Spend your winter living and working in the Canadian Rockies. We provide you with a guaranteed job and accommodation arranged before you leave home. You’ll earn money to finance an awesome ski or snowboard season. This is the true meaning of ‘work hard, play hard’!
Duration: 27 weeks (the whole winter season)
Dates: Late November to Late May each year. Taking bookings for 2021/22 season. Arrivals at other times of the season are possible.
Arrival day: Wednesday
Return day: Wednesday
Eligibility: Good level of fitness and relevant work experience required
- Knowing that the job and accommodation has been guaranteed before you leave home
- Enjoying the awesome ski opportunities with the included mid-week season ski pass
- Gaining impressive paid work abroad that will look great on your CV
- Making friends with like-minded people and enjoying a great social life in the spectacular Rocky Mountains
- Feeling like you’ve been fully supported throughout your time with Oyster
*We are no longer able to accept applications for 2021/22 winter season until further notice. For more information on applications and Covid-19 details please see here, and keep an eye out for updates on our Covid statement*
If you are looking for paid work abroad in a top Canadian resort, the town of Banff is going to tick a lot of your boxes.
Oyster has been recruiting hardworking individuals to work in a variety of roles in hotels in the Banff area of The Rockies since 2006. Whilst the exact role cannot be confirmed until a couple of months before departure, Oyster participants can relax in the knowledge that they have a guaranteed job lined up once accepted onto this programme, not just an interview.
You should expect an entry level role in the hotel industry, typically:
- Housekeeping: cleaning the guests’ bedrooms and the public areas in the hotel.
- Kitchen and restaurant: working as a dishwasher behind the scenes or as a busser in the restaurant, clearing tables and re-stocking cutlery.
Wherever you work, the standards and expectations are going to be high. To excel in your job role you will need to be punctual, stick to a dress code, be positive, friendly and put the needs of the guests first. In return, you will earn a good wage and be able to enjoy the most incredible social life in the Canadian Rockies.
The jobs are full time and you can expect an average of 4-5 days work per week across the ski season. Working abroad in a tourist resort means that hours vary with season, snow conditions and guest numbers. On average you’ll get 2 days off per week to ski or snowboard. At quieter times, you may get 2-3 days work per week. During peak times such as Christmas, you may be working 6, or even 7, days per week. Expect to earn a minimum of C$15 per hour (approx £8.50 per hour) and be paid fortnightly. Over the course of the season, you could earn in the region of C$9000.
The season runs late November through to late May. Many of our participants choose to extend their stay in Canada and work through the summer as well. If you have worked in a hotel before then do tell us on your booking form as this may help us find a job for you in other hotel departments, although this cannot be guaranteed.
Please note: We ask for a £180 payment when booking this programme. If, in the event you are unsuccessful in the interview, or we cannot find a job for you before you leave home, the money that you pay Oyster is fully refundable.
I couldn’t have done this without Oyster! – Zach
Included in our winter hospitality work in The Rockies programme is a season long ski pass for Mount Norquay. This is a mid-week pass allowing you to ski Monday-Friday and during night ski sessions (Friday and Saturday). You will most likely be working at weekends so we don’t include Saturday and Sunday in our pass. If you happen to have a weekend off, you get 25% off of the normal daily rate.
You can read more about the ski pass here.
- Live in shared accommodation organised by your employer
- Expect basic but comfortable accommodation that is within walking distance of work
- Expect to share a room with at least other person in a house with others working for the same employer
- The cost of the accommodation equates to approximately an hours’ pay per night and is taken directly from your pay cheque
- You’ll be living in self-catered accommodation with access to a shared kitchen
- Some employers provide a hot meal whilst you are working, however you should ensure you can cook a few easy dishes before you arrive in Canada
- You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Banff!
Airport: Calgary (YYC)
Arrival day: Usually a Wednesday – this will be confirmed before you book your flights.
Transfer details: Assuming you arrive with the rest of the group, we will pick you up at the airport and transfer you to Banff.
Departure day: Usually a Wednesday. You will need to organise your own transport back to the airport.
As an ATOL bonded company we can book flights for you from the UK or elsewhere. If you are flying with the group from London, we will see you off at Heathrow on departure day. On arrival, our rep Arjun will pick you up at the airport.
If you are travelling from outside the UK we will arrange for you to meet up with your group on arrival in Canada.
Arjun grew up in London and went to University in the UK. As a graduate he decided the time was right to take a gap year and signed up to our Rockies programme for what he thought would just be a 6 month stay in Canada. Arjun fell in love with the Rocky Mountains and decided to stay for another year, and then another… Fast forward to today and Arjun is now a Canadian Citizen, married to a Canadian and they have a young son, Ronan. Arjun started life in Banff as a Housekeeper and has worked his way up to become the General Manager of a hotel in downtown Banff.
