To spend a winter in Whistler is no small thing - housing is expensive and so are other necessities, like food, equipment and lift tickets. A lot of people determined to live the Whistler dream depend on seasonal jobs to make it through, and for many that means Whistler Blackcomb.
The region's largest employer, Whistler Blackcomb supplies 3,430 jobs, plus an additional 800 volunteer positions to qualified applicants.
This year Whistler Blackcomb's annual recruitment fair, running Nov. 5 and 6, sold out faster than a Die Antwoord concert, drawing 1,500 applicants for 500 full- and part-time positions and 250 volunteer spots as soon as the event was announced. Most of the jobs filled through the fair are minimum-wage positions that fall within the categories of retail, rental techs, lift operators, ski instructors and food and beverage.
Compared to the 800 resumes fielded for the same fair last November, WB officials say the enthusiasm is welcome, if not a little overwhelming.
"We've had a huge, huge interest this year. I believe personally that it is either a result of people not coming because of the Olympics and staying away for a year, or they were exposed to Whistler Blackcomb and Whistler and what Whistler has to offer and saw that through the media and decided they had to come and check it out because we've had a great amount of applicants this year," said Karen Bauckham, recruiting manager for WB.
"There certainly is a lot of competition for the jobs and we have a new system for how we track our applicants. So people apply online and my recruiting team is responsible for looking at each and every resume and taking a look at the skill set to ensure they have what it takes for that particular job. It becomes pretty difficult when you have a lot of great resumes so they are really going through and looking for the very, very best."
Bauckham calls the November recruiting fair "clean up" for seasonal jobs not filled by WB's aggressive pre-hiring strategy, which is executed separately.
Throughout the rest of the year, WB's recruitment team travels internationally to find a talented cross-section of suitable staff for their full time, year-round positions. To round out local genius, they regularly pursue prospective employees in South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, UK and the rest of Europe, and are careful to balance other nationalities against the ever-present influx of Australian and UK staff. Today most full-time jobs come with housing - shared accommodation in staff quarters during the employee's first season. Bauckham says by providing this basic necessity, WB is able to draw a wider interest from prospective employees and keep interest high.
"It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride, to be honest," Bauckham said.
"We've gone from having a labour shortage about four years ago, and before that there was 9/11, which had a huge impact on our business, there was the recession and the economy taking a turn, and we had all these unemployed people and all of a sudden we had a surplus of applicants and so it's been a bit of a roller coaster," continued Bauckham.
"I suspect in time, once the economy turns around, we'll be back to having a labour shortage again. How long that will take I don't know but we have to be prepared for that."
Of the 800 volunteers that apply to work over the winter season, a majority are local and looking to secure the free season's pass that comes as a perk for their efforts. Bauckham says most who choose to volunteer are from the region, which helps balance the guest experience on the mountain.
"We get a lot of the local community, which is great because that's really what we are looking for - people that have experience and knowledge and can share stories about this community with our guests and what have you," she said.