There are many reasons thousands of Kiwis and Aussies flock to ski resorts around the world year in year out. It would be nye on impossible for a winter chaser to define their desire to travel to these destinations in just one word. But there are a few key reasons that drive this type of individual that may be obvious to some and trivial to others. So if you aren’t entirely sure what is it about resort town lifestyle that is beckoning – read on – your insecurities about having to explain to your parents why you want to be a “ski bum” may be put to rest!
Skiing and snowboarding in the southern hemisphere on a good day can be as good as anywhere else in the world. The trouble is that in the southern hemisphere you get a “good day” only a handful of times a year. So it would make sense that someone who lives for a great day riding or skiing would go to a place like Niseko, Panorama or Mammoth Mountain where nearly every day is exceptional.
So what’s the hype all about at these locations? It often comes down to but isn’t necessarily limited to a couple simple attributes:
The southern hemisphere is known for being hard and fast or in other words – icey and dicey. What snow sports enthusiast are looking for in the snow they get to experience at a world class resort is fast and reasonably well packed snow on piste to go absolutely hell for leather between the jerry’s. As for off piste skiing and riding – deep, dry and light snow is ideal for tree riding as you float in and out of between the trees. There is nothing quite like hearing the first carve on powder packed corduroy on first runs in the morning. Or the feeling of gliding through fresh or wind blown, untouched powder knowing full well not another soul will have the same feeling of having the first interaction with that snow.
Flat, wide and slow is great to learn on if thats all your skill level will allow. But you will soon progress past that kind of terrain and look for something more challenging. Most skiers and snowboarders travelling to a ski resort to live and work aren’t looking for Happy Valley to challenge there skill level. They are looking for deep and steep terrain that requires unflinching focus. And focus is important! Lapse in focus can be dangerous for the skier/rider.
Fortunately most world class resorts have something available for every skill level! So don’t be scared off – you will be able to find something that you will not only be comfortable with, but will also be able to challenge your ability.
Waiting in lines – up there with how expensive beers are and how ridiculous the jerrys are as one of the few things a skier or snowboarder loathes about visiting a world class ski resort. The length of wait for the next chair or gondola is entirely dependant on the quality of facilities the resort has on hand. The length of wait can also be the deciding factor between a great day riding and a poor day waiting in line.
A 400 metre long line of people can be a piece of cake and cleared out in a couple minutes with the right facilities. Chuck on top of that a nice long run and it doesn’t make a difference how long the line is! There is still plenty of time for skiing/riding!
People and Good Times
For a lot of people, if they could, they would ski or snowboard all day and all night! Unfortunately for them, it’s not humanly possible to do, nor are the resorts open all day and all night. There is nothing else to do but spend some time with people that share similar interests, eat some exceptional food and drink some exceptional beverages (most likely alcoholic).
The people you live and work with are almost certainly going to be in the same resort town for the same reason as you are. They are also pretty unlikely to know anyone in town, just like you, unless they have had a few seasons there. For those reasons alone you are thrown together and have no choice but to have a good time! Having said that – the friendships are easy to form, and long lasting. Your interests will be the same but your being from different parts of the world will mean your life experiences will be completely different. Being able to share your different life experiences and values is what will take your trip to a resort town from being a ski trip to being a full blown cultural exchange with people that you will share a connection with for the rest of your life.
Burgers, Nachos, hot wings – these are the quintessential pub foods you used to expect at resort restaurants. Yet, as the world and its many cultures continues to become more open and diverse – so increases the opportunity to introduce new culinary options to small resort towns. Where before you would get your staple pub grub items that fill you up – you can now enjoy wonderfully ethnically diverse meals from restaurants like “The Brickhouse” in Fernie which specialises in Mediterranean cuisine. Of course places like the “T Bar and Grill” at Panorama are commonly placed throughout resort towns and their must-try dishes like Duck Poutine are essential for sustenance after a long day on the hill, and perfect to line the stomach with before a heavy night of drinking!
Beer drinking is a popular pastime in Canada and the US whether you are at the pub after a long day on the hill, at a professional or other local sporting game cheering on your favourite team or just hanging with a few friends. It’s no wonder its so popular – beer culture is incredible in North America and making a few waves in Japan. Needless to say – the beer itself in these regions is among some of the best in the world!
The history of beer in North America is super interesting. Prohibition, strict laws and commercialisation of the process saw a significant drop in the number of microbreweries between 1880 and 1980 (4000+ to just over 80 in the US). But the increase in hobbyists picking up the tradition and creating the rise in the high quality, low quantity model saw the rise of the microbrewery. Competition between breweries, improvements in methods and technologies and experimentation with high quality products is what is continuing to raise the bar for breweries around the world. At the end of the day it means that beer for the drinkers gets better and better!
A common trend that you will see when you ask anyone that’s about to do, currently doing or has done an OE is that they are looking for a change in lifestyle and to put themselves outside of their comfort zone.
9 times out of 10, the participants that we send to work in resort towns, end up working in a role they have little or no experience in. This can be daunting! Moving to a country where they know nobody, to do a job they know nothing about… its scary. But that is part of the thrill! Learning new skills and gaining experience in a new role and industry is a huge part of the reason why people travel to a resort town to work. These are skills that you will be able to come home and apply either directly or indirectly no matter what the role is. It’s also a bonus that it pays for you to have fun while you are over there!
The ski fields that most travellers live and work in are enormous! They will test your ability and your skills will progress. Chances are you and your newly found friends will be keen to explore the surrounding ski fields as well as they all offer something unique. So jump in, belt up and head out on a roady to neighboring ski fields. Some as close as 30 minutes can offer a completely unique experience compared with what you are used to. But if 30 minutes is too close – do not fret – you can drive upwards of 6 hours to get to a resort town that has something new and exciting to offer. Perhaps the skiing and riding isn’t as good as what you are used to at your new destination – but the adventure of going there with your mates is what makes it exciting!
If you are travelling to Canada or the US on your winter OE then it’s almost certain you will be moving to and working in an english speaking location. If you are a little bit more of a risk taker then moving to Japan and learning the language will challenge you a fair bit more. Regardless – there are going to be times in your journey where your communication skills are tested – whether it’s the confusion of calling something a Chilly-Bin/Esky/Cooler or learning to order a beer in a foreign language. This is what an OE is all about – the cultural exchanges that occur on a daily basis, no matter the significance. These exchanges have a ripple effect throughout the community you live in and the people that you interact with. They are experiences that will impact those peoples lives significantly. So get involved – because thats what its all about.
IEP has 4 different pre-arranged winter job options available and applications for each are all open for the ‘18/’19 season: