6 ways to work a season
1. Chalet Host
You’ll work as part of a small team, or possibly on your own. Duties include preparing meals, for between 4 and 20 people, and cleaning the chalet.
A passion for food is useful but most chalet companies provide courses to teach you a range of dishes. Above all, you’ll make your weekly guests feel at home.
Expect to work 6 days a week ‘split shifts’. The quicker you can clean the chalet and meal prep, the more slope time you’ll get! You’ll generally get a couple of hours skiing a day, start at about 7am and finish at about 10.30pm.
Ingham’s Work a Season recruits for Inghams, Ski Total, Esprit and Santa’s Lapland and offers the full range of jobs, including chalet host. Most run from the end of November to the end of April.
2. Bar and restaurant work
Well, pulling pints, serving food and making cocktails mostly! But being ‘front of house’ in a bar or restaurant is far more than that. You can help create the atmosphere, so be willing to be sociable. You’ll also be expected to clean the bar area, sweep the floors and often clean the toilets after a busy night. Find a bar that does food as the tips can far outweigh your weekly wage.
Expect to be rushed off your feet. It can be pressured but if you thrive under it you’ll love it.
For maximum slope time go for a nightclub that only opens in the evening. You may struggle to make first lifts after a 4am finish but most days you will get a few hours in. The majority of bars/restaurants will run a rota so you get one day off per week with a mix of day, evening and split shifts. Expect at least two full days on the mountain a week and a few hours over the other few days.
Most major tour operators run bar/restaurants in big European resorts. Try Mark Warner or Crystal Ski.
3. Become an instructor
If you’ve got a passion for skiing and want to pass it on to others then this could be the job for you. Just don’t expect to get rich doing it. In your first season you’ll probably do most of your instructing on the nursery slopes with beginners. This can be frustrating, especially on powder days. You’ll need to get qualified, which can be an expensive and long process. But the more qualified you get, the more and better work (better skiing!) you’ll get and the more you’ll earn. Some instructor courses guarantee work at the end.
You’ll work 5 or 6 days per week, giving 2 and 3 hour lessons, group sizes dependent, and the après ski can start as early as 4pm when you finish work. In Europe you’ll have to find your own self-catered accommodation, often with other instructors, though it is usually provided in North America. Another advantage to working in the USA or Canada is the end of week tips.
The Austrian-based Ski Instructor Academy offers a range of ski instructor courses with a job guarantee at the end of it. For example, their six-week Level 1 Anwärter Ski Instructor Course in Kaprun, Austria costs from £3,880 with a St Anton ski school job at the end.
4. Chef or kitchen work
You don’t have to be a qualified chef to work in the kitchen. Jobs range from kitchen porter – which is basically washing up and is probably the most stress free job in this list – to head chef. The range in between will include lots of people with some basic experience who are able to prep food and plate up, but don’t have any qualifications. Kitchen work can be stressful but the teamwork and camaraderie make for strong friendships.
In a hotel you’ll get up as early as 6am to prep breakfast, whereas a bar or restaurant might keep more civilised hours. Slope time is similar to bar and restaurant work.
If you’re a ‘real’ chef looking to enhance your CV while travelling, the major tour operators will usually have some flagship hotels worth applying to. Beyond that, try investigating some of the privately owned chalets and hotels. For those looking to simply find a way to work a season without having to shave every day, apply early to the tour operators and there are loads of jobs to be had.
5. Just turn up!
Get a flight and book a month’s accommodation. Go round the bars and restaurants looking for work and dropping off CV’s. Most importantly get to know the other seasonnaires. If they put in a good word for you that’s as good as it gets when looking for openings.
Make sure you don’t leave yourself without anywhere to stay or any way of getting home. The mountains are needless to say an unforgiving place to spend a night without warmth and shelter.
All the bars, hotels, ski shops, rental companies, and restaurants in a resort will take on English-speaking staff, often with short notice – although obviously the better you speak the local lingo, the more likely you’ll be hired.
According to seasonnaire jobs website Seasonworkers.com, there is about 20 percent staff turnover in the first six weeks of the season, so that means lots of jobs becoming available early on if you’re determined.
The best times to look are late summer and new year, and if push comes to shove, you can even claim jobseekers allowance in the EU for up to about 3 months while you look (see gov.uk/browse/benefits).
6. Be a resort nanny
If working for a tour operator, expect to be in charge of lots of children and be tasked with taking them off their parents hands and keeping them happy while they ski. Alternatively, there are nanny and babysitting agencies who link families, chalet companies and other agencies directly to individuals like you looking to do nannying or babysitting duties in resorts.
Once you’ve registered you can browse all the ‘jobs’ advertised in most of France’s ski areas. You’ll earn a flat rate, regardless of whether you’re looking after one or four children – while your client pays the agency a fee.
If you do go down the tour operator route, you can kiss goodbye to any significant slope time. You’ll be expected to work six days a week and have one day off. You will find that you fall behind the other seasonnaires as their skiing progresses. Taking the agency route means you can pick your own hours to an extent. Of course though, most people want childcare while they ski so to make a living you will have to sacrifice some slope time.
Contact the tour operators who will require qualifications and background checks. Agencies like alpine-child-care.co.uk will also require safety checks and as many good references as you can pull together.
Job for life
While many in-resort jobs suit ‘gap-year’ workers or transitory seasonnaires, not all ski resort jobs need to be on a season-by-season basis. Working a season could be your gateway to a career in tourism and hospitality. For example, Inghams are actively on the lookout for those who want to turn a season into a career, offering training and career development through their overseas management team in ski resorts and their summer properties.
Winter season benefits include pay, food and board, insurance, transport, holiday pay, free ski, snowboard and boot hire, one full day off per week, pre-season training, and a 10% discount for family and friends.