Canada Whistler

What it’s really like to live in Whistler for a ski season

9 home truths about working in Whistler for a ski season! Everything you need to know before you go. 

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of Whistler before, but in case you’ve been living under a rock all these years, it’s a little mountainside village in British Columbia, Canada. Whistler is a two hour drive from Vancouver. It’s famous for skiing and it’s consistently ranked as the top Ski Resort in North America. But don’t let this villages’ small size fool you – Whistler is home to some of the best restaurants and hotels in the world. Plus, the locals are super-friendly.

Why I loved working in Whistler for a ski season

I loved living & working in Whistler, I really really did. And, because I love it so much I want to spread the word about life in Whistler and attempt to convince you all that living in a Ski Resort has got to be done. But before you get too excited and start packing your winter woolies, there are some truths you need to know about. 

nita lake in winter whistler

The skiing in Whistler is out-of-this-world

Out-of-this-world. Fact. That’s all I need to say I think. This season was made infinitely better by the fact that it was the most snowfall Whistler had seen in 15 years. As a result of the epic snowfalls the resort gets, skiing on weekends or Public Holidays is a no-go unless you want to wait in line for 2 hours.

whistler blackcomb ski, working in whistler

Whistler is so pretty it’s distracting

It’s pretty, too pretty almost. In fact it’s so pretty that it almost makes up for the fact that it’s so goddamn expensive. Honestly, google image ‘Whistler’ go on I dare ya and try to stop yourself from booking the next flight over here. In Winter it’s all snow-covered evergreen trees and looming white mountains. In Summer it looks like a less-moody version of the set of Twilight.

Whistler is expensive

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, living in Whistler is outrageously expensive. If you’re planning a move here for the next Winter season I recommend you start saving now. Rent is going to be a lot more expensive than where you currently live.  Expect to pay anywhere between $1800 to $2200 CAD for a one-bedroom apartment.

You will leave the supermarket both angry and confused at the cost of groceries. FYI – chicken and cheese is outrageously expensive. I saw on Facebook the other day, that one girl paid $20 CAD for seven tomatoes. They were the fancy on-the-vine kind, but still, that’s insanity!

Your ski pass won’t be cheap, see prices.  You have to add ski gear into the equation too. It all adds up.

My estimation is that start-up costs to move to Whistler will cost you approx. $4,000 CAD. This figure takes into account your first months rent, your rental deposit (usually half-a-months rent), a ski pass, ski gear, stuff for your apartment like bed sheets, cooking utensils etc. But thankfully most places here come fully furnished. Then add in another $1,000 CAD to fill up your fridge (jokes)!

houses on alpha lake whistler

Finding a job is pretty easy

It may not be your ‘dream job’ but it is a job to help fund your time in this notoriously expensive village. Whistler has a severe labour shortage problem, it has done for years. Look through the classifieds section of the local Pique newspaper and you’ll find pages and pages of job adverts. Or just take a quick peek on Craigslist and you’ll understand the sheer amount of labour this village needs.

Most of the jobs are in the hospitality sector so if you’re any way good with people you will be fine. The hourly wage here averages about $11 – $17 per hour. The lower end being for servers due to the tips they receive. You will probably want to work evening shifts too, so that you can ski during the day. It’s an employees market in Whistler which is a rarity. So, if you quit one job you will probably be able to find another job starting the next day. That’s the reality of the labour shortage here.

train tracks creekside whistler winter

Finding a place to rent is not so easy

Okay, if you want to move to Whistler for the Winter, get here before October 1st. This is very important. This is when you have the most housing options available to you. You will probably score a nice one-bedroom apartment in a good location for approx $1800 CAD per month. Anytime after that and it’s slim pickings. Any decent apartments left will be charging an arm, two legs and a head!

We got pretty lucky actually, we didn’t move here until November 1st BUT we lived in Vancouver before relocating. So we had Canadian references (very important to a Whistler Landlord) and I was able to come up and view some apartments beforehand.

FYI – It’s a very good idea to preview some apartments if possible because there are a lot of scams unfortunately!

