What better time to start writing about my ski season experience than sitting on a busy airport floor in Geneva 5 hours before my flight home arrives (oh the joys of an early transfer) After 3 months working in the French Alps as a chalet host, I thought I’d write a quick (or probably quite long knowing my side tracking tendencies) post all about the whys, whats and wheres of my life as a seasonaire.
Why did I want to do it and how I got my job?
So I’ll start at the beginning – why did I want to work as a seasonaire? After finishing my time working in France as an Au Pair at the end of last year, I was a bit lost as to where to go from there. I’d always been aware of the idea of working a ski season and, despite being a self-acclaimed ‘sun-baby’, something about spending my days on the mountain appealed to me. I’d only ever skied once before on a school trip but how hard can it be to gracefully fall down a mountain?!
Setting my hopes on a winter in the snow, I started applying for a few jobs on websites such as ‘seasonworkers’ and ‘workaseason’. I was sending plenty of applications out but I found it tricky to have any luck since the season was already well underway (or at least I kept telling myself that to soften the blow about my lack of job success)
Time passed and I soon came the realisation that maybe working a ski season just wasn’t gonna happen. I got a job working at M&S and bought myself a new car (I feel like this is a pretty good indication that I had completely written off season work) As much as I loved catching up with friends and family, I was still desperate to travel more and UK life was getting me down (especially since it was January and everybody knows that the gloomy weather and post xmas low never makes it a pleasurable month in the best of times) I struggled with the lack of direction I had with my life which made me feel down and unmotivated a lot of the time.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later when I got a message from a friend working in a resort in Meribel that I became re-interested in the idea again. She suggested that I put up a post on a seasonaire Facebook page asking for work and within a few hours of doing so, I had already received a response asking for my CV to be sent across to a company in Tignes, France (so for anyone having little luck on the job hunt mid season, Facebook is the way forward!) After a quick telephone call, the job was mine and within a week, I would be on my way to the French Alps to start my new adventure in the mountains (everything seems to happen so last minute with me – Au Pair work, ski season, who knows where my next plans will take me!) And for anyone wondering who is the worst ever employee at M&S, I’m pretty sure that’s me – my manager even said that a week was the shortest time anyone had ever worked there oops.
A week later, I was on a flight out to Geneva and onto a 3 hour transfer organised by the company I was working for. I shared my transfer with about 6 other holiday makers (all of whom spoke no english) so I just sat in silence, admiring the incredible scenery in which I was to now call home. When I was dropped off in Tignes les Brévières by the transfer driver, I had no idea where to go from there. It felt like that scene from WildChild where Poppy was dropped off outside her boarding school in the rain with her suitcase – instead, picture me at the bus stop with my masses of ski gear in the snow.
Thankfully, I managed to navigate my way to the company’s offices which also happened to be the staff bar where one of my new roomies worked (staff bar?! This is looking good already!) She took me to where I was to call home for the next few months – a small apartment up about what felt like 5000 steps which I was to share with another 8 seasonaires (3 girls, 6 boys and just 1 shower!!) Despite the exciting instas filled with stunning snow pics and mad après sessions, seasonaire life is far from glamorous and this was my first indication of that!
I was met by my other room mate, Kate, who was soon to become one of my closest friends on resort (or ‘best friends’ should I say) She had arrived a week previous and hadn’t skied before so we already started with a lot in common. We grew closer and closer as the weeks progressed and spent most of our time together, either attempting to strengthen our ski legs or ticking off our bucket list of places to eat in the Espace Killy (I’m glad I was matched with someone who loves eating out just as much as me!!) It became the village joke that we were the ‘best couple in Brev’ and it just seemed unbelievable that we only met at the beginning of February! We’ve only been apart for a few hours but I’m already getting withdrawal symptoms from my manc bff (a trip up north is on the cards very soon!) In fact, I was so so blessed with everyone who I lived with – I was the youngest by about 6 years so kind of became the little sister of the group (which has many bonuses – many thanks go to Paul for the lift) If I was the sister, my other roomie Michelle was like the mum (but not a regular mom, she was a cool mom!) After we’d had a few too many on a night out or got struck down by yet another illness, she would be there to pick up the pieces and provided us with all the gossip she’d hear at the staff bar. There were 6 lads who lived with us too, before they became wifed up and moved out. It sounds cringe, but the people you live with kind of become your family and I was so lucky to have been put where I was.
