Canada, and particular the Rockies, has long been a mecca for skiers around the world. With huge snowfalls, stunning scenery and backdrops, and loads of resorts to choose from, it’s no secret why it’s so popular as a snowsports destination.
Visas and work regulations
Unless you’re Canadian, then you will need a visa to work in Canada. There are certain allowances for American citizens through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which allows Americans to enter Canada to work or to establish/acquire a Canadian business, but you’ll need to check for certain with an immigration expert if you think this applies to you. Otherwise, the following information on Canadian visas will be relevant.
- Working holiday visa: available for those aged 18-31 (when applying) from eligible countries. The applications only open on certain days at specific times during the year and some country quotas fill up notoriously quickly (think Glastonbury tickets gone wild!) so make sure you’re prepared and check the website frequently for opening date notifications.
- Work permit: if you’re not eligible for the working holiday visa then you may need to consider a work permit, and often need to have a confirmed job offer before you apply.
The one exemption would be for athletes and coaches competing in Canada, but this doesn’t apply to people looking for work as ski instructors in Canada.
To work as a ski instructor in Canada, you will most likely need to hold the CSIA Level 2 or international equivalent (BASI 2, NZSIA 2). However, some resorts and ski schools may have additional requirements. For example, Whistler Blackcomb ask that you have two full seasons of teaching experience (roughly 600 hours) as well, so it’s worth checking different resorts and ski schools to make sure that your qualifications and experience fit their requirements.
In larger ski resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb, the ski school is a central ski school for the whole resort and employment and job offers will be done through a formal application process. A lot of the resorts will hold recruitment days and fairs where they will interview and recruit their staff in different cities across Canada, you’ll need to check on the ski resorts’ employment sections. There are a number of companies that will offer to help you source work for a fee.
Alternatively, you can choose to work through the Canadian instructor system which may give you a better chance of securing a job in a Canadian resort:
- Peak Leaders: 11 week instructor course in Banff working towards and taking your CSIA Level 1 and Level 2.
- Ski le Gap: a Canadian company offering a variety of courses for CSIA exams in Tremblant, Québec.
- Snowskool: offer a number of courses in Big White and Banff in a range of lengths, working through the CSIA system.
- Nonstop Snow: lots of choice for length of course and qualifications that you’ll be working towards in the CSIA system, in Fernie and Banff.
- Snow Rehab: a variety of CSIA qualifications and lengths of courses in Big White and Revelstone.
- All Tracks Academy: again, a lot of choice of course lengths working through the CSIA system, based in Whistler.
- EA Ski and Snowboard: various lengths of courses within the CSIA system, based in seven ski areas across Canada.
There is so much choice in Canada for courses in the Canadian system so it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out which one suits you (and your budget) best.
Canada is the second largest country in the world (after Russia), and with arctic environments in the north and generally cold winters, you will be spoilt for choice with ski areas.
You can probably recite a number of popular Canadian ski resorts in your sleep if you are a keen skier! However, aside from the resorts like Whistler, Jasper, Banff and Lake Louise, there are a lot of smaller hills and ski areas, if you go by Wikipedia, there are hundreds, but not all are big enough to have their own ski schools. And whilst the majority you will know of are in western Canada in the Rockies, you can ski all of the way across Canada, Tremblant in Québec is a popular resort with Canadians. The big resorts will have a lot of competition for both jobs and accommodation.
The popularity of Canada as a ski destination can make prices in resorts climb and you’ll probably feel this in both accommodation and other services, and big, popular resorts such as Whistler are likely to also be the most expensive and have the most competitive job market. But choosing smaller resorts may reduce teaching time that’s available to you if there are fewer punters.
Depending on where you are in Canada, the drinking age ranges between 18 and 19, so if this affects you and you are worried about your après ski then it’s worth knowing.