How to make your vocation your vacation …

Liz at Hotham 2015

One of the lodge manager stalwarts at Mt Hotham is Liz Hanger. In her third season now, it is hard to believe her initial reaction to a suggestion of working in a ski resort was – “oh … I think I’m passed that!” Instead she has done just that, turning her new vocation into her vacation.

Planting the seed

One day while skiing at Whistler, Liz was chatting to a stranger on the chair lift.  She mentioned that she had worked at Falls Creek for two seasons years earlier.  She also had six month’s leave in the following year.  Funny how someone who doesn’t know you can listen to you and join the dots for you in a revealing way.  Their suggestion?  Why don’t you go and work at the snow again?

She thought she was passed it!  Her memories of the Falls Creek time were very different – she was younger and in with the party crowd.

However, the idea once planted, started to grow.  Sometime later, back in Australia she started to browse the resort websites … just to see what was happening up at the snow.  And then … voilà!  Listed was a job on the Hotham website for a lodge manager at McMillan.  There was the job for her!

The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation.
~Mark Twain

Liz loves skiing and the snow.  This season she has already clocked up more than 80 days on snow. So it has been no hardship for her to be doing this job for three years now. In fact, she loves it! But how does she manage it financially?

Anticipating the seasons

As a secondary teacher with lots of experience, Liz started off this endeavour while on long service leave.  Fortunately her employer has been very flexible.  She was able to extend her absence from school as leave without pay and have three terms off.  It worked for the school she worked at as well as they were generally overstaffed but needed her in fourth term.

The next year was the same with leave organised that coincided with a staff absence.  This year – they are still overstaffed at school so Liz was required to take a whole year.  She has been a little more daring this time – taking it all as’leave without pay”.  The reason? She wants to see how much money she really needs to live.  Or, how much she could earn without having to rely on her long service leave.

Casual teaching has supplemented her income, and she has converted some dividend reinvestment schemes to cash payments.  Liz rents out her house to supplement her income as well.  She is hoping to live on $30,000 this year.

Reaping the benefits

Often benefits are very subjective, so I was interested in what Liz sees as the benefits from this lifestyle.  For her the main thing is being out of a high pressure job and having variety in her year.

One of the other benefits is the people that Liz meets.  There’s a range of people working on the mountain who have done different things and are now managing lodges or working up at the ski school.  She meets a whole range of people who have done different things.  They vary in ages across staff and guests.

Liz encourages others to have a go at the snow life.  She’s advised people on what’s important for jobs in the region and encourages students to try something different. Apollo Bay (where she worked) is a great little town near the beach.  She warns that sometimes locals can get caught in those little places.  At the school they used to take students to the snow, to experience a different environment.  Quite a few of their students have come back to the snow, many to work.

Liz is encouraged when she sees students try something different.  She had one student who came up and worked in a kitchen in the resort and then went back to Apollo Bay and started an apprenticeship as a chef.

Managing the lifestyle

By managing this lifestyle change Liz knows she needs to be organised.  She likes to know what she will be doing a year in advance.  That means planning a ski trip overseas in January then working in the NT, followed by the Victorian snow season and some casual teaching. It’s flexible, yet not. She found this year she needed to devote more time to sourcing casual teaching because she doesn’t like sitting around doing nothing.

Was she looking for a break from teaching? Yes, but just a break.  She still likes teaching and being able to do some casual work means she is not out of the education loop.  Being in a school that offers short-term leave replacements is ideal.  And she has acquired a taste for this diversity in her lifestyle and is reluctant to take a full time teaching gig again.

I was curious to know if having a break from her profession, gave her a different perspective on it.  It seems that she is easily pulled back into the system.  She did a few casual days before the ski season.  Realising she could make a difference there and could teach those kids, but knowing she wouldn’t be back the next week she found sad. I guess you take this girl out of teaching but not teaching out of this girl!

Same time next year?

Liz will be back in the snow again next year.  She has organised her year in advance, but suggests “we’ll see what happens after that … ”

One comment, add yours.


Wonderful to read about Liz’s journey. Very inspiring.

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