How to Work a Summer Job in the Canadian Rockies
A wanderer’s guide to seasonal summer work in or near Banff National Park.
With the summer hiring season coming up soon, many people will be heading out to find seasonal employment destinations. Well, look no further: mountain dreams can come true in Banff National Park. From Peyto Lake, to the Valley of Ten Peaks, to the infamous Icefields Parkway, you are almost guaranteed to have seen a signature image of Canada's most famous national park at some point.
Unmistakable beauty, a get-out-there atmosphere, and an openness to Canadian and foreign workers alike has created the foundation of a friendly, transient town, where many people come to stay for 6-months to a year for work. Summer is a particularly popular time to live in Banff, as the job market inflates to parallel the ~4 million visitors that arrive in the season of accessibility and clear roads.
Banff is a perfect place for a working vacation. Such a beautiful locale deserves a deeper exploration than what a simple 2-week trip will get you. By being fully immersed, you’re able to learn how to avoid the crowds, enjoy the magic of shoulder seasons, and surround yourself with like-minded adventurers. Financially, by working in Banff, you not only can earn enough to live in and enjoy the many activities of the town, but even save some money in the process if you play your cards right.
Interested? Let’s take a look at some basics:
1. Where to Work
Before getting up and leaving everything behind to live in Banff, it’s important to understand your motivations for going. Are you looking for solitude? A bumpin’ night life? A bit of both? Though Banff itself is a small town with a big atmosphere, there are many other alternatives if you are looking for a more low-key life in Banff. You need to think about what type of physical environment you want to work in before considering employers. I like to think about the options as a spectrum of remoteness:
Level 1: Remote
Think hike-in or shuttle-access only resorts, or deep-in-there campsites. These spots will enable mega solitude time and the opportunity to get to know one area and one group of people super well. You’ll have to plan out trips to town in advance, including things like grocery shopping and nightlife BUT you will have access to some of the sweetest untouched backcountry in Banff. Some ideas:
- Working at a wilderness lodge
- Lake O’Hara
- Shadow Lake Lodge
- Lake Louise Tea Houses
- Work at the Icefields
- Working at a small campsite away from it all
- Peter Lougheed Provincial Park
Level 2: Smaller Mountain Town Experience
Banff is not the only local townsite. While the biggest, it has some smaller cousins that can give you an even smaller-town vibe, some with fewer visitors each year than Banff itself. A good option if you still want full access to groceries and some town amenities but don’t want the intensity of nightclubs and millions of tourists. Where to start? Check out jobs in these smaller townsites:
- Lake Louise
- Radium Hot Springs
Level 3: Banff Townsite
The ultimate beast. While working in Banff itself has tradeoffs like tourists out the wa-hoo in July and August, and exorbitant prices on basically everything (see below), living in Banff is an incredible experience with an endless supply of things to do about the town, and tons of like-minded people to do them with. Free yoga, BBQs at the park, mountain biking, river floats, hiking, BINGO, nightclubs/pubs, restaurants, art galleries, museums, hot springs – need I say more? You literally will never be bored in Banff, even if you don’t have a car. That being said, Banff is also close to a boundless supply of backcountry if you have vehicle access (or a friend with a car). As long as solitude is not your main goal, you can’t go wrong here. Working in Banff, you have a few choices:
- Work for a big company or the government
- Brewster Canada
- Parks Canada
- The Banff Centre
- Work for a smaller company
- Banff photography
- Hotel groups
- Independent retailers
2. The Housing Crisis
Because so many people flock to work in the Rockies over the summer, housing can be quite a problem. Rentals are few, often with suck-your-soul landlords, and expensive. Reality check: It is not uncommon to be paying $700/month for a small, shared room in Banff.
The easiest solution for this? Staff accommodation. Most bigger organizations in Banff, and almost all small lodges/remote jobs will provide cheap staff accommodation. Again, you will give up some freedoms (you will most likely share a room and a kitchen), but for much less. Staff accom is often subsidized by the company, and can be as low as $200/month. Not only this, but it tackles the absolute nightmare that can be finding your own place to rent.
Some tips if you can’t find a job with provided housing:
- Use Bow Valley Home Finder on Facebook
- Plan ahead to the best of your ability
- Utilize any contacts you have in Banff to find housing
3. The Cost of Living in Banff
Long story short: Banff (and its mountain town counterparts) is expensive. Locals always come to know the ways around this (daily specials anyone?), and navigating those costs is part of the fun of living in Banff. That being said, some simple tips for getting ahead of the area’s costly nature:
- Find a job with tips (or a second job in evenings)
- Work for a company with good benefits/staff perks. Working for a large company like Brewster, while not ideal in other ways, can lead to freebies all over town.
- You may be tempted, but avoid going out every night.
- Be shameless about asking for a locals discount.
And there you have it! A final warning for anyone thinking about a life in Banff: be careful, you may never end up going back home.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.