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Snow industry struggles

Snow industry struggles

Our life as instructors isn’t always bright and sunny, unfortunately the snow industry is full of struggles. It’s seasonal life and depending on life choices you need to “fight” for another job every half a year again. Luckily with our qualifications and experience, being the tip of the iceberg worldwide, this is relatively easy. But still things can be hard, companies don’t always value seasonal employees as much as full-time year-round employees.


Two years ago Alwin had a poor experience in Whistler, where management wasn’t straight forward and honest. Looking back, it would have been better to act differently. Now easily said, but at the time being unaware of how falsely and overly confident the Canadians are with their own system(s), that didn’t happen. Also unaware of how things can be even worse, which was proven a year later.

The year after both Alwin and Clara applied in Silverstar, a few hundred kilometres inland. Happy with the opportunity and excited to see a different (part of) Canada. A much smaller and much more cosy place, quite the opposite of the overpriced and overcrowded Whistler, falsely thinking they’re heaven on earth. Unfortunately, as cosy and easy-going Silverstar as a place is, as poorly organised is the skischool. Ending up accepting a job offer that they later refused to honour. With excuse after excuse it ended up as a case with the BC Employment Standards, which we recently finally won. Finally justice.

Happy with the justice, but very disappointed with the attitude we faced. It made us think we should not work for employers anymore, but start for ourselves instead. This would solve many problems, and in Austria we could. But it would also create “problems” by having to runs a business, which includes office work we don’t want to do. Life choices.


Going on the adventure to Chile wasn’t without risks, and unfortunately also here we faced struggles in the Chilean snow industry. Different culture, different standards. Some in our favour, like being able to live on the parking with Grisu. Some that are much harder to deal with, a much lower level of professionalism from fellow instructors as well as the office. A lack of communication, transparency, common sense and misjudgement from many aspects of the industry.

Many things are possible because people don’t speak up for themselves, especially in seasonal employment. People don’t agree, but don’t say anything and nothing happens. But as soon as somebody wants you to pay for skischool owned clothing that they require instructors to wear, you know you’re in the wrong place. Add to that, that this same person wants you to work some hours for free, it definitely confirms the feeling. At this stage, it’s very likely this person is overly confident and has an ego that doesn’t fit in his own office. Unfortunately this happened to be the case in El Colorado.

No wonder the return-rate from the instructors is extremely low. The people who do return are hopelessly enslaved and have no other choice, or they are too young and inexperienced to know any better. This of course is a visual circle. From these people you can’t expect the level of professionalism you’d expect from the higher qualified and experienced instructors. New people come for one year, not to return the year after. Leaving the return rate as it was, and the circle starts once again.

People that do stand up for themselves stand out, and aren’t accepted (by the “management”). In our case, speaking up ended up in the decision it’s better to leave. Better in many ways, since also the snow and therefore the business levels are extremely low and both not worth staying for. It was a great experience for which we’re very thankful to those who made it possible. But it was also unfortunate, and unnecessary, that some things had to be the way they were.

The future?

Our time working in Chile was an adventure, with the good and the bad on either end of the scale. We’ve met a team which was amazing, super humble and down to earth. Funny how people’s priorities and focusses are sometimes completely different to other places we’ve been to. For the better in Chile, for sure. We’ve not only learned to speak a little bit of Spanish, we’ve also learned a whole lot about the industry. We’ll take this experience to our next destination.

Where the future will take us, nobody knows. We’ll hit the road to the south of Chile and Argentina. Hopefully riding some impressive Patagonian mountains, and from there it’s going back up north, hopefully without the snow industry struggles from before.

To be continued…

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