We managed to snag a beautiful two-bedroom apartment for $1800 CAD per month (this was in 2016/17). It may sound like a lot but I know some people who are paying $1800 for a bedroom! I should add that there are exceptions to the ‘getting here before October 1st’ rule. Like if you’re planning on staying in Whistler for more than a year or have Canadian relatives or partner then you will likely find yourself in a home a lot quicker and a lot cheaper than the 19 year-old Aussies you’re competing with.

snow in creekside whistler

Surprisingly, eating out can work out cheap

I’ve already explained the insane situation that is grocery prices here in Whistler. So, if you don’t  want to starve because you’re not willing to pay $10 for a chicken breast or $4 for a red pepper – then treat yo’self and eat out. There are actually lots of really good really cheap restaurants in Whistler, take for example the ever-popular El Furniture Warehouse where every meal is $4.95. See reviews here. Other restaurants also do ‘locals deals’ where you’ll find yourself enjoying a gourmet pizza and a craft beer for $15

You will likely drink more than you ever have

And that’s a big statement from an Irish girl who lived in Sydney for four years. Skiing and drinking go hand-in-hand, apres ski anyone?! The apres here is a lot of fun, live music and dancing on tables at 3pm is the norm.

Also, buying alcohol at the ‘Bottle shop’ is really cheap especially spirits, for example, a bottle of Bombay Sapphire (my drink of choice) will cost you just $25. Bring two forms of identification, because you will get asked to prove your age every time even if you are 29.

viewpoint alpha lake

If you’re over 25 you may be the oldest person in town

This is also a sad truth. The majority of the population here is 19 year old Aussie males who snowboard. There are so many Australians here in fact it’s been renamed ‘Whistralia’. If you dislike Aussies don’t come to Whistler. Luckily for me, I love them!

Must like snow!

It’s a ski resort – you have to like snow! This is very very important!

If you don’t like skiing or snowboarding thankfully there’s lots of other unique things to do in Whistler

whistler blackcomb gondola winter

Working in Whistler – the truth

And there you have it, I think I’ve given you a pretty accurate description of what working in Whistler for a ski season entails. Sure, Whistler is very expensive but it’s also very beautiful. You may not be able to afford to buy a $10 chicken breast at the grocery store but you will be able to afford a $5 chicken burger at a cheap restaurant during ‘happy hour’. Sure, you will probably struggle to find an apartment but when you do you will laugh at how stressed you got.

But, the most important fact for me, is that working in Whistler for a ski season is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy while you’re still young. You may blow all your savings living here, but for me experiences are so much more important than a hefty bank balance. Move to a ski resort, you won’t regret it!

READ: inspiring tips for the best canadian roadtrip

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9 home truths about working in Whistler for a ski season! Everything you need to know before you go. 
9 home truths about working in Whistler for a ski season! Everything you need to know before you go.  #whistlercanadawinter

29 replies on “What it’s really like to live in Whistler for a ski season”

As a Vancouverite I agree with everything you said, but we also still love to visit Whistler despite the busy overpriced trip. The views are amazing. You can get some cheap happy hour deals if you watch out so you’re right it’s not all bad.

I think I’ve been living under a rock because I didn’t know about Whistler until now hahaha… I’m not sure how I would do in a cold weather but I agree when you say that it looks beautiful, just by looking at the photos. I think it’s nice that you can also find job easily there, I mean if I go there and I want to stay for a little while, at least I wouldn’t worry about getting hungry and all. So the oldest person there is 25? Then I’d be the oldest person if I ever go there because I’m 33 hahaha…

I used to go ski-ing a lot when I was younger, but I never went there simply because it was always so expensive by comparison to Europe. It does look like a once-in-a-lifetime place, but I”m afraid the prices put me off still.
Interesting post though.

Whenever I visited Queenstown from Christchurch, when I was living in New Zealand, I had similar thoughts to yours. The place was full of backpackers, I’m pretty sure it would be a ghost town without them! I’m considering living in Canada in the future, so this article was helpful advice, should I fancy working in Whistler!!

I can’t believe I have been to over 30 countries and I have never seen snow! That I am 25 years old and I have never seen snow! It is so crazy! I loved this post , my friend is moving to Canada in 3 weeks, its definitely more likely I will get there now!

It looks amazing. I can see why there is a shortage of workers when the cost of living is so high. $20 for tomatoes that’s screwed up. I guess if you love skiing these are the sacrifices you make to follow your passion for skiing. Luckily i am not a skier. I will keep paying my $5 for tomatoes at the local supermarket.

Hey Stephanie, there are so many non-skiing activities to do here in Whistler. There’s an outdoor spa called Scandinave Spa, you can go tubing, dog sledding, snow mobiling and there’s a free ice skating rink in the village. In the Summer, you can hike or swim in one of its many lakes 🙂 Hope this helps x

Love that you included some of the economics of living there; I’m always interested in those details. Nice job describing your life there at the lodge and great suggestions for those that might want to do the same. Enjoyed reading this.

Wow, living in Whistler looks like so much fun! What a gorgeous town! Sounds a little crazy with all the expenses but I’m sure it’s worth it in the long run. Hopefully I’ll be able to make it up to Whistler this year, I’ve been wanting to visit!

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