One of the big benefits of running The Ski Blog is that we can ask some very cool and illustrious people to contribute. In the last few months we have been able to wangle posts from mountain bike guru Clive Andrews, regular ski tips from Chamonix's All Mountain Performance, and a review of K2's wildest off piste ski, the Pontoon, by Christian Shepherd and GB junior racer Sam Clissold.
Now we are pleased to announce the collaboration of writer and broadcaster Melissa Love. Melissa is a ski season veteran and rose from the ranks of chalet girl to managing the whole chalet operation for a large UK tour operator. Maybe you are still pondering whether to escape to the mountains, but weighing up the pros against the cons. In which case Melissa's advice for all aspiring chalet hosts will be sure to help you make your decision.
Melissa's post follows below:
Where did you learn to cook? Answer: Practising on the hapless guests who arrived in the first weeks of the season before Christmas, with Delia Smith in one hand and a large gin and tonic in the other.
Would you like to go out for a drink on your night off? Answer: No, Bob-the-accountant-from-Kent, there are too many hot French ski instructors to work my way through and I only have one night a week to do it.
When are you going to get a proper job? Aaah, my favourite and oft-repeated question, asked by friends and relatives, guests and simply the plain jealous, who find it hard to accept that working a season is anything more than a glorified holiday. I’d be lying if I denied there was an element of that, but as a five-winter veteran, I will happily assert that working a winter season is one of those experiences that equips you for much of what life will throw at you later on.
For the unconvinced, I hereby offer up my five reasons why being a chalet host is a job for life, not just for winter.
1. You can keep a cool head in the face of any culinary disaster.
My very first week of my very first season was Christmas – a time of high expectations at the best of times. Forgetting all about my Christmas pudding steaming merrily away on the hob, it soon boiled dry and burst into flames. A rugby-style pass of pan and pudding through the open window into a snowdrift soon extinguished it. A discreet retrieval, a liberal dousing with cheap brandy and the pudding was declared a triumph.
No subsequent kitchen mishap has, or will ever, top the horror induced by the sight of that flaming pudding.
2. You can produce a veritable banquet for a mere pittance.
Living within your means is an important life skill, and in the context of working a season, absolutely vital if you are going to be able to spend a disproportionate amount of your allotted funds on cheap wine. This is a calculation you will find invaluable at many stages of your life.
3. You can politely but firmly repel amorous advances from all-comers.
There must be something about fresh air and exercise, or maybe it’s the high altitude which makes blokes on ski holidays think they are irresistible to you. Fuelled by cheap chalet wine and the misguided belief that they have become sun-bronzed ski gods after just three days in resort, there is always a week in the season which resembles a carry-on film, with the obligatory Benny Hill-style chase around the kitchen and lots of ‘accidental meetings’ in your favourite bar or mountain pit-stop.
At home, it would probably be called stalking, but on holiday, you’re fair game and actually, you’d still really like to earn that tip at the end of the week. You quickly learn the benefit of remaining sober, flirting nicely and firmly locking your bedroom door.
4. You can turn in a creditable day’s work after only 2 hours of sleep and with the mother of all hangovers.
Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily an important or particularly attractive talent, but it’s a good one to have up your sleeve. Later in life, you can simulate the experience of sleep deprivation and bleary drunkenness by having children, when the ability to drink a lot of wine (essential) and function on very little sleep (obligatory) is once more required of you.
5. You know the meaning of real job satisfaction.
It’s true that not everyone thrives on late nights, vigorous exercise, excessive drinking and being at the beck and call of strangers, but for those who do and who are able to master the demands of a winter season, it is the beginning of a love affair. It’s not so much the Alpine atmosphere and the opportunity to date hot snowboarders that gets you, though that’s a bonus. It’s the knowledge that you have discovered what it means to truly love what you do and to do it well.
In my book, that’s worth more money than any ‘proper’ job could pay you.
Melissa Love is now married, mum of two and living in Sussex. Among other projects she is editor of the glossy Village Living - so there is life after ski seasons! If you would like to get more of Melissa's take on life take a look at her blog. Thanks Melissa!