Get paid and ski every day!
By Mark Richardson
There are a whole host of ways to get working abroad while also enjoying some quality time on the slopes, and it’s easily possible to feed your snow addiction in your own back yard mountainous playground. Ride your favourite runs at speed day after day, hit the park or perhaps seek out the esoteric powder stashes that are usually a locals only affair and here we’re going to look at two of the most common jobs taken by Brits that make this possible; Resort Representative and Chalet Host. Each has its good and not so good points, but both could allow for a daily descent of the mountain and it’s hard to not beam when riding a chair lift and knowing you get paid to do so!
Timing for any role in the ski season never changes and can be looked at simply as:
May to August / September – this is the recruitment phase for most companies and you should keep an eye on company websites for when the process begins and applications are possible. Interviews are also held during these summer months and depending on the success of the recruitment drive, positions may still be available after this time but most companies look to have a full compliment of staff by the end of September. Applications for US or Canada workers usually open first due to the time needed to process visa applications (for more information on this check out the back issues of Working Abroad Magazine. In fact it’s possible to get roles during the season as people always drop out just before or when they realise the mountain life is not for them.
September to November – usually the planning phase for most companies, ensuring new employees are set up correctly and any outstanding issues are put to bed. This can also be the longest months to wait if you are heading off for some quality time on the slopes but it soon arrives!
Late November / December to Late April / May – most companies run either week or two week long training courses before resorts and operations open their doors and get things underway. Most people usually end up leaving the UK late November and returning in the spring; return dates are usually governed by the resort closing dates and employees leave a week or so after this.
For most people who chose to go working abroad in the mountains and snow fields, skiing or snowboarding time is usually the main reason for going. The roles of Resort Rep and Chalet Host offer the most amount of free time to ride or ski while making money to lead a humble but amazingly exhilarating lifestyle (it is possible to get the Holy Grail of 100 days of hill time and take on ski season work). Ski Instructors also get to enjoy a massive amount of mountain time, however to pursue this can be costly initially but once qualified it’s something that can be drawn on year after year to provide annual overseas adventures.
The main benefit of doing the Resort Rep and Chalet Host jobs is being able to ski virtually every single day while in resort (except maybe once a week on transfer or shopping days) and riding time averages between two and six hours a day. Add to this a free lift pass and complimentary ski or board hire and it’s easy to keep expenditure low and even save money during the season depending on how much funding you chose to throw the way of the local bar or pub in resort! Nearly all resorts have a strong social scene and new faces each week to make up the numbers; you’ll soon form some close bonds and make good friends with other resort workers no matter what role you choose and these are probably the other main reasons people chose to work a winter season.
Roles such as chair lift operator, nanny, bar work, ski technician in a local store, restaurant work, driver and kitchen porter are also reasonably easy to bag but opportunities tend to be fewer and the available mountain time may be less. For example: a ski technician usually gets two days off a week and might get an hour or two on the mountain every other day depending on the shifts required at work and how well you get on with your colleagues. Someone working in a bar might finish late in the early hours and so only have a small window for riding time the following day before the next shift begins (they would of course know most people in town and everyone likes to buy the friendly sociable bar person a drink or five!)
If you’re not already familiar with the roles of a Chalet Host or Resort Rep, here’s a small entry from someone’s daily diary in seasons past and a brief description of the role:
Resort Rep: Overseeing guest’s welfare in resort and usually includes transfers to / from airport, sales and organisation of lift passes, ski hire and other activities, welcome meetings for guests, and daily visits to hotels and chalets. One of the company faces in resort, one day off a week.
Up at: 7 – 8am
Morning work: Usually guest visits, arranging lift tickets, morning duties such as 1-2 hour ‘contact time’ at ski hire shop.
Usually done by: 10 – 11am and time to get up the mountain for up to 6 hours.
Afternoon / evening work: Starting again at 4 -5pm, admin work, e-mails, planning and preparation followed by series of guest visits at hotels / chalets.
Finished by: 8 – 10pm and a free evening to enjoy.
Chalet Host: Catering for guests with cooked breakfast, cake for afternoon tea, and 3 course dinners, running of kitchen, keeping property and guest bedrooms clean and tidy, laundry and shopping for required supplies. Less problem solving and responsibility than the Rep role, one day off a week.
