So you’re finally heading off on that working holiday in Canada that you’ve been planning for what feels like forever! That is so exciting! What’s more, you’ve actually chosen to do a season in Big White like I have been raving on about. You will seriously love it. This post is more about the little bits of life admin you will need to do when you arrive, alongside of what to pack and what to expect from your season in Big White (hint.. bucket loads of awesome snow! ☃️)
If you’ve been following along since my post Working Holiday in Canada – A guide to your season in Big White, you should have all the important things organised already… right? I’m talking about your Canadian Visa Letter of Entry, as well as a job and accommodation lined up in Big White. You should also have sorted out your travel insurance and booked your flights. Tick, tick tick ✔️ Awesome, let’s move on.
When you finally arrive in Canada, there are a few bits and pieces of ‘life admin’ that you will need to do before you can completely relax. But first, let’s quickly touch on what you will need to pack for your first season in Big White.
What to Pack
This might seem like a straight forward topic to some people, but for others, it’s really hard to know what exactly you will need on your season. The best thing about Canada is that it is a first world country, and you have plenty of shopping centres where you can buy anything that you’ve left at home – so don’t stress too much!
While you are packing for at least a 6-month trip, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to pack absolutely everything. I have gotten way better at packing lighter and lighter over the years, and I still overpack! My rule is to lay out everything you think you might like to take, and put back at least a third of it. I know you think you’ll need it all, but just remember you will spend most of your time in ski gear or work clothes.. right? ☺️
I’ve written another post about what to pack for your first ski trip, and those items can be applied to your season too. To check it out, head to ‘Your First Ski Trip – Tips, Tricks & a Packing List!’.
Aside from the usual items listed in that post above, I would especially remember the following things:
#1 – A Decent Pair of Waterproof Boots
It honestly blows me away how many people try to walk around the snow in converses or vans. Sure, these are okay for a quick dash between buildings within the village, but not for walking across the snow or long distances. Your feet will be freezing in no time, and they offer very little grip.
I would highly recommend in investing in a pair of Sorels, Helly Hansens or even Timberlands. Whatever you are most comfortable with that will provide you with some warmth and grip. I had a few pairs of warm boots that I would wear for walking to and from work, and then a pair of work shoes that I left at work so I was not traipsing around the restaurant in winter boots all day.
#2 – Work Specific Clothing
Some jobs will require you to have specific items of clothing such as black pants or shoes, that you need to supply yourself. I’d highly recommend having at least one set of these clothes ready to go, so you don’t have to rush to the mall to get organised before starting work.
#3 – Swimwear!
Canada is the land of hot tubs! You will know at least one person that has a hot tub in their apartment or building complex. They are an amazing way to wind down and warm up after a big day on the slopes, so don’t forget your swimmers!
#4 – Basic Toiletries
Obviously you know which toiletries you are going to need, however my point to mentioning this is to not pack too many toiletries on the way over. In the early days of travelling, I used to take massive bottles of body wash, shampoo and conditioner with me, when I could buy the same stuff when I arrived!
Save yourself the kilo’s in your luggage allowance, and just bring enough to get you through the first week. In Canada, I found things like body wash and shampoo and conditioner to be much cheaper than Aus anyway (win!).
Okay, now onto the life administration stuff 😴.
Acquiring a Social Insurance Number (SIN)
First things first, you need a Social Insurance Number (SIN) so that Canada knows you exist! Legally, you’re required to have a SIN to start working in Canada. You’ll also need a SIN to apply for a bank account and a phone plan. Applying for a Social Insurance Number is free, really easy and relatively quick.
To apply for your SIN in Kelowna you will head to Service BC’s Kelowna office on Queensway Avenue. Their office hours are 8.30-4.30pm Monday to Friday, and you will need your Working Holiday Visa and Passport to apply.
Choosing a Bank
The first thing to be aware of about banking in Canada is that it is far more expensive than it is in Australia! 😱. They can get you good with account maintenance fees and transaction fees if you go over your transaction limit. Banking is weird in Canada 🤷🏼♀️. Just make sure you read the terms of your account and don’t get suckered in to an expensive account that you don’t need.
The upside to being a foreigner is that most of the ‘big’ banks in Canada offer a 6 to 12 month introductory offer to newcomers. The most commonly used banks around Kelowna are: CIBC, TD Canada Trust and RBC. Each of these banks have three branches each in Kelowna, making them easily accessible if you’re located in Big White. Online banking is a thing, but not nearly as advanced as we are used to in Australia.
We went with TD Canada Trust and had zero issues with them ever. The account set up was really easy and their customer service was always great.
Choosing a Phone Plan Provider
You definitely can get away without having a Canadian SIM card while in Canada, even for a Working Holiday. In Big White in particular, there is free Wi-Fi throughout the village centre and day lodges around the resort. Your accommodation will have Wi-Fi too, so a phone plan is not essential!
However, if you want to have a back up if/when the Wi-Fi is down, then having a phone plan doesn’t go astray. There are a multitude of options when it comes to mobile service providers and offerings in Canada. You can choose to buy a prepaid sim, and top up your credit on a monthly basis. Or you can start a plan that is either pre-paid or billed. I guess this is similar to most offers in Australia too.
