Info for people considering a season in Canada (Banff/Whistler mostly)

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Info for people considering a season in Canada (Banff/Whistler mostly)

Avatar for Kiwi_hayley

Total Posts: 305

Joined 2011-05-08

Ok so I’ve got a lot of useful info from this site.. so this is my time to give back on the topic I know!

Working holidays in Canada Ski season.
All prices are stated in Canadian dollars.

The following is based on my experience, I’m sure some people may agree and others may have the opposite opinion – travel is so changeable and depends on the people of the season. 
My experience is in Banff, AB and Whistler, BC – so this will mostly apply to them.


Australians (lucky buggers): 2 years from the age 18-31. Able to renew (including whilst in Canada) as many times as you like. Unlimited number of visas issued for Australia.

New Zealanders: 1 year. Ages 18-35. Eligible for it ONCE. 2500 visas issued each year for New Zealand. Letter of introduction is valid for a year upon receiving and your visa is activated once you enter the country for 12months from that day.

UK: 1 year. Ages 18-30. Unsure on reapplication. 5,350 visas issued each year.

Application takes 6-8weeks generally.


Banff, AB:

Banff is a small town. One main street. Two bus routes.

Skifields :Sunshine, Lake Louise and Norquay (all within 20min drive.) With many more in the Canadian rockie region.

Nightlife: Sunday is the main night for “locals” to go out and party, but almost any night after 11pm you will find the towns 2 nightclubs packed to the brim. The main night club would be Sasquatch. There are also many pubs in Banff.

Shops: A bunch of tourist shops. Hudson bay (“The Bay” a fancy department store.. but on miniscule scale in Banff. Forget it, you can’t afford anything!). A pharmacy, an electronics store and an underwear store probably conclude what you can afford outside of tourist stores. There’s a thrift store and that is the only place you can buy bedding in Banff.

Housing: A house is pretty hard to come by in Banff, virtually impossible from Nov (I don’t know when it starts to get easy again). Finding a room in a house in Banff isn’t too bad – well a shared mattress on the floor) Except to be paying around $600 per month each (much more if you wanted your own room). Because of the buses infrequency and early finishing time I would definitely recommend getting a place walking distance from town (and remember it gets to -30oC for a while so walking distance is shorter than you would usually consider). If you are going with a group try sort this out online before you head out. Generally staff housing means living on hill.. only accessible by gondola and 20min bus ride. You either will love it or hate it.

Hostels: HI Banff is a bit further out but you get a free bus pass. They provide a “job seekers package” with two weeks accom –refundable on nights you haven’t used. Also for the skifield staff it’s $11 per night. There’s a pretty sweet bar downstairs. And the place is always noisy with something going on. Don’t be off put by it’s location, it isn’t actually that inconvenient.

Samesun: More expensive and more people in the dorms, however it is right in the heart of town and some of the dorm rooms have their own hot tubs.

Weather: It gets cold in Banff. REALLY cold. Like.. REALLY COLD. I’m talking you walk outside and something stabs up your nose then you realize it’s your nose hairs freezing. Dress appropriately and you’ll be fine.. and most people don’t leave the house when it’s -30oC, the skifields don’t open then either. Also this isn’t the whole season.

Wildlife: The beauty of Banff is coming home to your hostel only to find the doorway blocked by a giant Elk, or to have a wolf run out of your driveway. Deer a plenty. You are living in a national park and from the wildlife strutting
around it really does feel like it!

Calgary: Should you want to get out of Banff for a trip it’s $100 return to bus to Calgary. Now this is my personal opinion, but you know how they call New York “the city that doesn’t sleep”… Calgary is “the city that doesn’t wake”. It has a weird vibe (actually I’ve heard that from everyone I know who has been there) There are two hostels. The main one being on the outskirts of town next to the homeless shelter, and you can find it packed with 50-60year old oil rig workers.  Unless you have friends there I really wouldn’t recommend planning to spend too much time there, especially not in the middle of winter.

When to go: I arrived right at the start of skiseason, thinking I was being economical and not understanding why people arrived 6wks etc earlier. Well turns out a lot of the roads and hiking trails close then. So I believe you’re better off to find out when that is and head out a few weeks prior to that.

