WS Interview – A seasoned local

Trawling through facts and figures on official websites will only tell you so much about a place; to really get a feel for a town you must go there and talk to a local, and Whistler is no different.

Local folks, local knowledge

For those living around the world who are yet to get into town, that is near impossible, so WhistlerSeason.com set out to provide the next-best thing. We asked Queensland native Joel Walker a few quick questions about life in Whistler from the perspective of a four-season ‘local’.

WS: As someone who has done multiple summers and winters in Whistler, punctuated by a year back home in Australia, what is it about the place which brought you back, and makes you want to stay?

JW: The mountains are the main thing that continue to draw me back here. The type and style of terrain, and the sheer amount of it are what keep me coming back season after season, summer and winter.

WS: For a Whistler winter season worker who hasn’t considered staying for the summer, what’s great about it in your view?

JW: Summer is not just about riding bikes. You get a lot more “non-sport tourists”. There are plenty of lakes, hikes, fishing and other leisurely activities to undertake. Not to mention the days last a lot longer so you have plenty of time to fit everything in.

WS: Any ‘local knowledge’ style tips for life in Whistler?

JW: Do a bit of research in your first few weeks. Figure out a budget quick and find the best places to shop. Most importantly, start talking to anyone and everyone, as the people in Whistler are your best resource for absolutely everything you need. (WS: We can’t stress this enough!)

WS: So the terrain is awesome and the people are great, what about the town? Specifically, any special advice for your countrymen?

JW: Bring more money than you think you’ll need! If you’re just coming for a season you can still work, but you will want to party, go exploring, etc. Unfortunately Whistler is a tourist town, especially in summer, and in a tourist town, those things cost the most money. Other than that; have fun, stay safe, and don’t EVER say “Whis-tralia”.

Cheers Joel, top advice for everyone looking to visit Whistler!

WS Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

The Whistler Season Interview – Whistler Bike Park Guide

As Spring is well underway, and excitement for the opening of the Whistler Mountain Bike Park grows (May 16th, 2014), WhistlerSeason.com took the opportunity to speak to a past member of the Whistler Bike Park guide team, John Butler, from Auckland, about his experiences working day-in, day-out, in the world’s most famous mountain bike park.

WS: Given its reputation, a lot of folk will be looking to come to Whistler to work for the summer, and some will doubtless be hoping to work as a Whistler Bike Park Guide. For those not familiar with what it may entail, it sounds like a dream job. Would you say that is the case in reality?

JB: Shy of becoming a pro athlete, working for Whistler Blackcomb is the stuff dreams are made of. As a guide I thought that. I can’t speak for people in any of the other positions, especially not the lifties or patrol who have to clean up our mess.

WS: Sounds pretty good then! Surely there must be quite an application process for a position with such responsibility? What was it like given that you are from New Zealand?

JB: The recruitment process is a little bit of a marathon if you’re on a temporary work visa and need to establish yourself in Whistler first. But it’s all jumping through hoops and isn’t overly difficult for anybody who speaks English as their first language. One must apply through the website and attend any/all courses needed for the position though. The Level 1 and 2 mountain bike instructor courses are thorough and a great chance to meet your fellow guides. Level 1 being very basic and what you need to know as a guide so as not to end up in a lawsuit. Level 2 is much more theory about riding techniques and proved to be very useful for future guiding/coaching positions. It’s all stuff that I do instinctively as a mountain biker, but struggled to teach others.

John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park
John Butler at work, Top of the World trail, Whistler Mountain Bike Park

WS: That sounds pretty thorough. So once you are qualified, are you given a set rota, or have you got to scout for work?

JB: Working as a guide is very casual, and you only reap what you sow. There are days that you are scheduled to work and guarantee a bit of income, but the days you choose to turn up on your own accord could be fruitless or result in a full 6 hour ride with complete shredders. The level of rider proficiency varies in extremes, as does the amount of work available for guides. Thank god Canada has a tipping culture otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to eat some days – no joke. Customer service is highly valued and is rewarded as such.

WS: That may come as a surprise to some people heading here, but the positives have got to outweigh that, right?

JB: Yeah, for sure. Obviously the main perk of working for any mountain is having your season pass paid for. To make sure this actually happens, be sure to turn up and lock down a job at the beginning of the season. After that, your work kit is all supplied by Whistler Blackcomb, including Dakine riding gear, tyres and brake pads as you need them. This can save you a fortune! Subsidized food and bike parts at the GBB make life that little bit sweeter too. Everybody loves a staff discount!

WS: Final thoughts?