I went with Telus, and would recommend against them. They were just generally unhelpful. I would suggest heading to the mall and chatting to one of the booths in the middle sections, to see what deals they can offer you.
Hot Tip: Before you leave home, make sure your phone is ‘unlocked’ by your current provider. If it’s not unlocked, you won’t be able to put another companies SIM card in it 👎🏼.
Of course, you will be able to receive care packages from home and general mail while you’re in Big White. However, it’s really important that you understand that your residential address is not your mailing address 😬.
Big White has a ‘staff mailing address’ that you will need to use when setting up your bank account or for any important mail. It’s picked up twice weekly by administration, and sorted for your collection from the office near the VCM. The address should be:
Big White Ski Resort
Attn: (Your Name)
PO Box 2250 Kelowna, BC
Hot Tip: If you feel like a spot of online shopping while you’re in Canada, be careful with the delivery! Some mail carriers in Canada will not deliver to a P.O. box. These packages will be left at the local depot for retrieving for up to 5 days before they are returned to the sender 👎🏼.
What Should you Expect from your Season in Big White?
Alright, now you really should have everything that you need in terms of information surrounding your working holiday in Canada 😱🎉. I hope you are excited, because it really is going to be the best time of your life!
Big White is an awesome place to do a season, especially if it’s your first. I’ve written a bunch of other posts about Canada in general along the way, so make sure you check those out too! But for now, here are a final few thoughts I’d like to leave you with, in terms of what to expect from your season in Big White.
You will get used to low visibility days, and quickly
Big White is also known as Big White Out, because there are a lot of low visibility days thanks to some super high and dense fog. Sometimes, this fog is icy and cold, and you’ll be scraping your frozen goggles every lap to be able to see.
At first, you will most likely find it scary as it’s easy to get lost and feel dizzy in this type of fog. Some days, I have not been able to tell up from down 🤮. Just take it easy, and get down safely. You’ll get to know the mountain on fine, sunny days and soon you’ll know the runs like the back of your hand. You will also get used to the fog, eventually!
Get ready to experience the famous ‘Okanagan Champagne Powder’
The snowfall in British Columbia in general is pretty reliable, and when you do get a big snowfall it’s normally beautiful light, dry and fluffy powder. Also known as Okanagan Champagne Powder 🤷🏼♀️.
If it’s your first time skiing in powder, you might find it a little tricky at first. Shift your stance backwards a little bit, so that you push the tips of your ski’s or boards upwards. This is tricky to do without completely compromising your technique, so give yourself some time to practice.
The fun factor far outweighs the hurt it brings to your quads – I promise! ☃️
Get ready to party…
While Big White supposedly has a pretty tame party scene compared to rumours of Whistler or even Banff. However, don’t let that fool you. Big White is home to plenty of house parties, and various themed nights out at the local bars. Seriously, there is something on almost every single night, so you could party all week long if you wanted too.
I also feel that I should mention the amount of drug use that you’ll find, on any ski season for that matter. Honestly, I found this quite confronting at first, and I was completely expecting it. But I am someone who has never done, and will never do drugs, so 🤷🏼♀️.
Basically, drugs are much cheaper and seemingly more accessible in Canada than Australia, which seems to be a catalyst for such high use. The culture can also come across as ‘everyone does it’, but if you’re not comfortable, then don’t get involved. Simple ☺️.
You do need to be prepared to actually show up for work
Even though your employer does understand that you’re here to ski, party and then travel, they do also expect you to show up fit and ready to work every shift. Of course, if you go overboard once or twice and have to call in sick, you won’t get fired (most likely 😬). But don’t expect to hold down your position if you are constantly late, hungover or lazy in your workplace. Especially towards the end of the season!
You will make friendships that will last a lifetime
It sounds sooooo cliche, but it’s true! Working a season brings some of the most unlikely of friends together. You most likely won’t maintain a close friendship with those people, and that’s okay. But then there are some friends that you make, that really will stick around. Sure, you won’t see them often, but if your love of snow continues, your paths will undoubtedly cross time and time again over the future.
At the end of the day, no matter whether you are super organised, or not at all, I know that you’re going to have an amazing time! Your season will be whatever you make it to be.
If you can prepare and plan well for all the things listed over the last two posts, you’ll have an easy and smooth transition into Big White living. Once you’re organised, you can relax, and enjoy the amazing snow 😍☃️.
If you have any other questions about your working holiday in Canada or a season in Big White specifically, feel free to reach out at any time! ☺️
Brilliant information Dani – What was that age limit again on getting work Visa’s up there in Canada.
Is there anything for the more mature candidate that might be looking for a Sea Change or Snow Change…. 🙂
Hi Steve, thanks so much! The age limit for Working Visa’s in Canada is 30 years old at application. Unfortunately I don’t know a whole lot about mature candidates receiving visas other than applying for a Sponsored Visa which can be extremely difficult to attain over here. Maybe a long term holiday is in order?