What did I do?
Okay so now for a little bit about my job. I was working for a small company called Chardons which has about 12 chalets located in Tignes Les Brévières (a small village which makes up part of the Tignes area of the Espace Killy) The company employs about 80 staff which meant that our team made up the majority of Brev; you couldn’t go anywhere without bumping into a fellow Chardons colleague! My role was as a chalet host in a chalet called ‘Chalet Panoramique’ – a 35 bed luxury chalet which had a chef (thank goodness as my cooking abilities are next to nothing) and 4 other members of staff. Together, we made ‘Team Pano’ and had so many laughs over the season with some amazing guests (my dad even came out to stay twice – he says he’s ‘coming to catch up with his beloved daughter’ but I think the fact that the ski slopes are a 5 minute walk away plays a big role!!) As a chalet host, I had to serve breakfast and clean rooms in the morning and then serve canapés, drinks and a 3 course meal in the evening – pretty similar to what I’ve done lots of in the UK so not too much of a struggle at all.
My daily work routine was 7am-11am and 5pm-9pm so there was plenty of time to experience the ski life I was there for! The 6.30am starts (which turned more into 6.45am once I realised that those extra 15 mins of sleep was way more important than putting on a bit of makeup) were not ideal but the fact I was able to ski during my work shifts every day made up for it! For the next 3 months, my days consisted of work, ski, work – not a bad life at all!! As part of my contract, I was given a day and a half off, so once or twice a week I was able to try out the après scene. Tignes les Brévières isn’t the most action packed village by any means and the only ‘proper’ night out was on a Saturday where most of the Chardons team gathered for their free drink and night out in ‘Le Moose’. On the other nights of the week, we occasionally went out for a few ‘casual’ drinks (casual in inverted commas because my lightweight tendancies never allows me to go out for a quiet one!). Tiredness was a killer from the relentless cycle of 6.30am starts followed by a full day skiing and evening shifts so the nights in were very welcome indeed. As well as the chilled evenings, we still made sure we took full advantage of seasonaire life – 4am home times, many a 1080 and throwing up in the kitchen sink (sorry mum)
I had only ever skied once before on a school ski trip to Austria so I arrived with a pretty limited knowledge of how to ski (don’t let this put you off working a season – you pick it up fast and there are so many other people you can rope in for a lesson or two) I was very lucky that I worked with some INCREDIBLE skiers who offered to take me out onto the slopes (I apologise to anyone who had to spend their days getting me out of snowplough – your help was much appreciated!) As time passed and my skiing became increasingly less snowplough and slightly more parallel, I felt confident to start going out with other people and try out some of the harder slopes. I remember coming down my first black unknowingly, after following a friend on a ‘lesson’. I was halfway down the slope when I looked across to the side of the piste and saw A BLACK SIGN. I panicked a bit, probably cursed the guy I was with but then felt a massive sense of achievement when I made it to the bottom – from coming out here snowploughing down a green to getting down one of the hardest runs on the resort was a very good feeling indeed.
My first day out on the slopes was a very different story. I will never forget standing at the top of a blue run with Kate and having a near mental breakdown (boy was I glad I knew how to snowplough!) After eventually making it to the bottom of the slope, we were just about to call it a day and get the gondola home when we were approached by an elderly British couple who offered to give us some guidance getting down the mountain (they probably regretted that 3 hours later when we just about made it down alive!) I’m still no skiing pro but I have come such a long way from when I started and that was my initial reason for wanting to work a season.
I could go on forever about all the funny stories and memories I made during my time in France but we would honestly be here for days!! Almost setting my apartment on fire with an eccles cake, seeing Kate tumble down a black run to be saved only by the edge of her pole, sledging down a mountain on a tiny piece of plastic and ‘Lavachet’ (we’ll leave it there) are some of my fave mems from an absolutely incredible 3 months. I’m just so so thankful I decided to take a look on Facebook that day or else none of this would have ever happened.