Making the move

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From the Travel Guide 2011 issue

Quit your job, move to a ski town and find a night job so you can ski every day all winter. Remember, if you don’t do it this year, you’ll only be one year older when you do.

Okay, I’m paraphrasing, but in case you’re planning on taking the advice that Warren Miller has consistently given his audiences for decades and relocating to Whistler for a season or longer, thought I’d share some thoughts on how to make that transition as pain-free as possible. Having done it myself a number of years ago, I highly recommend making the big move, but also recommend planning your assault before arriving in town.

Here are a few suggestions:

Prepare to be unemployed —or homeless: If you’re planning to come out for the winter, you basically have two choices: arrive early enough to find somewhere decent to live – and expect not to work until Christmas – or, land here later when some Help Wanted signs appear, and struggle to find somewhere to sleep at night.

Land a mountain job: Even though people like to complain about working for Intrawest, the big guy in town, doing so offers some fairly advantageous perks, especially for someone new to town – think ski pass, access to staff accommodation, food discounts and often a ski locker.

Move into staff housing:If you manage to land that mountain job, consider moving right in. Staff housing is a great way to get settled in town without committing to a six – or 12-month lease and paying an outrageous rent at a time when you may not have much of an income. If you manage to get hired by the mountain without coming to town, you might even be able to secure staff housing before arriving, thereby avoiding the need to come to town early and suffer through two months without work. And if you don’t get a job with the mountain right away, consider checking to see if you can move into staff housing for a short while. Typically, when the housing isn’t full with mountain staff, the door is open to others.

Get two jobs: While this may seem like an odd comment in light of the warning about unemployment, it’s highly recommended that you get two jobs, one in the day and one at night. Whistler is an expensive place to live and the level of work fluctuates a great deal throughout the season. As a result, at times, like Christmas and spring break, you’ll want to be working day and night to make up for the slower periods later in the season when you’ll have ample time for more powder and fewer people to share it with.

Employer accommodation: When looking for work off the mountain, ask potential employers about accommodation. A few years back, when the rental market was even tighter, many employers began offering staff housing.

Consider spring arrival: I know his sounds counter-intuitive for a skier, but if you plan on being in town for 2 months or more, it’s definitely something to consider. With a ski season that runs until the May long weekend or longer, if you arrive in March you’ll still get some great skiing before the bikes come out – and you may even be able to get hired for the remainder of the season, thereby helping to position yourself for the job you want the following winter. Spring arrival will also give you a much better chance of finding decent accommodation that you could potentially hold on to throughout the following winter.

Do it now: Most people come to town with the intention of skiing, partying and working – in that order – so be prepared to do a great deal of all three. What you can’t prepare yourself for, however, is that epic season turning into five, 10 or longer.

Chris Lennon
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