How to Survive a Winter Season

Are you inspired you to do a winter season? Sea to Sky talks to three women who have done winter seasons in Canada and Europe.

Following the snow clouds are thousands of seasonaires, who will make the snow-capped mountains their home for a few months. It’s exciting living in a foreign country, where you get to ski or board for most of the day – but it’s not all carving and shredding. Three seasonaires give us their tips on how to survive the winter season.

Show Me The Money
“The big thing you have to think about before you get there is money,” says Emma Stewart, who did her first season in Golden, British Columbia, last year. “They don’t pay very much on ski hills unless you’re earning good tips. I had a bit saved up so I was OK, but I know a few people that struggled a bit.”

Snow friends
One of the things you should not worry about when you decide to do a season is making friends, as Emma found out.

“Some people might like to arrive a month or two before the hill opens, to settle in and make a few friends. I got there right at the last minute, but making friends wasn’t an issue at all. On the whole, people are very friendly and in the same position as you – it’s like starting university.”

Getting your gear is one of the most important things, and it might be cheaper to get it when you get there, or buy early in the pre-season sale. If you are looking for equipment and you don’t mind it being second hand, take a look at Gumtree or Craig’s List. The item you should not scrimp on is your boots.

“Get a decent, well-fitting pair of ski (or snowboard) boots! It’s one of the most important investments in the season you’ll make,” says Vicky Norman, who has done various seasons in the French Alps. “Poor-fitting boots will seriously impact your happiness on the mountain and your technique. If you get cold feet you might want to consider getting boot heaters too.”

In the depths of winter, sunscreen maybe the last thing on your mind – but Vicky says that a goggle-tan is a rookie error and hardened seasonaires know it’s important to look after your skin.

The season is about having fun, but although you are being paid a pittance, it does not mean you should scrimp on your insurance.

“One guy I know didn’t have any and is paying off a big medical bill worth thousands for a broken leg. That happened right at the beginning of the season, which sucked,” says Emma.

The last souvenir anyone wants from a working holiday is thousands of dollars or euros worth of debt. Vicky adds, “Make sure you have it, and it covers you on and off piste.”

It’s also worth a note that if you do go off piste and something happens, you may be charged a hefty fee for someone coming to rescue you. Whistler in particular is very strict on people who go out of bounds.

Getting Out On The Mountain
Lucy Grewcock did her season in Val D’isere says, “Throw yourself into the skiing/boarding one hundred percent – you’ll never have such a great opportunity to get out on the mountain every day for five months.”

Vicky recommends dragging yourself out of bed regardless of how tired or hungover – or how bad the weather looks. “Some of the best days I’ve had on the hill have been in snowstorms, and what I thought was full on mist/white out. It often clears, or you can get above the cloud, or the visibility is better than you think,” she says. “The more you do, and the more conditions you ski/snowboard in the better you’ll get too.”

Party Time
As the BBC’s Snow, Sex and Suspicious Parents has shown us a big part of the season is drinking – and yes, it is fun getting drunk at altitude. However, you still need to be safe.

”It’s cold out there – wrap up warm if you’re going out at night. You might not feel the cold after a few drinks, but it can get to you,” says Vicky. The slopes are not Newcastle – it’s not cool going out in just a mini-skirt and a top in freezing weather.

Another thing to remember, Vicky adds, is to look after each other: “I found a student that had fallen asleep in a snowdrift once – a terrible idea. I woke him up and walked him home, and he was fine – but it doesn’t bear thinking about what could have happened if I hadn’t walked past and found him.”

If drinking yourself to oblivion is not your thing, then a season might not be for you. However, Emma’s experience in Canada found that people tended to get a little bit fed up of it toward the end.

And don’t forget…
The season is all about having fun, hitting the slopes, having a few hangovers, and making some amazing friends!

“You’re there to enjoy yourself with lots of other people who want to do the same,” says Emma.

“So don’t throw it away by boozing away your season in the bars. A good balance of both is the best way to go,” recommends Lucy.

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