Ski seasons are thrilling and all, but have you ever wanted to do more than just skiing over your holiday vacation? Ever wanted to know more about what resort life is like in other places?
Let’s take a look at the many exciting things you can do during a ski season, as well as which ski resorts are the absolute best in the world!
- 1 What is a Ski Season?
- 2 How to Spend a Ski Season
- 3 The Best Places to Do a Ski Season
- 4 Conclusion
What is a Ski Season?
A ski season is the best period of time to ski, snowboard, or practice other alpine sports. These seasons typically begin right as ski season passes are made available to the public.
They will run anywhere from early- to mid-winter, until mid- to late-spring depending on the resort.
In the U.S., a normal ski season lasts somewhere between late November to early April. Most ski seasons end right before the snow starts to thaw.
Any given resort’s typical ski season has three stages, each with their separate price for ski season passes.
The first stage is off-peak, which is during the very beginning and ending of the season.
There is a limited number of open lifts and the snow cover is patchier than later (or earlier) in the season.
The second stage is shoulder, which is when the mountain is entirely covered in snow, but resorts don’t feel as if ski season pass sales will be lucrative enough to justify running all their lifts or areas of the mountain.
The third and most popular stage is peak, which is when all lifts and most, if not all, types of runs are open.
The peak of a ski season is the time when the most people show up. It’s typically open during school or public holidays.
How to Spend a Ski Season
Most people spend their ski season doing exactly that—skiing (or snowboarding). However, if you want to get more involved with the resort, then why not look for a job there?
Not only will you get a better understanding of how a ski resort runs, but you will also acquire some valuable skills that you can use outside of ski season, too!
Training to be a ski or snowboard instructor can prove very valuable, even if you decide you don’t want to become a fully-licensed instructor.
You’ll spend most of your days taking professional courses that test your skills on different terrains.
Unfortunately, unless you take an internship-style course, you won’t get paid for this training. However, you will still gain new skiing or snowboarding techniques and the qualifications necessary to become a full-fledged ski instructor.
Working as a chalet host is one of the most popular ski resort jobs, since it doesn’t require any previous experience.
It’s hard work, but if you like to interact with the social life at ski resorts, then this may be the job for you!
You’ll usually work throughout the week with only one day off to ski or snowboard, so plan your trip accordingly. Your day will consist of a lot of cooking and cleaning during the mornings and later in the evenings.
The busiest work will be on “changeover day”, which is when you will need to make breakfast for guests who are leaving, deep clean the chalet in the afternoon, and welcome new guests all over again in the evening.
Typically, changeover shifts will start at around 7 a.m. and end somewhere at 10 p.m.
A resort rep position is best suited for people who enjoy working with customers and making sure they have a good skiing experience.
You will have to sacrifice much of your potential skiing or snowboarding time, but if you genuinely enjoy this type of work, then go for it!
Resort reps may find themselves arranging airport transfers, equipment hire, and après activities for different clients; dealing with difficult customer requests; and even accompanying guests on the slopes.
Accommodations like food, lodging, and ski season passes are just some of the free perks you’ll get from this job.
Much like chalet hosting, bar work can be quite tough. If you want a chance to interact with the late-night social life after an exhilarating day of skiing, then this might be the job for you!
You’ll typically work at the bar six nights a week with one free day. You will often finish your shift in the wee hours of the morning.
Other than serving bar patrons, you will also need to clean the vicinity and restock occasionally.
You can’t go wrong with being a ski bum (a.k.a. going to a ski resort purely to ski)!
Immerse yourself in the fresh powder and the late-night social life to your heart’s content! You don’t have to worry about anything but your own enjoyment (and funds).
The only real downside is that you need to pay for everything, from food to lodging to ski season passes all by yourself. No discounts!
Be sure you pick a ski resort that will give you exactly what you’re seeking from your trip. If you want to just focus on perfecting your technique, pick a resort with different parks and terrains. If you want to socialize and party, pick a resort that has a good nightlife and decent transportation.
If you can’t pick between the two, it’s best to visit a larger resort for your first ski season. The bigger the resort, the more people, and the more people, the more opportunities to either bum or find the job you want!
This video goes into more detail on a ski season as a beach bum.
The Best Places to Do a Ski Season
Each of these resorts offers a wide variety of jobs each ski season, including all those listed above.
Keep a lookout for a position at the ski resort you plan to visit!
Colorado Ski Season
Like most U.S. ski resorts, the Colorado ski season begins sometime in late November and lasts until April.
However, the majority of ski resorts in this state try to stay open for as long as they possibly can.
The best Colorado ski resorts are in:
- Beaver Creek.
- Copper Mountain.
Lake Tahoe Ski Season Resorts
California’s Lake Tahoe’s ski season typically lasts from November to May.
Sierra at Tahoe ski resort is one of the locals’ favorite resorts. It offers 46 groomed and ungroomed trails across 2,000 acres of terrain, with great side-country and inbounds tree skiing that the resort is famous for!
