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Ski and Snowboard Technician jobs
What's it really like?
Adam Spurling is manager of Edge and Wax, a popular and very busy ski and snowboard store in Patridge Green, West Sussex. Edge and Wax has a dedicated ski and snowboard repair centre in addition to its retail facility.
What made you decide or choose to get into this sort of career?
For my gap year, I went out to work a winter season in the ski resort of Whistler in Canada, and took the job of ski/snowboard tech as it gave me the best hours on the mountain to do what I enjoy: ski and snowboard! It is a very demanding job with long hours over the weekend if working abroad, but this where most people start, and if they really enjoy it, they can then carry it on in the UK.
Do you have a standard day or a standard type of `exercise'?
When abroad, you will normally be working for a ski rental shop and sometimes you will combine your duties with working in the shop selling products, or fitting skis/boots to customers. You will spend most of your time working 6pm to 5am over the nights at the weekend trying to service all the returned rental skis before the new guests arrive to rent them. As space is so expensive in resort, you will either be at the bottom of the valley, out of resort, or in a dingy back room with very little space, working with machinery to wax and edge all the skis.
In a UK ski shop, it is not so manic, although you still get very busy over the winter season with customers dropping off their own equipment. You will be spending all your day either waxing/edging/repairing skis and snowboards or occasionally, other winter sports apparatus. You will be required to work in the shop selling at some points.
What is the most common type of problem/call-out/enquiry to which you must attend?
The most popular service people ask for is an Edge and Wax, which requires you to get the edges of the snowboard or skis sharp and then wax them, normally using an iron. The other main thing is repairs, mainly required through customers visiting the slope on days when the snow has not been great and they have “core shots” (when they have hit an object that has penetrated through the P-tex base of the equipment and has gone into the wood or foam core). This requires special tools and more time to fix. People also damage edges, delaminate their top sheets or need replacement parts for their bindings.
What do you like most about the job?
In resort, the best thing about this job is the time you get on the mountain. While most resort staff work mornings or afternoons or split shifts and get little time on the mountain, being a ski tech means you work long shifts over the weekend but mainly in the evenings and at night, so you get all day to ski/board (if you have the stamina!). Also, you get a lot of time off during the week when everyone else is working. The pay is better if you work for an independent company rather than one of the UK tour operators, but in resort it will never be a lot!
In the UK shops the diversity that this job creates is great, and you get to work in an industry you love. No two repair jobs are the same. Also being a ski tech means needing to know about different construction methods, materials, new technology, different waxes, different base and core materials and their properties. Depending on where you are working, you can be interacting with customers, letting them know the current snow conditions, and so on. A good ski tech will then use the correct wax for the customer depending on where they are going and what the conditions will be; they will also have knowledge of the ski area and let them know good areas.
What do you like least about the job?
Working in resort, I would say long hours (working through the night in a lot of cases), bad pay, cramped conditions, bad ventilation, high noise levels, and an extremely busy and sometimes stressful environment. Working in a UK shop, it can become stressful in peak season with the number of skis you have to get through and the time scale you have to turn them all around. Other than that, I love it!
What advice do you have for someone who is looking to get into this as a career?
Start off by doing one of the courses offered in the UK. This will really help you when it comes to finding jobs abroad, as any experience is beneficial. Also, being keen in the industry and being a skier/boarder yourself is invaluable. Understand that the pay will never be great but you get enormous perks when working in resort (use of rental equipment and great hours on the mountain with better pay than a lot of industry people). Whilst in the UK, you get to work in a dynamic, fun and hands-on environment.
What are the most important qualities an applicant must and should possess?
Being “down to earth” and sensible is important as you will be dealing with a number of dangerous machines. You will be working in a workshop environment and often in confined spaces, so spatial awareness is also important. You should also be ready to get hands-on and often need to be quick-thinking and able to solve problems when something comes up that you have not had to deal with before. Also, be organised and be able to structure your time and work efficiently.
Any closing comments or additional advice?