JB: Probably the final, almost unspoken perk is working with a bunch of like-minded people who make it that much better to work for Whistler Blackcomb.

Thanks to John for that insight into working as a Whistler Bike Park guide. Look out for further interviews with seasonaires and residents to find out more about life in Whistler!

Insider Part Three: Save Money in Whistler

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

This is an area open to your own interpretation; you can save money in a fairly significant way, but it does involve some effort. It essentially boils down to a play-off between what you’re willing to risk and sacrifice, or what you’re willing to spend.

Save money on accommodation in Whistler

We’ve covered this in more depth in our Whistler accommodation pages, but a few points are worth noting. If you want a private room, be prepared to really pay for it. Ask yourself how much time you will realistically be spending in it, and whether some earplugs/headphones wouldn’t be a whole lot cheaper… Same goes for location; you may save money living out of the village, but a monthly bus pass and fewer amenities may not equate to money well-saved. Some rooms are advertised as unfurnished, and are consequently cheaper. Craigslist advertises a wealth of free stuff, so if you have a friend with a truck, you might be onto a winner.

It’s also well worth checking out the Re-Use-It Centre and the Re-Build-It Centre run by Whistler Community Services Society. Both of these community focused projects are located in Function Junction, Whistler, and sell a huge variety of second-hand household items from saucepans to sofas, and almost everything in between. Prices are extremely low, so be ready to possibly kit out your new digs for $100 or less!

Save on banking costs in Whistler

Canadian banks offer accounts at varying costs per month, often depending on the of number of transactions. Work out how often you are going to use you card, and go from there. Read our Banking guide for a quick rundown on Opening a bank account in Whistler. You will be charged for using other banks’ ATMs, so either embrace the extra walk, or pick a bank closest to where you live/work. For those in hospitality, living off tips (if you get enough) is a great way to save your actual wage.

Cell phone savings

Canadian phone plans are limited to region (e.g. a Whistler number will be charged roaming in Vancouver), and very expensive for what they offer. As such, many seasonaires go without. A smartphone and almost blanket WiFi coverage mean that Skype, Google chat, Facebook, What’s App etc. can all be used to keep in touch for free. However, if your manager decides to change your shift, and can’t get through to you, expect consequences. Rolling up to work when you could have had a lie-in/fresh tracks, only to find your shift has changed does not equal happy times. Read our introduction to cell phones – Choosing a cell phone in Whistler – for more information.

Save money with sensible food shopping

Whistler is 120km from Vancouver, so most things have to be driven up there. Thus it is considerably more expensive. Of almost mythical renown amongst seasonaires is the ‘Shopping Trip to Squamish’. Pretty self-explanatory; someone you know is going to Squamish (home of large food stores and lower prices), they ask for a few bucks for gas, and everyone loads up on vats of milk, cooking oil, pasta, cereal, etc. This is likely a worthwhile venture for the longer-term. Some stores even offer free shipping, so do your research first.

Many restaurants and cafes allow their employees one free meal per shift, which certainly saved me a whole lot of dollars. Scouting around the village reveals various cheap food options, from re-heated day-old pizza slices (hey don’t knock it!), to the now legendary Baked Potato and toppings from a certain establishment for a mere $3.49 inc tax.

Other, more alternative schemes

These comprise all sorts of ideas, each requiring a certain amount of inventiveness. One guy I lived with decided bread was too expensive (valid point), so he hitched to the Re-Use-It Centre in Function Junction, bought a bread machine for a few dollars, got a lift to Squamish to buy sacks of flour and yeast, and subjected the machine to such heavy usage that it eventually burnt out and died. He did however save money in the long run.

Others crochet woolly hats and sell them online/in the village. Others offer language exchange or resume help. Such schemes obviously require effort, and are not guaranteed a regular return. But if you’ve got a skill then it’s worth trying to leverage a few dollars for your time.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass

Insider Part Two: The Whistler Work, Ride, Party, Sleep Balance

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

Arguably the hardest art to master, the balance between what you want to do, and what you have to do, is something which only you can figure out. There are pros and cons to everything; believe it or not, you can ski too much, and you can definitely party too much. However, sometimes such things are unavoidable, so here are a few secrets which can be employed to get you through your day/shift.

Nutrition

Waking up aching and sore every day isn’t conducive to getting up for first lifts. Whilst they may seem to be the preserve of gym rats and athletes, recovery supplements such as protein shakes can in fact be found in the bedrooms of many long-time seasonaires. Learn from those who know!

The Cure

Some swear by poutine as the ultimate hangover cure, specifically from a certain shack on the way to the lifts (hint: it begins with ‘Z’). This is an exclusively Canadian speciality – just like the Caeser (another Canadian hangover cure) – so take advantage of it.

