I did my first ski season three years ago in a tiny village called Ardent, (hmm rings a bell, aye?) in the centre of the Portes du Soleil resort, France.
Whilst all my other friends were three months into their first year of university, I was off to the Alps. Alone. It was the best thing I ever did! The next five months flew by and before I knew it I was on my way back to Blighty!
After a mini break to try other avenues, I have returned to the environment that I love. It was something I just had to do again. This time I’m in Meribel, in the centre of the Three Valleys, in France.
If given the chance, I would encourage anyone to do a winter ski season. You make life long friends, learn new skills and get to spend five months surrounded by the mountains. What more could you want?
But, how do you go about spending a winter in the mountains? This little guide will hopefully give you some inspiration on where to start.
Now, unfortunately the mountains are a pretty expensive place to spend a week, let alone five months, so ideally you’ll need to get a job. You may think that your only option is to become a “chalet girl/guy”, but there’s actually plenty of choices for jobs. Keep reading for a few ideas.
The Ultimate Multitasker
With so many chalets to fill, this is definitely the most common job in resort. You’re up before everyone else and the last to finish, but it means that the middle part of the day is yours to ski to your heart’s content. It’s just up to you to get moving in the morning.
The guests are your main concern as you’re the face of the company and you’re their first port of call for anything they might need during their week’s stay. You can make or break the guest’s holiday – no pressure. By the end of the season, you’ll be a dinner party pro.
Great for: organised, chatty souls, who are flexible when dietaries or mixed up ski hire are thrown into the mix last minute.
The Logistical Master
This usually involves shuttling guests to and from the slopes, deliveries between chalets and a fair bit of snow clearing. Transfer day can either mean a day out at the airport or moving stuff around resort; crucial in getting the old guests out and the new ones in. The job has varying shift patterns, so no day is the same and there’s lots of interactions with the guests. You will need a clean, full driving licence and at least three years of driving under your belt.
Great for: charismatic people who enjoy driving and don’t mind a bit of heavy lifting.
The Baby Whisperer
While the parents play, the baby stays. Your hours are often during the ski lift’s opening hours, which unfortunately means less ski time for you. But with varying ages of children week to week, there’s an opportunity to get on the slopes when the children are at ski school. Plus, there’s hot chocolate trips, play dates, hours of creative mess and snow playing to certainly keep it interesting. This job will however require some previous experience and qualifications (usually NNEB, CACHE, NVQ level 2/3 or equivalent).
Great for: those still young at heart and skilled in the art of entertainment.
The Odd Jobber
Working closely with the Resort Manager, you’ll flit between job roles, filling the gaps and aiding the team where necessary. Crucial in keeping the smooth ship sailing.
Great for: flexible, easy going individuals.
You’re ultimately responsible for pretty much everything. From keeping the guests happy and ensuring they return, to supporting the team and boosting morale, along with liaising between suppliers. You have to be good at decision making and communication as there’s always a problem to solve or someone to talk to. There’s also chalet checks to complete, accounts to manage and budgets to stick to (very important). Previous management experience is invaluable.
Great for: strong characters who like a challenge.
For the above jobs, here are some companies to check out:
VIP SKI – They tend to hire post university-aged staff and operate in 10 resorts across the Alps, providing a VIP experience for all their guests.
Family Ski Company– They provide family holidays in niche parts of larger resorts. It’s a small team that will employ dedicated young staff. (Having worked for both VIP SKI and Family Ski Company, I would highly recommend them and would advise you to check them out.)
Other companies to look at include; Scott Dunn, Crystal, Neilson, Iglu, Tui, Esprit, Inghams, and Le Ski.
The Night Owl
Working in a bar all season is a great way to meet the locals and other seasonaires in resort. It’s sociable, fun and by the end you’ll be a cocktail connoisseur. But it comes at a cost of late nights. If you’re that eager person who wants to catch first lifts, it’s doable but this might not be quite right for you. Some companies include accommodation and other perks but sometimes you might have to organise this yourself, which is worth considering when you’re researching.
Great for: outgoing people who love a party.
The mountains are the ultimate aim. Whether it’s teaching beginners how to snowplough or taking the more advanced off piste or in the park, you’re on the slopes from the minute the lifts open to well past their closing time. Experience and qualifications are definitely needed, but there’s plenty of courses to get you started. Check out Basecamp, Nonstop Snowboard and Ski, and New Generation.
Great for: those who can never say goodbye to the mountains.
Now that you’ve got an idea of the range of jobs available, you also need to work out where you want to spend your season. You’ve got four main options; the Alps, Canada, New Zealand and Japan.
It’s the closest option to the UK, which is a great place to do your first season, particularly if it’s your first time away from home. Being slightly lower on altitude to the other options, it means potentially less snow is on offer. But with so many resorts to choose from, there’s always somewhere to explore.
A stunning country and incredible slopes. Lots of ski instructor courses available too. The main difficulty here is getting a work visa as there’s a limited amount and they go quickly!
Being on the other side of the world definitely means you have to be committed, but as their winter is our summer, you can have back to back seasons if you wanted. The ski areas are not as large compared to the Alps, but it would be a pretty cool place to spend five months.
Home of the powder. Enough said.
📸Photo cred: Tanya Hart
Now a winter season typically runs from mid November to the beginning of May, which is ideal for missing the classic, wet, English weather. However, it does mean that companies are already recruiting as the current season comes to a close. Therefore, ideally you’ll need to start applying for jobs from as early as May, in order to get the job role and resort of your choice. Ski companies will continue to recruit throughout the summer and roughly up until November, so if you do decide later in the year that you fancy a go at a winter surrounded by snow, do not fear! Spaces also often become available due to people dropping out or injuring themselves – you just need to keep your eyes peeled!
If you have any questions about what’s it’s like doing a season or working for VIP SKI or Family Ski Company just send me a message.