Welcome to Part II of my three-part series on working a ski season at Big White Ski Resort. When I moved from New Zealand to Canada in 2016 to do a ski season at Big White, I couldn’t find a comprehensive guide written by someone who had been to Biggie before. So here it is- my complete guide on how to work, live and play at Big White Ski Resort!
So you want to do a ski season at Big White Ski Resort? Good choice! Big White has something for everyone, from complete novice skiers and snowboarders to advanced ski bums. The terrain is vast and variable, so by the time the season is over you will be a skilled rider in all areas of skiing. Doing a season at Big White is not without its challenges, however…
Finding accommodation at Big White is the biggest obstacle you will encounter. It is not uncommon for staff to sleep on friends couches or to stuff as many as 10 people into a room until they can find somewhere to live. You do what you can to live the ski bum lifestyle!
Accommodation at ski resorts in winter is not cheap either- expect to pay anywhere between $550-$850 per month. And yes, this is for a shared room. It is common for travelers in Canada to share a room with at least one other person.
It is also expected you pay first and last months’ rent up front, as well as a damage deposit (usually one months’ rent) to secure your spot. Wi-fi and electricity are included in your monthly rent.
Types of Accommodation
Until recently, acquiring staff accommodation was a challenge. However, Big White has recently invested 3.5 million into staff accommodation, which is fantastic for future Biggie staff. I expect the 2018-2019 season will be easier to get into staff accommodation.
Rent costs $600 per month (updated 2017/2018 season) and is deducted from your weekly pay cheque. You have to be working for a business owned by Big White Ski Resort in order to qualify for staff accommodation. Getting staff accommodation can be competitive, so my tip is (if you’re getting desperate) talk to your manager as early as possible to secure a room. Managers of different departments get allocated a certain number of spots, and they like to hold on to one or two in case their staff have issues with their accommodation. If you let your manager know you are desperate for somewhere to live, this may sway them to give you a spot.
Renting a House
In my opinion living in a share house is one of the best options but the hardest to achieve. People start looking for accommodation as early as June for the upcoming season. You need to have money saved and you need to be organized.
Rentals can cost anywhere from $575-850 per month for a shared room in a private house.
If you are heading to Big White solo, join the Official Big White Group on Facebook. People will post here if they have a room to fill. It is VERY competitive, so you need to get in quick and have the money ready to transfer.
Living at the Hostel
The Urban Retreat hostel is the only hostel at Big White and offers long-term accommodation. I lived at the Urban Retreat hostel for two months until staff accommodation became available in January.
Living in the hostel suited me because I could pay once I arrived there, and it was a cheaper than many rentals at $550 per month.
The rooms at the hostel are what you’d expect- they’re small and you will be sharing with at least 3 others. If you like your personal space, I wouldn’t recommend this option.
Living at the hostel was a great way to make friends however, and there is always a party happening. If you are social, easy-going, and don’t mind small spaces, Urban Retreat is a good option.
Renting in Kelowna
Kelowna is a 45 minute- 60 minute drive to the mountain so it is the least viable option. Big White Road can also be very dangerous if you are not used to driving on snowy and icy roads. I would only advise looking for accommodation in Kelowna if you don’t have any other options.
Kijiji is a good website for finding a room to rent in Kelowna.
Get to Know the Area
There are several areas to live at Big White. Each have their pros and cons and are useful to keep in mind when applying for somewhere to live.
The Village Center is the most convenient place to live, where almost everything is within walking distance. Whitefoot, Plaza on the Ridge, Snowcrest, Chateau on the Ridge, Tamarack and the Urban Retreat Hostel are some of the accommodations located in the village center. Much of the accommodation here is apartment style.
The Raven and Trailside are the accommodations located at Happy Valley. Access to the village center is easy- you just need to catch the gondola. The downside of living in Happy Valley is the walk uphill if you have to start work before the gondola starts running at 7.45am.
Snowpines in the furthest away from the village center. The houses out here tend to be bigger and more homely. Snowpines is divided into two sections: upper Snowpines and lower Snowpines (which is pretty self explanatory!). The easiest way to get to the village is via the shuttle, which runs all day and makes a stop every 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can walk a well marked path to the village which takes 20 minutes. For those of you who don’t want to walk to the pub in the evening, there is usually a Snowpines house party happening.
I lived in Snowpines during my second season and it felt a lot more homely than the apartment I lived in the previous year.
A Word of Caution…
Do your research when applying for somewhere to live. I have had friends who have been scammed by people posing as landlords- they deposit their rent and damage deposit into the landlords account and never hear from them again.
A Google or Facebook search on the landlord could save you from losing thousands of dollars!
Having trouble finding a place to live?
Many people tend to run out of money and return home around January, so a lot of accommodation becomes available around this time. If you can hold out until this time you will be able to move into a house as soon as something comes up. Keep an eye out on the Official Big White Facebook group for availability.
What was your experience finding accommodation at Big White like? Do you have any other tips?
Click here to read Part III: Getting Familiar with Big White Ski Resort