Many people choose to do a ski season, to pursue their love of skiing, snow and general mayhem.
It’s a great way to take the expense out of skiing all the while having an absolute blast. With roles to suit everyone - it’s no surprise so many Brits escape the mediocre UK winter and head on down to places like Courchevel and Val d'Isère to work a season abroad…
But why not go further, to the other side of the world perhaps and see what the southern hemisphere has in store.
We’ve all heard that winter is coming and this is your chance to experience it all year round, working a ski season is one of the best careers in NZ.
So why New Zealand?
With a similar climate, incredible landscapes, some good grub and a great sense of humour - When you combine Kiwi’s with some epic slopes… a ski season in New Zealand makes perfect sense.
Not only will you have an active social life, you’ll have an opportunity to ski on some of the world’s most breathtaking volcanic mountains (Whakapapa is still very much active) and take on the superb ski conditions on both the North and South Island. Ski resort jobs in New Zealand are the new hot thing.
Skiing in the Southern Island is becoming more and more popular; it used to be rare that visits would hit above a million but NZ’s little secret was revealed and now the kiwi slopes are attracting over 1'427'000 skiier visits per year with the numbers rapidly growing.
Figures taken from the 2017 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism - Overview of the key industry figures for ski resorts April 2017
People will usually head to either of the two resort towns in the Southern Island.
Queenstown is an incredibly popular base for Coronet peak and the Remarkables. The Remarkables, although a little further out than Coronet Peak (by about an hour) hosts incredible views. The drive is a bit tougher, and some sections are not for the faint hearted, but there is a regular shuttle bus that departs regularly from Queenstown snow centre - it's good value, easy and accessible, giving you no excuse not to visit.
The other go to southern ski town is Wanaka, which is around an hour away from the slopes at Treble Cone and Cardrona.
In the North
But it’s not just about the South, oh no, in the North Island, you’ll find Mount Ruapehu. Rising 2797m out of the Central Plateau, to be able to ski on an active volcano is a bucket list item for snow seekers and adrenaline junkies alike... and with the two largest commercial fields in NZ - you can choose either Whakapapa on the Northern side and Turoa on the south.
Don’t be put off by the fact that Mt Ruapehu is the largest active in the world.. the last eruption was in 2007 and aside from some rumblings, it’s not stopped the New Zealanders from making this the top ski destination in the North Island.
Overall New Zealand boasts 23 ski areas, 13 of which are commercial. Which means you’ll have plenty of choice to where you want to go and which mountains you want to conquer.
You can expect good snow conditions, even if not as light as Europe and Japan with their maritime climate, there’s still heaps of it. The average snowfall ranges from 2 metres in the South Island, by the Queenstown resorts to over 5 metres towards Christchurch and Wanaka. There is often plenty of snow, the slopes are also topped up by the snow cannons.
Skiing in New Zealand is also above the tree line so expect wide open alpine bowls of snow, don’t mind if we do.
Off the slopes
The Kiwi’s have it covered, expect a thriving party scene and a lot of encouragement to experience it!
Queenstown alone boasts over 130 bars, taverns and drinking venues in one square kilometre… so if a good apres ski scene features high on your agenda, tick that one straight off your list.
Our favourite apres ski hangouts
- Barmuda, perfect for a mulled wine by the fire after a day on the slopes
- Surreal, for the avid sports fans - this bar plays UK sports channels
- Perky’s - it’s a stationary boat on Lake Wakatipu, amazing mulled wine and cool little experience
- 1876 for their great happy hour deals
Wanaka is a bit more laid back but still has loads of bars, restaurants and the all important pubs.
Times to go
Ski jobs in New Zealand are popular, so you have to time it right. The season will kick off in mid-June and will run for 4 months, so it’s Perfect if you’re planning to travel between June - October. It is slightly shorter than other seasons but that’s as it’s at a lower altitude.
As with all seasonal jobs, the earlier you arrive the better. Arriving mid-season or missing the pre-season hiring surge may leave you in a precarious position. Don’t miss the transfer window!
Most companies will look to get their staff in place as early as February or March.
Where to work
For those who haven’t done a season before or have never skied. No worries, you don’t need to be a pro skiier or snowboarder to work on the slopes.
You can work to your skill set, do what suits you and use your free time to enjoy the slopes and apres ski - after all, life’s all about balance.
Backpacker jobs in New Zealand differ to the Northern Hemisphere as the resorts are set up a little differently. Unlike the Northern Hemisphere, people tend to live and stay down in the valley, then will drive up to the slopes daily. Almost like a commuting role, although very different to the London rat race.
Jobs in Queenstown, during the ski season, tend to revolve around the two ski fields. You’ll also be able to find work in the local bars and restaurants in the city itself. Wanaka is a bit smaller, with Treble cone only employing around 200 staff per season.
