Working As A Chalet Host in Europe
I was never, ever going to do a winter ski season. I had not the faintest idea of what a Chalet was, I couldn’t imagine a ski resort (how could people ‘stop for coffee’ on a mountain?!), let alone had ANY experience of skiing or snowboarding. But here I am, 5 winter seasons, 1 fake tooth, several broken teeth, and 2 sets of skis later.
I worked my first winter as a Chalet Hotel Host in Alta Badia, Italy for a company called Mountain Sun, and the pervious 4 winter seasons I have worked In El Tarter, Andorra for Neilson. The first 3 as a Chalet Hotel/ Chalet Host, and the last one as a Head Host for the Chalet Hotel and Chalet.
How I Got Into Winters
In 2015, after falling into a summer job the previous summer in Greece for Neilson (another total accident which I never planned to do - but I have now completed 5 summer seasons!), as the season ended everyone I worked with was getting super excited for their winter season; some were ‘seasoned seasonaires’ and others were, like me, on their first season. However I refused to even consider a winter season, I had my time working overseas and wanted to stay in the UK with a job I wanted to do for life (not that I had any idea what it was, I just liked the idea of the security). Anyway, 10 days of being back at home in November, I realised that this wasn’t the case and I seriously missed season life. I had got myself a temporary job as a shop assistant in a shop which was closing down which saw me through to January, while I was applying to whatever jobs I could find on Season Workers. Although I had no Chalet experience, I had worked in hospitality and customer-service roles since I had turned 14, so I had this in my advantage.
Eventually I ended up being offered 2 jobs on the same day, both as a Chalet and Hotel Host, by 2 small companies, but in 2 different ski resorts (La Plagne in France, and Alta Badia, in the Dolomites, Italy). Both companies asking me to fly out less than a week later. I was so up and down, should or shouldn’t I go, which country, which company.
I had no idea what I was doing, everyone would already be friends, I didn’t have anything that I needed to take with me. I didn't have any idea where to start looking for salopettes or a ski jacket.
But I am a massive believer that everything happens for a reason, and if I hated it, I could always leave and come back home. So, less than a week later I was on a plane to Venice; having decided to accept the offer in Italy.
My First Winter
I ended up having the best time, meeting some amazing people, and had some very weird but also very great experiences on my first winter season. The company I worked for paid for me to have a 1 hour private lesson skiing, and after that it was my determination and my friends’ amazing patience that I could ski at a confident level. However, I now know that Neilson, and lots of other companies, include ski or snowboard lessons whatever your standard- so this is definitely worth noting when looking for a job. In addition to this, the majority of ski companies pay for a season lift pass (what allows you access to the lifts on the ski resort), food, shared accommodation and ski or board equipment hire.
There was no need for me to worry about not having any idea AT ALL, what a Chalet Hotel was, or how it was run, as it was easy and fun for me to pick up, but did it take a lot of common sense and hard work.
What Is A Chalet or Hotel Host?
A Chalet/ Hotel Host essentially ensures that the guests have the best possible holiday and have a super amazing time! Both roles include cleaning and housekeeping jobs, and serving food. As a Chalet Host, you are also likely to be cooking the hot breakfast, afternoon tea (a selection of cakes and cookies), and a 3 course dinner. As a Hotel Host, your likely to be a kitchen assistant and helping with pot wash, while the Chefs do most of the cooking! However, you may still be required to cook breakfast and afternoon tea on the Chefs days off. Although these job roles vary from place to place depending on the layout of the chalets/ hotels and what has previously worked in previous seasons.
Finally, the best thing about both of these job roles is the amount of ski time available. As long as you are super organised, hardworking and motivated, you can get between 4-6 hours of ski time most days, and the majority of shifts are split-shifts.
There is no way around it, transfer day is a difficult day for everyone involved and it occurs once a week (in my experience working for Neilson, but it can totally depend on the company!). Transfer day is the day that the old guests leave and the new guests arrive. Typically in a ski resort, guests tend to leave super early in the morning, and as a host it is your job to completely clean the chalet/ hotel ready for the next guests to arrive (usually about 6-8 hours later). Again the shift times and the transfer times completely depend on your resort and the company you are working for.
However, at the end of a transfer day it is such a great sense of achievement and teamwork, despite how tired you may be!
Food and Accomodation
For the majority of UK tour operators, they are likely to provide your food and accommodation. Again, this can vary so much on the different companies and your job role. But from a Host working for Neilson, the food tends to be the left-overs from the Chalets/ Hotels, cooked by the Chefs and is super nice! It may also get repetitive though, but most accommodation also has cooking facilities, so you can still cook your favourites!