Up at: 6:30 – 7am
Morning work: Any clear up from previous night, cooking breakfast for guests, make cake for afternoon tea, evening meal preparation and cleaning of property if needed.
Usually done by: 10 – 11am depending on prep needed and time to head up the mountain.
Afternoon / Evening work: Starting again at 4 – 5pm, shopping if needed, evening meal preparation, setting of table, cooking dinner (usually 3 courses), clearing, preparation for breakfast next day.
Finished by 9:30-10:30pm
With most of the big tour operators just about anyone is considered for the Resort Rep and Chalet Host roles, so don’t be put off from applying if you feel that you don’t have any experience or relevant skills; everyone has a first season at some point.
If you have done a similar role or have some directly tangible experience then it might be possible to get employed through a smaller independent company (sometimes offering more pay or better working / living conditions) or have more of say in which resort you get placed in.
Some skills or roles that you should look to highlight on your CV to enhance your chances could be:
Resort Rep - any customer service role such as sales or retail work where you deal with people face to face, even bar or restaurant work can be spun to highlight customer interaction, any organisational work or money handling, as these are usually undertaken in the role and will show good trust or order in your working life. If this is going to be your first job, look for things in your social or personal life that could highlight any of these skills and other worthwhile employable qualities to mention include: problem solving, language skills (French, Italian and German for Europe), dealing with difficult situations, prioritizing work, and sales skills. In an interview for this role you can expect questions, scenarios and group tasks on any of these subjects, including language skills and assessors will be watching your every move so try not to sit back and let others do the work.
Chalet Host – catering experience is a real bonus be it kitchen porter, chef, or waiter / waitress (all parts of the role), customer facing roles such as bar work, planning or organisational roles and responsibilities. Again, if this is something totally new to you, look to highlight how you have done or encountered these aspects in your personal life; this could include cooking for friends or family, and clubs, society or situations where you’ve had to deal with a variety of people from all walks of life. At application stage you may be asked to provide a six day menu plan; daunting as it sounds, it’s easy to achieve and you should look to have good balance of meats, fish, and vegetable options with foods that go together. At interview stage you may be asked to provide proof of the pudding by taking along a sample of your culinary skills.
The good, the bad and the ugly: each role has its plus points and its draw backs so be aware of these and think of how you could deal with these which is great to mention at interview stage.
The good – having a good local knowledge and where’s good to ski or drink, building contacts with the rental shops or bars / restaurants and so qualifying for some good discounts and freebies, organising and sometimes participating in other activities such as bar crawls or snowmobiling outings, and earning commission for all lift passes and rental packages sold. Organizing your own time is useful both for having fun and for career progression.
The bad – being the main point of contact for guests and so having to deal with all manner of issues and problems that could range from transport issues on transfer days to people being unhappy about the standard of accommodation; some early starts or late finishes required depending on arrival or departure times.
The ugly – having to deal with injuries and potentially even death can be unnerving as can having people shout and blame you for the luggage the airline lost.
The good – building good relationships with your guests as you will see them more than anyone else will, which as well as being great fun can yield super financial rewards, not having the responsibility of the Rep so if someone is not happy with any other aspect of their holiday then it is not your problem, and keeping your expenditure to a minimum by eating at your chalet.
The bad – cleaning duties every single day is not to some people’s liking but a part of the job none the less, getting used to catering for a larger group of people can take some time to perfect and get used to, and even though the kitchen will have a dishwasher there could be piles of washing up each day.
The ugly – realising that people will generally not be honest with you if they don’t like your food and as well as cleaning toilets you may also come across some unsightly garments or items in people’s bedrooms or bins, try and look the other way if you do!
For jobs in these fields check the main operator website in the spring recruitment months and look for the small ‘jobs’ link.
Both roles can provide real character building experiences that you’ll never forget and may also lead to more seasonal work in either summer or winter; something which sometimes becomes hard to give up! The new surroundings you find yourself in will soon feel like home and the end of season parties can prove emotional as you bid farewell to your new best friends of the past five months. The mix of crazy nights out, world class ski resorts, first lifts on a powder day, earning money while being abroad, and improving your ski or board skills no end are enough for most people to get involved but that is only scratching the surface of what a season holds.