Guide to Top-Paying Careers for Mountain-Lovers in 2021-2022
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity,” said environmentalist John Muir.
Many who grow up in the mountains express a sense of protection by these topographical blankets, much like those who are drawn to water feel its calm, soothing nature. During Covid, many workers embraced the ability to work from home, or from anywhere. Beach rentals were up, as were mountain cabins and lodges.
Living and working in mountain habitats typically provides a lifestyle void of city hassles. Less traffic, fewer people, more nature, and abundant fresh air are several of the benefits. Access to mountain activities is also a draw, including hiking, skiing, camping, and other pursuits.
While the starry skies and mountain views are what dreams are made of, there are also potential drawbacks to living in the mountains. The difficulty in access and extreme weather may make life challenging, as may distance to amenities. However, the privacy, outdoor activities, and eternal vacation-like atmosphere are hard to beat. Many mountain-lovers are willing to make sacrifices for the many benefits they feel outweigh the drawbacks.
If looking for higher-paying careers in a mountain town, it’s also important to consider the cost of living. Livability.com finds the following five mountain towns both gorgeous and affordable: Ogden, Utah; Leadville, Colorado; Boone, North Carolina; Crestline, California; and Idaho Falls, Idaho. By comparison, Snowbrains.com lists these ten towns as most cost-effective and ski-friendly:
- Mammoth Lakes, CA – Average Home Cost: $438,686; nearest resort: Mammoth Mountain
- Silverthorne, CO – Average Home Cost: $4,367; nearest resorts: Breckenridge, Keystone, A-Basin, Loveland, Copper
- Taos, NM – Average Home Cost: $401,864; nearest resort: Taos Ski Valley
- South Lake Tahoe, CA – Average Home Cost: $400,288; nearest resorts: Heavenly, Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe28
- Durango, CO – Average Home Cost: $397,124; nearest resort: Purgatory
- Granby, CO – Average Home Cost: $354,721; nearest resorts: Ski Granby Ranch, Winter Park
- Big Bear, CA – Average Home Cost: $312,662; nearest resorts: Big Bear Mountain Resort, Snow Summit
- Maggie Valley, NC – Average Home Cost: $253,851; nearest resort: Cataloochee Ski Area
- Conway, NH – Average Home Cost: $237,708; nearest resorts: Cranmore Mountain Resort, Attitash, Wildcat
- Poconos, PA – Average Home Cost: $199,797; nearest resorts: Blue Mountain Resort, Camelback Mountain, Big Boulder Ski Area
The following list of jobs has been compiled from various online sources, including MountainJobs.com, Blueridgeoutdoors.com, Workopolis, and ZipRecruiter, as well as data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics taken in September 2021.
Work in a Ski Resort
“The mountains are calling and I must go,” is another John Muir quote. Certainly, ski resorts have called many to the peaks, but not every job requires skis and mittens. There are other positions at resorts and other ancillary businesses that make sure the snow and crowds keep returning.
Accountant (BLS 2021)
- Median Pay: (1,392,200 employed in the U.S.): $35.37/hour, $73,560/annually on average
- Top-paying states: Washington DC, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California
- Career outlook: 7 percent increase in positions between 2020 and 2030 (96,000 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as business, science technologies, or social science. Some employers prefer a master’s degree in accounting or business administration with a concentration in accounting.
Ski Instructor (BLS 2021, ZipRecruiter)
- Median Pay: (12,000 – 82,000 employed in the U.S. depending on the time of year: $19.11/hour, $39,741/annually, but can top at $52,000 (ZipRecruiter)
- Top-paying states: Colorado, California, and Utah
- Career outlook (includes other recreational workers): 24 percent increase in positions between 2020 and 2030 (28,700 jobs added)
- Requirements: Each state has different requirements, with some requiring specific certifications by the International Ski Instructors Association; Level 11 or III PSIA-AASI certification can increase the salary
Hotel Operations/Lodging Managers (BLS 2021)
- Median Pay: (48,100 employed in the U.S.): $27.25/hour, $56,670
- Top-paying states: Washington DC, Colorado, New Jersey, Hawaii, North Carolina
- Career outlook: 9 percent increase in positions between 2020 and 2030 (4,200 jobs added)
- Requirements: Degreed programs in hotel management but in some situations, a high school degree may be acceptable
Meeting, Event, and Conference Planner (BLS 2021)
- Median Pay: (125,900 employed in the U.S.): $24.79/hour, $51,560
- Top-paying states: New Jersey, New York, Washington DC, Rhode Island, Washington State
- Career outlook: 18 percent increase in positions between 2020 and 2030 (22,900 jobs added)
- Requirements: Bachelor’s Degree
Food Service Manager (BLS 2021)
- Median Pay: (309,800 employed in the U.S.): $27.21/hour, $56,590
- Top-paying states: New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Washington DC, Washington State
- Career outlook: 15 percent increase in positions between 2020 and 2030 (46,200 jobs added)
- Requirements: High School or Equivalent
Work in Other Mountain Jobs
Other mountain jobs are varied and provide good pay potential, but the job happiness factor also reigns supreme. Continuing the John Muir theme, he also said, “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”
Several examples from Workopolis and Blue Ridge Outdoors in September 2021 (unless otherwise noted) include:
Outdoor Adventure Guide
- Pay: $50 – $150/hour or $30,000 – $60,000 with experience (Job Monkey)
- Median Pay: $64,010 (BLS 2021)
Freelance Outdoor Photographer
- Pay: Typically zero to mid-five figures; six figures is rare, but possible
- Pay: $35 – $100 per trip, depending on experience and the particular outfitter
Adventure Race Director
Rock Climbing Instructor
- Pay: $85 – $125/day, depending on location and experience
Mountain Biking Coach
- Pay: $100 – $250/day plus travel expenses