This is the time of year when it is easy to find a job in Summit County. Employers are hoping to fill all their job openings, and with good snow starting already, they are planning on a busy season. Ski areas are big seasonal employers, and they encourage many students from overseas to come over on a four month visa and work from December 1 to March 31. My cousin from New Zealand did just that, working at Vail for four months a few years ago. We had lots of emails going back and forth as she looked for housing to rent, and I remember counseling her to be honest with the landlord and let him know just how many people were going to be living there (six in a two bedroom condo). I think she ignored my advice. Six kids with a party-hearty attitude in one small condo is a little much, but it happens all too often.
Many landlords ask for three months rent up front and they know from sad experience that is what they must do. They want a signed lease, first and last months rent plus a full month as security deposit. Because they often are only renting during the winter months, the prices are higher than they might be for a full year. If you are planning on staying in the area more than a year or two, sometimes it is a better option to buy a condo, as the money required up front is almost enough for a downpayment on your own place! The other option for the young people coming here is employee housing. Copper Mountain and Keystone each have an entire building devoted to it. For about $235 a month at Copper, an employee can have a bunk bed in a shared room, a bit like a college dorm.
We have a really good free bus system in Summit County, called the Summit Stage. It has great service and goes everywhere, so it is not really necessary to have a car.
Working at the ski area gives you a free season pass, which is a big draw, and not just for college kids. I know many retirees that work at the ticket window, kid's ski school or the rental shop, two or three mornings a week and get paid for it too! Volunteer positions are often available as ambassadors or greeters, and in return for the free pass, you have to "donate" about 14 days of work during the ski season. For job openings and online applications, see the ski area's websites. Copper Mountain has its own site and Breckenridge, Keystone, Vail and Beaver Creek are all under the Vail Resorts umbrella. Also, check the local newspaper's classified ads. One of the best sources I have come across that covers the entire Rocky Mountain region is MountainJobs.com, where employers post job openings and job seekers post resumes. They have job openings all the way from Lift Operators at Winter Park to a Hand Surgeon in Missoula, Montana.
Ski shops are gearing up for the season too, and need ski tuners and people to work the shops selling clothing and ski gear. I happen to know that Aspen Sports/Mountain Sports Outlet is hiring, and I am guessing most other shops are too. The factory outlet stores have recently added many new stores which will need workers, especially as the holidays draw near.
Many people live the traditional "ski bum" irresponsible lifestyle for a season like my cousin did in Vail, or sometimes it lasts for years. Amy at Mountainjobs.com has an interesting take on it as she says:
"As far as responsibility, it is always interesting to read the different perspectives from those looking at ski town living. Some people seem to think that you move to the mountains and all stress and responsibilities just miraculously float away into the sunset. Wouldn't that be nice? You can actually be irresponsible wherever you live and with whatever you are doing ... it is not a place or a lifestyle that makes us irresponsible in my opinion. We really do that all on our own."
Many of the people I know here in Summit County came for a season or two, and ended up staying for much longer. The mountain lifestyle is appealing and often it can be hard to give up.
I mentioned above that housing is a big issue, and it is the reason that some ski area jobs go begging. Finding a place to rent for the winter, especially if you have pets, can be very difficult to do after September. You can expect to spend about $800-900 a month for a one bedroom condo, and $1200-1500 a month for a two bedroom. Roommates can help share the expense, but many people don't know anyone until after they have been here for a while. Renting a room from someone else can keep the cost down to $400-500 a month. I often hear about people who are excited to have a job and then are unable to find a place to live and have to turn it down. For those who can buy a home, there are deed restricted housing units designated specifically for people who work in the County 30 hours a week or more. They are more reasonable in price, but certainly not cheap!