A winter in the alps, waking up to fresh dump of snow each morning, learning the mountain like the back of your hand, knowing where to get the best hot chocolate and the best spots to hang out that the holiday makers will never find.
These are just a few things that come to mind when thinking about working a winter season abroad. With all the positives though, and just like when you’re about to experience anything new, there will always be some doubts or concerns.
We went through it all before our ski season, uncontrollable excitement and “what the hell are we thinking” moments, especially when we were still sitting on a dive boat in the sun just a few days before our season started. So what is the reality of working a ski season?
Fears vs Reality
Being the Oldies
At the grand old age of 27 I am still young and very happy with that. I was aware however, that somebody married in late 20’s probably isn’t the most common profile you’ll find in this type of work.
Arriving for training week the demographic was exactly what we had expected with the majority of people having just finished university. Most of the talk on route was about which university people had just graduated from rather than what their wedding day was like.
Once someone noticed we were married it spread like wildfire along our coach, yup – that’s us.
At the end of our season somebody we’d lived with even admitted that she had raised concerns to her mum about living with ‘a boring married couple’ at the start of the season. Thankfully she didn’t end the season feeling the same way.
We were by no means the oldest reps working the season and there were many others who had done multiple seasons or were now working as managers. Age turned out to have no affect on our season at all and it’s silly thinking back how we thought it might.
Surviving the Seasonaire Drinking Culture
This ties in with the above point about age in some ways. Despite being 27 my hangovers are considerably worse than they were 5 years ago (and I dread to think what they’ll be like in 5 years time) and the idea of getting up early for work after a night is usually met with a resounding F-that. We don’t play on a school night.
Winter seasons and drinking seem to go hand in hand. Some of the suggestions online for the number one item to bring on a ski season included eye drops (to help you look less hungover) and a hip flask. There was me thinking about thermals and sunglasses but apparently they’re not important.
The truth is: there is a big drinking culture while working a season. We drank quite a bit more than we usually would but still managed to avoid the nights before a big morning without being labelled ‘The boring married couple’. We came across plenty of people who were burning the candle at both ends and managed it fine but plenty of other people who were happy for a few nights in a week watching a film or talking on Skype.
The nightlife is always there if you want it but you can still keep up with your social life without completely ruining your ski days.
One of our biggest concerns was getting injured and ruining our season before it had even started. This does happen and we’ve even heard about people tripping up on the way into the hotel during training week and having to be sent home, not even getting close to a pair of skis.
The best advice we can give is simply to take it steady. Neither of us had skied in quite a few years before our season so we made sure to join some lessons during the first few weeks (you can usually get some good deals with the ski schools you work with) and ease ourselves in gently.
Unfortunately accidents still do happen and we knew of a few people who had injuries that cut their season short. Take a break if your body is hurting from a knock rather than making it worse and try and resist the urge to leave your helmet at home when you’re not in uniform, everyone wheres helmets these days so there’s no excuse.
Save any extra dangerous stuff for the final few days of your season when you’re going home anyway and the resort is a lot quieter.
Sucking at Skiing
As I mentioned above, we hadn’t skied in a long time before our ski season and was nervous we’d never get good enough to ski guide (the best part of the job) but more importantly miss out on the social side of skiing with the other reps.
If you’re in the same situation then you need not worry. Although you’ll be very busy with work to begin with (when you’re still trying to figure everything out) they’ll still be plenty of time to get on the slopes and work on your technique. Those who have lessons progress faster, it’s as simple as that. It’s very easy to grasp the basics and then decide to go off by yourself but you’ll quickly notice a difference between those who continue lessons and those who don’t.
Stick with the lessons, get up early for first lifts and you’ll be skiing with all your new friends in no time. As far as ski guiding goes, it’s actually illegal in most European countries to offer tips or equipment advice without being a fully qualified instructor. Therefor ski guiding requires you to do only that, guide. You’ll be a walking talking piste map and you can do this once you feel confident on red runs.
Dealing with Endless Complaints
As a rep you are available to all of your customers 24/7 via telephone and that’s even before they come on holiday for some companies. During our training week it was mentioned time and time again “People come on holiday and leave their brains at home” and although this is a little broad it will certainly feel that way at times during your ski season.
People’s expectations are high and why not? Ski holidays are expensive.
I was only dragged from bed a few times during my season and most of my colleagues even less so but complaints do happen frequently and will range in magnitude. The reality is that as long as you are proactive and deal with issues as they come up then no complaint is too big to deal with. The only time there was a serious issue in our team was when complaints were left to fester.
There will always be people who simply can’t be pleased and this is just the nature of the job. The solution? Don’t worry about it and be polite, they’re only there for a week.
Falling in Love with a Cool Snowboarder
Naturally this was my biggest personal concern. What if I fall in love with a super cool snowboarding chick and have to leave my wife? I’ve only just got married, what a waste of money that would have been.
I had the same concern when we went to Bali about surfer chicks but just like then it turns out they are all way too cool for me anyway…
Are you planning to work a ski season this winter? Do you have anymore fears or questions?