Welcome to the first in our series of blogs that will explore the best ways to spend a winter season in the mountains. We’ll be focusing on four of the most popular choices:
- Working in a chalet
- Working in a bar
- Becoming a ski or snowboard instructor
- Working as a ski or snowboard instructor
So, kicking things off, let’s have a look at working in a ski chalet as a rep, host or chef, as this is a classic choice for those setting their sights on the European Alps.
Although this isn’t the most glamorous way to spend a season – it certainly hasn’t got the kudos of ski instructing – it is popular for many reasons. First of all it’s relatively easy to get into. As long as you start applying to chalet companies at the end of the summer / autumn, you’ll have a fair chance of getting yourself a job for that winter.
Once you have yourself a job offer, there’s very little that you have to organise. The chances are your employers will provide your accommodation, lift pass, transport, food and a fair amount of drink (got to love that chalet wine!). So, you really only need to sort out your own insurance and equipment, although in some cases you may even be lucky enough to have that provided as well.
So you’re set up for a no-brainer season. You’ll be paid a very minimal wage that will cover a few beers but not much else. You won’t need much cash though when everything else is provided for you at the chalet… just try to avoid breaking your equipment, and take some duct tape to keep up running repairs to your outwear!
The real reason that you’re going away for the season is to ski or snowboard, so whichever choice you make, you need to factor in your available mountain time. While working at a chalet you’ll have the opportunity to get up the mountain on most days, you are quite limited compared to the bar and instructor options.
The classic work schedule will see you working 6 days per week.
One of those days (normally Saturday or Sunday) will be the dreaded “change-over day”, where you’ll be up early to prepare breakfasts for your outgoing guests, before seeing them off to the airport and spending the day deep-cleaning their rooms and all of the communal areas. That includes kitchen, bathrooms and, if you’re really unlucky, hot-tubs (eek!). You’ll then welcome in the new guests for the following week, do welcome meetings, prepare dinner and answer 101 questions about the upcoming holiday. There’s not a hope in hell’s chance of you making it up the hill on change-over day. The chances are you’ll be working from 7am to 10pm straight.
For the remaining five working days, you’ll get up early to prepare and serve breakfasts and, depending on your roll, you’ll then drive guests around, clean the chalet or both. You’ll then be free from around 10-11am until 3-4pm for some much needed mountain time. From 3-4pm onwards you’ll be picking up guests, preparing dinner and serving until around 10pm.
That leaves one day where your are completely free to do your own thing. It’s you’re only opportunity to get first lifts. If the planets align and it is a powder day on your day off, it will be very hard to resist having a very much needed lie in, but remember what you’re out there for!
By the end of the season you would have made some amazing friends. Your colleagues become your family and you’re guaranteed to have an epic time with them. But expect to burn out! There’s a lot of work to be done and if you aim to be socialising every night and getting up the mountain every day something will have to give. Often people will fall into either a dedicated drinker or dedicated skier/snowboarder pattern.
Will you have fun? Yes, for sure!
Is it the best way to spend a winter season? Probably not, but it depends on your situation. If you’re restricted by budget, age, experience, etc. it might be your only option, and if that’s the case you’ll have a great time and you won’t regret it.
Have you worked in a chalet or have anything to add to this? Chip in your thoughts in the comment section below.
Stay tuned for an insider’s guide to some other popular options – bar work and instructor work.