I decided I wanted to live and work in Canada after travelling there for a short holiday back in early 2015. The country resonated with me and my personality so much so that come October 2015, I had sold most of my belongings and jumped on a plane ready to start my Working Holiday in Canada.
From my 5-day skiing holiday in Canada, I realized I wanted to do a ski season in Whistler, British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast. I chose to use The Working Holiday Club (TWHC) to sort everything out for my adventure in the snow so by the time I got there I already had a job and a place to live.
When I first interviewed with TWHC for my Working Holiday in Canada I dabbled with the idea of being a Rental Technician or working in hospitality, but as soon as the position of Lift Operator was explained I knew I wanted it. I was told a lot of girls couldn’t stick the job out because they simply found it too cold and exhausting – sometimes it can be tiring shovelling snow when it’s been dumping all day – but I absolutely loved it and it was definitely me! I was actually only one of 10 girls out of 160 lift operators, but it is one of the most unusual and enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had.
I know when I first looked in to doing a ski season, I was endlessly googling and reading blogs to find out how to do a Working Holiday in Canada and what life in Whistler is really like. I couldn’t really find any helpful ones, which is why I’ve decided to share my experiences to help out any future seasonnaires, fellow future lifties and fellow future Whistlerites.
Whistler is North America’s number one ski resort so it made sense for me to do my Working Holiday in Canada there. It has an elevation of over 2,000m and over 3,000 hectares of ski-able terrain across both Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, so there are endless opportunities for fun!
Whistler employs 5,000+ people and hits record numbers of guests each year – during my last season there in 2017 we had 30,000+ guests in one day! As a lifty that number can be quite overwhelming – there’s a lot to deal with and a lot to look out for to make sure no one gets hurts loading and unloading the lift, but it’s also a lot of fun and never boring.
I loved my Working Holiday in Canada so much that I spent two seasons working as a Lift Operator. Here’s a little snippet of behind the scenes and into the day-to-day life of a ‘Lifty’ at Whistler Blackcomb for anyone wanting to do it.
The morning meeting starts. The lifties ski down from staff housing and pour into the Valley locker room ready for the day’s stats – expected number of guests, weather conditions, Run of the Day and any other extra information needed. Then, it’s time to upload in the Village Gondola.
Half an hour later and I’m at the top of the mountain watching the sun rise behind the snow-capped peaks – a sight I never get bored with – and I strap in to my snowboard to get those fresh tracks left by the groomer from the night before. This is one of the best parts of the job. As someone who used to drive 20 minutes along a British motorway to get to work, only to sit down behind a desk for 8 hours, being outside in the fresh air and on what feels like the top of the world is one of the most amazing ways to start your day.
Before I head to my lift for the day I help set up others. We build the mazes so this means the holes are drilled for the poles, the ropes are tied to make the lanes and slow banners are put out to stop Speedy Gonzales! We also re-build our ramps, flip the seats on the chairs and get ready to load the first guests after clearance from Alpine Office.
Now the real fun begins…I jump on the back of a sled and am sledded to my lift. It’s a fun way to wake up, that’s for sure! A short, but fast ride later and I’m there ready to do the same again – setting up the maze and preparing for the day ahead. The rest of my day is spent loading and unloading guests, chatting and having fun – all ten times better on a bluebird day (that’s ski bum code for beautiful clear, sunny day). When Spring comes around, you’ll see lifties working in their t-shirts and catching a tan!
The time comes to shut down the lift. I pull down the maze I built earlier that day, put everything away, shovel fresh snow onto the ramp to re-build it and sled back out to the other chair lift to help pack that away. By this point I’m usually pretty knackered – all that shovelling, raking and lifting is tiring work, believe it or not!
At another chair lift we all meet up to help shut it down and a group of around 14 of us ride down to mid-mountain at the end of the day. It’s always a fun part of the day, riding with the lifty crew! From there we download to the village and clock out around 5:00pm.
The day is done and it’s time for some of that epic Whistler aprés and round two the next day!
Check out these amazing videos a couple of my Lifty friends made during their seasons!