Image: Heli ski guide
Megan Michelson
Being a heli-ski guide is dangerous, sure. But if you crave untracked steeps, this could be the job for you.
updated 1/13/2011 9:53:55 AM ET 2011-01-13T14:53:55

Looking for a career change? Why not get a job that comes with a powder clause. We spoke to the people who hold some of the most desirable jobs in skiing — filmmakers, product designers, marketing managers — about how to get their job.

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No. 1: Boutique ski maker
“When your passion is your job, you never work a day in your life,” says Jordan Grano, founder of Folsom Custom Skis in Boulder, Colorado. “To have a chance to affect the industry you love in a positive way and help people enjoy their time skiing is what motivates me.” Many boutique ski companies are spawned by skiers, usually after they’re dissatisfied with the skis already out on the market. Perks include testing the skis during powder days. How to break in: Find a gap in the current market and be creative on how you can help fill it. Study ski design from other companies and stay motivated. Grano doesn’t have a degree in designing, instead he spent years doing personal, in-depth field work with skis he built before he began marketing them.

Slideshow: Hit the lifts (on this page)

No. 2: Heli-ski guide
Being a heli-ski guide in Canada or Alaska may be one of the world’s most high-risk jobs, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. “The best part of my job? Skiing sick spines all day,” says Jim Delzer, who’s worked as a guide at Valdez Heli Ski Camps in Valdez, Alaska, for the last three years. “I ski untracked steeps in Alaska for about 40 days each winter.” How to break in: Work as a ski patroller or mountain guide, and be sure to take wilderness first responder courses, avalanche safety courses, and guiding courses from the American Mountain Guides Association or the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. You may also have to climb your way up the ladder by working the front desk, kitchen, or radio operations at a heli outfitter before you get bumped up to guide.

Story: Heli-skiing operators looking to lure intermediate skiers

No. 3: Ski photographer
Getting a single usable action photograph of a skier takes more effort than most people realize. But it’s also more rewarding. Just ask Ian Coble, a self-taught photographer who has shot editorial spreads for ESPN, Backcountry, Powder, Skiing, and more. “It’s absolutely incredible to get paid to travel and ski the most incredible places on earth,” Coble says. “I also get to spend time outside and not behind a desk. I have the freedom to work for myself.” How to break in: Photoshop skills are a must, as is motivation to work hard, mostly independently at first. It’s also very important to network and you have to be passionate about your work, says Coble. “It’s going to take this energy to show emotion in your work.”

Now hiring: Winter Park.

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No. 4: Ski writer
Granted, being a ski writer was more glamorous in the days of bottomless magazine budgets, but it’s still a pretty cushy job. Just ask Rob Story, a Telluride, Colorado-based freelance writer who has penned ski-related stories for Skiing, Powder, Outside, Men’s Journal, Travel & Leisure, Rolling Stone, and others. “The perks have been awesome through the years—free gear, great travel, more expensive steaks and bottles of wine than I can count,” says Story. How to break in: A journalism degree and a magazine internship are good places to start. “Skiing ability is important, of course, but it doesn’t help a magazine nearly as much as someone competent with words,” Story says. “Internships remain the best way to get into it, and to meet the editors who determine freelancers’ fates.”

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No. 5: Ski movie maker
A ski filmmaker gets free Clif bars, more than 2,000 Facebook friends, countless excess baggage fees, and 4 a.m. wakeup calls all winter. Just ask Nick Waggoner, director of Colorado-based Sweetgrass Productions, a ski film company founded in 2007. “My favorite moments are when we connect with people who watch the films,” says Waggoner. “It’s food for our creative side.” But despite the early morning missions to catch good light, filmmakers get to travel to some of the world’s best ski destinations with some of the best skiers. How to break in: A film school degree and owning your own camera gear will help. Sign up for an adventure filmmaking class like the Serac Adventure Film School. And do your homework, says Waggoner. “Watch movies, look at photographs … get inspired,” he says. “Learn what makes a good film and surround yourself with friends who will push you.”

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No. 6: Product designer
We’d all be lost without product designers — they make sure ski equipment is designed correctly so a skier doesn’t launch off a cliff sans boot. And then they get to test their products. Black Diamond product developer Derek Gustafson likes the challenge of designing ski boots and the way his job gives him the opportunity to work on a product that fits with his passion for skiing. How to break in: “Be sure that in addition to feeding the passion for the sport, you make sure you delve deeply into other interests because ultimately being well rounded is pretty important as you try to find a way to contribute to skiing and the outdoor industry,” says Gustafson, who has a physics degree and worked for 12 years at a molded plastic design company before designing boots. He recommends a background in design, a degree is best, and an internship if possible.

No. 7: Ski resort social media manager
A typical day in the life of someone who does social media for a ski resort? Update the website, ski, check ad campaigns, ski, post a blog, ski, update Facebook, ski, head to après ski, check Twitter. “It’s an awesome job,” says John Beal, the online marketing and social media coordinator for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. “I look out my window and see the tram flying by every 10 minutes. Powder clause is in full effect. Lots of free gear. Meeting and skiing with lots of pro athletes, photographers, and film crews. We ski hard and we work just as hard.” How to break in: A background in marketing, web design, or online marketing will help. Beal volunteered as a mountain host at Jackson Hole and got a good recommendation when the position became available.