Almost all people will be looking to do this job because they want to go and work abroad in a ski resort. They must understand that this work is hard and the hours tedious, but the rewards are great. They will often be locked away and will not have a lot of interaction with others, but they will get a lot of skiing time in. You can apply and may be accepted for these jobs with no training or knowledge, but nowadays this is unlikely; it is a good idea to do a course or at least understand the terminology around skis and their construction.
A lot of ski shops in the UK will look for people who have worked seasons as they will have the knowledge and experiences necessary, but the service in the UK is expected to be a lot better than that of a ski resort; this means quick turnaround, so if you have worked in a ski resort and come back to the UK to work here, you will find a big difference in what is expected from you and the quality of your service.
Ski and Snowboard Technician
A ski and snowboard technician is responsible for repairing and servicing sets of skis and snowboards.
A ski and snowboard technician can be based either in the UK, or as is more likely, in a repair centre at an overseas ski resort. The work is seasonal in the respect that the European ski season runs from November to late April, meaning that those working overseas will normally return to the UK for the off-season. These “dead busy and dead” spells have an equal impact on UK workers, as there is much less work during the summer months.
The technician will be expected to work on both skis and snowboards, as the basic repair and servicing knowledge is common to both, and there is not normally enough work to specialise in one or the other. The technician will fix damage to the equipment, mount bindings, complete base waxing and organise general tuning of the customer’s winter sports kit. At non-busy times, the technician will often be expected to serve on the retail or customer service counters of the ski outlet.
In resort, candidates can be expected to be paid higher wages compared to chalet hosts and travel agency “reps”, but the remuneration is not huge. For the most popular European ski resorts, the job is paid hourly, and gross pay commonly works out to around 8-10 Euros per hour. Candidates should be aware that on top of the basic wage, they will often enjoy subsistence allowance, meaning subsidised accommodation, lift pass and use of all their equipment, which equates to a considerable cash bonus value.
For candidates who wish to remain in the UK and work in a ski and snowboard centre, it depends on the level of individual experience. Starting salary is usually around £15,000 and as the candidate’s skills and experience develop, this can rise to £20,000. Nearly always, the candidate must be prepared to diversify and be ready to do other retail and manual labour jobs within the retail store if needed.
There are no real academic requirements; however, knowledge of the ski industry and ski construction is generally useful. Candidates will be fully trained in resort, and almost all ski techs in the UK will have started out by working seasons abroad. If looking for a job overseas, there are hundreds of people doing the same thing, so any knowledge or experience the candidate may have will put them a step ahead. There are a few 1 or 2-day courses in the UK that are recognised within the industry which can put hopefuls a step ahead of competitors (see www.bctt.co.uk). These courses will allow the candidate to gain experience of using workshop machines, and they also teach the techniques of servicing equipment.
UK technical repair centres are often well-equipped and offer fairly comfortable conditions, but overseas, the working conditions can vary greatly. As space-by-the-square-foot is very expensive in resort, candidates may find they are crammed into tiny workshops which may be dark or poorly heated. It’s all part of the experience!
Experience gained in resorts overseas mean a greater chance of landing a decent tech role upon return to the UK, but it works the other way too. As the role offers “on the job” training, it can be beneficial for the candidate to spend some time at a UK repair centre before heading overseas. Competition for places is considerable, especially in big-name resorts.
Opportunities for career progression within the industry are quite limited, as repair centres often have quite a small workforce. It is possible for experienced techs to progress to a “senior technician” role, or even centre manager, although past this, there are not many more places to go in terms of career betterment. For candidates working overseas, there is the possibility of exploring other types of career in resort, such as chalet hosting, bar work, search and rescue or resort management, depending on experience and qualifications.
In the UK, some of the major ski and snowboard technical centres include Edge2Edge (Crawley), Edge and Wax (West Sussex) and facilities at indoor ski centres (Tamworth and Milton Keynes Snow Domes). The possibilities for working overseas is vast (but hotly contested); there are literally hundreds of popular resorts worldwide.