Wolves on the ski slopes

Dreaming of a White Retirement

Thinking of selling up and retiring to your favourite ski resort? You’re not alone, there are an increasing number of mature mountain migrants on the hunt for seasonal ski jobs. I’ve dubbed them WOLVES (Willing Older Ladies or Solitude Mountain Resort Lads Vying for Employment on Snow) who are sniffing out semi-retirement opportunities, lured by the irresistible scent of pure mountain air, healthy outdoor exercise and wintersport action. 

WOLVES have many advantages over younger ski scavengers. Despite their advanced years, they’re typically fighting fit, with a strong work ethic and the added advantage of capital which means they can afford accommodation in expensive ski areas. Due to financial security, they’re happy with part-time positions, lower wages and seasonal salaries – so long as they come with a coveted season’s pass. What’s more, with the clock ticking, they have a vocation/vacation mentality and rather than retire in relaxation they crave a constructive Encore Career. 

As we all know, WOLVES can sometimes masquerade in sheep’s clothing so here’s a guide to some of their disguises:

Private Instructor, Helen Roberds (79)

Helen Roberds

Seasons: Big Bear Mountain, Californiain 2003 at age 65 moved to Solitude, Utah.  Reasons: Healthy atmosphere, meet interesting people, outdoor activity, antidote to aging, relaxed environment ‘loaded with oldies’.
Now: Working for Level 3 PSIA qualification.
How: Ski instructor.
Wow: “I am very busy, teaching mostly private lessons. I actually have little time to free ski but immensely enjoy what I do,” she says. “My husband gets a pass because of my employment which is part of the benefit.”

Lifty, Ron Weiner (66)

Ron Weiner Seasons: 13 winters in Banff.
Reasons: Fed up with laundry/dry cleaning business; preserving youth and health via skiing and mountain lifestyle.
Now: Known as Papa Ron for his work with the community helper program.
How: Became Lift Operations Supervisor at Sunshine Village, Banff.
Wow: Gets appreciation and invitations from parents from all over the world: “I’m somebody the young lifties can confide in when away from home often for the first time.”                                                

Guest Services, Rodger Fry (70)

Rodger Fry Seasons: 12 years at Solitude, Utah. 
Reasons: Left 40-year career in astro-geology and global energy exploration for mountain sports.
Now: In winter lectures in geology and astronomy at ski lodges; in summer leads stargazing and geological hikes.
How: Started as volunteer and now works part-time in guest services.
Wow: Gives away ski secrets on his day off: “It is hard to put into words, the feeling that you experience at the bottom of the run when the guest gives you a big smile and says – That was fantastic – what other runs do you know of?”

Dance teacher, Tenessa Singleton (52)

Tenessa Singleton Seasons: Eight winters at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Reasons: Missed mountain air and wanted to simplify dance/film/fashion career.
Now: Teaches dance part-time, choreographs for Dancing with the Stars fundraisers.
How: Financier husband Geoff Gotlieb able to telecommute.
Wow: “One of my first winters in Jackson Hole I met a lovely lady who was 83 and doing Tram laps! She was my idol.” 

Mountain Host, Jack Mueller (59)

Deer Valley Resort

Seasons: Seven years at Deer Valley, Utah.
Reasons: Relocated on retirement from Wall Street to family vacation home bought in 2007.
Now: Chair of the Park City Community Foundation.
How: Works as ski host; mountain biking lifty in summer.
Wow: “I do get both ski and bike privileges but the best part of the experience is the camaraderie and the joie de vivre that exists in the resort among both peers and guests. Interviewing for the position was the hardest interview I have ever had – all this for a job that paid $7.50 an hour!”

Ski Reps, Mike and Liz Cakebread

Liz and Mike Cakebread Seasons: Whistler winters; Zermatt summers.
Reasons: Mike dropped engineering management career for seasonal mountain lifestyle.
Now: Ski reps for Inghams.
How: Mike qualified as ski guide with the Ski Club of Great Britain.
Wow: “It’s not the earning potential that drives us, rather the attractive lifestyle in the mountains and we thoroughly enjoy the two countries we work in,” says Liz. 

Louise Turner, who is a recruitment executive for Inghams, has noticed a rise in the number of more mature applicants for seasonal jobs. “This increased most dramatically during the financial crash nine years ago,” she explains. “We often find that they have always wanted to do a ski season and now is the time they can finally do one, due to fewer commitments taking priority, like a career, young kids or a mortgage. Whistler Blackcomb courtesy of Inghams Mature Seasonaires are great for business as they don’t only bring loads of work experience, but they also bring life experience, which our guests can relate to very well.” 

You are bound to notice more and more WOLVES wherever you are skiing as the retirement-reinvention trend is here to stay. Former literary agent and film producer, John Tarnoff is a key career influencer for this powder-crazed pack. His book, Boomer Reinvention: How to Create Your Dream Career Over 50, is full of tempting tips for Encore Careers. “This is not just a boomer generation issue. Estimates show that by the time millennials retire, they will rely on employment for 26% of their income as opposed to 17% for boomers,” says Tarnoff. “The scale is not likely to tip for future generations. Boomers need to take the first step towards what is likely to be the norm for ‘retirement’.” 

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Inghams.

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Louise Hudson

Travel & ski writer

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