More than just a job: Stories from the staff at HI Banff

April 17, 2023

HI Banff is located smack dab in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. It’s surrounded by the most gorgeous nature: mountains, pretty clear-blue lakes, hiking trails, wildlife, and thick forests. Located on the grounds of what might as well be a pretty postcard scene, HI Banff is definitely a worthwhile destination for outdoorsy, nature-oriented travellers. And working here is truthfully like a dream come true. If offices aren’t your scene and a traditional 9-5 doesn’t excite you, working just mere steps away from one of Canada’s most iconic national parks might have a stronger pull.

Here, four people spill the beans on what it’s really like to work in Banff. Spoiler alert: it’s basically a dream come true! (What were you expecting?)

. . .

I was pulled to HI Banff because of the special vibe it has. Though I had never visited before, I knew it was a beautiful lodge located in the middle of the mountains. I mean, that’s an easy sell. I read the testimonials and reviewed social media, and it became so obvious that HI Banff was more than just a workplace. I could sense right away the community and family environment. That’s what I had been looking for.

Now, I’ve been at the front desk at the hostel in one of Canada’s most coveted spots for a year. No two days are alike. The number of people I’ve met since my arrival has been incredible—from guests and long-term hostellers to coworkers and their friends and family, it's been so amazing to hear everyone’s story and have them be a part of my journey here.

I wanted to experience the forests, beautiful Canadian lakes, and views from mountain tops. I hike, mountain bike, climb, ice climb, and ski… and I enjoy the cozy nights indoors with my roommates after we survive the cold.

The experience at HI Banff during the off hours is time blissfully spent in nature. I come from a big city so you can imagine that getting the opportunity to live and work in the mountains is a dream. That’s what I wanted: nature. I wanted to experience the forests, beautiful Canadian lakes, and views from mountain tops. So when I'm not working, I make the most of that. I hike, mountain bike, climb, ice climb, and ski… and I enjoy the cozy nights indoors with my roommates after we survive the cold. This isn’t your typical work environment—the hostel has created a lot of amazing opportunities to explore and discover the mountains. I tried many new things during my time here. Group wilderness hostel trips, department activities, staff ski days... the list goes on.

This experience has seriously been a dream come true. It gave me the best summer of my life! Starting a new life away from home can be scary, but the support I continue to receive here is extraordinary. I will be leaving Canada with another family, one that I chose for myself. If you’re thinking about it, just go for it. Embrace it. It’ll be worth it.

Estera Kujawa

I was actually a guest at HI Banff before deciding to come work here. I worked at Sunshine and on the weekends, my friends and I would come to the hostel, unwind, meet guests, and get to know the staff. It was always a fun atmosphere so when I finished at the ski resort, working at HI Banff was the obvious choice. There was always just a lighthearted vibe and a solid sense of community at this place. It really drew me in.

Before this, I had been working in computer-aided design in the UK. I had always wanted to travel to Canada and once settled, I decided it was now or never. When I arrived in Banff, I knew immediately it was somewhere I wanted to spend a lot of time.

These days, I’m working in the kitchen as a line cook. Every day, we open the kitchen, prep food, and clean. Then it's off to serve customers. That always makes for some interesting conversations. I love hearing about people's crazy adventures around Banff—It always gives me ideas of what to do next. And it’s such a positive work environment: I love cooking and people are always happy here.

Try not to fall in love with the place—I dare you.

When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m either hiking in the mountains or skiing (depending on the season). I try to really get outside as much as possible. I mean it’s Banff—that’s why I’m here!

If you’re considering working here, just go for it. Or check it out for yourself! Stay for a few days. Take part in the events. Hang out with the staff and backpackers who come through. Try not to fall in love with the place—I dare you.

For me, it’s always about the people you meet along the way. The community at HI Banff is friendly and supportive. The managers are open to new ideas and they help you realize your goals. The lifelong friends and memories I’ve made are what will stick with me. That sounds cheesy, but I mean it.

Philip Black

I always thought it would be pretty special to get a chance to work in the Rockies. I learned about the work-stay program at HI Banff and that felt perfect. I could meet both locals and travellers and get a chance to live in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. I mean, that’s a win-win. I always wanted to travel and live in the mountains though and this was my chance. So I took it!

I’m the activities coordinator at HI Banff which means that my days are dynamic, active, fun, and social. No two days are the same. I’m always planning—or leading—the fun stuff that people get up to during their stay. That could be a group hike along forest trails past beautiful lakes, or a pool competition, or a fun karaoke night.

I could meet both locals and travellers and get a chance to live in one of the most beautiful parts of Canada. I mean, that’s a win-win.

When I’m not on the clock, it’s all about fun and outdoor recreation. In the winter, that means skiing (I’m in one of the best ski destinations in Canada, after all!). But I also love just putting on my boots and going for walks around the property, where it’s not uncommon to spot some deer or elk. In summer, I’m hiking, cycling, playing games or in a canoe. I’m even able to say that my job has enabled me to take multi-day trips exploring the Rockies. That’s pretty wild!

Having lived and worked at HI Banff for a year now, I haven’t met a single staff member who didn’t love working here. This is a pretty unique opportunity where you get to explore a world-class mountain destination every day, meet fun people, and feel supported in your role here.

Mathilde Rechaussat

I’ve been working in hostels since 2015. I got a job as a night auditor in New Zealand when I was travelling and I just fell in love with the hostel atmosphere. When I decided to move to Canada, I wanted to continue on the same path.

I started at HI Banff on the front desk and worked my way to supervisor, assistant general manager, and eventually general manager. Here, I’ve really felt so grateful for the support and mentorship I’ve received and I intend to provide the same for others looking to establish a career in hospitality.

This truly is one of Canada’s most iconic destinations. There’s a reason why Banff has a magnetic pull for travellers from all over the world. The mountains offer so many opportunities to explore the outdoors so I take full advantage of that. There’s always something to do—even when it’s -30C outside. When I venture outside of Banff, I use the other HI Canada properties to explore further. Perks of the job!

There’s always something to do—even when it’s -30C outside.

There have been so many days here that have just been 10/10. One vivid memory that I have was of the summer solstice a couple of years ago. Since it’s the longest day of the year, we decided to make the most of it. At 3:00 a.m. we took our bikes to Lake Louise, and cycled the Moraine Lake access road to watch the sunrise together. We returned in time for work and at 10 p.m., we hiked up Sulphur Mountain to watch the sunset from the summit. The day was just incredible and the views were even better! That’s not something you can experience any day or just anywhere in the world. It was really special.

Sometimes, family and friends back home question my choices. This isn’t a typical career, sure, but there are thousands of amazing opportunities in the hospitality industry—especially in a place like this. I’m glad I’m here. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

I've worked at seven hostels around the world and although they were all pretty amazing, HI Banff is my favourite. It's the people that make the place, and this place attracts the most incredible ones.

Remi Lambeau

This article is part of the
Issue 4

Work It

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