What's the Deal with Seasonal Work in America?

DENALI, ALASKA- As someone that really wasn't plugged in to the seasonal circuit, like, ever, I was surprised to find such a large contingent of the American youth spending their time working around the country. However, it shouldn't come as that much of a shock, considering how many seasonal destinations there are across the country: think National Parks, ski resorts, beach towns, and fishing destinations—you get the idea. All of these places operate seasonally due to the weather restrictions. Denali, for example, would be a terrible place to visit in the winter, so it is only open seasonally—in the summer.

Margot & Caitlin, photographing the autumn colors off the Denali Highway

Margot & Caitlin, photographing the autumn colors off the Denali Highway


This creates the need for a large and diverse pool of workers that are willing to spend a portion of their year working in Denali. What kinds of people do this sort of thing? For the most part, everyone has an interest in traveling. This seems obvious, but it is the premier reason for anyone taking a job in Alaska—they had the travel bug to some degree, and just wanted to pick up and do something completely different in a foreign place.


The transient nature of the work here also means that it largely attracts individuals that work in the hospitality industry. I’ve dabbled in hospitality as a means to fund my travels, but I am hardly a hospitality professional, like many of my co-workers. Servers and cooks in their regular lives, they spend just a few months of the year working in Alaska—a venerable goal, since for the most part, those who work in these jobs “back home” do not have the ability to travel anywhere new. Hospitality is one of the few fields where you can really pick up and move at will—your skills are wholly transferrable from one place to the next. All you require is a hard-working attitude, and experience in the right position.


This crew of hard-working, freewheeling folks finds themselves working the circuit of seasonal jobs in America. They might work in Alaska for the summer, and take a month or two to travel. After that, they’ll settle down in Vail for the winter, skiing and cooking. The spring might mean more travel, and a new destination in the summer—Hawaii, perhaps. Or it could be the Snake River in Idaho. There’s always a fascination with New York, and many choose to spend time in cities. The common denominator here is finding work in exciting places that they want to explore.


For anyone wishing to travel around America, seasonal life affords you the opportunity to see great swaths of our country and spend the time really exploring the destination. Whether you want to earn your scuba diving certification or become a backcountry woodsman, you can largely find a popular destination nearby, find a job, move there, and work on your skills. We are blessed to live in a country with a dizzying array of places to live, work, and travel, and seasonal workers are just one of the many groups of Americans trying to see as much of their country as they possibly can. In the end, it's worth every penny and missed opportunity at home, because we might never get this chance again.