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Snow business: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland

If you are a foreign national, finding employment in Switzerland (and work permit to go with it) could be problematic. But seasonal work may be easier to get — especially if you are a snow buff.

Snow business: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland
Not a snow job: There are lots of winter work opportunities in Switzerland, but you can’t be too choosy. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Yes, Switzerland is synonymous with cheese, chocolate and watches, but skiing down snow-covered Alpine slopes is also very “Swiss” (especially if you eat a cheese fondue afterwards).

If you are dreaming of a job in Switzerland but your chances of working in a bank or a big corporation are slim to none, you may get lucky being hired for seasonal work in a winter resort.

Why is winter a good time to get a job in a resort?

While there is some mountain tourism in Switzerland all year round, winter is the busiest season because the economy of the Alpine regions depends heavily on ski industry, along with other winter sports and activities.

As relatively few people live permanently in resort areas, there is a shortage of local employees to work in various jobs that are essential for tourism.

Just as an example, the year-round population in the village of Zermatt, which lies at the foot of the famous Matterhorn, is about 6,000 people, but an estimated 2 million tourists visit the resort each year.

Skiers in Zermatt, with the Matterhorn as backdrop. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The situation is the same throughout Swiss resorts — tourists far outnumber the locals — which means “outsiders” must be hired for the efficient running of the economy.

READ MORE: How to find English language jobs in Switzerland

What kind of jobs are up for grabs in winter resorts?

There are many, but be prepared not to be too picky.

“Glamorous” positions such as a ski instructor may be harder to get than a job in a service sector, which includes hotels and restaurants.

That’s because ski and other sport instructors must have special qualifications and be certified.

However, if you feel you have the necessary skills and credentials, you can contact the central body dealing with ski and snowboard instructors, Swiss Snowports, to find out whether your foreign certificate is recognised in Switzerland and which resorts are hiring.

If, however, you don’t have any special qualifications, then your best bet would be working in hotels, restaurants, and other tourist service branches.

There is no other way to say it, but these are the types of jobs that the Swiss don’t want.

Cleaning the streets after heavy snow, like here in ski resort of St. Moritz, could be one of the jobs you could apply for. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

How should you look for a job?

Pretty much the same way as you’d search for any other work. The Local Switzerland’s job board is a good place to start for all kinds of work

This requires a bit of research. You should go on a website of a resort where you want to work (or several resorts if you don’t care where you work) and see if there are any “help wanted” ads.

You can also search individual hotels and restaurants and apply directly.

Additionally, there is an online resource that lists jobs in the hospitality industry across Switzerland, including in mountain resorts.

And these two sites are general sources of vacancies in Switzerland as well:

www.jobs.ch

www.jobup.ch

How much can you earn working in a winter resort?

That depends on a lot of factors, especially on the type of work you do.

Just as a general indication, Swiss ski instructors typically earn around 60 francs an hour, but that too depends on the level of their qualifications.

In the hospitality industry, pay is notoriously low, and not just in ski resorts but elsewhere in Switzerland as well.

Of course “low” in Switzerland may be high in other countries. For instance, an average Swiss wage for a restaurant worker is 19.99 francs an hour.

What kind of permit do you need to work a winter job in Switzerland?

If you already live in Switzerland and have a permit allowing you to work, then you are all set.

Those who come from EU / EFTA states don’t require any authorisation for work up to three months. Beyond this timeframe, they have to register with the communal authorities before taking up work.

What about people from outside Europe?

This is more tricky.

Switzerland doesn’t issue seasonal visas, so you would have to go through the same process as any third-country national wishing to work here.

You must first find an employer who agrees to hire you, and they will then apply for a visa and / or authorisation for you to come to Switzerland.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: When and how should you renew your Swiss residence permit?

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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Switzerland has made reciprocal agreements regarding working holiday visas with several countries. Here's what you need to know.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Over the past few decades, countries around the globe have rolled out ‘working holiday visa’ agreements.

These visa schemes, largely targeted at young people, allow people to work and live in a particular country, usually for a set period of time and pursuant to certain conditions.

In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its own form of a ‘working holiday visa’, although there are some important differences to be aware of.

Unlike some of the better known schemes like those in place in Australia, applicants are discouraged from moving around and are generally required to stay with the one employer for the duration.

The goal of the visa scheme is to allow applicants to “expand their occupational and linguistic skills in Switzerland”.

The visa scheme runs for 18 months and cannot be extended.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

The agreements are made between countries, meaning your fate will depend on whether your government has at some point struck a deal with Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

If you are from the European Union or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), then you will be able to live and work in Switzerland as is – and will not need to go through this process.

If you come from outside the EU, you will only be able to apply for this visa if you are a citizen of the following countries:

Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.

What does ‘reciprocal’ mean in this context? 

Where these agreements have been struck, they have entitled citizens of both countries to certain rights and permissions in the other country. 

However, while these arrangements might be reciprocal, they are not identical. 

For instance, while citizens of Australia can enter Switzerland and work, the rules for Swiss citizens in Australia are significantly different. 

Therefore, if considering each program, be sure to study all of the relevant details as these will change from country to country and from agreement to agreement. 

More information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland

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