If you have just finished watching Chalet Girl and have now decided you would love to do a ski season, unfortunately the reality is nothing like the film. Here’s a heads up on what it’s really like…
Just a heads up- working a ski season is a lot of hard work, but also a load of fun, so don’t be put off straight away!
First of all, you’ll most likely be exhausted- all the time. For most chalet staff, the day involves an early start to do breakfast service, then heading out on the mountain as soon as work is done to ski for a few hours, before heading back to the chalet to do evening service. You’ll hopefully get plenty of free time, roughly six hours between morning and evening service. How you spend this time is up to you. Most people will ski for a few hours then head back to bed to catch up on some much needed sleep. After evening service, again it’s up to you whether you go out or head home. Most nights you’ll find there is something on in a nearby bar, but sometimes you just have to force yourself to go home for an early night. Although this doesn’t always work out as you will most likely be woken up by your housemates having an after party, or sliding down the stairs on a sledge, or smashing plates and finding it hilarious at 4am… After a month you will be used to feeling exhausted and will become an expert at napping in the afternoon and sleeping through whatever nighttime activities your season friends are up to.
You will also most likely get ill, and stay ill. Due to a lack of sleep and poor diet, it’s pretty easy to pick up general colds and flu type things. And once you have it, it’s pretty much impossible to shift it! No matter how many packets of paracetamol and lemsip you pack, it will not be enough. Since doctors and prescriptions are expensive, you only really use them if you really have to. So try and look after yourself whilst still managing to ski and have fun.
Your diet is going to go rapidly down hill as soon as you set foot in resort. The temptation of fresh French baguette and leftover chalet cake, every day, is often too hard to resist. You will usually find yourself picking at things for most of the day, but then when it gets to the evening and you realise you haven’t had a proper meal yet, the fear of not making it through service is real and so you decide to eat a whole baguette in one sitting. Those few hours skiing you have done that day will not balance this out and chalet arse can become a big issue. (Top tip:- buy your ski gear in a bigger size to look ‘steezy’ / hide the winter bulk).
Drinking is a big part of most people’s ski season. Some people can manage to go out every night, drink copious demis and shots of genepi, and feel fine the next day. Others (like myself) take a more granny style approach and only go large on the night before their day off. Having a big night the night before changeover day is a great idea at the time, as this is usually a Friday and you want to get in the weekend vibe, but having a whole chalet to turn around and still being sick at 6pm is not a great combination. I do not recommend.
Most nights out usually involve a lot of spilled drinks, tops being ripped off, and many unidentifiable stains. Don’t take any clothes that you would hate to ruin. The best thing is to go for layers- top, shirt, jacket. As when you are inside it is about a million degrees (dark, dingy bars with no air con are the norm) but walking home is absolutely baltic. Also don’t take any good shoes as these will be trod on all night and will also end up ruined. Nights out on a ski season seem to be completely different to a standard night out at home. Many outrageous antics and questionable decisions are the norm, and you probably won’t even be judged for it.
Working in a chalet quickly becomes second nature and you will hopefully have a routine sorted within the first couple of weeks. If you can manage to keep the chalet clean, present good food to your guests and get optimum time on the mountain, then you’ve nailed it. Obviously there will be days when everything goes wrong- you sleep in and have to sprint from your bed to the kitchen in 2 minutes, you burn the cake, you forget to take your meat out of the freezer, the list goes on… But these things happen to everyone, it’s not the end of the world and hopefully there will always be somebody there who has your back and can get you out of any sticky situation. You will live, work, ski and socialise with (mostly) the same people for five months. You’ll get to know all their good and bad habits, you’ll drive each other up the wall, but you’ll go through everything in the season with them and they’ll always look out for you.
Your day off is the highlight of the week. The countdown to day off usually starts as soon as you are back to work and recovering from the last one. The night before day off is usually pretty loose as most other chalet staff will also be celebrating not having to go to work the next day. It’s a bit of a catch 22 as it is the only day that you can have a lie in, but also the only day you can catch first lifts and the elusive untouched snow. A healthy mixture of lie ins and first lifts throughout the season is the best way to go. Of course there will be some people who lie in every week, or those who race for first lifts every time, but you will quickly realise how you want to spend your precious time off. Pizza for breakfast is the best way to start the day, no matter what you are doing.
And finally the best bit, the skiing! What most people are there for. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, most resorts have a great range of pistes, park and off piste for you to shred. It’s always a good day up the mountain, whether it’s a bluebird or if it’s dumping with snow, if you’re on your own or with a squad of friends, there aren’t many places you’d rather be. You’ll get to know the mountain and your favourite pistes pretty quickly, and you’ll have the fastest route to your favourite mountain bar figured out in no time. To buy anything on the mountain is extortionate. Taking a packed lunch up with you and sitting at the top of a mountain really is hard to beat. Alcohol is another major expense, so a bottle or hip flask in your backpack will save you some much needed cents (just don’t fall and smash it). It’s best to buy all your ski gear before you head out as again this will break the bank if you’re going to buy in resort. There are heaps of websites and shops where you can get ski gear for a decent price- Surfdome, Absolute Snow, Oneskee, Ellis Brigham to name a few. Melon, FOMO Eyewear, Sungod, Zaini Hats, Hats for the Hill are some great smaller companies where you can get some fun accessories. (Top tip- if you buy your ski gear in summer it will be way cheaper as it will be last seasons stock).
The ski season lifestyle is hard to top and returning to ‘the real world’ can be really daunting, but I guess it’s only seven months till the next winter season…
All in all, you’ll hopefully have the best five months of your life, whilst picking up some new skills and making some of the best friends you could ask for.