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Getting A Start in the Industry

SkiKC's Photo SkiKC 12 Jun 2019

How did you all get started in the industry? I've been tossing around the idea of transitioning from my current career to the ski industry - I love everything about it and I've been fascinated by the machines for most of my skiing life.
Engineers by trade? Lifties-turned-mechs?
My current background and career involves software design and database management, but if I do make the jump, I'd like to get into hands-on work moreso than being behind a desk. My undergrad was in Business Administration, but I'm not huge on the idea of working on the corporate side.

Any tips/words of warning?

Lift Dinosaur's Photo Lift Dinosaur 14 Jun 2019

I’ll start. I got a job as a lift operator after getting out of the Army so I could ‘ski for free’. Went back to my construction job after 1 season...and then back to the ski area for the next winter and for good. Worked my way up through Ops, grooming, patrol and lift construction. These jobs were in 2 different States. In those days there were very few year round jobs. Worked as a groomer in winter and did construction for a lift company in the summer. First year round job was lift maintenance- started as an apprentice with 6 years of installation/construction experience. Worked 14 years before leaving to take a position with a Lift Manufacturer. Retired 2 years ago after 45 years in the Industry.
P.S. I have a lovely wife who also had a good paying job in the ski industry.
Some things to consider:
Full time work is hard to find. Especially ‘outdoors, hands on work’.
Entry level wages are low- $10-$15 to start. Transitioning from your current income could be a challenge.
Housing is very expensive in the Resort communities- both rentals and buying. Many employees either have multiple roommates to start or live 45 minutes+ from the area to be able to afford housing.

Where are you from and what area of the country are you looking to relocate to?
This post has been edited by Lift Dinosaur: 14 June 2019 - 07:08 AM

Allan's Photo Allan 14 Jun 2019

Ditto the above for wages and housing costs, I'm lucky I bought in town 5 minutes from the resort before the prices really started to rise.
I started as a junior patroller at 16 (thought I could follow in my dad's footsteps,) but then decided people are to bleedy and screamy. Went to lift operations as well as managed the IT systems for the resort. Went to lift maintenance three years later and was a mechanic for 13 years, and have been the maintenance manager for the last 4... and still manage the IT.

Allan's Photo Allan 14 Jun 2019

That all started 24 years ago...

SkiKC's Photo SkiKC 16 Jun 2019

Thank you gents, good to know. I am well aware that the pay cut upfront will be fairly steep and housing might be an issue - I've been saving for several years for such an expense and selling my current place to make the move will give me at least some leverage.
Right now I'm local to Kansas City. I've skied something like 15 days a season for the last 10-15 years, which I know isn't a lot for anyone who's ever lived local to ski country, but it's always been a priority.
I have zero mechanical experience at all. Never worked in or around heavy machinery. My desk job is an IT Project Manager. Ideally I would continue to do some of that work eventually, as well, but if I make the move I don't want to do it just on the basis of IT - I want to be out skiing patrol or loading chairs, whatever it takes to work with the lifts themselves.

Kicking Horse's Photo Kicking Horse 15 Jul 2019

Start as a Lift operator and see where it goes....


Lift Dinosaur's Photo Lift Dinosaur 16 Jul 2019

Something else to consider. Maybe try to get a job at the Ski Area's IT Department to ease the transition to Mountain Life, then spend the winter looking at the "outdoors / hands on" jobs to get a better feel for where you want to land. I guarantee you'll ski more than 15 days and probably at more than just the area you work at!
Good Luck.

SkiLiftsRock's Photo SkiLiftsRock 20 Jul 2019

I got started in California with lift operations many years ago, starting at minimum wage of $8.25. Good enough experience to see potential in the industry but not for a career at this point yet. Moved on to work in IT (certified) before getting back into the ski resorts with vehicle maintenance and mountain operations. Transferred into Lift Maintenance starting in basic mechanical and electrical. The experience from other trades is well applied to the upkeep of resort operations. Working in lift maintenance has more responsibilities than just lifts. As Allan mentioned he is in LM and also looks after IT, which is similar in my situation. It does help living 5 minutes away, especially on storm days. Downside to my area is no services are readily available.