In his spare time he enjoys all that mountain life has to offer from white water rafting and hiking in the summer to snowmobiling and skiing in the winter. You’ll get to know Arjun well during your time in Canada. He is an active member of the community and looks forward to passing on his knowledge and supporting you. On arrival, Arjun will arrange a short orientation course and be in close contact with you over the first couple of days. As time goes on, Arjun will take more of a back seat and be there as a helpful friend should you need any help or advice.
Once a month Arjun hosts a meet up with the Oyster group where we provide a few drinks and snacks and the chance for you to talk through any issues you might have. Arjun is a local expert on where to go and what to see in The Rockies!
Our representatives are there to be a helpful friend to you and steer you through difficulties of any kind. Arjun will keep us updated on your health and welfare throughout.
“It must be a hard balance to have to work with a young group of people who are completely new to a culture and not start acting like a parent or acting cold. Arjun got the balance spot on, he was fantastic helping us when we needed it, but wasn’t going to hold our hands, which was vital to surviving in the long term!” Katie
Read more about Arjun in our ‘meet the reps‘ interview.
- Access to your own personal ‘My Oyster’ account – our online portal where you can find out much more about the program and manage your booking
- Dedicated contact time with an experienced destination manager to discuss the project, answer any of your questions and for us to find out more about you
- Help and advice from our UK office before arrival and whilst you are away
- In-country support
- Pre-departure information covering medical, safety and project advice
- Financial protection: ATOL (if we book your flights); IPP (if we don’t book your flights)
- Thorough orientation on arrival
- Accommodation (see the ‘accommodation’ section above for details)
- Advice on visa requirements
- Oyster plants a tree in Africa with TreeAid to help reduce the impact of global carbon emissions
- UK briefing day covering hotel issues and work advice
- Guaranteed job before departure (we will liaise with hotels and obtaining job offer letters etc. Please be aware some hotels like to conduct their own interview on the phone)
- Season long mid-week ski pass for Mount Norquay
- Optional flight with fixed return date. Total cost including flight £2295 (if you want a more flexible ticket this can be organised)
- Arrangement of transportation to your accommodation from the airport
- Orientation on arrival
- Assistance and support from our representative throughout the season, including regular social ‘meet ups’
- Wages (approx. £200 per week, before tips)
- Guaranteed staff accommodation (the money for this will come out of your pay cheque – approx 1 hours’ pay per night)
- Oyster luggage tag
On your return:
- Welcome home pack
- Certificate of Recognition (on request)
- References (on request)
- Flights – as an ATOL bonded company, Oyster can book flights for you
- You need a valid passport that meets the requirements of the country you will be travelling to
- Insurance (covering your time with Oyster and any planned independent travel)
- Any costs associated with changing your return flight date if you need to
- Independent travel costs
- Home country travel costs
- Spending money for additional trips, food and entertainment
- Be eligible for the Canadian IEC Working Holiday Program (sign up for our free application guide)
- Accommodation and food costs, approximately C$18 (£11) per day. Accommodation costs are taken directly from your pay cheque
- Police check for immigration purposes (approx. £55)
- Cost of IEC Working Holiday Work Permit and biometrics fee – C$338
“I always enjoy visiting Banff and love to receive positive feedback from the employers we work with. We’re proud of the fact that hotels choose to work with us and we’ll continue sending well selected and prepared participants every year.” Says Jon.
You should expect to work 5 days per week (30 hours) on average across the whole season. At times during the summer this average can be higher – think of the money!
Kate, an ex Oyster participant in The Rockies, has this to say about her typical day as a housekeeper:
“I am generally up at 8am, get ready for work and then head out on the 10 minute walk to work, ready to start at 9am. My supervisor gives me a list of rooms to clean (on average 9 per day) and I get my housekeeping cart ready for the day. I am lucky, my employer allow me to listen to music whilst working (not all do).
I clean rooms until midday when I have lunch and discuss recent events with the other staff at the hotel. After lunch it is back to work. Depending on how busy the hotel is, I can finish at any time in the afternoon.
After work I head home, maybe do some shopping for dinner, and take a power nap! Most nights Sophie (fellow Oyster participant) and I have dinner together in front of the TV before deciding on the evening activities which could be going out to a bar or a club, relaxing with a film at home with friends or even occasionally testing out the night skiing”
The employers all differ slightly in the number of hours, and shift patterns, that they require you to work. To give you a rough idea for a housekeeper, you would start work by 9am and, during peak season, work until 5pm cleaning up to 15 rooms. During quieter times, you may only need to clean 6 rooms and be finished by mid afternoon.
