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Winter Employment with the Park Service

Wintertime brings a new allure to the northern area national forests and parklands. Though not as heavily populated by visitors as in the summer months, the National Forest Service lands are far from being desolate.

Snow covers the landscape with a majestic and ethereal beauty. In this breathtaking season, the forests and parklands become a different world, as warmer weather plants and animals give way to a new breed of denizens. A different crop of visitors shows up at this time as well, ready to enjoy recreational activities unique to the winter season.

Winter brings on a whole new life to parklands within the snow line. In cooperation with private industry, the Forest Service has developed winter sports areas devoted to downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling. Downhill skiers can enjoy spectacular runs, and there are thousands of miles of designated trails for snowmobiles and cross-country skiers. Visitors can also go off-trail to explore on their own, although some areas are closed to vehicle use in order to protect wildlife. During this season, more hands are needed to administer, care for and maintain the National Forest lands. It's a tremendous opportunity for anyone who has the winter season free.

FACT! Early trappers, explorers and surveyors adopted the use of snow shoes from Native Americans, and skiing came west during the early Gold Rush days. Both quickly caught on as practical modes of winter travel.

Job Descriptions

It takes a varied staff to build and maintain the winter trail systems. The recreational permit offices must be manned, and both the wildlife habitats and visitors much be taken care of. Here are just some of the positions you can apply for during the winter season.

  • Park Rangers handle special recreational permits, patrol and manage the trail systems. They also plan, coordinate and lead educational and recreational activities and programs, guide walks and wildlife spotting, regulate visitor safety and enforce park rules. In addition, they assist in emergency search and rescue.
  • Visitor Services Assistants support the rangers by working the entrance stations, visitor centers and campground centers. This includes manning sales and attending to security, inventory and customer service. They collect fees and distribute maps, providing information about park recreational activities and events. They also may conduct public outreach and educational activities such as tours and presentations.
  • Science Aides and Technicians collect essential field data which is integral to the successful management of the National Forest Service land resources and wildlife. Working in both field and offices, they collect samples, record data, operate a variety of field tools, traps and laboratory equipment, and compile and report data for natural science research projects.
  • Clerical Personnel work indoors, performing basic office and reception work such as typing, filing and fielding phone calls.
  • Maintenance Workers help maintain the winter forest lands by digging ditches, performing trail construction, maintenance and repair, placing and maintaining signage, trail markers, off-limit zones and clearing away debris.
  • Craft and Trade Workers handle a variety of duties. Available jobs include cooking, welding, vehicle operation and repair, and stocking materials and supplies.
  • Forest Firefighters have one of the most hazardous jobs available in the National Forest Service. Although forest fires are less likely in the wintertime, there is still plenty of work to be done in planning and maintaining fire prevention strategies.

FACT! Studies conclude that the increasing popularity of winter recreation will soon create conflicts among visitors looking to frequent national forests and parks during this exciting season.

Education and Pay

A high school diploma or equivalency, and six months experience in the field is enough to qualify for most seasonal positions. Skilled-labor positions, such as welding, require skill training, and both science technicians and firefighters have specific training qualifications that must be met. Rangers must be at least 18 years of age, have a valid driver's license, be in good physical condition, and have 20/20 corrected vision.

Most seasonal positions fall under grades 1-5 of the General Schedule (GS) category of the Federal Wage System, and you can expect to make somewhere between minimum wage and $15 per hour. Click here for benefits information.

Quick Summary:

  • The National Forests Service maintains winter sports areas devoted to downhill and cross-country skiing, sledding and snowmobiling.
  • With many potential applicants back in school, it's a great time to apply for seasonal work.
  • Park ranger positions are the most well-known and coveted positions.
  • Most seasonal positions pay between minimum wage and $15 per hour.
  • Science technicians, rangers, and firefighters have specific qualifications that must be met prior to application.