Important Dates & FAQs
All staff contracts run for approximately 10 weeks. Staff training begins early to mid June, depending on your position, and contracts end on either August 20 or August 27, 2023. (Please note that those departing August 20 receive less pay.)
Staff Application 2023 – Important Dates
- Application opens for returning staff – November 15, 2022
- Application opens for new staff (including Assistant Counselors) – January 3, 2023
Summer 2023 – Important Dates
- Trip Staff and Barn Specialist Arrival: June 5
- Kitchen Staff Arrival: June 6
- Heads Team Arrival: June 9
- New International Staff Arrival: June 11
- Returning Staff arrival: June 12
- All remaining New Staff and Assistant Counselor Arrival: June 13
- First Session: June 22 – July 19
- Second Session: July 22 – August 18
- Staff Banquet and Celebration: August 19
- Non-Junior Session Staff Departure: August 20
- Junior Session: August 21 – August 27
- All remaining Staff Departure: August 27
For the sake of our campers and our community, all staff must be present for our entire staff training period.
Returning Staff Only
If you have an academic conflict with staff training, let’s talk. We have a small amount of flexibility for those who have completed staff training in previous years.
Besides my salary, what are the benefits of working for Four Winds?
Staff members experience an immense amount of personal growth during their time spent working in the Four Winds community through the power of putting the needs of others before their own.
Staff members have consistent opportunities to build their confidence, improve their communication skills, gain experience working within diverse teams, improve on giving and receiving feedback, have a break from the demands of technology and much more. Keep in mind that this extensive amount of personal growth occurs within a super fun, spontaneous and creative environment that is truly special and unique form the “outside world”.
Staff also benefit from experiencing the rich and well loved traditions of our 90+ year history and are encouraged and supported outside of Camp as members of the Four Winds family through our extensive alumni network. Many staff remain connected to their friends, campers and the extended Four Winds family for many years after their time working on Summer Staff.
We also have pro-deal accounts with outdoor retailers, including Chaco.
When can I apply for Camp? What positions are available? Are there age restrictions for certain positions?
We begin hiring for the upcoming summer season in November (for returning staff) and in January (for new staff and Assistant Counselors). Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, within this timeframe, and we continue hiring until all positions are filled.
Click here to view the list of positions available and the minimum ages required.
What certifications do I need to work at Camp?
All staff are required to hold current certifications in First Aid and CPR, from either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association. Please note that the course MUST include an in person component. (International Staff must be certified from an American Camp Association approved provider as listed on their website.)
Waterfront staff and counselors are required to be Lifeguard certified by the American Red Cross before their arrival to camp. Please note that the course MUST include an in person component. (International Staff must be certified from an American Camp Association approved provider as listed on their website.)
Trip leading staff are required to be both Lifeguard and Wilderness First Aid (WFA) or Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certified before their arrival to camp. This certification must come from an American Camp Association approved provider as listed on their website.
Staff with “advanced” trainings beyond First Aid and CPR receive a stipend, depending on the certification type.
How much training takes place before the campers arrive?
We have a 10+ day Staff Training before the campers arrive to prepare staff members for the summer. The training period is a combination of seminars, discussions and interactive sessions where staff members receive information about camp policies and practices in addition to getting practical training in emergency response, age group characteristics, conflict resolution and giving/receiving feedback. Staff training also includes fun and unique experiences, such as an overnight trip in small groups, to get to know fellow staff members and assist in building a cohesive and supportive staff community.
Leadership Team Staff, what we call “The Heads Team”, will receive additional in-depth training on group and staff management.
In addition to the above, portions of the training period are dedicated to setting up camp to ensure that common areas, living spaces and activity areas are ready for campers when they arrive.
Where exactly is the property located?
Four Winds is located in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. The islands are approximately 80 miles north of Seattle.
We are specifically located in Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, which has ferry service. Click here and zoom out to view our exact location on Google Maps.
Where do most campers and staff come from? How many campers and staff are there at camp?
About 20% of our campers come from Washington State and 30% from California with the remainder coming from across the United States and internationally.
Numbers wise, we have 170 campers during our month long sessions and 90 campers during our Junior Session week.
