[DOING A SKI SEASON] Starting Out as a Seasonnaire

STORY BY
Megan Hughes
31st August 2017

“I’m so jealous!” “You’re having the most amazing time” “It looks amazing out there”.

I’m privileged to say these were the most common words I heard from my friends and family this winter. I was working a ski season in St. Anton, Austria, and you may think it strange, but I used to question these statements at times! Life as a seasonnaire can be incredibly tough, you work hard, long hours with wages that are often nothing write home about. However, when I was sat on a chairlift in bright sunshine, looking out over stunning alpine views, sometimes I could appreciate their comments. I mean, it’s slightly better than your average Monday morning commute.
However, it did take a lot to get there. Whether you’ve already decided a season is how you want to spend your winter, or if you are simply toying with the idea, finding a season job can be quite a daunting process. This has the potential to provide the best winter of your life, but making the right decisions in terms of location and role can make a huge difference.

 

 WHERE

As a seasonnaire, you will call your resort home for up to six months, so it is important to choose somewhere that you will enjoy. We are extremely lucky at the moment that there is such an awesome wealth of ski resorts across the world. From the vast, challenging ski areas across France to the picturesque Dolomites in Italy, the chic resorts of Switzerland or the traditional Tyrolean charm of Austria, Europe boasts a huge variety of options for the budding skier or boarder. For those wanting more of an adventure, there are a lot of options further afield, such as the USA, Canada, Japan or even New Zealand.

With so many appealing options, deciding where to base yourself can be extremely tough. You need to decide what your main priorities are with your ski season. Are you more focused on skiing, socialising or a mix of the two? Would you prefer a resort to have great off-piste options, challenging pistes or fantastic snow parks? How important is the apres? Perhaps you have never skied or boarded before, in which case a more beginner friendly resort such as Obergurgl might be more enjoyable to get you on your feet! These are all questions you need to ask yourself and once you have figured out the answers, the key piece of advice I can give is to do your research. Make sure you consider all your options and think hard about what you want to get out of your season. If you can, talk to someone who can help you, or take a look at our resort guides to see where you might be best suited.

 

It is also important to remember this experience is different for everyone so don’t worry if you are struggling at this point. Some go into season work with a clear idea of exactly where they want to be placed. Other people have no preference, yet may end up absolutely falling in love with the resort in which they are working.

Personally, I ended up in St. Anton quite by chance. I was planning to do my season with a friend from university and she had decided that St. Anton was absolutely the place we should be. Due to unforeseen circumstances, she wasn’t actually able to come out until the middle of the season, so I began my season with no familiar faces and in a resort I had hardly any knowledge of; I had simply gone along with her plan rather than researching it myself. Luckily, I absolutely loved St. Anton and it really suited me as a person, but my experience could have been very different had I not. This is why I would always recommend to research research research! This is six months of your life, so you want to make the right decision.

 

Another element to take into consideration is the language of the region. Of course, many ski resorts are so used to English speaking guests flooding in throughout the winter that language is often not a problem. However, if you are calling another country home for the season it can be not only helpful, but also respectful to learn some of the language. Local people and business owners will appreciate it if you at least try to speak in their language, so if you are already confident in a certain language, do bear this in mind with your decision.

 

Finally, you need to be sure to research potential costs and preparation. Are you planning on asking people to come and visit you? In this case, closer resorts in Europe might be better than those that require a long-haul flight. Meanwhile, if you do choose to go further afield make sure you are aware of what you need in terms of visas. I have seen first hand the look on the face of a representative headed for Canada who had completely forgotten she would need a visa. Trust me, this is something you want to avoid!

 

WHAT

So once you’ve thought about the where, the next big question you will probably have is regarding which jobs to apply for. It is important to consider your experience and your personality to really asses which job would be best for you. A popular option is work for a British tour operator in resort, such as Crystal, Inghams, Skiworld and Nielson. This can be a good decision as you meet a lot of people and always have a support system in place within resort. You also get your lift pass, accommodation and food provided by the company, which is a huge bonus. Jobs with such companies can be extremely varied, with many offering both hotels and chalets across a range of resorts. Here we will discuss the most popular roles and the pros and cons of each.

Chalet Host

This is the typical role many people associate with being a seasonnaire, however it’s not all heli-skiing and hot tub parties like the film Chalet Girl would have you believe. This role can be incredibly hard work, cooking and cleaning for around 20 guests at a time. Chalet hosts often have very early mornings and long evenings, but you can get a lot of time on the mountain during your season if you nail your preparation and timings early on. In this role, you have a lot of contact with guests. If you have a good group for a week you can really enjoy yourself, but just remember that you may not always be so lucky. As in any guest facing role, you will have to deal with a fair share of unhappy guests and complaints, so do bear this in mind when considering whether this role is for you.

