How to get a seasonal ski job

Posted on 12 July 2011

I walked outside into the bone-chilling cold, my breath steaming into the stillness of the winter air and my body exercising its morning shudders as it prepared itself for the challenging day ahead. The demands were high: extreme negative temperatures (sometimes falling to -40°C ), wind chills that could singe your skin into the unfortunate state of frostbite in less than five seconds and blizzards that could immobilise you within minutes. And of course, tossed among these demands, the exciting prospect of work.

Work? Yes, work. South African’s don’t often consider the aforementioned environment to be one suitable for work, at least for any genuine Saffa. Yet, you’d be surprised. I’m one of many who has spent a winter season abroad, working and playing in the snow.

Also Read: The 15 best Recruitment Agencies in Johannesburg

I’ve had the amazing privilege of experiencing a couple of real winters (yes I’m sorry to say it folks, but South African winters are not real winters) in the Appalachian Mountains of the Eastern United States. White winters have that refreshing touch of waving a magic wand and throwing a blanket of indescribable beauty over the landscape. And every day, I marveled at the new and overwhelming beauty that lay before my eyes. Endless rolling hills frozen purple and crystal-blue against the changing winter skies. Time sinking into meaninglessness in valleys scattered with golden-white trees. Snow-laden branches shedding their loads in a brilliant whisper of flakes that look like fireworks on a perfect blue-bird day. And the most deafening silence imaginable, brought down to earth in the grace of each and every little flake that creates the wonder of a snow storm.

I began each day with the warming (ironically) thought that it would have something new and exciting to offer and that the landscape would be shining with a fresh beauty. For me winter is so invigorating that even the worst of days, when any sane human being would be indoors, is breathtakingly beautiful. Which is why finding my niche as a ski and snowboard instructor has undoubtedly been the best experience of my life.

It is such an invigorating experience to be on snow at daybreak every day. It’s the best way to wake yourself up, with a smack in the face from some frozen winter air. A typical day would involve: shoveling massive amounts of snow and drilling fences and flags to prepare the learning area. And then, lining up to be handed lessons for the day. You just never knew what you were going to get day-to-day. Some days, it was screaming kids who refused to ski and fancied wandering into the woods instead. Some days, it was never-ever’s who would take to the disciplines like they’d been doing it for years. Other days, it was families whose only wish was that they would learn enough to all make it down the hill together, at least once. Whatever it was, it was always a day filled with excitement, fun and reward.

Apart from having the privilege of working outside in the snow, I took away so much life experience from each day. I learned patience in its entirety. I learned how to instill confidence in people who were nervous beyond words. I learned that  humanity is ever-present, in everything we do. Through communication in encouraging a stranger to trust you openly, through the laughter in a child’s eyes as they experience the joy of the snow for the first time. I learned that children have everything to teach they world; they have a mysterious and magical way of releasing the inner-child in you.

The work is great, but the resort experience is great too. People from all over the world, are all there for the for same reason: to experience something different and to have a great time. Living and playing with friends and work colleagues is an easy way to ensure that you make some lifelong friends and memories.

There is one down side though. My experiences have ingrained a little bug in my mind, it skittles around planting thoughts of snow, of fresh mountain air, of a taste of freedom. It spurs my mind into thinking all mountains to be one big opportunity for some winter fun. South Africa has so many beautiful mountains. But more often than not I can only look at them and think, ‘where is the snow?’ I suppose this is why I plan on returning to my winter wonderland as soon as possible.


There are so many places and opportunities for winter work, North America, Europe and New Zealand being the most popular. The US is probably the easiest and most hassle-free for visas. Unfortunately, the majority of visas are offered to students. But there are definitely ways of getting it done if you’re not a student.

Student visas: The J-1 5-month work and travel visa is offered to students for work and travel in the United States. Visit, or

If you’re not a student, visit and read up about H2-B working visas.

For European working visas visit this fantastic site:

For work in New Zealand visit the New Zealand Embassy.


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