Life & Work as a Seasonaire: All in a week’s work

From the start of the season to the abrupt end thanks to covid-19, working as a Chalet Host was a solid bit of physical and mental elbow grease. Even though I read and read about what the job entailed, it still hits home like a ton of bricks when you start. It’s so hard to have a real understanding until you’re in the job, living it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go some way to acquainting you with what a week will involve working as a Chalet Host – from the daily tasks to the weekly, and from the cooking to the cleaning.

AM – COOKING

Rolling out of bed at 6:30am, a 15 minute drive away from the Chalet, we’d arrive each morning at 7am. This gave me time to get the towels washing from the previous week in case the guests requested a towel change mid-week and lay the table for breakfast, as Harry begun preparing the bread, croissants and whatever the hot option was that day. I’d finish my tasks at 7:30am, and begin making the cake, usually getting it in the oven for 8am, which is when breakfast would begin, unless requested otherwise. Believe it or not, earlier breakfasts were actually a blessing because you’d get out of the chalet quicker, meaning more time up the mountain. Once breakfast had been served, we’d clear away, and set up the tea & coffee station for when everyone got back from their day’s skiing. Prep for the starter, main, desert and any children’s courses would be completed and tidied away.

AM – DAILY CLEAN

Once the food prep was complete, the kitchen immaculate, and afternoon tea on the dining room table, the daily clean would begin. We had the luxury of having a driver who cleaned our communal and boot rooms – hoovering and spot mopping, so we could begin the rooms. Beds would be made, mugs and glasses I found (there was always a cheeky wine glass or 2 taken to bed from the night before) removed and a quick spray of febreze for a nice little finishing touch so the guests knew we’d been in to spruce things up. Harry was in charge of the bathrooms – sink, toilet, and shower glass. I managed to swing this on the basis that I had to do the bathrooms as well as the bedrooms every changeover. Although this was not decided without a lack of trying on Harry’s part to put before me all the arguments as to why I should do all cleaning tasks. The answer was a sharp and firm no.

MIDDAY

In the first couple weeks of the job it takes a minute to get into but after this initial phase you will begin to get more and more free time in the middle of the day to play with. And remember, the sooner you get out of the Chalet, the more fresh lines you can find up the hill! By the middle of the season I was getting a good 2 hours every time I went up. This is what you’re there for. Not only will your skiing or boarding ability come on leaps and bounds, but you’ll get to know all the best spots.

I personally fell in love with Les Gets. It has some impossibly stunning lookout points, a great couple of places to stop for a cup of coffee / beer depending on if it’s your day off and it gets the sun! I have a very real phobia of ice, any skill I have goes floating off to the top of the mountains whilst I faff about side stepping round the scary bits. Les Gets getting the sun meant that conditions were always great and because most people who travel to Morzine want to get up to Avoriaz to hit up La Folie Douce, or even get over to Switzerland, this left Les Gets relatively untouched with no queues to spend your afternoon in! This is everything you want when you know you’ve got to ski back, shower, have a chill, eat and head back to work.

I’d love to say I skied every day, but the reality is you just won’t always have the energy. Between trying to book restaurants and taxis for your guests in preparation for your day off, arranging lifts or making an emergency pit-stop on the way home to re-stock the Honesty Bar because your guests had a wild night and ploughed through your alcohol quicker than expected. You have to be prepared to be on call most of the time really. This means that sometimes you just want to head back, make yourself something different to eat instead of the same chalet meals week in, week out, and whack on a good TV Series.

PM – DINNER SERVICE

Dinner service once you get into the swing of things is probably the easiest part of your day. Yes you have to be on top of your timings but the real hard work of cleaning and prepping is already done. This means you’ve got more time on your hands to have a chat with your guests and actually enjoy hosting! When you get in for the evening, the guests will want to have a bit of a chat, they’ve had a great, or not so great day skiing, either one, they’ll want to have a chin wag about it with you. So you have to make sure you’ve factored this in, as well as seeing to the towels – keeping that washing machine and tumble dryer going all hours of the working day.

Dinner was to be served at 7pm each night. Before then is your time to complete any finishing touches to starter, main and deserts, get the table laid, and the dishwasher emptied – this is a MUST! Once guests have been chatted to, towels are on, and the food is ready to go (on time!) everyone should be called through to the dining room, and dinner can get under way. Each course you’ll tell the guests what they have, making sure you’ve accommodated for any of those pesky dietary requirements. Finishing up by clearing away dinner, tidying the kitchen and setting up for breakfast the next day, we usually clocked off at about 10:30pm if we didn’t get into fabulous conversation with our guests as was so often the case. Every day would end with a good old chat in our communal area with all the other hosts we lived with. I loved this part of the day, we all needed that little bit of time to chat to people who weren’t our guests and let off some steam!

