The perils of room cleaning

“No one wants a reminder that there were guests in the room before them. Particularly the sort of reminder you find in a toilet.”
So we were told in staff training. Gross, but very true. A chalet girl has to learn to love loos, because she’s going to spend a lot of time cleaning them. Just as it would be gross to find a dirty toilet when you first arrive at the chalet you’ve paid a lot of money to stay in for the week, it’s gross to leave a little surprise in the toilet brush for your chalet girl. She innocently picks up the brush and begins to scrub away a small mark, only to find she’s made the whole situation worse. Much worse. Please don’t be the guest who does this.

The other problem I’ve encountered most this season is that the people who smile and say “Don’t bother cleaning our room, it’s fine,” or who always take their room key with them instead of leaving it on the rack for you, inevitably turn out to be the hairiest, dirtiest people to stay in the chalet. Seriously, I don’t know how some people shed so much hair in one week.

Then there are the snotty tissues. There’s a bin in your room and another in the bathroom. Do you really need to leave these rags all over your room? Under the bed? On the bathroom floor? I shouldn’t have to break out the rubber gloves to clean anywhere except the bathroom, but it’s happened.

It’s not all bad though. I get to go skiing most days, after all 😉


Staff Training: A Cautionary Tale

You’ve beaten the CV into shape, worn the collared shirt for the interview, and landed a job. Now you’re heading out to the resort for ‘training’ but it’s all mountain time and drinking from here, right? I’m not leaving for a couple more weeks, but wanted to share a cautionary story with you, as a reminder that the bosses are still watching during training, and you are still very replaceable.

A friend did a ski season a couple of years ago, and worked (very) briefly with a couple of fine gentlemen who seem to have forgotten some of this advice. They were lucky enough to be flying over to France, and as the plane geared up to leave the runway, one felt the need to stand up and call to his friend, resulting in the air hostess shouting at him to sit down. Not exactly a big deal, but as the company had paid for the flight, and these were their new recruits coming in, they were interested in hearing about it. They arrived in resort, and things seemed to be getting better. After a second day of training, some of the group made their way out to sample the bars of the town. Some sampled with more enthusiasm than others, and again, the two gentlemen were involved. They turned up to begin day three of their training while still considerably intoxicated, and got called out for it by the manager. Clearly somewhat annoyed by this, they went out to another bar later that week, where they discussed how much they disliked the aforementioned manager. They hadn’t thought about the fact that this manager had worked in the same hotel for several winters now, and was well known to the staff of the bar.

The guys found themselves packing their bags to go home before training week had even finished.

So, lessons – remember training week is a time when the managers will be watching new staff very closely. And if you really need to complain about them, pick the place you do so very carefully! 😉

How to survive an overnight coach journey

For most people, heading off for a ski season involves a loooong journey by coach. Sure, you’ll talk to everyone for a while. These are the people you’ll be working with for the winter, after all, and it could be a chance to scope out the talent… But eventually, you’re going to want to a little bit of peace, and probably to catch some zzzzs. Having done (too) many long coach journeys, here are some quick survival tips.

1) Headphones. Headphones are a universal sign for ‘I’m not interested in conversation right now’. (Related point – make sure you’ve charged your i-Pod before the journey!) And if you don’t fancy listening to anything, no one else will know. I like to make sure I’ve got an audiobook on my ipod for a journey, as they help me fall asleep.

2) Eye mask – the sort you get on planes. These will help block out the lights from inside the coach, and every street light you go past. I had a job this autumn which involved a coach ride each morning at 4AM – those streetlights were the worst.

3) Wear warm clothes/bring a warm jacket. Buses can get cold. You’re seat-mate might want the vents on high. Someone sitting at the back of the coach above the engine will be really warm and convince the driver to put the AC on. If you’ve got a warm jacket (and I think most people going out for a ski season will have one!) it can double as a blanket, and you can do the hood-over-your-face trick if you don’t have an eye mask to block the light.

4) Bring a bottle of water. See point 5 about buying food en route.

5) Snacks. The coach will stop a few times, but probably less often in France, and you know what prices will be like in motorway shops. Think about how much you’re getting paid per week, and whether you really want that tiny packet of crisps for €2.50. Amongst other things, I like to pack a couple of cereal bars – energy in a small packet, and good for when I wake up in the morning and the first stop with hot food is still a couple of hours drive away. And you never know when there is going to be a traffic jam or other delay.

