Popular Entry-Level Jobs at Ski Resorts—and Their Pros and Cons

Peo­ple move to ski resort towns for the lifestyle, not the mon­ey. While there are some dream jobs to be found, they are few and far between — and those who are lucky enough to nab them aren’t going any­where, mak­ing it tough to have a shot at the gig. Real­is­ti­cal­ly, most peo­ple liv­ing in ski resort towns will set­tle for jobs that don’t pay near­ly enough, and for which they are overqual­i­fied for. But some­times that’s what it takes to live in the moun­tains. If you’re con­sid­er­ing mov­ing to a moun­tain town and are weigh­ing out your options for an entry-lev­el gig, here is an unof­fi­cial hier­ar­chy of some of the most com­mon jobs you’ll encounter.


Work­ing for the moun­tain has a lot of perks. Not only do you get to head up the moun­tain every day for work, but you’ll also prob­a­bly get a free pass to enjoy on your days off. You might also be lucky enough to score accom­mo­da­tions in staff hous­ing. Depend­ing on the rental mar­ket, this can be a pro or a con. Staff accom­mo­da­tions are usu­al­ly a lit­tle rough around the edges, but they’re bet­ter than being home­less. But liftie life isn’t all snowflakes and pow days: expect to work long days at min­i­mum wage. The work is a lit­tle mind-numb­ing, and you’ll have to grin and bear it as peo­ple load your lift gloat­ing about the stel­lar run they just had—and that you missed out on. Still, most liftie crews devel­op an incred­i­ble sense of cama­raderie. Most peo­ple can only han­dle a sea­son or two of liftie life, but it can pro­vide a good “in” for future jobs with the mountain.


Hel­lo, tips! Many peo­ple pre­fer work­ing in the food and bev­er­age ser­vice indus­try because of the poten­tial for tipping—a perk those in retail and some oth­er indus­tries don’t get to enjoy. While plen­ty of rich peo­ple will be hap­py to tip you for your excep­tion­al ser­vice, expect to encounter a few over­seas tourists who aren’t famil­iar with the cus­tom. Tim­ing is every­thing: aim to work the evening shift so that you’ll be able to enjoy a full day on the moun­tain before­hand. Avoid the brunch shift at all costs—the money’s not great, and you’ll miss out on fresh tracks.


Adven­ture Guide
Life in the moun­tains means access to plen­ty of adven­tures, so there are often oppor­tu­ni­ties to find work as a guide. You’ll find oppor­tu­ni­ties for all kinds of guiding—snowmobiling, snow­shoe­ing, zip lin­ing, or even ATV and white­wa­ter raft­ing guid­ing in the sum­mer months. Assum­ing you’re a lover of the out­doors, guid­ing can be a pret­ty good gig. The pay isn’t the best, but you’ll occa­sion­al­ly come across groups who are will­ing to tip. You’ll like­ly meet peo­ple from all around the world, which can make the job fun and engaging.

There are a few down­sides: most guides lead pret­ty intro groups, so expect to take things at a pret­ty slow and mel­low pace. You’ll also come to tire of repeat­ing the same script three times a day. Final­ly, work­ing out­side means work­ing in all kinds of weather—including rain, sleet, and very cold tem­per­a­tures. Make sure you’ve got the right gear.

Ski Tuner
If you know your way around ski tools, a gig tun­ing skis might be right up your alley. This is one of the rare jobs that doesn’t involve past­ing a smile on your face and inter­act­ing with cus­tomers your entire shift. Instead, many places will let you throw your head­phones on and work in the back. Since most peo­ple drop their skis off after a day on the moun­tain, hop­ing to pick them up the next morn­ing, the sched­ule can be con­ducive to get­ting your own turns in—as long as you aren’t kept up all night tun­ing. The pay isn’t per­fect and your work­ing con­di­tions def­i­nite­ly aren’t plush, but hey—no job is perfect.