by Ben Blewett,
Training and Experience
To work a ski season you do not need any formal training and can apply as a host, although completing a recognized course is an advantage. You are provided with a manual with a step by step guide on all menus for each day of the week. Once you reach, in Val D’Isere’s case, Les Arcs then you will begin a week’s unpaid training and team building before heading to the resort for familiarization.
The Working Day
The life of a chalet host is a 6 day working week, with your single full day off on a Thursday. Your working day will begin depending on how much preparation you need to do for the breakfast service. Breakfast is typically served at 7:30 A.M. and any hot breakfast offered that morning is required to be available at that time, besides the continental breakfast as a standard option. So, if you have to cook sausages then you may start earlier compared with whipping up some scrambled eggs–for example. How much you need to cook up depends entirely on how many guests you have in your chalet, obviously catering for 12 people requires more time than for 6 people. If your chalet sleeps 12 or more guests then you will be provided with an assistant.
During the breakfast service it is your job to ensure all beverages are topped up and available, as well as the breakfast. Concurrently to this, you should be clearing away crockery, cutlery and cups from the table and wipe any mess away. Once everyone has eaten, clear the tables and wipe them down, remove all breakfast items and store for the next morning. Anything cooked fresh should be discarded. You also need to bake a cake for your guests.
Your guests will now be finishing their preparations for skiing and be heading out, usually by 9 A.M. Before you can do the same, unless requested not to, you need to clean the guests bedrooms–make the beds, empty bins, vacuum, clean the toilet, sink and bath etc. Once you are practiced at this routine you can be finished by 10:30 A.M. at the latest on most days.
You now do not need to return to your chalet until the evening service. The evening meal, for adults, is served at 7:30 P.M. and can be prepared from as late as 6 P.M. (One full hour after the mountain closes for the night). Any preparation you didn’t do in the morning needs to be done, as well as the table set for the meal. You will be preparing a four course dinner, canapés with aperitifs followed by appetizers, main course and the dessert. After service, an additional fifth course of coffee and chocolates in available. If you draw the guests away from the dining table for the fifth course, you will be able to clean down the table and leave it ready for the morning–enabling you to stay in bed longer.
During the evening meal you should be clearing away courses as you go, offering complimentary wine and generally catering to your guests’ needs. Quite often, your kitchen is beside the table which can be good for obtaining a successful rapport with your guests. As with the morning, once you have everything cleaned down in the dining room and kitchen then you are done for the evening. This is typically around 10 P.M. however; you are the host and can usually dictate timings with practice.
Sundays are known as transfer days and will become a day of ceaseless work. Essentially, your present week’s guests will be departing from as early as 4 A.M (yes, you are required to serve breakfast to them) or as late as 9 A.M. Either way, you are up early to serve your departing guests and clean the entire chalet, so that it is ready for the new guests arriving in the afternoon. Transfer day is, by policy, a no skiing day in order that you turn around your chalet and prepare the evening feast for your new guests. Be prepared, if the incoming flights are delayed, to work almost 24 hours on transfer day. This, thankfully, rarely occurs.
Living accommodation for the season can be a little compact and crowded. You most likely will be required to share a room with someone of the same gender, in an apartment with up to another 6 or 7 people. For couples, there might be an opportunity for a room between you with a double bed otherwise it will be a pairing of single beds. For some, their chalet will provide a room for the host. This can be a double-edged blessing, for example if the room is within the guest area of the chalet then you are constrained to what you can do. In your own apartment, parties and loud music can be tolerated whereas within your chalet it may not. In either case, you will have access to a full kitchen enabling you to do your own cooking at your leisure–if you haven’t eaten alongside your guests.
As part of your contract, you are catered for with regards to food. However, as a host you are provided with the basic ingredients and are therefore forced to prepare your own meals. Some restrictions may apply depending on the resort/management, otherwise you will eat the same evening meals as your guests. Breakfast and lunches are down to you. The towns have small supermarkets where you can buy your own food, as well as numerous cafes and restaurants.
Now the important part for all seasonnaires. Your free pass, courtesy of Ski Total. This pass enables you to full access of the skiable terrain surrounding your chosen resort, everyday and all day, week after week. Be prepared to have little free time prior to New Year’s to go out skiing, as you learn the ropes of being a chalet host and settle in. Afterwards, any free time you possess (after and before services) is yours to spend skiing. That’s a tremendous amount of time every day, except Sundays, to tear up the slopes. If you don’t have your own equipment do not worry, you will be able to get quality rental equipment for the entire season–free!
In your resort you will have a variety of places to socialize, the bigger the resort the wider the variety. Any number of bars and restaurants are open for you to frequent. Having a favourite, as well as good knowledge of the town will help impress your guests and might lead to a bigger tip come the end of the week. After you finish the evening service it is generally standard to go out clubbing until the early hours, especially on the night before your day off. As well as being a socialite during the dark hours, you can also spend time with your co-workers during the day on the mountain. Skiing or having a few drinks (après ski) during and/or post skiing is common place, just don’t indulge too much because it costs a lot of money to get escorted down the mountain.
As a chalet host you will come across a variety of people with different dietary requirements. The manual issued to you will have alternative recipes/ingredients listed within so you should be safe. Usually, you will know in advance what requirements are so that on the first evening meal you can have everything right.
Guests usually leave behind tips, unused alcohol, shampoo etc. Feel free to use any and all of these left behind, although lost property should be returned! The more you provide for your guests, spend time getting to know them the better the cash tip at the week’s end–it is not uncommon to earn 200Euros in one week on tips alone! Your pay is minimal, but your food, accommodation and lift passes are free.
A great tip is multi-tasking and knowing how long the food preparation takes. Be able to cook whilst cleaning, for something that can sit in the oven for example. If you need to stew something for a while, perhaps pop it on first thing so it is done when you’re finished cleaning.
Still interested? I hope so; working on a ski season is amazing. Click on the link to find out more!