 

Resort Representative

This was my role over the winter and I absolutely loved it. The role centres around being the first point of call for guests in resort. From transfer days with an emphasis on selling lift passes, equipment and ski hire, to daily visits and après events, this role never gets boring. As jobs in resort go, as a rep you get a LOT of mountain time if you manage your time well. This is also the only role in which you can ski host with your guests, however this is only offered in certain resorts due to local regulations so be sure to research this if it is something you are interested in. Again, this role is centred around guest interaction. I absolutely love meeting and talking to people, so in this aspect this role was perfect, however you do have to be prepared for some tough situations as you do often take the brunt of complaints or anger as the face of the company in resort. As a representative, there is quite an emphasis on sales and you will be set sales targets to reach each week. As a result, you are tasked with handling many cash and card transactions, so it is important to be aware of this responsibility. This can be tough if you are not used to such work, but it does mean that you receive commission at the end of the season, which can be a helpful extra incentive!

 

Chef

If you have experience in a kitchen or simply prefer being behind the scenes, you can apply for various jobs within the kitchens of larger chalets or hotels. From a kitchen porter (essentially a glorified dish washer) to a head chef, the kitchen can be a really fun place to work if you have a good team alongside you. Again, if you are organised, you can get a lot of time on the slopes. However such jobs are often high pressure and high intensity, so it helps to have some experience in a kitchen beforehand, so that you are prepared for the role.

Hotel Work

For those that prefer being part of a larger team, working in a hotel might be a better option. Hotels recruit for receptionists, bar staff, porters, cleaners and waiting staff, to name a few. If you aren’t hugely fussed about the job or the pay and simply want to get the most time on the mountain as possible, this is the way to go. However, while these roles do allow quite a lot of time on the mountain, their shift-based nature means that the hours can often be quite long and anti-social.

 

Childcare

If you’re better with younger guests, then childcare may be the perfect role for you. While you will have to deal with a few tantrums in your time, what other role offers you the opportunity to go bum-boarding, spy sleuthing, dancing, singing and drinking hot chocolate all day every day?! Companies such as Esprit recruit ‘Snow Rangers’ to care for the children, and also employ qualified nannies to look after babies in the nursery, so if you do have childcare qualifications, this can be an extremely attractive and well paid option. Childcare can be very rewarding and a lot of fun, but do bear in mind that it is an intense job and you might not get as much time skiing as other roles.

Resort Work

There are also jobs across the resort that are not assigned to one property in particular. For example, if you are not quite so comfortable cooking, hosting or interacting with guests, jobs such as drivers, maintenance assistants or resort assistants (who can carry out many jobs from sorting recycling to making deliveries) may be best for you.

Bar Work

Bar jobs are hugely popular due to their social nature and the prospect of free drinks every now and then. This role allows you to meet the most people in resort, as well as being able to ski or snowboard throughout the day before working in the evening. However, the hours can be quite anti-social and you don’t experience the nightlife in quite the same way as everybody else! Furthermore, drunk tourists (and seasonnaires!) can sometimes be quite a handful and definitely something to consider in your decision. If you are interested in this sort of job, many bars in large resorts are run by companies such as Thomas Cook or Mark Warner who recruit in the UK, so it’s worth researching this rather than simply turning up in resort armed with your CV.

 

Instructing

Finally, a completely different route you can take is qualifying as a ski or snowboard instructor. Companies such as SIA, Peak Leaders, EA, Snowskool and Basecamp offer courses from 2-11 weeks so are perhaps better for those unsure whether they want to commit to a full season. However if you did want to progress into full-time employment afterwards, many courses, such as the EA Instructor Internship guarantee a job with a local ski school upon completion of the course. It is also worth bearing in mind that these courses can be quite expensive, from £1595 (Snowskool, BASI Level 1, Three Valleys, 2 week course) to £9195 (Basecamp BASI Level 1 and 2, Meribel, 15 week course).

 

 HOW

So you’ve thought about where and what, and now you’re ready to apply! But how do you go about this? A lot of UK based tour companies have options for you to apply directly, such as Skiworld, Crystal, Scott Dunn and many more. If you are looking for certain types of companies, this can be the best way to apply, as you can research the companies that are best for you. For example, Inghams and Ski Total are large companies with a big presence in resort, while companies such as Le Ski and Ski Val are much smaller, so you may feel more valued as an employee. Or if you feel you are more suited to working in an upmarket environment, luxury companies such as Scott Dunn or VIP Ski may be more up your street.

However, if you just want to get on with applying for as many jobs as possible, it can be easier to use a website such as Ski Jobs or Season Workers, which compile all the jobs available in each area. Personally, I found Natives to be the best site for my job search, as they send you daily emails with updated lists of the roles companies are advertising for in the areas you have specified. This means that you never miss an opportunity and the option to apply via the Natives website makes the process much less stressful.

 

If you feel you don’t have the right qualifications to get your dream season job, these websites also list the various hosting and cookery courses you can undertake in order to boost your seasonnaire CV. These courses can be quite expensive, generally coming in at around £500. However they are often worth it and some, such as that of Work A Season pretty much guarantee you a job afterwards.

 

 

If successful in your application, you will be invited to an interview, which will usually have both group and individual stages. Our next article will contain some tips on how to ace a season job interview, and be sure to keep an eye on our ‘Seasonnaire Guide’ over the coming months a we get you prepared to have the most amazing winter.

 

 

 

 

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