We include a mid-week ski pass for Mount Norquay.
If you wanted to buy a more extensive pass, the ‘Big 3’ pass which includes unlimited access to Norquay, Lake Louise and Sunshine tends to cost around $1900.
Nobody ever pays the full amount for the ski pass. There are always discounts available to residents and staff. You organise your ski pass when you arrive. Some hotels have their own ski passes which they allow staff to borrow on their days off.
The winter in The Rockies is bitterly cold, with temperatures at -20C not uncommon. It as been known to drop as cold as -35C! These temperatures are perfect for a ski resort as they mean fantastic snow.
If you want the security of knowing that you have a guaranteed job lined up before you head to Canada, this is the programme for you. Since 2000 we have never failed to find someone a job in Canada. Whilst these roles may not sound like the most glamorous jobs in the world, you have to remember where you are. Paid work abroad means you will be working hard but then having the most amazing days off, enjoying all that the Rockies have to offer.
If you are considering a career in the hospitality industry, working in a hotel in Canada will give you a great opportunity to get behind the scenes in an entry level job and see how a busy hotel keeps running. Working in Canada for a season is a great use of your gap year or career break. Not only will it enhance your CV but it will also enhance your independence and confidence. You will be living and working in another country for 6 months and developing your skills.
You can also save money on this programme, knowing that you will have a ski pass ready to go before you leave home, saving you the expense of buying a pass when in The Rockies.
It can take up to 6 weeks before your first pay cheque arrives so you will need to arrive in Canada with enough money to feed and entertain yourself. We would suggest having a minimum of £1000 available, plus extra if you are buying skis/boots. Once you start earning money, you should be able to live on the money you earn day to day. You might want savings in place to cover any extra trips or outings that you want to do.
Bear in mind that you will need to show at least $2500 in your bank account when you arrive at the boarder.
You will be able to set up a Canadian bank account with the help of our local representative, which you will be able to get a card for. Credit cards are advised for emergencies, as well as enough cash to see you through the first few days. There are ATM’s in the town so you won’t need to take all your cash with you.
You will need to apply for a Canadian IEC Working Holiday permit before you go. To be able to qualify for the working holiday visa, you must be between the ages of 18 and 30, and hold a passport from one of the eligible countries stated by the Canadian Embassy: Australia, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea Rep, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom. This costs C$250 approximately (£150).
You will also need a Police Check for immigration purposes and this costs approximately £45.
We will help with this once you have booked a place on the programme.
Most people book with Oyster on their own and travel with the rest of the group. The group meets at a UK briefing course before you go to Canada.
You will be able to travel with a friend if you wish, please state this on your booking form.
You should visit your doctor or travel nurse to find out what vaccinations you will need. It is likely that only your routine vaccinations will need to be up to date.
There is a hospital located in Banff. For anything more serious, the main hospitals are in Calgary, a 90 minute car journey from Banff.
Working in the resort is a safe job, although you should always follow advice given to you by your employers. Banff is a very safe town but it is always advised to keep valuables secure and stick together when you first arrive.
You will be living in staff accommodation so wherever you are working/living, will be in the heart of the tourist area and within easy reach of the main towns, either a short walk or bus ride away. People working in Kananaskis can get to Banff in about an hour. A bus to the Ski Lifts costs C$15 return from the centre of town (often free with a ski pass). Banff to Lake Louise is a 40 minute drive. A bus to Calgary costs approximately C$50.
Staff accommodation is comfortable and within easy reach of your place of work. You should expect to share a room with another member of staff. This way of living makes it really easy for participants to get to know some of the other staff really well – probably before you actually start work! All of the staff accommodation is self catering so being able to cook is a great help! Some employers will provide you with a meal whilst you are working but that would be it. The cost of the accommodation comes directly off of your pay cheque and usually equates to approximately an hours’ pay per day.
In addition to being able to enjoy skiing mid-week throughout the season at Mount Norquay, your pass also has the following benefits:
- 10% off food in the Lone Pine Pub (located at Norquay base)
- 15% off ski tuning
- 10% off equipment rentals
- 10% off tubing
- 10% off Snow School lessons
- Discounted shuttle pass between Banff and Norquay
- Plus loads more!
NB: Benefits are correct at time of writing.
Mt. Norquay is located just 10 minutes shuttle ride from Banff town and is a great resort to have on your doorstep. The mountain has 38 runs spread over 190 acres and enjoys an average of 300cm of snow each year. Check out the Mount Norquay Trail Map.