Socialising

Not so much a secret, more a recommendation to go drinking (no, really!). Going out in any ski resort is expensive, and Whistler is no different. However, due to most seasonaires living in private housing, rather than in the places where they work (e.g. European chalets and hotels), there are a lot of house parties. The close-knit community and hospitable attitude means that most people know someone at the venue, and as long as you bring your own drinks, friends of friends are usually welcomed. These parties are rad for a few reasons: First, you spend far less, second; you meet far more people than you would in a public venue, where people tend to interact only within their group. Thirdly, when you bump into said acquaintances on the mountain, an impromptu riding crew forms, often resulting in some of the best memories of the season. A flat-out 12-man train down A-Line has to be experienced to be believed, and the thought alone is often enough to get you through a seemingly endless shift.

Powder

For those here for the winter, there is NOTHING on earth which cures a hangover like fresh tracks. Do everything you must to crawl out of bed and onto the lift. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Water

Sometimes, only a bit of R+R will do. In the summer, Whistler’s many lakes are a haven of cool water, grassy shade, and rope swings of varying gnarliness. Lost Lake and Alta Lake are particular favourites. In Winter, find a friend with a hot tub if your house is one of the few without. Cold beer + hot tub = win.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass

Insider Part One: The Service Industry in Whistler

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of ‘Insider’ posts by our contributor Ed White.

The service industry is the source of most seasonal jobs in Whistler. Dishwashers, line cooks, servers, and bar staff all come and go, and there is a ready supply of newcomers waiting to fill the gaps. For the most part, pay ranges from $10.25 (minimum wage) to around $12-13 per hour depending on experience and expertise. Tipping is prevalent in Whistler, so if you’re lucky enough to land a job in a bar or restaurant frequented by tourists then you’ll take home some extra cash. Shifts are most often single blocks, usually around 8 hours duration with an unpaid, optional break.

Bars and Restaurants

Use some common sense – don’t try and hand your resume to the flustered waitress during lunch service expecting her to rush it straight to the manager, when she is serving four tables of families all demanding menu alterations. Either go in the morning, if open, or in the afternoon, before evening service commences (between 3-5pm is ideal). If at all possible, try and speak directly to the manager or section leader, and briefly talk them through your resume. They already have 60 pieces of identical paper swimming around their desks, so try and make yours the one they read.

Similarly, asking bar staff about potential jobs at 9pm on a Friday night whilst they pour your beer is also somewhat optimistic, if not downright naïve.

Sports and Rental Shops

The same restrictions apply here, except the mornings and weekends are the no-go time. There are a great deal of holiday-makers and day-trippers renting gear, and the staff will be flat-out trying to accommodate them all. It is not unusual for the managers to be involved in this as well, so hold off until the middle of the day when everyone is out on the slopes.

Preferred Jobs in the Service Industry

Presumably you are coming here to ride, so the best jobs are those which give you the most mountain time. In the winter, lifts operate roughly 08:30 – 16:00 (depending on hours of daylight), so evening shifts allow you to get fresh tracks, and a solid ride before work. Just beware that 4 hours of charging powder must be followed by 8+ hours on your feet waiting tables or pouring drinks.

For the bulk of summer, the bike park operates until 8pm, so a job which finishes around lunchtime gives you plenty of time to smash turns and float jumps. One summer I worked in a kitchen 6am – 2pm, and enjoyed hours of dusty alpine laps in a deserted bike park flooded with evening sun. Recommended if you can stand the heat!

If you prefer, some employers offer a 4 x 10-hour week, giving you maximum time to get outdoors. However, you obviously won’t be on the hill for 4 days at a time, unless you enjoy the dawn patrol. Tourism Whistler is one such employer: www.whistler.com/careers. Also check out Whistler Blackcomb’s job listings page for regularly updated available positions.

Part One – Tips for Service Industry Jobs
Part Two – Work Life Balance
Part Three – Saving Money
Part Four – The Lift Pass

The Ultimate Whistler Jobs Guide

Thousands arrive in this amazing resort town every year with the hope of spending a season working and having fun in this awesome playground. Here’s our ultimate guide to finding jobs in Whistler.

Where to Find a Job?

You will find job listings on Craigslist and in one of the local newspapers, Pique Newsmagazine. However, the best way to find a job is out on the beat! Print off a bunch of resumes and drop them into every bar, restaurant, shop and club in the village. Dress smart, be polite, ask for the manager and check out our job tips!

