Working in a Ski Resort – Working Holiday New Zealand

It has been two weeks since I left my my kind of dream job – I worked in a ski resort for 5 weeks. Why so short? That’s because I only managed to join in September, nearing the end of the season, as my friend wanted to leave early. How did I get the job? Well, most of their mandarin speaking employees from Taiwan/Hong Kong had a 3-month rule where they cannot work for the same employer for more than 3 months. Which means that come early/mid September, they will have to leave. I just happen to know a friend who was working there and he recommended me in when he left.

To be honest, back then I was a little apprehensive about leaving my plant nursery job in Christchurch as I was just 3-weeks short of completing my agriculture job for visa extension. At the same time, I was living in a super fun sharehouse where I had many great friends and memories. It was difficult to move out of my comfort zone but I reminded myself on how badly I wanted to work in a ski resort earlier this year. If I didn’t make this move, I would have probably regretted and my 6 to 9 months duration in New Zealand is kind of too short to be stuck in the same city. That was it, I had to move.

Okay, now let’s rewind back to why I wanted to work in a ski resort.

When I first decided to embark on this working holiday, the best timing for me to start was right smack in winter; after I get my bonus (base pay is so low; so waiting for bonus is kind of vital). My last day with my company was 3rd May and the plan was to go to New Zealand as soon as possible, complete my 6 months and be back for Christmas and start 2020 afresh in a new job.

Well, the uniqueness of working holiday is that all your plans are likely to be derailed; so don’t bother making too much plans.

As winter is pretty much a dead season for the job opportunities jobs in New Zealand, the only busy place would probably be the ski resorts. I set my heart and mind to get a ski resort job and started my research back in Jan/Feb.

Ski Season generally runs from early June to Sept/Oct but depending on the snowfall, it may start/end earlier/later.

I compiled a full list of all the Ski Resorts in New Zealand and checked their website frequently to see when were application dates.

Not sure if I’ve gotten the full list below:

Anyway, after applying for every single ski resort that I could apply to, I only gotten 7 replies; excluding all the default ‘your application has been received’ emails.

  • Snow Farm – rejection
  • Roundhill – rejection
  • Rainbow Ski – rejection
  • Treble Cone – replied saying that there was application delay but ultimately still a rejection
  • Cardrona – rejection
  • Coronet Peak/Remarkables – rejection
  • Mt Ruapehu – invitation for face to face interview (April) but got rejected as I couldn’t make it

On the other hand, my friend received 2 skype interviews and he got offered jobs for both ski resorts – Cardrona and Porters.

To be honest, I have no idea how they go through their selection process as probably hundreds and thousands of people apply each year. On my resume, I do have experience in customer facing roles and retail (but it was like 8 years ago). I was also pretty honest on my non-existent ski/snowboard skills should it be on the form.

Tips from people who have gotten the job

They look for very relevant experience from your CV. When applying for these jobs (especially in the larger companies), you can only apply for one specific role. Do look at your CV and ask yourself, if you are the HR, which role would be most suitable.

Also, for the role that you will apply for, the number of vacancies per department would vary. It may be easier to land a job as a kitchen hand or cleaner as there are more vacancies and possibly lesser applicants. For most ski fields, I applied for retail and administrative which turns out to be very popular with lesser vacancies which could be a reason why I didn’t end up with anything. Then again, anything could happen so.. may the odds be in your favour.

My friend said that the interviews were very thorough and lasted about one hour.

Another thing to note, references are very important and the HR actually do reach out to them for comments before giving you an offer. If I did not recall wrongly, my friend’s references were sent an email asking them if you will be suitable for the job. Do think hard on who you would like to put as your reliable references which will truly help you.

Are there many asians working in Ski resorts?

I would say there are less than 10% of asians working (at least in mine) but rest assured that every customer facing department will have 1 to 2 mandarin speakers.

Do you get paid well?

