Doing a ski season is an incredible experience – whatever your age or background. Not merely the preserve of the expected 19-year-old trust-fund blondes immortalised in the film Chalet Girl, there are as many different kinds of season as there are people. It all depends on the job, the company and the resort you choose to go for.
Many operators have begun or will soon begin to advertise for jobs for next winter – now is the time to start preparing your CV and applying. While last-minute opportunities may open up later on when people drop out, this is the key period during which tour operators recruit for next season.
Since the British public voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 there has been a level of ambiguity around the future of the seasonaire in European resorts. If a Brexit deal is struck then it’s possible that reciprocal arrangements for British workers wanting to work a season in ski resorts will continue, at least for the next winter.
If there is no deal then it’s a real possibility British companies will not be able to send staff abroad. Until a deal (or no deal) is agreed many companies are operating a ‘business as usual’ approach, so prospective applicants shouldn’t be disheartened.
If you’re put off by the uncertainty of Brexit then considering doing a season across the Pond in North America is another option and there are numerous companies that require staff in resorts in both countries, but be aware this can be a longer process due to visa applications, so act fast.
Here’s everything you need to know about the roles you can apply for, which resort will work for you, what to expect from the recruiting process, and how to nail the interview and bag your perfect position.
A picture of an acne-ridden, nervy school leaver accidentally burning an apple crumble may jump into your mind with the words ‘chalet host‘. However, in truth this is a highly skilled role especially with the increasing level of service offered by many chalet operators – although there is nothing wrong with being an 18-year-old host, guests’ expectations are high and cooking a good quality three-course dinner, plus canapés and afternoon tea in some cases, for 10 to 20 guests each day is no mean feat.
The rep’s job is to be a point of contact for the guests in case they have any questions or problems. It starts with the transfer from the airport into resort, during which reps often sell lift passes, equipment hire and lessons. During the week, the rep will call in on their guests regularly or have an allotted time or place where guests can drop by to see them – be prepared to be an encyclopedia of information and a fast-acting problem solver.
Childcare is a big job in the mountains – parents want to enjoy the slopes, safe in the knowledge that their little angels are in good hands. Family specialist tour operators like Esprit Ski, The Family Ski Company and Ski Famille have a range of childcare options, including evening babysitting services. Companies will usually require some level of childcare qualification.
This is one of the most sought-after roles in a ski resort – possibly because of the opportunity it affords to drink for free. Bar experience is essential as resort bars can get extremely busy, and confidence when speaking with customers and a working knowledge of the language are both handy.
This is the infinitely more sophisticated term for a KP, or washer upper. The general kitchen dogsbody, a plongeur washes up, dries up and generally helps with anything menial that needs doing in the kitchen.
A ski bum does exactly what s/he says on the tin – this is a skier or snowboarder who bums around resort for the season. They don’t let something as irritating as a full-time job get in the way of hitting the slopes. This lifestyle can be executed well or poorly, depending on an individual’s luck, charm and chutzpah.
As you might expect, the big tour operators, such as Crystal Ski, Inghams, Neilson or Skiworld, are the ones with the most jobs available. The benefit of working within a larger organisation is that there’s a clear chain of command; there’s always someone to refer up to if things go wrong, and you can work as part of a big team if that’s what you feel most comfortable with. There’s also the added bonus of having a greater choice of destinations, as these tour operators work in a wider range of resorts.
Watch out for gap year programmes that charge applicants hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of pounds to secure a job in a ski resort – you can have the same experience by getting a job through a reputable company, without having to pay for the experience.
There isn’t time to go into every resort here, but do some research before you go. There’s a world of difference between a party resort (such as St Anton or Val d’Isere) and a family resort (such as Flaine or Les Menuires), a small, quiet village off the beaten track (such as Adelboden or Champoluc) and a sprawling French mega-resort spread over several bases (such as Les Arcs).
If you like the idea of independence, look at smaller resorts where you will be part of a select team with more autonomy. If you’re looking to have lots of support, bigger resorts will probably have a more sizeable team to slot into.
Tour operators will often let you express a preference, so go armed with the knowledge of your favourites – check out our guide to finding the perfect ski resort for you.
What employers are looking for
There are three credentials all companies expect from potential candidates; enthusiasm, confidence and a professional attitude.
Some of this is obvious – being punctual, polite, well-turned out and having some basic language skills all goes a long way. Also, making it abundantly clear that you are prepared to knuckle down and work hard rather than expecting a five month-long jolly is always a good idea. Remember to keep your CV up to date and demonstrate what you can offer employers that is unique.
Crystal Ski Holidays’ recruitment team leader, Tom Best, says: “We love people with confidence, from all walks of life, with an ability to think on their feet.”
“Applicants with previous customer service experience who are fun, enthusiastic, energetic, friendly and professional are just what we are looking for.”
Being social media savvy is a plus. “We want our overseas resort teams to be engaged on social media too, regularly tweeting updates about snow conditions, current and upcoming events or perhaps an amazing photo they caught while out skiing,” says Tom.
The interview process
Each company will have their own recruitment process, but some of the bigger tour operators, such as Crystal Ski, have group assessment days. In these, applicants are put through their paces in a variety of individual and group tasks. These assess team work, public speaking, logic and language skills.
The important thing is to be confident and personable without taking over. “And our best tip for interviews… don’t fight for the limelight but make sure you shine by demonstrating good listening skills and interacting well with other candidates,” says Tom.
Also, don’t worry about being a world-class skier: “We do like previous ski or snowboarding experience, but it isn’t essential – being friendly and professional are,” he adds.
Natives.co.uk is on online portal with blogs from experienced seasonaires and forums offering guidance, resort information and roles details, plus a directory of all the latest job opportunities from a variety of companies. May to August is the peak time for sharing information about writing your CV and submitting applications for jobs, so if you want to do a season in 2019/20, don’t dawdle
For those considering heading across the pond for a season, BUNAC, a careers company with over 25 years’ experience of arranging work placements in Canada, host an annual job fair in London in the summer. This year’s event is at the The Wesley Hotel on August 9 – 11. Visitors can pre-register their attendance to secure a job interview with a number of different hotels and operations including the Four Seasons Resort in Whistler and Panorama Mountain Resort.
If you are considering a season in Canada it’s important to know that all workers require a IEC work permit, which allows eligible British passport holders aged 18 to 30 the chance to live and work in Canada for up to 24 months – many companies will favour applicants who have had their visa confirmed and looking for work. The visa pool is now open for applications.