The Sugar Bowl is an excellent family-owned resort that boasts some of the highest snowfall in the area. It offers a ton of different terrains for skiers of all experience levels.
It is much smaller than some other Tahoe resorts, which makes it easier for families to navigate. Advanced and expert skiers will also find plenty of side and backcountry terrain to explore.
Northstar has some of the best intermediate-level terrains out of all Lake Tahoe ski resorts. Almost half of the trails available on the resort are intermediate blues. Most notably, their longest blue trail, Logger’s Loop, is famed as being a staggering one mile.
Other great ski resorts in Lake Tahoe include Squaw Valley, Heavenly Mountain Resort, and Kirkwood. Browse around and pick your favorite!
Wyoming’s Jackson Hole ski resort has a ski season that lasts from Thanksgiving through early April. They also have a summer season that opens in late May and ends in September.
The resort has 2,500 acres of inbounds terrain and backcountry access. They also offer a bunch of different activities throughout both seasons, which are fun for the whole family to enjoy.
Snow King Mountain is a smaller resort, but its attractions speak for themselves. The resort offers night skiing, a snow tubing park, and even a mountain coaster for a sheer thrill-ride of a time.
The Grand Targhee resort offers tons of snowfall and a plethora of intermediate runs that practically surround the whole resort!
Canada Ski Seasons
Canada is home to some of the largest ski resorts and snow schools in the world, making it excellent for those who want to train to become a ski instructor themselves! There are also endless work opportunities that will grant you free passes for upcoming ski seasons.
Generally, if you decide to work on the mountain, you will get a free ski season pass. However, if you decide to work in the town instead, you will probably only have time to ski or shred down the mountain when you have a day off (or even a few hours in the workday to spare).
The Canadian ski season runs from late November to late April. However, depending on the resort you visit and the weather conditions, the season may run longer or shorter.
If you want to go during the peak ski season, it’s best to plan a trip somewhere between December and March, where snowfall is the heaviest. Be aware that the crowds will be dense!
With year-round activities in each resort, Canada’s ski scene is pretty renowned. With famous resorts like Whistler Blackcomb, Lake Louise, and Revelstoke, Canada has easily become a hotspot for skiers and snowboarders from all around the world.
Whistler Blackcomb, in particular, boasts a stunning array of terrain, with a vast 8,171 acres to explore. This one resort packs over 200 trails, powder-filled bowls, ancient glades, and mile-long cruisers that are sure to get your blood pumping.
Whistler Village is also a massive tourist paradise of shops, cafés and bars, restaurants, and great aprés nightlife for you to peruse and enjoy. Whistler’s ski season begins in November and lasts until May.
Ski Seasons in Japan
Japan is quickly becoming one of the world’s most popular skiing and snowboarding destinations, due to the diversity of its resorts. It is also one of the best countries to get your ski or snowboard instructor qualifications!
The typical ski season in Japan runs from mid-January to early April. However, depending on which resort you visit and the weather conditions, the season may run longer or shorter.
You will get the best snowfall between December and March. The peak of the Japanese ski season is around the Christmas and New Year periods.
It’s guaranteed that Japan will have a resort that appeals to you!
- Rusutsu has plenty of great backcountry areas, while Niseko is a fantastic ski and party destination rolled into one.
- Club Med offers instructors and trainees a guaranteed salary, if that’s what you’re looking for.
- Shiga Kogen is a quiet resort where you can truly get away from it all.
Switzerland’s ski season can begin as early as September or October, though it usually starts around the end of November.
The best ski resorts in Switzerland include:
- St. Moritz.
- Davos-Klosters and Parsenn.
- Arosa Lenzerheide.
- Flims Laax Falera.
This video shows an example of a ski season in Switzerland.
France Ski Seasons
France’s ski season typically runs from November to May.
French ski areas are among the biggest in the world, with the Three Valleys and Portes du Soleil being the largest resorts of them all.
The Portes du Soleil alone spans 650 kilometers worth of slopes, with 12 individual resorts straddling the Franco-Swiss border. The most popular ski resorts here include Avoriaz, Morzine, and Les Gets.
The Three Valleys is the world’s largest interconnected ski resort, covering 600 kilometers worth of slopes and terrain. Courchevel, Meribel, Les Menuires, Val Thorens and La Tania all make up this enormous resort, each with their own strengths and terrains.
The ever-popular Paradiski is a 420-kilometer resort that combines the Peisey-Vallandry, La Plagne, and Les Arcs resorts together. La Plagne and Les Arcs both offer a lot of varied terrain with skiing far above 3000 meters, as well as tree skiing for those bad weather days.
As you would expect, most French ski resorts offer Michelin star restaurants, pubs, concerts, discotheques, spas, gyms, and a huge variety of stores and shops to marvel at.
There is so much to do during a single ski season, so why not try something new the next time you go out for a skiing vacation?
Where’s your favorite place to spend a ski season?