As a teen from small town Ontario, Kristian Haagaard decided to move West to experience a gap year in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Securing a seasonal position at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort with the intent of staying one year turned into the starting point of a successful 20-year career.
At 19-years-old Kristian Haagaard received a call from a friend encouraging him to come experience winter in Banff National Park. Deciding to take a year off before attending university, Haagaard applied for an entry level position at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort, securing a seasonal job as a gondola operator.
The game plan was simple: experience the excitement of working and skiing at one of Canada’s most well- known ski resorts, then return home to Ontario and begin school.
“As a kid who grew up skiing at the Ontario and Quebec resorts, I was ecstatic about the possibility of one day skiing in the Canadian Rockies,” said Haagaard. “When I finished high school I wasn’t sure of what path I’d like to take and spending a year to embark on this once-in-a-lifetime experience seemed ideal.”
A quick move to Banff and an introduction to gondola mechanics sparked an interest with Haagaard, and the stepping stones to learning a skilled trade began.
“After finishing up the 1992 -1993 season I decided to stay at Sunshine Village and spent the summer working as a mechanic’s helper. I learned quite a bit from the senior staff and my interest in pursuing a career snowballed from there.”
“I moved to Banff to work at Sunshine Village seeing it as a temporary move, but found a job that really interested me. Growing up skiing I had taken gondolas and lifts numerous time, never thinking about the intricacies of how they operated. Learning all the systems and rules, of how a ski lift works and how technology has changed over the years is quite fascinating and I really enjoy it.”
Haagaard spent 10 years learning and working his way up in gondola mechanics, earning a trade ticket for Journeymen Millwright, which was funded in part by his employer. In 2002 he was promoted to Supervisor of Lift Maintenance and most recently, Lift Manager, overseeing all the lift systems maintenance and operations for the resort.
Along the way, Haagaard met his now wife, who also worked at Sunshine Village and his since made Alberta his home. He now resides in Canmore, Alberta with his wife and children.
“I was initially attracted to Banff to experience the fun and excitement of working at a ski resort and fell in love with the area. Being able to ski and hike combined with the small town appeal and healthy lifestyle really appealed to me.”
As Haagaard approaches his 20th season at Sunshine Village Ski and Snowboard Resort, when asked to reflect on his time working on the mountain,
“I came to Sunshine Village for a season of skiing and fun, and out of it I found a career and made my home. I love the area and would recommend this lifestyle to anyone interested in experiencing employment in the ski industry.”