Tips for the ski bum, by a couple of ski bums

 

Since Kelley's automobile accident in 2005, we haven't skied as much, and haven't tried to work in the industry.  The economy has left us out a bit too these days.  doesn't mean we won't ski anymore, just means we won't be out there as much.  Consider this area of the website as an archive, but the information still holds true.

A Few personal notes

Real Ski Tips (about actually skiing) 

Colorado Weather and Road Condition Links Including Ski Conditions

Life working at a ski resort is fun, but it has it's moments.  We have lived most of those moments and would like to share them with you.  After 31 years of pro skiing, we think we can tell you a few things.

The first thing is our opinion;  We have both learned that trying to go back to an area is not a good thing.  I guess if we wanted to make this a career (which we accidentally did) we would have pursued it in a more professional way.  We just skied, played, and worked.  That's the way it should be.  All ski areas will sell you out in a heartbeat.  By this I mean if you get hurt, piss off one of their special contributors, or just aren't a member of the personal club they build around themselves, you are going to be disappointed.  There aren't many ways to have more fun, but there are better ways to make a living.  In my opinion, stay away from the industry as a career.  Been to all of them, from Hidden Valley, Co, to Ski Sunlight, Co. and between them, 30 resorts. 

It's the boys club, and the motto is Live and Let Die.  If you wish to get a pro ski job, ie... Ski Patrol or Ski instructor, plan on a long road.  It takes lots of training and lots of studying.  We recommend that you find a job at your preferred resort, and take a job that will let you look around and meet the right people.  Housing will be difficult and most areas are extremely expensive, so don't just go to Vail and wonder why the rents are $2000, it's just the way it is.  With the new 2009 season at our doorstep, the economy is going to effect things.  If there's snow, will they come?  Ski instructors tend to wait for a class, and don't get paid well waiting.  Tips is the key to that job, and also years of building a clientele that requests you.  Ski Patrol requires years of training, but people will always get hurt and break the rules, which is job security.  The rest of the jobs are a crap shoot, but go for it, just remember that nothing is guaranteed, even the snow.

 

Drug Tests---To answer those many questions we receive in the search engines---YES THEY ALL DO IT

LOL, Now, let's go out and get a ski job

Ski School

Well almost all of us want that dream job as a ski instructor, and you can be one, but it's hard to just walk on to a ski Mountain, and become the guy you saw in Aspen Extreme.  It is hard work and you have to be a relatively good skier.  They will teach you their style and their methods, and that's the way it is. Plan on teaching kids and beginner groups your first year, and don't try and hurry things.  Ski school employees are some of the most viewed and respected people on the mountain, and you have to handle yourself that way.  Most good mountains have great programs, that will teach you the business.  Here's a good link to find out more  Ski Instructors

 

 

 

Ski Patrol

I classify these guys as Mountain Cops and the tenders of carnage.  My few years in this dept were scary to say the least.  If you are so inclined to see the mountain at it's worst, this is the job.  It is very rewarding and very ego boosting but also, the hardest job on the mountain.  Plan on medical classes and training that will take you years to complete.  But I'll tell ya it can be the most rewarding.  For more info on professional ski patrol  Pro Patrol  For National Ski Patrol Info  Nats

 

Food Service

Now this area isn't for everyone, especially if you are the, I want to be glamorous ski type, but it has always worked for me.  If you get a job at a ski in only restaurant on the mountain, you get at least two runs a day.  You get a meal and are warm all day.  My favorite has always been Rendezvous saddle at the Steam Boat Ski Area.  I have always managed at least 100 ski days a year and get the untracked powder before the mountain opens.  Of course you don't get to poach the killer runs but you are there before anybody, and that in itself is special.  The jobs aren't usually very demanding and the hours are good.  There are no special college courses to make chili so you don't have to spend your life savings to get these jobs.

 

Lift Operations

So you thinks it's easy, read this.

This job is great but can be killer.  I've been injured more times as a  lift op than any other job type I have worked.  Get ready to shovel snow, climb towers, lift kids, and say the same phrases for hours.  I have said "Please move up to the line, look back, and have a nice ride" at least a million times, but you get to see the mountain having fun.  If you have back problems, aren't alert, or just like to watch people, don't lift op.  All it takes is once, looking up at an ER nurse wondering where am I, to get the point across.  I'll rate the best jobs and best places later.  If you are a lift op  and  are considering Aspen, forget it, they suck to work for.  Vail is the best.

Mountain Host

If you want part time and are a good skier with great customer skills, here's the job.  Basically you stand around and hand out brochures answer questions, and give mountain tours to those wanting it.  I have always needed full time but have done this job occasionally.  You will stand around more than you will ski, on the clock.

 

Mountain Photography

This is always a fun diversion, but can be deadly on the pocket book.  The ones I have dealt with usually pay a commission, and you really have to hustle to make money.  I have to admit it is fun, and when the people come to pick out their photos it's cool to watch the faces they make as they see themselves on the mountain.  Most big mountains have this attraction, but many outsource.  It might be nice if you have a knowledge of photography.

Snow Making

Not my favorite, but it can be a good job.  You make snow when the weather is just right and you do maintenance on the system when the weather is warm.  I find myself always wet and cold, but that's just me.  It's hard work and not a glamour job, but it gets ya in the system.

