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Vancouver Islands Alpine Destination – MT Washington

Knock Knock… Housekeeping: Bed Making, Boarding, Scrubbing & Skiing

1 °C

A run down on life and work on the mountain so far.

Mount Washington Alpine Resort is the largest commercial ski area on Vancouver Island and part of the Strathcona Provincial Park. It is a popular destination for seasonal sports. In winter - skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing and cross country skiing is a big attraction and in the spring and summer, the mountain transforms into a haven for mountain bikers, hikers and trail walking.

I am still left amazed that the island has snow capped mountains on it and partly receives snow up North.
There is such diversity on Vancouver Island and it is like its own little country. Well for one it is bigger than many countries in Europe and I am beginning to see why so many of the island folk very rarely even head over to mainland BC and Vancouver when everything you could possibly want is right here.

I have been working up at Deer and Bear Lodge for almost 2 weeks now in the housekeeping department. I was hoping to land a job in retail, mountain operations or the ski rentals department but these positions were all full and so I was more than happy to jump at the chance an take on the position as;

A) It is work and brings in some income
B) I still get a seasonal ski pass and all the benefits the rest of the mountain staff receive
C) I would be fulfilling my goal of working at a ski – resort
D) I get to surround myself with snow and breathtaking scenery every day (Beats any office desk job)
E) I get to spend all my off time playing in the snow and perfecting my skiing

So it really seemed like a no-brainer to me. Also I found out that we earn more $ per hour than the rest of the mountain crew. Most staff take on positions for the sole purpose of getting to fully utilize the mountain and spend all their spare time skiing or boarding and that is certainly my attention. I would definitely go as far as to label myself a “Ski-Bum” which in Ski Lingo can be defined as “Someone who has discovered the best alternative to working” and that to some degree certainly sounds like me.

The lodge is a made up of privately owned Condo’s and apartments for rent right at the top of Mount Washington and just a chair lift away from the summit which is 1585m (5200 feet) above the valley. It is a located perfectly, with fantastic views across the alpine valley, hills and ski run’s. On a good day up at the summit you can see right across the waters (Straights of Georgia) over onto the Sunshine Coastal Mountains on Mainland British Columbia. I have taken so many pictures from the summit and am still left in awe every time I get off the chairlift. It changes constantly.

The housekeeping team is made up of about 15 staff working on rotation and shifts each day to service both Bear and Dear Lodge. The team (some local/some foreign) are all a great bunch and so nice to work with. We generally start work between 8-10am and finish anywhere from 15h00-17h00. The shifts all depend on the number of guests and check-outs to be done each day. Some day’s can be really slow where you have 6 rooms to tend to where as Sunday’s are the busiest and can be as many as 45 rooms across the 2 lodges. Some days we work a full 8 hours (Sat/Sun) but other days it can be quite and you can pull 4 hrs of work or less. Not great for making money but anytime off work means time on the slopes. So what I loose in $, I make up with free ski time.

I have a new found respect for housekeeping, as the job certainly is not easy and leaves you with a sore back at the end of the day after all the bending, moving furniture and bed-making. I am mainly in the Linens Team. We are usually 2 people and move ahead of the cleaning crew to remove all dirty linens from rooms and bathrooms, restock with fresh linen’s, make beds and then move on in a timely manner before the cleaning team moves in to complete the rest. It is all about attention to detail and working to the clock to ensure you don’t spend too much time on a room and that you’re “Flip Rooms” (Rooms to be cleaned and ready for 4pm check-in’s on the same day) are ready on time. Very interesting to see how the mechanics of the hotel/lodge industry work.

I have learned some totally random things; how to perfect putting on a fitted sheet with neat “hospital corners”, how to quickly place pillow cases in a cover, how not to mix certain cleaning chemicals and the tricky art of pushing a fully stocked and loaded linen and cleaning cart down the passages without crashing or running over a guest.

The state though in which some guests leave rooms is just shocking while others go out of their way to remove linens into neat piles, empty trash and put everything back in place. I will certainly do my part the next time I stay in a hotel and to leave a tip. Although that is very rare as I mainly go the hostel route.

Some of my pet dislikes are:
1) Making Bunk-Beds. This is a pain in the BUTT
2) Making Folder Beds (easy fold down beds in couches). This is equally a pain & No there is nothing easy about making them.
3) Guests who check out late without having requested a late checkout. Yes, we love sitting around waiting for you.
4) Guests who have kids. Is it really necessary for them to leave their imprints on every conceivable surface in the apartment?
5) Guests who bring dogs into the few “pet-friendly” rooms. Maybe you should clean up after your hound has left fur everywhere.
6) Allowing your kids to press all the buttons in the lift. No, we don’t have work to do and love nothing more than riding up and down 5 floors to get to where we are going in a timely manner. Note: Kids and Pets should stay at home Lol
7) Having to discard your caked up, mushy soaps left in the shower. Can’t guests take all the soaps and bottles when they leave? I used to – You know, all in the interest of saving housekeeping from having to –HaHa
8) Guests who put dishwasher tabs in the washing machine and the washing machine tabs in the dishwasher or when they do get it right forget to take the tablet out of the plastic packaging before placing in the machine. Simple Science – you are not going to clean NOTHING doing it like that.