As for accommodation, it is likely to be shared and basic, although it will have everything you’ll need. I actually loved sharing a room with someone, it was nice for the company, and with you being likely to work different shift times; you still managed to get your own space! When you are sharing, always remember to be respectful to your roommate, and open and honest if you’re not happy about something. I also recommend making your room your space and like a home – unpacking as soon as you can is definitely worth it!
What to Pack for a Winter Season?
First of all, I strongly recommend taking 2 suitcases or 1 suitcase and 1 ski bag on your season with you. So many times I have tried to squeeze everything in a 20kg suitcase limit, which has ended up as a massive stress and sometimes (I don’t want to admit to this) a tantrum later. I have since realised if I am going to live somewhere for 5-6 months, I want enough stuff to feel comfortable and at home, and therefore I can justify paying for the extra bag.
My essential list of items I take with me for every season (including summers) is;
Extension lead (you never know how many plugs will be in your room, and if your sharing with someone you want to make sure you have to space to plug everything you need in!)
A couple of plug adapters
Lots of comfy clothes (think baggy t-shirts, trackies)
A couple of clothes for going out (e.g. jeans and a top, or a dungaree dress and tights etc). Especially on winters, people don’t make too much effort with going out, you won’t need heels or anything like that!
Some ‘homely’ items e.g. photos, wall hangings, blankets, fairy lights etc
Fitted bed sheets (honestly SO much easier to make your bed with!)
Any specific toiletries/ food you use at home that you have limited access to overseas; for me it is Aussie shampoo and conditioner and decent peanut butter (Pip n Nut or Whole Earth) Although, please bare in mind the majority of stuff you can get overseas (maybe a different brand), so there is absolutely no need to stock up on 5 months supplies on everything.
Winter specific essential packing list:
Snow boots or boots in grip (your feet get absolutely soaking wet and you’d be surprised how slippery it can be in deep snow).
Salopettes (trousers to ski in)
Ski helmet and goggles
In regards to ski equipment, the majority of ski companies offer ski/ snowboard hire as part of your pay package. For beginners, this is really great as you probably won’t want to spend the money on brand new boots and equipment! However, as your skiing improves, you may decide to buy your own ski equipment, as you will find you can advance on these easier. It is such a lovely feeling knowing that it is only you using the equipment, and having it in the best possible condition.
It can be an absolute night-mare knowing where to start when looking for ski clothing, equipment and accessories. Everything seems so expensive, you don’t want to be ripped off but you also don’t want anything that is cheap and won’t even last the season. Below I have linked a few of my favourite go-to websites:
What To Do With The Free Time?
As well as the ski time, you also have your days off. In Andorra this is one and a half days off a week, although again, this varies from different countries and companies depending on working laws etc. There is an endless list of things you can do in your free time, depending on what you enjoy doing. As an active person I love getting up and doing things, however of course napping, watching Netflix or play PlayStation are all just-as-good ways to chill out during your free time.
Here are some other options which I’ve got up to, as well as skiing;
Walking, hiking or running (the scenery is BEAUTIFUL!)
Shopping (in Andorra La Vella (Andorra’s capitol), there are lots of super good shops- tax free
Use of a hotel spa or gym
Going out for a drink, lunch and dinner
Cross country skiing
And lots and lots more!
My Top Tips
I am so grateful, happy, and have absolutely no regrets about getting on that plane to Venice for my first winter season, and I would definitely recommend anyone.
I have learnt so much from winters, grown so much as a person, made some absolutely amazing friends and had some of the best memories. I definitely rule out doing another winter again.
So I thought I’d finish with some top tips on how to get the absolute most from your winter season, and have as much of a great time as I did!
Whatever your age, ski or snowboard experience give a winter season a go.
From the moment you meet your teammates (at the airport or in resort) be your friendliest self. The chances are you are all feeling as equally nervous, anxious and excited (all the feelings!) as each other.
Be hardworking. No one on the team likes someone who doesn’t ‘pull their weight’ on the job, don’t be that person!
If you are struggling (whatever the reason), let your manager know. Your manager is there to help you and wants you to have the absolute best time.
Have a positive attitude. There will be times that are tough, but reminding yourself why you are on a winter season, and all the good times, is so helpful to get you through.
Have an open mind. Try new experiences, saying ‘yes’, getting the most of living in a different country.
Guest Writer Daisy is also a fantastic, experienced and qualified personal trainer, fitness instructor, yoga teacher.
I have had the pleasure of working alongside Daisy in Greece and she truly embraces the seasonaire life, bringing a smile to everyone around her be it friends or guests. Her summer seasons are spent delivering fitness in European resorts. To follow her journey visit her facebook page or fitness Instagram.
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