If you would rather a ski pass that covers a wider area, we can give you a credit towards other passes instead of the Norquay pass.
Your staff accommodation is self-catered. You may well get a meal on your shift at work. Food in the Rockies generally comes in big portions designed to fill you up after a day in the mountains. There are plenty of restaurants to suit all budgets, offering cuisine from around the world in the main towns. Steaks are a real favourite! If you want to eat out, and are sensible about it, you should be able to pick up a decent meal for C$15.
WiFi is provided in your accommodation. All of the bars, restaurant and cafes provide WiFi access.
You should take an ‘unlocked’ mobile phone with you to Canada (or you can buy a cheap Canadian one) and purchase a local ‘pay as you go’ SIM card. This is useful for contacting the representative and the rest of the group as local calls are very cheap.
You can buy international phone cards to call the UK for $10+tax from any supermarket/phone shop this will give you hundreds of minutes to use any way you like, including calling the UK.
Banff is in Canadian Mountain time which is 7 hours behind GMT (GMT -7)
Canada, like the US, operates on 110V, 60 cycle electric power. You should bring an adapter with you that has a two pronged (flat) plug.
In the winter the main social activities are winter sports – skiing and snowboarding are really popular. You can also go tubing, snow shoeing, ice skating, play ice hockey etc. The resorts of Sunshine, Lake Louise, Norquay and Nakiska are all within easy reach.
Further afield, Calgary is a 2 hour bus ride away with plenty of shopping available and also plenty of Ice Hockey games where you can be a spectator. In the summer, the resort turns into a walkers and bikers paradise with plenty of trails to experience – watch out for the bears! Climbing and rafting are also popular activities.
Generally speaking, the winter season begins at the end of November, the resorts will get busier through December and be at their peak over Christmas and New Year. You may well be working 6 or even 7 days a week at this time. The resorts then fluctuate between being busy and average for the next couple of months – your hours will also fluctuate during this time and you may not quite be getting 5 days work a week. During Easter and any holiday times, the resorts attract more tourists so you would get more hours of work.
You will get to know our representative well in the first few days as they help you settle into life in Canada. You will go through an induction that involves a tour of the resort, assistance with setting up Social Insurance Numbers, bank accounts and mobile phones. You will also be introduced to your employer.
Once you start work, the representative takes more of a back seat role but is there as a helpful friend should you need assistance. Once a month, they will run a meet up with you and the rest of the group. Day to day, you will be under the supervision of your manager and supervisor at work.
Staff at Oyster’s head office and in-country will be responsible for your safety and welfare while you are on our programme. This will start from the moment you are picked up from the airport until the end date of the programme, when you will make your own way back to the airport. If you are arranging your own flights and arriving earlier or later than the rest of the group, you will be responsible for yourself until meeting up with the rest of the group. Before and after the Oyster programme, you will be outside Oyster’s responsibility and should make sure that you act safely and avoid risk. This is also true if you choose to get involved in activities during your time off. We will give you plenty of guidance and advice about this.
Although we are keen to send as many participants as possible this winter, the pandemic has of course brought some uncertainty as to how travel will unfold over the next couple of months.
Here at Oyster, we prioritise managing expectations alongside providing life changing experiences. As things currently stand, it is still unclear as to whether the 20 / 21 ski season will be fully “back to normal”, and it is unknown as to quite how quickly tourism will recover. As the vaccine programmes unfold and clarity resumes on international travel, decisions will be made regarding the staffing levels required on the ski slopes.
We’re very hopeful that we will be about to place all applicants, however, we are not able to guarantee a job role at this moment in time. Instead, we are inviting you to join our waiting list to be considered top priority for the roles in Canada when they become available. By completing an application form and deposit, we’ll still be able to get the ball rolling by providing you with all the assistance you need in familiarising yourself with the programme, obtaining your work permit and understanding the job role provided. This is so that you will be 100% ready to go when the time comes.
We are committed to providing Oyster participants with an amazing experience, wherever that may be. For this reason, we are asking participants to consider a preference list of programmes should we not be able to deliver on your first choice. If for any Covid-related reason your first choice cannot go ahead, we will endeavour to place you in one of your back up choices. Please see the list of alternative ski season options below:
Alternatively, we could offer you any other fantastic Oyster project and your deposit will be transferred. Popular options that skiers have taken in the past include:
- Sports coaching in South Africa
- Paid work in Outback Australia
- Horsemanship course and paid work in Australia
We look forward to providing you with an exciting gap year experience so please get in contact if you have any questions with regard to these programmes.