Working holiday in Canada

"I can honestly say I had the best time and if I had to do it all again, I wouldn't change a thing." Our very own BUNAC Travel Expert Ben, on living the high life working as a ski instructor in Canada.

Canada IEC 2019 – 22 / Ben Alderson


After finishing school in 2016, completing my A Levels and attending my school leavers ball it was suggested that I head straight up the M1 to make a start on my Business and Management Degree.  While I was on the M1 my sister was on a different journey over the Indian Ocean to Australia to complete a year abroad, as part of her degree.  Australia had never come up on my bucket list to travel to as I have always been more comfortable in a cooler climate, but it did start me thinking.

The idea of going from a student to a professional was a scary step and I pin balled between different options suggested to me such as hospitality management and the property market, but I needed more time to see what was out there and this was when the idea of a working holiday came into play.  

The Idea of a ski season in Canada seemed like a dream come true and with this on the horizon it really motivated me in my final year.  

Once the visa pools for Canada opened in early 2016, I secured a place as soon as I could so that I could spend as much time as possible focussing on my dissertation. When the interviews for Ski interns started in May the one that really stood out to me was Big White in British Columbia which is well known for the Okanagan-Champagne -Powder! 

I flew out to Vancouver in November ready to start my training in December, after spending two days in Vancouver I flew to Kelowna airport ready for the hour drive up the mountain to Big White.  Living in a house of 16 was hard at first but over the season we became a family with multiple karaoke nights at Sam's bar and by the end of the season I couldn't have asked for a better time and a better house.

In January 2020 COVID came into the picture and despite what was going on in the UK, it didn't really affect my new life in Canada straight away.  In the end COVID did reach our resort and they made the sad decision to shut down.  This is when going with a company came into play and they got us off the mountain and on flights back to the UK so that we could be with our families in those scary times.  

I thought that this would sadly be the end of my Canadian journey and once again I started to think about jobs in London but the country had shut down and UK jobs were scarce. This is when I made one of the best decisions I've ever made, I decided to head back to Canada to carry on with my dream, after all I had a two year work visa and still so many places I wanted to visit.

I headed out to Vancouver in the fall with a ski instructor job lined up at Mount Seymour.  I had to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel which was daunting but I made the best of it. During my quarantine I lined up a list of accommodation to view in Vancouver and I completed all of my online staff training that was needed for the new role.  I also kept in close contact with my friends in the UK, joining in on facetime beers on the weekend.

Vancouver is an amazing city, from my hotel balcony the view was of a busy metropolitan city full of skyscrapers, between the gaps between the skyscrapers I could see the bay where the seaplanes take off and the final flourish to my vista was the backdrop of Mount Seymour which would be my new place of work.  I couldn't wait!

My new work colleagues / friends and I were amazed at what Vancouver had to offer and we were equally excited to discuss our plans for the summer.  Although the opportunities were many in Vancouver I wanted to travel more so after a successful ski season on Mount Seymour I headed off to Banff in the Canadian Province of Alberta. 

Banff is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited, I thought it would be like the lake district but boy was I wrong, it was like living on top of the world!  I started my new job as a bar server at Buffalo Mountain Lodge which is a family run hotel at the base of tunnel mountain 

When I arrived in Banff the whole town was in lockdown with very little open but it allowed me to really see and enjoy the place before the hordes arrived.  It was like living in a zoo! From Elk grazing in the garden to pine martens running along the fences, surrounded by so much wildlife was both fascinating and on one occasion quite daunting when I had to cycle back to my staff accommodation and there were (unfounded) rumours of a cougar in the vicinity.   In our down time my new friends & colleagues and I would head to the lakes and we would sit and look at the stars and put the world to rights around the fire pit.  It really made me feel like I was part of the community  and gave me fascinating insights into the local culture.

Once the lockdown ended in June we had the biggest heat wave with Alberta seeing temperatures of up to 38C.  The town became alive with tens of thousands of visitors descending into Banff to explore what this majestic and oldest National park has to offer. 

Over the summer I was able to try new activities such as climbing and summiting Mount Edith which was a massive achievement for someone who has not climbed or scrambled before.  

Two of my friends in the UK came out to stay with me once the border opened up which once again gave me the opportunity to do some more exploring, we went did a road trip from Banff to Jasper all the while on the lookout for a bear which my friends thought might be fun, luckily for us me we did not see one but I had the bear spray at the ready.

After the season came to a close and I was nearing the end of my visa I decided to travel out east to visit two of my new friends who had moved on to Ontario, I also called in to Montreal which was fantastic.  After that I headed back to Banff for my last four nights in a lovely hotel to say a final good bye and collect all of my ski gear. 

I can honestly say I had the best time and if I had to do it all again I wouldn't change a thing.

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Landscape with mountains and a blue lake

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