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How to get by through a season

17:12 30th August 2006 by Onboard Snowboarding
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…and get to ride some of it too.

Are you thinking of spending the winter in a resort? Free from responsibilities and able to ride each and every day if the conditions are right? Unless you’ve already scraped together all the dough you need to eat, sleep, party and ride for 5 months straight, you’ll need this job-picking guide to be able pick a trade that’s right for you.

At three or four in the morning, most of the people in your average ski resort are fast asleep. By this time, the crew working the hotel night club in the resort of Riksgränsen were, at least according to my own recollections, wide awake. So awake that even though we’d pushed the last drunkard out the door and cleaned up, there was no use in going to bed. Instead we’d pour ourselves a pint and pig out on leftovers the restaurant next door kindly used to pass on to us. Lounging comfortably in the huge green sofas that symbolised the club, we’d chat the morning hours away, bragging about the on-snow activities of the previous day and the dawning one. A weird form of après-ski…

Although my modest role was that of a lowly dish-washer – meaning I only got half a share when splitting the tips – I still keep the memory of those morning hours dear. I also remember vividly that, after only a couple of hours’ slumbering, I didn’t enjoy taking cold showers to wake up early enough to get first tracks if it had been dumping.

Although my modest role was that of a lowly dish-washer, I still keep the memory of those morning hours dear.

Doing dishes taught me a couple of things. One is that I needed to get my act together and create a real career for myself. In my case, this was riding hard enough to become a pro rider, but I have to be honest and say that there is some hard work involved in that too, and that a lot of luck is involved. The other lesson was that the hours you work when doing a season should differ from the hours the lifts are running, at least if you are serious about getting some good runs in every time the conditions are right. If you’re heading for the party-trail, the case may be the opposite though. Just make sure you set your priorities before starting to look for work, or you may end up working for no fun and almost no money.

To offer some guidelines, I’ll try to put down the pros and cons of a few of the more common jobs you may be looking at. Take them with a pinch of salt, though. Although I know people who’ve tried each one of them, I haven’t tried them all myself.

Minimum wage – minimum responsibilities: This is the category most snow-bums are likely to end up in, especially if they are low on funds or it’s their first season at the resort. The stereo-typical jobs are burger-flipper, cleaner and dish-washer, no-brain activities nobody with their sanity intact would like to do for a living in the long haul. So the downsides are substantial and obvious, which also makes the turnover large… yet every resort needs heaps of people doing them to keep the guests happy, which is exactly the reason why you’ll probably be able to find a job in this category. The not-so-obvious upside is that the hours are odd, usually leaving about half of each and every day open for riding, and probably more so than any other category, so if you’re a serious rider you may want to roll up your selves and get dirty! People bumming for several years usually take on one of the more advanced versions of this kind. The reason is usually that the hours and the income are more predictable. Tour guide, waitress, chef, receptionist and ski shop personnel are some of the options – although expect them to inflict on the number of days you’ll be riding.

You should have learned in first grade that working a 6-day week will leave you with only one day for riding.

On-snow gigs: The sad classic here is being a ‘liftie’, the guy or gal brushing the chair for you and occasionally pushing the stop/start button. To pick this job, you should be either: (a) totally out of funds, or (b) not interested in snowboarding at all, or (c) related to Dalai Lama and able to reach happiness through the happiness of others. You should have learned in first grade that working a 6-day week during all hours the lifts are running will leave you with only one day for riding. Usually this day will be when the conditions are so bad that some of the lifts cannot open at all. So beware of this mouse-trap… Similar warnings should go out for the following: ski-school instructor (who gets to spend all of the good days in the beginner slopes), maintaining the snow park (although this is probably a lot of fun in its own sense), and working in a on-hill restaurant.

Starlight nightingales: Being a bartender, a DJ, or (why not?) a dancer are all quite glamorous and high-profile jobs, offering many benefits apart from decent pay. You get plenty of interaction with possible mating-partners on the hunt, the pay is decent, and you get VIP treatment at other night-spots on your nights off. Of course, you also get the days off to ride, as long as you are able to get out of bed in time, that is. A more entrepreneurial option could be being a cabbie, possibly an unofficial one, using your own car and without leaving any tracks for the tax records. I’ve tried this and found both the flexible schedule and the pay attractive. Careers close to snow: If you are looking at spending more than just a single season, perhaps even moving to were you are going permanently, several options open up, many of them not available to the average bum. Snow-cat driving is fun if you like working on your own through the night and get to do the snow park. Chefs have long hours but a lot of fun at work. A hairdresser is usually an entrepreneur who gets to set his or her own schedule. (Eva Sandelgård has made herself into a world-class hair stylist through more than 10 seasons in Chamonix!) Being an on-snow photographer or filmer is sort of a paradox, as you need to lug a lot of equipment around on the bluebird days and don’t get to ride much on them either, but the snow is at its freshest when it dumps, and on those days you can use your free lift pass to ride all day long.

With these hints in mind, now all you need to do is brush up your CV, pack your bags, and set your priorities straight!

Anders Hagman is a Swedish former pro rider who actually still enjoys doing the dishes every now and then even today. No kidding!

Illustration: http://www.mothi.biz

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