Mechanical Room Snow Gun 2 Snow Gun

Snow Cats and grooming

This is a hard job to get.  They usually look for people with heavy equipment experience and typically you have to know someone to get this position.  The one time I got talked into doing this I drove a Piston Bully Groomer and was amazed at the comfort of the machine, it even had a cd player.  I found out after going to work at mid night on a snowy night how boring this job can really be.  It wasn't for me but on the other hand you can work all night and ski all day, and the money is better than most  mountain jobs.

Parking Lot Attendants

A very non skilled job, but then again it has no hassles either.  You park cars, shovel walks, and watch people fall on the ice.  Plan on getting whacked by skies if you don't pay attention.

Things to look into before you jump in the car

Housing

Here's the catch to this ski area thing.  Housing is difficult and hard to find.  We were always lucky because we had the motor home, and worked at areas that had campgrounds nearby.  For example we lived in Leadville, Colorado and drove 53 miles over Tennessee Pass every day.  Many of these days were in white out snow storms and took several hours to get where we were going.  Even with all that the lot rent we paid was very high.  Employee housing can be found, but it's not conducive to family life or privacy.  The rent is high and you usually end up with a roommate or two.  I'll put this out to the ski areas, get some housing going.  Most of us want to be where you are, and a good quality of life does not include living with 6 people you don't know, exorbitant rents, and starvation. This doesn't make an alert employee and a happy employee. I have these two friends that live in their van and work around the areas on a one month basis.  I doesn't hurt that they are gay and get along very well together, ended up getting snowed in with them one night at Vail, and that was an experience. We all need to work on this housing thing and so do the ski areas.

Physical Shape

Count on drug testing out west at almost all ski areas.  After the first test expect random testing and if you are injured you will get one too.  You can drink (After Hours, all you want) but drugs they get fussy about.  If you work on the mountain plan on being in good shape and have clothes that work for extremely cold conditions.  I stood in one place for hours in -20 degrees and if you don't dress for it you'll be in deep trouble. If ya party and most of us do always take a change of clothes with you, because you can never party in your uniform. Vail has a physical exam that you go thru which included dexterity tests, lifting, and a physical, where an orthopedic surgeon checks your knees.  The final day of that, if your going to be a lift op, included a ski test, which will determine where they will place you on the mountain.  The best places to be a lift op are on the advanced lifts high on the mountain, and if you have limited ski skills you will be stuck on the lower lifts loading beginners and kids.  All in all, be prepared.  "Chance favors the prepared mind"

Perks

This is why we all do this ski thing. The Ski Pass.  generally you will get a seasons ski pass.  If you don't then don't work at the mountain.  I've run into a few mountains that make you pay for the pass and then pay you back at the end of the season.  Good areas give you a family pass so on your days off you can take your family with you.  If you want to learn to ski, they usually give you comp ski school passes, and if you are clever you will meet a ski instructor who will included you in their lessons and will take you out on their days off.  You generally get discounted meals, discounts in the ski and board shops, free ski tunes.  If you ski for a living, like ski patrol, ski school and lift work you can usually find reps that will pro form equipment at cost, to you.  I got my $500 Alpina boots for $100.  

The ski pass has it's disadvantages too.  Here are a few words to the wise. Don't call in sick on a powder day, they will catch you and suspend your pass.  Now that seems like common sense doesn't it?  Every day there is someone who is working without their pass cause they tried that stunt.  Skiing out of control and being a bone head and getting caught by ski patrol will cost you that pass too.  Whenever you get your pass pulled there will be a fresh 2' dump of snow and you will be sitting at the bar pouting while I'm out in the trees ripping fresh tracks.  When your on mountain skiing you have to behave.  Skiing is a dangerous sport and if you get stupid you can lose everything.  Don't ski out of bounds like I do.  I have lost many friends that have fallen off cliffs, or disappeared under avalanches, because they want to be rad.  

My area ratings for places I've worked and at the time I worked there

1=Bad  5=Great

 

VAIL

Mountain Terrain    5

Housing   1

Perks    5

Snow Conditions    4

Management      4

 

Grand Targhee

Mountain Terrain    5+

Housing   3

Perks    4

Snow Conditions    5+

Management      4

 

ASPEN

Mountain Terrain    4

Housing   1

Perks    3

Snow Conditions    4

Management      2

 

COPPER MOUNTAIN

Mountain Terrain    4

Housing   1

Perks    4

Snow Conditions    4

Management      3

 

Steamboat Springs

Mountain Terrain    5

Housing   4

Perks    5

Snow Conditions    5

Management      3

 

Taos

Mountain Terrain    3

Housing   3

Perks    4

Snow Conditions    3

Management      2

 

Boreal Ridge and Soda Springs

Mountain Terrain    2

Housing   2

Perks    3

Snow Conditions    3

Management      4

 

Ski Sunlight

Mountain Terrain    3

Housing   3

Perks    2

Snow Conditions    3

Management      3

 

Ski Windham

Mountain Terrain    2

Housing   4

Perks    2

Snow Conditions    2

Management      2

 

     

 

 

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