Some other things you might like to bring for the daylight hours could be a book, or your fully charged laptop with a couple of movies. Some coaches might have a tv up front, so if you have room in your bag and feel like it, you could stick a couple of DVDs in there. (And if you’re not a fan of the chosen film, this is another time headphones come in very useful.)

Do you have a top tip for surviving a long coach journey? Let me know!

The ultimate ski season packing list

As I put together my own packing list for my ski season last week, I trawled the internet for reminders of any essential items that I might have forgotten. One of the questions that comes up most frequently on forums like is “What should I take with me?” or “what kit do I need to pack?” So going from my own experience and the advice of others who have multiple seasons under their belt, here’s what I’ll be taking. It looks like a lot of stuff, but most of these are small, or squash down.

Ski kit:
Skis or board
3 x thermal trousers (because January is cold, and wash days are less frequent that you’d like)
5 x base layer top, of whatever variety you like.
3 x thick hoody/fleeces
1 x ski trousers/salopettes
1 x ski jacket
ski socks (at least 5 pairs, preferably more)
gloves or mitts
buff or scarf

Other clothes:
Uniform (whatever you’re told to bring – for me this is a white shirt and a pair of black trousers)
Underwear (mix of sports bras & regular bras; roughly 10 pairs pants)
Socks (At least 10 pairs, more if space – socks are something that go missing surprisingly often, especially in shared accommodation.)
combat trouser or other old trousers for cleaning/set up/other messy jobs
3 x jeans (2 would be fine if you’re short on space)
t-shirts for off time & going out (shirts that double for both times are ideal. I’m going to take about 7, maybe more depending on space. Most of the time you will probably be wearing ski clothes or work clothes, so you don’t need many.)
A sweater or two for off time, including nights out
Ordinary gloves for wearing around resort/to bars
Old warm jacket for wearing on nights out (not everywhere has a cloakroom, and you don’t want to spend the night worrying about your brilliant ski jacket being nicked from a pile in the corner/pushed onto the floor/having beer spilt all over it)

Toiletries etc:
Sun cream for face & lips
toothbrush & paste
hairbrush & ties
hand cream
nail clippers
nail file
paracetamol, ibuprofen, throat soothers (some also include Berocca here to aid with hangovers)
a razor
1st aid kit, including plasters
shampoo/conditioner (but remember there will be stuff you’re giving to guests each week, and stuff they leave behind)

Other Useful Items:
laptop & charger
phone & charger
camera & spare batteries
british-french adaptor plug
couple of books/ebooks
some DVDs
computer games
ipod & headphones
alarm clock (Yes, my phone has one. No, I don’t trust myself to charge the phone before bed if I’ve been out to the pub.)
insurance documents (depending on what your employer provides)
money (some cash, and a re-loadable currency card like Caxton, FairFX, Thomas Cook, etc)
EHIC card
pack of cards
blue tack & some photos (to cheer up your room)
hip flask
2p coins (for pool tables that ask for 2euro coins)
water bottle

1 pair smart black shoes for working in
1 pair boots for wearing outside
1 pair flip flops (useful for showers in shared accommodation, and end of season when it’s warm)
1 pair slippers (this is a slight personal preference – I love my slippers & know it’s worth me making space for them. You might want to have some other kind of indoor shoe, but your work ones are probably fine if they are comfy.)

Things suggested by others, which I don’t personally take:
tea bags
good hot chocolate powder
multi-plug extension lead (I never needed one.)
Duct tape
Off-piste safety equipment. (I don’t ski off piste. When I start to, believe me I will get some.)

Vacuum bags are also very useful for squashing the air out of ski jackets & other bulky items to make them take up less space while packing.

Season shopping: base layers wishlist

The past couple of weeks I’ve been picking up a couple of things I need for the season, namely some base layers. I’m restricted by budget, but I thought I’d share some of the cool things I’ve seen, my wishlist items, and some things that are closer to what I actually bought.

First up, thermal trousers. I’m a fan of colour. I love the look of these:
3/4 length leggings from Roxy
(3/4 length leggings from Roxy)

I wasn’t sure about the 3/4 length at first, but then I realised my ski socks will be half way up my leg anyway, and one less layer in my boots is probably a good thing. I know no one is really going to see these under my salopettes, but the colours & patterns still make me smile. The new pair I actually got are black, just like the ones I already have.