Whistler, BC:

Whistler is a fair bit bigger than Banff, and more spread out. However its bus system is amazing (ok they either run behind or ahead, and the drivers are a bit scary.. but for $65 unlimited bus trips a month it’s worth it.) Buy your bus pass as soon as you arrive (I was talked out of it as it was halfway through the month already.. and ended up spending FAR more than $65) and make sure you get a house close enough to the bus route. The buses run until after the bars close.

Skifields: Whistler Blackcomb. Self-professed as possibly the best in the world. Whistler doesn’t disappoint. Avoid weekends and you’re fine. Make friends with someone whos done last season and get them to show you the tree runs. If you know the right people you can find spots that still have “fresh tracks” towards the end of the day.

Nightlife: Many nightclubs, many pubs. Whistler is bustling any night of the week. All you have to do is ask around and you’ll find something.
Shops: There’s a few more retail shops in
Whistler. GAP can have cheap t-shirts/pants. Also the Re-use it centre is amazing for bargins, if you head there at the start of the season you’ll pick up a bunch of cheap quality gear left behind from last seasons seasonal workers.

Avatar for Kiwi_hayley

Total Posts: 305

Joined 2011-05-08

Housing: Again housing is pretty hard to come by depending on when you arrive in Whistler. Even a single bed in a house can take a while to find, craigslist and kijiji are your friends. Also the local magazine called “PIQUE” has housing/jobs listed in and comes out on a Thursday. Again you’re looking at upward of $500 per month for a shared room. Apparently staff housing is really awesome.

Hostels: I haven’t stayed at one in Whistler. However the HI is a bit out of the way, but with the bus system again it is no problem and don’t quote me but I think they may provide you with a bus pass whilst you’re staying there.
Weather: It doesn’t get THAT cold in Whistler, despite what the Aussies may tell you! If you’re worried about the cold then Whistler may be a better option for you. (Its Feb now and we’re having beautiful days 7oC etc.)

Wildlife: Whistler is the bear capital of Canada. You will see a bear at some point! Most likely summer.

Vancouver: If you feel the need to “get out of the bubble” as the locals say then Vancouver is a $45 return trip Greyhound down the road. I love Vancouver. There’s always something going on, something to see. Good vibes.

When to go: Anytime has its perks and downfalls. Completely up to you.

You have a couple of options:

-Buy it in a city once you arrive (at a MUCH cheaper price than you’ll pay in a resort town,

-Buy it in Banff/Whistler… In Banff there actually isn’t much variety at all, so I’d really be reluctant to suggest that. Whistler isn’t quite as bad.
If you’re after secondhand again Craigslist and Kijiji are your friends, but depending on which time of the season you arrive it might not be great.

If you want to work on a skifield then applications are usually a few months prior to the season and have job fairs. Generally these jobs pay minimum wage (around $9.50 an hour) but come with a free ski pass ($1800 for one at Whistler). 

Unless you’re hardcore I would say don’t get a job outdoors in Banff, it’s not worth it. Whistler would be fine though.

Bar/service jobs go to the best looking people with a bit of experience. These are good because they mean you can ride at day and also get tips.

Housekeeping has hidden perks. Depending on where you work you get to keep any food alcohol you find, and also tips. Get a job housekeeping in a 4+ star hotel and you’ll be amazed at the tips and food/alcohol people leave behind (The other week I got a $20 tip everyday!)


You know those programs you pay $600 and they get you a job etc before you head out. If you’re really anxious then maybe this is for you.
I went with IEP and they were useless. They got me a job, which I ended up quitting 8 weeks later..

However I have heard rave reviews about gapyearcanada (for banff). Majority of the kids on this were around the 18-20 year old age group. They place you in a house with other gapyearcanada people and you prepay your rent in the program fees.

For Whistler however, I would say it is a waste of money, unless you really want to work at the skifield and don’t want to come over early for the job fair.