Not really. If you’re planning to earn more money, this is not the job for you. Most companies pay the minimum wage, which is $17.70 as at Sep 2019. Depending on your department, your hours will vary. I was working in the ticket office and when I joined, they informed me that I will only be getting 25 to 30 hours per week. Ticketing is only busy early in the day and the crowd thins significantly in the afternoon, where you will be asked to go home early. If you are in rentals, you may likely be given a long break in the middle as it is only busy at the start and end of the day. However, if you’re a kitchen hand, the hours may be more regular as the kitchen work never stops.

Furthermore, this is a weather dependent job (ski field will be closed if there are strong winds and/or low visibility) and in my short 5 weeks stint, I’ve gotten 5 close days. Then again, spring is the time where the weather is cranky so.. it might not be the case all the time.

Accommodation is expensive and hard to find.

Accommodation is usually not provided and you will have to source for your own. I was staying in Wanaka and the rent prices ranges from $180 (very rare) to $250 (what people pay on average for a single room) per week. If you’re a couple, you should be able to find something at around $150-$160pp.

Furthermore, price is not the only factor when it comes to looking for a room. Landlords will often request to see you in person before agreeing to rent their room out. I’ve heard of cases whereby 10 tenants were competing for a room and at the end of the day, the landlord has the final say in who he/she wants so.. you not only have to interview for a job, you have to interview for your room too. If you look messy, unkempt or smoke, you might be less favourable.

The search for accommodation was such a painful and frustrating experience for me and I’ll be writing a post specifically on this some time in the future. I have so many thoughts about this.

Anyway, for myself, I found a single room for $215 + bills (avg $3/day) which worked out to be about $236/week.

How much money can you save?

Weekly Earnings: 30 hours x $17.70 x 1.08 (8% holiday pay) x 0.85 (less 15% taxes) = $487

$487 less $236 rent would be $251 and I usually spend about $60 to $80 on groceries per week.

Assuming you cook all your food and don’t spend much money during your off days, you can ‘save’ about $700 per month.

Why is it such a popular job?

Most people who apply for a job here are ski/snowboard enthusiasts or they are wanting to pick up a new sport. There are many staff benefits that comes along with the job.

The benefits ranges between ski fields so do not use this as a benchmark/expectations for your job.

Ski Season Pass – worth about $950; Discounted Prices for Equipment Rental, F&B and Retail; Free Group Lessons; Free Shuttle Bus; Real Journey Experiences + Discounts

In addition, we had a free hoodie and t-shirt (part of uniform) which is pretty comfortable D:

Another to to add on, I love it when the supervisors and managers encourage you to hit the slopes (go skiing or snowboarding) during your lunch breaks, half days and off days. For my department, there was a competition to see who could clock the highest number of ski days (ride breaks) for two weeks and they threw in free rental for us for those two weeks.

On days that I had to end early, my colleagues/supervisors will be encouraging me to go for a ride instead of heading home. Throughout my 5 weeks, I managed to ski for 5 days, attended one first-timer lesson (paid as part of familiarization)and had a one hour private lesson. I could have done more days but.. I usually had other plans during my days off so I didn’t go up as much. Furthermore, the weather was pretty crappy and there were many days that I didn’t want to go up as the snow would be slapping on your face.

Kind of a Dream Job

Apart from having the least amount of money in my bank account during this period (Disclaimer: I spend a lot.), this job is indeed a dream job. Whenever I am working, I don’t really feel that I’m working because I enjoy it. I enjoy meeting people who are loving the sport. I also enjoy sharing my experience with first-timers and telling them how addictive this sport can be.

The Cons

If you’re from Singapore or Malaysia and here for your 6-month working holiday visa, you may not have enough time to obtain your 12-weeks agriculture payslip. The only way you can get it is that you are able to find a agriculture job that allows you to work part time on your off days, which is.. really rare. I haven’t heard of anyone who was able to find such a job and to be honest, not many Singaporeans/Malaysians apply for ski fields as a result.

I was pure lucky to be given this short 5-week stint and right now, I am also lucky enough to get a job in fruit thinning (at Alexandra) and I should be in time for my visa extension if I can bear with my sore muscles for the next 2 weeks (have completed one week as of now).

Good luck with your application and feel free to post any questions below!

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