No. 8: Ski shop employee
Working in a ski shop comes with lots of perks: Free ski tuning, endless piles of free gear, testing skis before they’re available to the public, and powder-day clauses. “It’s a great job,” says Ryan Ahern, 27, who’s worked at Golden, Colorado’s Bent Gate Mountaineering shop for the past two years. “It’s nice selling products that you actually use and selling them to people who are passionate about the same thing. You get to talk gear all day long.” The bummer: You’ll do this job for the swag, not the paycheck. “We definitely aren’t doing the job because it pays incredible,” says Ahern. “But we get great deals on skis. Most everyone who works here gets a couple pairs of new skis every year.” To get a ski shop job, you’ll need retail experience or experience working with customers, and gear and ski knowledge.

No. 9: Pro skier
Everyone wants to be a pro skier. The perks are endless: skiing in the best locations for free, traveling the world, piles of gear, autograph signings, film segments, and being surrounded by people who have just as much enthusiasm for the sport that you do. “It’s pretty much the ultimate job,” says pro skier Mike Douglas. “It’s all about skiing the best stuff. It’s pretty hard to get tired of this.” How to get into it: Douglas advises that the best way toward becoming a pro is to get involved in competitions—sign up for a local big-mountain comp and work your way up to a stop on the Freeskiing World Tour—and begin to prove yourself against other skiers. Attend the SIA ski trade show in Denver next winter, armed with a ski resume and prepared to market yourself to potential sponsors. Make a ‘Sponsor Me’ clip on YouTube and starting trying to shoot with professional photographers. You have to show your stuff, and only ski because you love it. He says that networking could be important, but it goes even deeper then this. “It’s really all about your talent and willingness to go bigger,” he says.

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No. 10: Marketing manager
Doing marketing for a company that makes vacuum cleaners may be dull. But imagine doing marketing for a company that makes ski gear? Pretty easy stuff to get excited about, if you ask us. A typical marketing job for a ski gear company could include everything from doing public relations with media, managing the athlete team and website, writing the catalogue and press releases, traveling to events, preparing skis for magazine tests, sending gear to pro athletes, setting up photo shoots, and much more. “I get to work directly with some of skiing’s top pros, I get to witness some of the best comp riding on the planet, I get to see once in a lifetime action go down on film, and I get to ski in some of the best spots on the planet,” says Mike Nick, the Sports Marketing Director for Orage, a ski apparel company. “It doesn’t get much better than that.” How to break in: You’ll need experience in marketing or PR, strong communication and writing skills, and a ski background

Explainer: Cheers! Eight great après ski cocktails

  • Crème brulee martini, anyone? We've looked to some of our favorite restaurants in ski country to find out what they're serving. Here's how to mix up your own.

  • Crème Brulee Martini

    Image: Creme brulee martini
    Skiing Magazine
    Take Frangelico and Cointreau, add a crushed-graham-cracker rim, and you've got a creme brulee martini.

    Vanilla vodka is mixed with Frangelico and Cointreau, shaken and served in a chilled cocktail glass with a crushed-graham-cracker rim.

    Find it at: Plato’s, Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colo.

  • Brandy Avondale

    Skiing Magazine

    Baileys, Tuaca, rich Godiva chocolate liqueur and cream are added to brandy, shaken and strained into a snifter. It’s garnished with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Spruce's High West Toddy

    Image: High West Toddy
    Skiing Magazine

    The bartender at Spruce Restaurant creates this warm specialty with local High West Rendezvous Rye combined with Chamomile tea, honey water, lemon juice, cloves and a cinnamon stick. It’s garnished with a lemon peel for a bit of tang.

    Find it at: Dakota Mountain Lodge, The Canyons, Utah.

  • The Hot Teddy

    Image: Hot Teddy
    Skiing Magazine

    A delicious mix of Baileys, Grand Marnier, Frangelico and Goldschlager steamed with vanilla soymilk and topped with chocolate sprinkles.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Image: Pumpkin Pie
    Skiing Magazine

    Pumpkin puree, Wild Turkey or Kentucky bourbon, maple syrup and house make chai syrup are shaken with ice and topped with sparkling wine, then strained into a chilled martini glass with a cinnamon sugar rim.

    Find it at: Kelly Liken, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Old Saint Nick

    Image: Old Saint Nick
    Skiing Magazine
    Containing Jim Beam, Dark Rum and White Cr?me de Cacao, the Old Saint Nick is sure to make you jolly.

    A frothy combination of eggnog, Jim Beam, Myers Dark Rum, White Crème de Cacao and nutmeg to warm you from the inside out.

    Find it at: The Vail Cascade, Vail, Colo.

  • The Snowball

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    Y ou'll be climbing every mountain when you down one of the Snowball cocktails served at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.

    Grey Goose Vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream are combined in a shaker and strained over crushed ice into a martini glass. Topped with a scoop of foamed milk and garnished with a cinnamon stick

    Find it at: Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vt.

  • The Falcon Burner

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    This tall, hot double-shot cappuccino with Grand Marnier is topped with fresh Vermont whipped cream and drizzled with local maple syrup.

    Find it at: The Equinox, Manchester, Vt.

Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

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  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
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