Jobs Fairs

Large employers usually host jobs fairs from mid October to November.  Some jobs fairs you have to pre-register to attend. Whistler Blackcomb host the biggest jobs fair, usually one for resort staff and one for bar and restaurant staff. You can check the Whistler Blackcomb employment page for the most current information on upcoming job fairs and how to register.

Other employers who host jobs fairs are:

The Fairmount Chateau
The Four Seasons Hotel
The Gibbons Hospitality Group (Buffalo Bills/Longhorns/Tapley’s/Garfinkel’s/The FireRock Lounge)

They usually advertise dates – and whether or not you will need to pre-register – in the local press. Follow us on Facebook for Jobs Fair updates.

Recruitment Abroad

The below agencies are used by Whistler Blackcomb to recruit overseas:

All Tracks
Oyster
Universal Student Exchange
The Working Holiday Club
Yes Tours

The above agencies can be very helpful in finding your dream job in Whistler, but they do charge for their services. If you are on a budget you can always just land in Whistler and with a little determination you will be able to pick up a job quickly enough.

Top 10 tips for finding a job in Whistler

1. Get to Whistler early

The mountains open for the Winter season in late November. However, recruiting can start as early as mid-October. This is the best time to get here for a choice of jobs. Most job fairs are at the end of October or early November.

2. ‘Resume-bomb’ the village

Pound the pavement and drop a resume into each bar, restaurant, hotel and shop in the village. Ask for the manager where possible. They get so many applications so it’s always good to try meet them in person and make an impression.

3. Dress smart

A tux is over the top but wear smart jeans and a nice top and you will be fine.

4. Be polite

Speak clearly and politely. Don’t say man, dude, homes or bru!

5. Get two references

If you can, get two written references before you arrive in Whistler. If you have never worked before, then teachers, principals and lecturers will do just fine.

6. Revisit

After you drop in a resume, if you don’t hear anything after a few days then drop in again and check if there are any vacancies. As above, it’s always good to meet the managers in person.

7. Go to job fairs

These are usually held in October and November, but make sure you like us on Facebook to keep updated with the latest job options in Whistler.

8. Prepare for interviews

Research a company before you go to an interview. Think about the questions you will be asked and prepare your answers.

9. Keep your options open

Many places hire too many people at the start. So sometimes it can work to have two part-time jobs, then keep the one you like.

10. Smile

Honestly, it will help a lot! Whistler is a service-based resort economy. Businesses like happy staff.

 

Interview Questions

To make life even easier for you we’ve drafted up some commonly asked interview questions and answers. For the most part they are pretty straight-forward but a little bit of preparation goes a long way!

Question 1. Tell me about yourself

The best way to answer this is to briefly outline 3-5 strengths about yourself you know will be key to the job. So for example if it was a customer service job; you may mention in a previous position you dealt regularly face to face with customers, how in school/college you always possessed strong communications skills and/or that your communications were further honed in many of the team sports you played.

Question 2. Why do you want to work here?

It’s important when answering this question that you explain why you want to work at this particular organisation as opposed to just why you want a job in general. The interviewer wants to know you have thought about where you want to work and in particular why you are a good match for the organisation. For example for a job with the mountain you might say ‘I researched working at Whistler Blackcomb a lot before i came out and from then have always had my heart set on working for the mountain. In particular i was really able to identify with the core values and the mission statement of the resort. Making Whistler Blackcomb the number 1 resort is something i really want to be part of’.

Question 3. What are your strengths?

Before the interview identify what strengths would be good for the job. Then at the interview explain how you have these strengths. If you feel you have time give an example of when you have used those strengths.

Question 4. What are your weaknesses?

Before the interview identify a strength that you could say is a weakness. For example if the job was to be a room attendent you might explain how sometimes you can be obsessed with fine details or another example for a customer service job where it is important to talk to customers you might say your weakness is that you never stop talking.

Questions 5. What experience do you have?

If you have prior experience outline where you worked and what you did. If you have no relevant experience outline another job or time in school in college where you have used relevant skills. Failing that tell a few porkies!

Question 6. Tell me about a time you have shown initiative?

This is a good one to have preplanned as it comes up a lot and can be hard to think of on the spot.  An example might be for a server that a barman asked for a suggestion for a drink of the day and you told him a new cocktail.

Questions 7. Tell me about a time you have had to deal with a troublesome customer?

This is easy enough just explain how in a previous job you assisted a cranky customer. Explain how at first you listened and empathized with the customer, calming them down and then proceeded to find a resolution that left the customer smiling.

Question 8. What do you know about our company?

Before the interview read up a bit about the company and what it will be like to work there.