SHOPPING DAY / WEEKLY TASKS

Don’t forget someone has to get all that food in for next week’s guests! We were sent a manifest each week for our next load of guests, informing us of any dietary requirements so we could get the shopping list put together, the order put in and the food collected on Friday! Shopping day is always a bit of a longer day just because it takes a minute to re-jig the fridge so that everything is in ship shape order, and cleanliness kept to a high standard. As well as the fact it leaves one person to do all the food prep and clean whilst the other went shopping. If you’re speedy about it, you should still have plenty of time to ski though!

As for weekly tasks, that really just included making sure all the guests had restaurants and taxis booked for our sacred day off – Thursday! Best to get this sorted at the start of the week so it doesn’t come creeping up on you, with the possibility of not being able to get a space in the restaurant requested.

CHANGEOVER – ABSOLUTE SAVAGERY

Changeover day is complete and utter savagery, as mentioned above. I just felt the need reiterate this point to really emphasise the severity of this day. The weeks would speed up I’m sure purely because of my dread for this day. I’ve put together a step-by-step list of what this day would entail…

AM

  • Serve breakfast for guests, and put together an honesty bar bill to make sure they settle up before heading off home.
  • Make sure guests know when their transfers are.
  • Say your farewells; you get to know the guests pretty well in that week so you’ll want to give them a good send off!
  • Make sure they all check out of their rooms by 10:30am if their transfer isn’t until later.
  • Organise a lift for them into town or up the hill to get them out the way.
  • Tidy away breakfast.
  • Prep afternoon tea, starter, main and desert for new guests.
  • Deep clean kitchen and communal areas.
  • Remove towels from the rooms and get them washing asap!
  • Remove any rubbish from the rooms so they’re ready to be cleaned.
  • Strip the beds and make sure to keep count so the laundry company and you don’t get confused over what has been sent off.
  • Hoover and dust every room.
  • Deep clean every bathroom – 10-15mins on each one.
  • Lay-up beds according to the manifest.
  • Arrange a hand towel, bath towel, toilet rolls, soaps and complimentary chocolates in each room.
  • Set up afternoon tea, greet the new guests, offer them tea and coffee, show them to their rooms and tidy away any mess they might have made.
  • Make sure the honesty bar is stocked up for guests to get into! If it isn’t, a pit-stop is going to be needed to get this replenished. Take a stock take so you know you don’t end up losing any money at the end of the week! It’s hard to keep tally when you’ve had a few.
  • Take an hour or so break and then head back for the evening service.

PM

  • Clear away afternoon tea, get more towels on and lay up the table for dinner service.
  • Go back in fairly early on Changeover day to get canapés under way.
  • One person will do this, whilst the other finishes off the starter, main and desert.
  • Serve canapés and prosecco half an hour before dinner.
  • This is your time to get the ‘Welcome Speech’ over and done with! Get this done before the alcohol is flowing because it’ll be harder to keep everyone’s attention and then you’ll have everyone asking you questions you’d actually already answered at the start of the week every day following.
  • Answer any questions the guests might have on the ski area and restaurants.
  • Hand out restaurant recommendation sheet so you can get those booked for your day off.
  • Hand out ski passes and make sure everyone has been fitted with their ski gear for their first day’s skiing!
  • Get dinner service under way.
  • Clear away canapés mess in the communal area before the guests go back through to chill out for the rest of the evening.
  • Every now and then there would be late arrivals so dinner would get put back slightly later than usual, so you have to allow for this.
  • Tidy away dinner, and lay up for breakfast the following morning.
  • Breathe a massive sigh of relief, and thank god it’s another week until you have to do it all again!

Let the next week commence…

I have to say I have really focused on the work side of what the season entails here, so PLEASE do not think that there isn’t more to the season than the job! I am yet to post about what it is like to live a working season – including your day and a half off, or 2 if you’re especially lucky which I haven’t even mentioned here! Those are the parts that will make your season so I wanted to save all that for another day. Skiing, freebie lessons, friends for life, great nights out… all of that is to come.

It is also important to note that every company works slightly differently, and this was just the job as I knew it. The essentials are the same but it may not be identical to this.

And there we have it, a week in the life of a Chalet Host!

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