We Americans are proud of our Rocky Mountains. They’re majestic, providing us with bountiful natural beauty and endless recreation, and giving us something that no one else has — no one, that is, but Canada. That’s right, Canada has some of our (okay, their own) Rocky Mountains. The Canadian Rockies cut a 900-mile-long swath through the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta; and they are every bit as stately and gorgeous as ours, providing an abundance of opportunities for skiing, riding, hiking, mountain biking, and more. For those who want to make some loonies while living amongst a UNESCO World Heritage Site (and the friendliest people anywhere), we’ve put together this list of nine of the best jobs in the Canadian Rockies.
There are dozens of ski areas scattered throughout the Canadian Rockies, from big resorts like Revelstoke and Lake Louise to hidden gems like Fernie or Nakiska; and someone has to groom the trails, onload guests at the lift, and mitigate the avalanche risks. Working at a ski resort is the perfect way to ensure you’re taking advantage of the epic amount of snow that falls in the Canadian Rockies. For winter seasonal work, you’ll want to start applying as early as the summer, especially for the more competitive roles (e.g.,ski patrol, instructor, administration). If you can nab a resort job, you’ll usually be rewarded with a decent suite of benefits, like health insurance, discounts, and of course, lift passes.
Note: Resorts often own some of the retail, restaurants, and other businesses in the area, which means you can get all the perks while waiting tables or working at a ski shop.
You could do a lot worse than working in the environs of the Fairmont Château Lake Louise in Alberta or Emerald Lake Lodge in BC. Large hotels and resorts require vast teams of employees to help check guests in, keep things tidy, and manage operations. For hotel cooks, housekeeping staff, and reservations agents, the typical pay is $15-$20 CAD/hour. Managers will get paid more, with general managers making over $100k at some of the bigger lodges in the Rockies. A hotel management degree and/or prior experience will help, but employers will mostly want to see great organizational and customer-service skills.
If you’ve seen a picture of an otherworldly blue lake with towering snow-capped mountains in the distance, it was probably of Banff, Lake Louise, or one of the other breathtaking scenic areas in and around the Canadian Rockies. As a photographer/videographer, you have a number of potential career routes. Consider working for outdoor brands, magazines, travel outlets, and/or retailers, all of which need captivating content from capable freelancers. You could also go in-house with a brand or production company that operates in the area; and/or sell prints of your work through an online or physical gallery.
An area with peaks as massive, snow as deep, and wilderness as remote as the Canadian Rockies can seem intimidating to first-timers — which is why guiding is such a thriving profession. As a guide, you’ll help visitors climb, ski, hunt, camp, raft, fish, and/or snowmobile their way through a wide variety of terrain while ensuring their safety and enjoyment. You’ll need to be an expert in both the type of guiding you’ll be doing and the area in which you’ll be operating (plus you’ll need specific permits and certifications). Take a look at this primer for becoming a guide before diving headfirst into an ice climbing expedition in Banff.
Everyone loves the guy who knows exactly which boot you need or the girl who can quickly tune and wax your board. There are numerous ski shops lining the streets of the ski towns of the Canadian Rockies. Prior retail experience helps, but mostly you’ll need to be good with people and, let’s be honest, very patient. Working in a ski/snowboard shop is a great way to meet visitors from around the world while flexing your knowledge of camber/rocker and proper binding settings.
Okay, this one may be a bit (extremely) ambitious, but is there a more impressive gig than getting paid to soar over rugged wilderness and immense mountains? As a plane or helicopter pilot in the Canadian Rockies, you could be responsible for widely differing assignments — everything from transporting heli-skiers to moving cargo to working with search and rescue. If you haven’t spent the last four years in the Royal Canadian Air Force, consider a pilot school in nearby Calgary or Edmonton.
As is the case with many tourist areas, there are always going to be job opportunities in the Canadian Rockies for those who know how to properly mix a manhattan, suggest the right wine to go with a ribeye, or pull a perfect shot of espresso. There are going to be more diverse options in bigger areas like Jasper, Golden, or Banff, but even the smallest town will have a dive bar or two. Depending on the establishment and the location (Alberta and BC have different programs), you may need a food handling and/or alcohol service certification.
Note: A big advantage of working a job in the service industry is you’ll frequently work night shifts, which means you can get first tracks when everyone else is clocking in the next morning.
Parks Canada Jobs
Working to protect and conserve some of Canada’s most beautiful natural landscapes sound good? Consider joining Parks Canada and working at one of the four national parks (Banff, Jasper, Yoho, and Kootenay) or three provincial parks (Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber) located in the Canadian Rockies. A job with Parks Canada can entail everything from wildlife conservation to guest services to financial analysis. So, whatever your background, you’ll be able to find a position that fits your skills. Google lists jobs in Jasper National Park as varied as junior communications officer ($60k+), electrician ($24+/hr.), and administrative assistant ($55k+).
There is perhaps no better way to explore the Canadian Rockies than by becoming intimately familiar with their roadways. As a shuttle driver, you’ll be responsible for taking visitors between specific hotels, airports, and attractions in the region. Whether you’re working in Alberta or BC, you’re likely going to need a commercial vehicle license — and you definitely have to have a solid grasp on the streets and highways of the area in which you’ll be operating. If you’re a tour guide, a friendly manner and the ability to wax poetic on the many natural wonders of the Rockies helps too. Drivers will make around $15/hr., but can also receive tips from passengers, grateful that you’ve safely delivered them to their hotel in blizzard conditions.
Working and living in the Canadian Rockies is a unique experience, allowing you to take advantage of endless hiking trails, super-fun small towns, an inordinate amount of powder, and a pretty favorable exchange rate (if you’re coming from the US). Obviously, tourism is going to be your best bet when finding work; but there are job opportunities within a variety of industries. Remember to obtain a Canadian work permit if you’re coming from a different country. And, perhaps more importantly, you’ll have to find the best local poutine spot.