How to Work in US Ski Resorts: What You Need to Know

Thousands of travelers flock to the United States to work in ski resorts each year. Amanda Starkey provides all the details to know before you go.

Photo © Getty Images/gladassfanny

Combining work with travel at a ski resort in the United States is a great way to enjoy the slopes while making a bit of cash, learn new skills and meet new people. Some resorts offer discounts on ski passes and other perks on top of your wages.

It's not as simple as jumping on a plane and turning up at your ski resort of choice. Here's how to get started before finding work on the slopes in the United States.

Visas for Travelers Who Want to Work in a Ski Resort

There are two working visas available for travelers who want to work in America's ski resorts: the J-1 visa or the H2-B visa.

Note: you must apply for a visa before leaving your country of residence, and make sure your passport is not due to expire in the next six months. You also have to prove you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay.

J-1 Visa

Students should apply for the J-1 visa, which gives you the flexibility to work wherever you like during your stay, but you have to prove you're enrolled in a course.

If you apply for a J-1 visa, you have to find work and cannot be unemployed for more than 90 days. This visa is only for 18–30-year-olds, and applicants must have no previous criminal convictions. On this visa you can only stay for 12 months, but you must have a minimum of $1,500 in your bank account. Getting a job should be easy – there are quite often more jobs available than people on the slopes, and little experience is required.

H2-B Visa

The H2-B visa program is for those working nonagricultural jobs, which is best for anyone who is unsure which season they want to work. Most of the work on offer is unskilled hospitality, such as driving a bus. Most H2-B employers will offer accommodation, and pick you up when you get there. When you are there, be on your best behavior – if your employment is terminated or you quit, you will be deported instantly, and your chances of getting another visa will be very difficult.

It's important to check you are applying for the correct visa to work your chosen ski resort, as some resorts may only take one visa type at a time. Some countries also offer assistance to apply for seasonal snow work in the United States via agencies which have established partnerships with various ski resorts.

Check out Snow Season Central for more information. 

Pay Expectations for Ski Resort Work in the US

Most hospitality jobs don't pay very well, so it's safe to assume you'll be surviving on tips. On a J-1 visa you are permitted to work more than one job, so you could try babysitting, dog walking or house sitting.

If you're working in a restaurant and have great people skills, it’s not unrealistic to make up to US $1,000 a week in tips.

Getting a Social Security Number

One of the most important things to do is get a social security number. This will allow you to legally work in the United States. Many illegal immigrants want to work here, so protect your card at all costs, as identity theft is high in ski resorts. It’s pretty easy to get a social security number, you can apply online, but you will need to supply a number of documents including your passport and your J-1 visa.

Driving in the United States

If you are on the H2-B visa program, your employer should be able to help you out, but it will be for the length of your stay and only for the state you live in. Passing a driving test is relatively easy, and in many states you can go from learners (Instructional) to full license in a day. You will have to take a practical driving test, but these are really quite easy.

If you already have a full license from your home country, you will need an International Driving Permit, as well as your license – especially if you choose to hire a rental car.

Be super careful when driving in the early morning and evening in winter, as it's not uncommon to see wildlife like elk and deer on the road hanging out in herds. 

Safety signs on the roads during winter. Photo credit: iStock

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