Our staff members are geographically diverse with staff coming from both all over the US and overseas. Internationally, we have employed staff from a variety of countries including Australia, Hungary, Mexico, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden and the UK.
Numbers wise, we hire approximately 100 staff and, on average, 25 staff members are usually from overseas.
What does a typical day look like?
In general, the day begins at approximately at approximately 7:15 am and ends at approximately 10 pm.
- 7:45 am – Flags raised
- 8:00 am – Breakfast
- 9:45 am – Morning Activities (First and Second Period)
- 1:00 pm – Lunch
- 1:30 pm – Rest Hour
- 2:45 pm – Afternoon Activities (Third and Fourth Period)
- 5:45 pm – Flags lowered
- 6:00 pm – Dinner
- 7:15 pm – Evening Activity
- 8:45 pm – Youngest campers start heading to bed
Note that the schedule is set to one hour later during First Session due to shifts in daylight hours.
Counselors teach classes and belong to an Activity Area (in the Barn, Craft Courts, Dock, Garden or Land Sports) during the morning and afternoon activities, eat all meals with their cabin or tent group and live in the cabin or tent with their campers.
Specialist or Leadership Team (Heads Team) staff work in their assigned role or Activity Area during the day, eat meals with a variety of tents and cabins and live in a tent with other staff members.
Evening Activity each night is organized and led by the Heads Team.
How and when should I plan to get to camp? Do I need to bring a car?
Whether traveling from near or far, all staff are responsible for getting to Orcas Island via sea/small plane or on the ferry that leaves from the Anacortes Ferry Terminal. Staff need to arrive at the time and date specified on their contract. Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate early arrivals, so please ensure to arrive on the exact date that your contract starts.
Staff who are able to bring their cars are more than welcome to do so and will be assigned a designated parking spot upon their arrival. These staff must make a ferry vehicle reservation via the WSDOT website well in advance of their arrival date.
Staff who are arriving via plane must land at Seattle Airport (SeaTac) in time to catch either the sea/small plane to Orcas Island noted above or the Bellair Airporter Shuttle from SeaTac to Anacortes Ferry Terminal. (Please take note that travel time between SeaTac and Anacortes Ferry Terminal on the Bellair Airporter Shuttle is approximately 3 hours and that their schedule DOES NOT line up with the WSDOT ferry schedule.)
Staff will be met upon their arrival to Orcas Island, (at Eastsound Airport, Deer Harbor sea plane dock, or Orcas Island Ferry Terminal) and transported by van to camp. All information about the time and transportation mode of staff arrivals must be included in the travel form which staff complete as part of their on-boarding paperwork.
We also assist in connecting people ahead of time to make carpool plans via our staff Facebook group.
What about Time Off?
Working at camp is an intense, demanding and rewarding experience that takes a huge amount of emotional and physical energy from everyone involved. All staff are asked to consider this before making a commitment to work at Four Winds.
Each staff member has one 24 hour day off per week. Depending on your position, staff also receive time off either during one activity period per day or in the evenings before curfew. During days off, staff members have many options for activities and relaxation including visiting the main town on Orcas Island (Eastsound), exploring Moran State Park, visiting other islands by ferry and much more. We provide day off shuttles into Eastsound (25 mins drive from Camp) and Moran State Park (35 mins drive from Camp) for staff who do not have access to a car while at Camp.
The time between First and Second Session, known as “Session Break”, is another period of time off that is approximately 2.5 days long. During this period of time staff members often visit Seattle, Vancouver B.C. or make the most of what the San Juan Islands have to offer.
Click here to learn more about the activities, accommodation and services available to explore during time off on Orcas Island. Click here to find out more information about the San Juan Islands area as a whole.
What will living accommodations be like? Will I have access to laundry facilities?
One of the best parts about working at Four Winds is having the opportunity to be close to and live in an amazingly beautiful and rustic natural setting.
Female counselors live in either simple rustic cabins or in canvas wall tents up on wooden platforms. Male staff and female specialist staff live in canvas wall tents. In both the cabins and tents, staff sleep in bunk beds or single cot beds with mattresses that are provided. All US based staff are responsible for bringing their own bedding, with most staff bringing fitted sheets and comforters to keep them warm during the more chilly evenings. International staff have their bedding provided by Camp.