What we do like:
1) Tips… Yes, Bring on the tips.
2) Left over food and groceries – particularly packets of chips, soda “pop”, waffles, pizza’s and fruit, which keeps us going throughout the day – HaHa.

All in all, it is also nice not to have a stress free job that isn’t demanding and we go about our work while having fun. If we can finish early, then great we hit the mountain for some skiing, like most departments do. Work hard, play hard has a different meaning up here.

The staff are picked up from different points in town and get a free shuttle which is such a bonus not having a car. It is the bight yellow school buses you see in the movies. The ride from Courtenay to the base is around 15 – 20 min ride and then another 20 – 30 minutes up to the top depending on the road conditions and ice. Everyone usually has a 40 minute nap enroute to work. Chains are required on vehicles to ride up to the top. We generally arrive at the top as the sun rises and there is nothing more beautiful than watching the sun uncover the snow capped mountains and valley with its rays while having a cup of coffee from the ski run.

Couldn’t be situated in a more picturesque spot and to have all that snow around you is fantastic. It is also nice that we don’t have to be outside all day. The lodges are usually so hot because of all the fireplaces that you run around working in only a T-Shirt.

On days when our shifts end earlier, I rush down to rentals, grab some gear and hit the mountain for a few runs on the slopes. I absolutely cannot get enough of it. So beautiful, peaceful and quite. The first day, starting out on the carpets (easy slope with a gentle incline) I looked down thinking HELL that is high, I can’t possibly head down there and in the next 2 days I was taking the chair lifts up to the summit to do Blue Runs (Intermediate level). I remembered a few things I had previously been taught in Australia and Austria when skiing and that came back pretty quickly.

I have taken a 2hr refresher ski course (also free for staff) and have worked on my turns. Now I am focused on picking up speed and getting used to different snow (slush/powder/ice etc) and how to adjust skiing for each type of snow.

I think I have almost clocked up as many ski hours as work hours.
My current skiometre is sitting at 28 Hours.

I have also done a 2 hour intro snowboarding lesson and done around 3.5 hrs snowboarding. In Ski Lingo I would referred to as a “Butt-Dragger” (Novice Snowboarder). It is relatively easy to pickup and once you have got the concept of heading down the hill face first with arms out like the karate kid and using your heals and toes to stop, depending on if you are facing the mountain or going backwards, it starts to make sense. Like a dance – You just need the right steps & not 2 left feet like I might have. Stopping and turning is something I have slowly grasped but have not yet ventured onto the mountain runs just yet. It is so taxing on your legs, ankles and toes that you are exhausted after 1 hr.

The alpine centre has a great restaurant and staff get discounts on the meals and free coffee and hot chocolate which is a huge bonus. So sometimes I spend some time up there when not on duty or skiing on an off day. I very rarely spend any time in the town below.

I have also been doing lots of networking around the mountain. Yes, everyone will know me by the time I am finished – HAHA. From chatting to different departments, catching up with the staff at the coffee shops and restaurants, in retail and rentals as well as getting to know the lift operators. I have decided to start also looking for additional shifts in different departments to supplement days off that I have in housekeeping, so as to make some extra money. It makes sense to try and get a second job on the mountain since that is where I spend 80 % of my time and now I have my foot in the door it is time to work the magic. I should have gone into espionage and the secret service – HAHA.

I plan to leave the mountain having perfected both skiing and boarding, as that was my core goal for coming to Canada. I still have to try the snow-shoeing and cross – country Nordic skiing and would be interested in getting my level 1 ski-instructor course too. You know for possible Future use – Haha.

We had a period of about 8 days where it was so sunny and warm up top and rainy and overcast below, that the snow level dropped. You could ski in a T-Shirt. However this week we had a good dumping of fresh powder – around 26cm. The one day the weather was so snowy, foggy and blizzard like up top that you could not see where you were going and it was like you were in a cacoon of whiteness. Skiing down the top part of the summit proved difficult as the wind kind of blew you backwards which got confusing to say the least and to remember which way was up and down.

See my Photo Album for the latest pictures from the mountain.

All in all, I am loving work and life up at the mountain.

Posted by TezaTravels 16.01.2013 16:00 Archived in Canada

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