilt for choice. Alternatively, there are a few Facebook groups which are very active with jobs popping up all the time – we often keep an eye on the ‘Ski Resort Jobs’ Facebook page.
Most job adverts will now clearly state if they are accepting UK applicants or if EU passports are required. From our experience, if a company accepts UK applications they are likely to at least help assist you with the Visa process which can be extremely tricky to navigate.
Jobs for the Outdoor Instructor
France has particularly high standards when it comes to instructing snow sports. To be able to legally teach skiing or snowboarding in the French Alps you must be at least a Level 2 qualified instructor in an internationally recognised scheme. You will also need to pass the ‘Test Technique’ which is a pretty strenuous exam. Only then can you apply to french ski schools to teach as a trainee instructor. From there you can keep progressing to the highest level of your chosen scheme before completing the ‘Euro Test’ – another very tough exam. Once complete, you will be a fully qualified snow sports instructor.
Instructing snow sports in the Swiss Alps is a bit more simple, as you can teach with a Level 2 certificate. So if you have your heart set on instructing and do not have the time to spend getting qualified to teach in France, Switzerland is a more realistic route to head down.
What if I don’t have the qualifications or the experience to gain them, you ask? Well, you’ll be pleased to know that there are plenty of other jobs roles to apply for. Many businesses operating in the Alps have been set up by British people who market towards British tourists and therefore tend to hire staff from the UK. These include hotel chains, chalets companies, bars, restaurants, transfer companies and more. If you work for one of these companies, you are sure to get plenty of skiing and/or snowboarding time up the mountain, playing on the cold white stuff!
3. Nordic Countries
When you talk of ski holidays, Nordic countries don’t instantly occur to most people. Norway, Finland and Sweden all have great ski resorts, even though you probably haven’t heard of them. Not only are they quaint, charming and uncrowded, there is always the potential to see the Aurora Borealis in the winter months which is reason enough to include Nordic countries as a perfect winter work destination.
How to apply for your Visa
In Nordic countries there are seasonal visa opportunities set up for UK citizens. You would have to research each country specifically for the visa requirements but the process is very similar. Typically, you would require a job offer before being able to apply for a seasonal visa.
It will set you back roughly £500 at the time of writing. This sounds like a large sum, but generally pay in Nordic countries is pretty good so this can be made back fairly swiftly. Once your visa has been approved and you have arrived in the country, you will be required to register with the local police/government as a temporary resident.
Jobs for the Outdoor Instructor
As with Canada and Switzerland, if you are a qualified snow sports instructor there is always work in ski resorts. On our job searches we have found that some resorts will be marketed towards english speaking tourists whereas others will not be. In this case if you do not speak the native language, you will find it near impossible to get a job. It is therefore important to do your research beforehand and apply accordingly.
As much as teaching Skiing and Snowboarding is incredible, there are other winter work opportunities for outdoor instructors in Nordic countries. Lapland, which covers areas of Finland, Sweden and Norway and famously the home of Santa Claus, draws thousands of British tourists each year. Don’t panic – you don’t have to grow a big white beard and dress up as Santa, there are instructor style job roles guiding many different activities too: From Northern Lights Snowmobile Tours, Cross Country Skiing lessons, Snowshoe treks and even Ice Fishing excursions.
Nordic winter destinations
One such place for winter work that offers all of these activities to its guests is the Davvi Arctic Lodge in Karesuvanto, Finland. It is within the arctic circle, bordering Sweden. We were lucky enough to work there for a short period of time and were blown away but the extreme cold temperatures, amazing Northern Lights shows and fascinating culture. Sadly, this company is currently only taking applications from those with an EU passport but please do keep an eye on them in case anything changes.
This is just one place and we are sure there are many others like it. Do keep in mind that not all incredible places like this will be listed on the well known job search sites. It is worth making the extra effort of seeking out these amazing work opportunities to enjoy this part of the world.
Experience a whole new culture
Another great reason to chose a Nordic country as your next winter destination is the culture. It is a great location to help develop your understanding of another culture and experience a difference way of life.
In our time there, we learnt a lot about the Sami Culture. The Sami are the only recognised surviving indigenous peoples in Europe who inhabit Lapland, which covers areas of Norway, Sweden, and Finland as well as the Kola Peninsula of Russia. Traditionally, their way of life has been to roam through the countryside whilst hunting, fishing and herding reindeer, which is still a big part of their culture today.
Reindeer meat also plays a prominent role in traditional dishes and it is enjoyed locally throughout the year. On our trip we cooked reindeer tongue, heart, shin bone marrow, steak and minced meat wrapped in stomach (caul) fat. Yummy.
Where to begin…
We are completely aware that to reach any of these three destinations may require a big change in your life, and that isn’t for everyone. Especially if you have a very new and fresh interest in the outdoor industry. If you were looking for something a bit closer to home and are interesting in working as an outdoor instructor, our Outdoor Instructor Training at Land and Wave runs from October to February and could be your perfect destination for this winter!
Our Outdoor Instructor Training is based in Dorset. The course includes trips to white water rivers, crags and moorland to immerse yourself into the great outdoors. Enjoy 15 weeks of professional outdoor training gaining lots of experience, adventures and qualifications! As well as the training and assessments, we also food & accommodation and kit packages if you’re not local to Dorset/equipped for the outdoors quite yet! We host free Open Days throughout the Spring so feel free to pop down and see what we’re all about…