The layout of the ski fields differ as there's generally no big resort, just a club house, lift ticket office, a restaurant, and a hire shop. Which means you aren’t going to have your typical chalet based roles, as there aren’t any chalets to care for - instead there are larger hospitality roles where you will be able to use the same skills in a large team environment.
Types of roles at the resorts
Although there is a difference in the setup of the hotels and resorts, the roles are very similar. There’s definitely a good mix of working holiday job roles available within each resort.
Some of the more skilled positions will need experience, or sometimes qualifications, when applying - whilst for others no direct experience is necessary. Which is great for those who are looking to try something completely new.
Positions with no experience required
- Ski Instructor (Qualified)
- Rental Technician
- Line Cook (Some food prep skills)
- Chef (Qualified)
Hotel Positions – 12 months experience or professional training required.
- Hotel Front Desk
- Hotel Guest Services
- Fine Dining Restaurant Waiter/Waitress
- Experienced Bar/Cocktail Maker
- House Keeping
- Sous Chef
The standard hourly rate for our gap year positions is NZ$15 per hour, although for skilled positions, i.e. Ski Patrollers and Chefs, you’ll be paid more.
When comparing this to how much you would get paid to work a ski season in Australia, it’s easier to convert to US dollars for a direct comparison.
In Australia you are looking at earning around $14.30 as a starting wage.
New Zealand does come in slightly lower at around $10.70.
But when asking yourself if you’d rather work a ski season in Australia or New Zealand, consider the following…
Your rent is going to cost more and the initial price of the working holiday visa is about double the price for Australia than NZ.
|Australia ($USD)||New Zealand ($USD)|
|Working holiday Visa||$351||$166|
1 bed apartment outside of Centre
|Australia ($USD)||New Zealand ($USD)|
Prices in USD - recorded September 2017, subject to variation.
So overall, although it pays a little less, you’ll be able to afford a lot more… of the important things.
How much does it all cost?
- Ski pass prices
We’ve looked at a cross section of day passes for the slopes to give a general idea, but with most resort roles - this will either be heavily discounted or waived, depending on your role.
NZSki own Coronet Peak, The Remarks and Mt Hutt (which is close to Christchurch). So you end up working for NZSki you'll get your ski passes paid for, and have access all 3 resorts... plus when you're working you'll be able to ski on your breaks too!
Taken from 2017 price list, subject to change.
The average lift pass price for a day on the hill ranges from around NZ$65 in the club fields to NZ$100 at the more commercial fields
Combination flexi passes are available for Treble Cone and Cardrona, to give you choices on the day.
What makes it so special?
Different to your average season
New Zealand as we already know is pretty special and even skiing isn’t immune to a truly Kiwi twist. Bring on the helicopters.
Heli-skiing is the very popular venture which allows riders and skiiers to have access to remote terrain. Experience fresh, untouched powder and take your skiing stories to new heights. Major commercial heli ski companies operate out of Mt Cook, Wanaka, Methven and Queenstown but you’ll departures from 10 different bases.
The New Zealand culture is rich and varied. The start of the winter season also coincides with the Matariki festival which is held throughout New Zealand. An important celebration in the Maori calendar, it marks the beginning of the new year.
Alongside working a Ski season in New Zealand you’ll have countless opportunities to learn about the incredible traditions and learn what makes this nation very unique.
Our top Queenstown Festivities are:
- WinterFest - Winterfest is a huge festival held in Queenstown - people from all over the country will come to Queenstown for the festival, and hotels and hostels will be booked out for the week.
- Gay Ski Week - at the end of the season - again amazing. Same deal with hotels and hostels.
- Winter Games - heaps of sweet winter activities - skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey, curling and a big ol' festival at the end. It's pretty sweet as it's on the telly and everything, so they go all-out. Everyone heads up the mountain to watch and skiiers of all levels (including Olympians) turn up too.
The best thing about NZ has to be the scenery, it's 100% one of the most stunningly beautiful places on the planet with so much to offer!
On my days off we would either be shredding it up on one of the mountains or playing frisbee golf with mates!
Olivia - Kiwi and Kiwi Seasonnaire
Throw in hot springs, jet skiing, bunjee jumping and I think we’ve got quite an incredible day off the slopes planned.
But, all in all, here are our top reasons a ski season in New Zealand should be next on your list
- Incredible landscapes
- Great slopes and fields
- Active Apres ski
- Rich Culture
- Kiwi’s in General
- Diverse Resort roles
- Heli Skiing
- Active Volcano
- The best commute ever
We think it’s time for an adventure… don’t you?
Apply now to secure your spot on the slopes.