I’m a little more colourful with the thermal shirts I get. Rather than the typical clinging base layer, I usually wear a microfleece type shirt, then throw a fat hoody of some kind on top, then my ski jacket. That said, I do like the look of this base layer shirt from Burton:


Burton tee


I like that it has some colour, but not so much as to be overwhelming.

I’m really happy with the new microfleeces I bought for this winter. Both are in this sort of style, one a very similar colour, albeit a cheaper version:


(Berghaus ‘Spectrum Women’s 1/2 zip microfleece’)


I might prefer a little more pattern than this, but block colours do make it very easy to wear these shirts around the resort or home in the UK with a pair of jeans or other ordinary clothes.


Have you seen any snow gear you’d love to get your hands on for this winter? Or do you have any recommendations of items or brands for me? Leave a comment or drop me a message, I’d love to hear your ideas!

Interviews (part two)

I had no idea how the third interview was going to go. I was fairly sure it was just me, rather than a group interview, but the instructions hadn’t told me anything about it or asked me to prepare anything in particular. It turned out to be one-on-one, and the man conducting the interview was the same one who had sent out the emails.
A lot of the interview was a conversation, him asking questions based mostly on my CV and telling me a bit about the company. Maybe it was this that really did it for me, but the more he told me about the training plan, treatment of staff, and way they ran things, the more it sounded like somewhere I wanted to work.
I left feeling like it had gone well, but after my earlier experience with the fancy company, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. He emailed the next day: I got the job.
Based on when the paperwork for job 1 had arrived, I had two days to decide. Each company had good things going for it, and one or two potential drawbacks with what I was looking for. It was the same with the positions themselves, some pros and cons for each role. I sent several stressed “how-do-I-choose” emails to my family, and talked a lot to different people, getting their opinions. I think I’d known from the interviews though what my choice would be: I picked job 2.
So, without naming names: they’re a medium sized company doing mid-to-up market holidays. My job is a non-cooking chalet host role, and I’m pretty much over the moon with it – it sounds like it’ll be the perfect job for me. You can expect stories to start coming as soon as I have them, probably in early December, and until then I’ll keep you up to date with things like a packing list, pre-season purchases, and other season build up posts.

Interviews (part one)

The first interview I got was with a company I hadn’t expected. They seemed to be trying to be quite posh, and I wasn’t sure I was what they were looking for in a chalet host, but figured doing the application form would be good practice. I trundled down to the south of England, talked for an hour with one of the head honchos, and left feeling like it had gone well. Alas, a few days later, they said no. Hmm.

Just before I left the country for a few weeks, two more companies got in touch and I set up interviews for later in the summer. Yay! Fingers crossed, it looked like I would manage to get a season job sorted fairly early on. The second interview was with a major T.O. who actually asked me to interview for a position higher than the one I’d applied for. I agreed, did the prep they asked, and made my way to the midlands this time for a group interview. They told us a bit about the company, gave us some written questions to do, then we were split into smaller groups to give the presentation we’d prepared in advance.
I was a bit taken aback by how little time they spent talking to each individual. I felt like the interview could have been worse, but I also left thinking I hadn’t had enough chance to show what I could do. I felt like I would easily have got the chalet bitch job I’d applied for, but not sure about the supervisory job they’d interviewed me for. “We’ll ring everyone on Friday to let you know our decision,” they said.

They didn’t.

I fretted. Had they tried calling while I was at my graduation ceremony, phone safely turned off? On Saturday I left for a week’s holiday with very dodgy phone reception. More fretting. But the thing thing was, after offering a position, this job gave you 5 days to send them the bond payment securing your position. My interview with Company Three was scheduled for Tuesday after the holiday. On the one hand, I wanted Company Two to get in touch and put me out of my misery with their decision. On the other, I wanted enough time to go to the other interview before I had to send in the payment bond.

Finally, after a couple of answering machine messages on each end, I spoke to them on Friday. “You’ve got a job!” they said. “But not the one you interviewed for.” They gave me the chalet bitch job I’d originally applied for. Surprise surprise.

So now the question: to pay for the travel for interview three, or just take the job? In the end, Dad talked me in to it. I booked my trains for the midlands and geared up for another interview.