There is no electricity inside the cabins or the tents, however, each cabin or tent is close in proximity to a shower house that does have electricity and includes sinks, toilets, and private shower stalls. Click here to watch a video about the living spaces at Camp.
Laundry is an additional benefit that is provided to all staff members at Camp. Laundry is taken out once per week (a schedule designates which day staff put their laundry out for washing) and is returned clean 24 hours later.
Is there phone or internet access on property? Can I use technology?
The strict technology free policy for campers is one of the most important cornerstones of the Four Winds experience. It allows for the creation of a community unlike that of the “real world” where campers and staff communicate face to face without the use of devices.
For staff, however, we do have designated staff lounges (that we call “Holiday House” and “The Helm”) where devices can be used during designated time off. We do not allow staff to carry their devices with them in pockets or backpacks while walking around Camp. The only exception to this is if a staff member is en route to exit the property for their day off with devices powered all the way down and out of sight inside a bag.
In terms of cell reception, due to the remote location of Orcas Island, service can be spotty, however, it is steadily improving. Wifi is provided inside the Holiday House and Helm for staff members to use. In cases of emergency, staff members can use the land line phones in the office.
Many businesses in Eastsound have free Wi-Fi and the Orcas Island Library is open everyday for staff to use during their time-off.
It is important to note that the use of technology will be limited during the summer and that is an important part of the sacrifice staff members make when choosing to work at Four Winds.
What about the food?
All staff eat at the Lodge, along with our campers, in an outdoor setting with rectangular tables and benches that fit a maximum of eight people. It is a great “family” time to share experiences of the day, laugh, and learn more about each other. Counselors sit with their cabin or tent group and Specialist Staff/Heads are able to sit with any cabin or tent with an open seat.
Meals are served family style and campers are designated chores and jobs to perform at each meal. Each cabin or tent will assist in setting up before and clearing up after a number of designated meals throughout the session.
There is always a vegetarian option and we also provide options for those who have dietary restrictions. The highlight for many are the songs that occur throughout lunch and dinner, the subject of which often relates to the food that we are eating at that very moment!
Staff are also welcome to purchase their own snacks during their time off and store them in the Holiday House or Helm where there is a fridge, freezer, stove and oven designated for staff use.
What do we wear?
The uniform is an integral part of the Four Winds experience for both campers and staff. We are very proud of our uniforms, which have remained the same since Camp was founded in 1927. We recognize that it may be something new to staff members and support them through this process.
Each staff member is supplied with three sets of the camp uniform (middies and bloomers for female staff and t-shirts and shorts for male staff) which are returned at the end of the summer. Staff are also given a sweatshirt to keep. Take a look at photos throughout the website to see examples of the Four Winds uniform.
Staff are also encouraged to bring dress up clothes for special days and activities. See the packing list below for more information.
What gear/items do I need to bring with me to Camp? What is the weather like?
Staff are provided with a comprehensive packing list that includes the necessities (and some optional items) to bring to camp.
Weather is pretty moderate on Orcas Island in the summer overall – temperatures are cooler in June but warm up to the 80s (high 20s – low 30s celsius) daily in July and August. The evenings are still on the cooler side and it can rain at times so layers are recommended and a rain jacket is a must.
In terms of other gear, in addition to our packing list, we have returning staff share their must haves in our staff Facebook group. Click here to view the staff packing list.
What do I do with my valuables while at camp?
Can I ship belongings to camp before my arrival? What if I order things online during camp?
Staff are welcome to ship their belongings to camp before their arrival and also order items online throughout the summer.
Click here to access the shipping information.
How do I get paid while at camp?
Staff members can choose from a number of methods including cash, check and direct deposit. International staff are also able to be issued a pay card, which is basically like an ATM card, which we load money on to. These options are chosen by the staff member once arriving at camp.
Staff are able to make cash draws throughout the summer from their salary and are paid the remainder as a lump sum before leaving Camp at the end of their contract.