Apparently summer is amazing in both these locations too. Your visa also allows your to become a summer camp councilor should you require (despite the fact it says you can’t work in childcare, apparently this doesn’t count – unless you want to work at a disabled camp then you need the childcare stipulation lifted.) Canadas tourism actually increases in summer. So make sure you think about summer before you go ahead and book only for the winter season!


Banff: You need to head to Canmore to do so.
Whistler: You need to head to Squamish to do so.

It’d be a lot easier to do this before you get to your region. It doesn’t take too long and is a lot easier in the city.


Checkout fees for each, but also select one that is in your region. Most cost about $12 per month for unlimited transactions (which unless you want to withdraw cash from your banks ATM and use that instead of your card is definitely the way to go!). CIBC offers Aeroplan (star alliance member) airpoints upon signing up.
Super easy to sign up. Just need two forms of ID (passport, credit card) you don’t need a fixed address.


Buy an early bird season pass once you’ve decided where you want to go. The skifields (well check before but this is true for majority) reimburse you for it if you get a job with them.

For the love of god please make sure your insurance covers skiing/snowboarding. I’ve spoken to two people this week who have come out for the season and injured themselves only to find their insurance doesn’t cover it.
Really that was my only criteria.. I’m with globalnomads. I haven’t had to claim with them yet but know they are cheap and cover snowboarding.

Everywhere you go (well resort towns) you will run into a lot of Brits and Australians, you will meet only a few Canadians in these places. Embrace it!

You’ll spend more money than you think. You’ll earn less than you want. Take as much as you can and be really sensible with it.

Say hi to Ramen noodles, they’ll be your new friends.  Come up with some crafty varieties on ramen. Treat yourself with mince.

Everyone from outside North America hates tipping. Yes, you earn nothing either. But it is the custom. 12% is BC and I think 15% in AB. Just do it. It is how it is.

Tax isn’t included in the list price of things. So don’t stand at mcds counting out your $1.30 in pennys and quarters only to get surprised when you reach the counter and they tell you it’s actually $1.47. This applies for bus passes, hostel beds, ski passes.. EVERYTHING! Just keep that in mind.

I’ve also known people who have gone to small skifields and REALLY small towns (Golden, BC Revelstoke, BC) and LOVED it! So don’t discount that either!

Avatar for Kiwi_hayley

Total Posts: 305

Joined 2011-05-08

Hope this helps.

Anything else just ask!

I spent 2 months in Banff working as a liftie and have currently been in Whistler almost 2 month


Total Posts: 1

Joined 2012-02-26

Hi Kiwi_Hayley,

Thanks for all this info - super helpful!

Planning to do a season in Canada and would love to run a chalet with my partner. Did you coe across any?  It seems to be more a European thing…


Total Posts: 7

Joined 2010-05-30

Nice review Hayley! Where are you working now? Staying for the summer?

Couple of Whistler additions: Sadly the HI Hostel doesn’t give you a bus pass… but like you said, $65p.m. for a pass is pretty good value!

You can get a SIN in Whistler if you aren’t in a rush - thety run an outreach office in the tourist info center every month or so… e.g. next one is on March 21st.

If you would like a little more Whistler advice take a look at our Season Guide :


Total Posts: 1

Joined 2012-02-19

London interviews for Whistler Blackcomb 23-28 July 2013. Contact The Working Holiday Club -

Lift pass and Staff housing guaranteed


Total Posts: 2

Joined 2015-08-05

So I am am currently planning a trip to Canada for the ski season. I haven’t gone through a company because I thought I would try and save money.
I want to work at Whistler, but all the Australian sites say they wont hire now. My close friends and family say that I can easily get a job over there. I have a bit of money up my sleeve (but I’m not rich).
My question is do you really think someone can just go over and, if they are willing enough, get a job?
I don’t really care what job it is.
Also if I did a job, would I stay in a hostel? Because from what I gather, you can only stay in a hostel for a limited amount of time.

Thanks for you time,
- Connor

Avatar for Cleo

Total Posts: 12

Joined 2015-01-12

Have you looked on job sites? Sometimes they have listings where you don’t have to pay to work, but actually get paid. You could try that? raspberry


Total Posts: 2

Joined 2015-08-05

Like “under the table”? zipper