Life & Work as a Seasonaire: Arrival, Training & Christmas

French dictionary, 2x 30 kilo bags EACH, and a good dose of nervous energy in tow, we were picked up from Potters Bar Train Station by the bosses’ Dad in a company minibus. All but 3 of the hosts were there, so we were all well and truly chucked into a team bonding activity right from the word go. If a 15 hour car journey doesn’t bond you though, 2 weeks of training and living in each other’s pockets will. These training weeks can aptly be described as a baptism of fire, with not a single hint of exaggeration; a necessary evil.

There are early starts accompanied by lots of cooking, lots of cleaning and lots of hosting. I’m placing emphasis on ‘lots of’ because each part is a job in its own right. That’s what the role of Chalet Host includes. In this post, I plan to outline what to expect in the training weeks, and your first week on the job! It is without doubt the hardest part of the season, and not information that I could find much on before I reached France.

TRAINING WEEKS

WEEK 1

On arriving we were surprised with the luxury of staying in Forest Lodge, one of the catered chalets. After a 15 hour journey, this was welcomed by us all. Eating, drinking boxes of red wine and with the conversation flowing till about 12pm we all finally retreated to our very comfy beds – it had been a long day. I don’t even remember falling asleep.

December 1st we woke to breakfast being served as it would be in our chalets once the season had begun – a hot option for those who wanted it and continental if not as shown in the picture. Following this, the drivers disappeared to do maintenance jobs and the rest of us began working through ‘Monday’s’ menu – from breakfast, to afternoon tea, and the 3 course meal that follows. The rest of the week consisted pretty much of what it had on day 1, cooking the menu day by day to get used to the recipes to be cooked on a weekly basis in our Chalets. Mornings began with a pair who’d been chosen to host and cook breakfast, and then shortly after we’d gather round the living room and read the staff manual together. Afternoon hours were made up primarily of cleaning – learning the difference between the daily and changeover cleans which I’ll come to in Life & Work as a Seasonaire: All in a day’s work. We made our way round each of the Chalets, catered and non-catered cleaning in preparation for our first guests. By the time evening had raised her head, dinner service would ensue. Someone would present the starter, another the main and a third and final person the desert – as we would in times to come in our Chalets. Day’s end would have us all gathered back round the lounge, having a drink and good conversation about our day and getting to know one another, before the next day begun. At the end of the week, we were rewarded with our first ski of the season! I was absolutely terrified, I hadn’t skied for 7 years – thankfully the boss pretty much gave me a private lesson whilst his young son scooted off into the distance gathering speed far faster than I probably managed to work up to all season! I finished the day totally exhilarated. Week 1 ended with those of the team who had arrived as single hosts being paired up, and Chalets were allocated – we got Himalaya Lodge, which caters for 15 people.

WEEK 2

Now we had worked our way through the menu and been familiarised with how the cleaning worked, the practise services began. Each night a different Chalet would host Mary and Jamie and their friends who ran their own businesses in Morzine – ski instructors, yoga teachers and chalet hosting companies combined. Canapés and a 3 course meal were served. I think I can speak for both Harry and I when I say that we found this far more nerve-racking than our first guests. Not only were the people who wrote the staff manual and recipe book present, but the other guests will have been going to other ‘practise services’ put on by other companies, so you don’t want to come up short. Lucky for us, everyone was lovely, super appreciative, and it gave us the boost in confidence that we needed! Half way through week 2 we moved into our apartment in Nyon, which I’ll come to in Part 4: Living in Morzine, and began a deep clean of our Chalets in readiness for our first arrivals. Himalaya Lodge was the biggest of the chalets so we got given a bit of a head start with other members of the team helping us out with our 8 bathrooms, 7 bedrooms, 2 communal areas, dining room and hot tub. This left us with the kitchen (which is an endless job I promise you), shopping for our first guests, the boot room, the store room, painting walls inside cupboards that hadn’t seen enough love and preparing the rooms and towels for the arrival our first set of guests. When I say first week, what I mean is Christmas week. Once again we were plonked straight back in at the deep end. And there you have it, training weeks complete – the season had begun!! I should say that whilst it’s a hard job, these 2 weeks are especially hard, but it’s the only way you could possibly learn everything you need to know in readiness for week 1. And besides, it’s great for bonding the team; it’s actually the most time you spend with one another solidly for the whole season!

CHRISTMAS WEEK

Children, and lots of them at that, Christmas dinner with an 8.5kg turkey for 15 people plus a one year old and a food critic. I know that sounds hellish, but the hardest part was finding a system that worked well for us so we could be as productive as possible. Blessed with lovely, lovely guests who sang our praises all hours of the day and extremely sweet children, it could have been much harder. Day 3 in and we had our system. It had only taken a couple days of washing up piled sky high, and working out the dish washer only worked on an 80 degree cycle which took 3 hours minimum to force us to work that much quicker. I say quicker, I mean we were managing to get back to the apartment for an hours break each day. This is not representative of the rest of the season – by week 2 we were off from 11am – 5pm.

By Thursday we were feeling much more confident, we’d completed the mission – Christmas dinner had been and gone! Invited to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labour, we felt as though we could finally breathe! The food critic was full of compliments, including a passing comment of it being the best chalet food she’d ever eaten and the one year old had been tucked into bed by 7pm. Result!

Our first win!

Moving onto New Year’s week felt comparatively easy after this, we had our flow and a singular group of guests! Christmas week had been made up of 5 (YES 5) separate groups – this made breakfast particularly difficult as everyone sat down at different times. An additional strain we had put upon ourselves was making the mistake at the start of the week of saying yes to a different hot option request for breakfast. For the rest of the week we had poached eggs, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, all bloody eggs, pancakes and crêpes on the go every single day *insert eye roll emoji*.

The end of the week brought 4 hugs from the kids and plenty from their grateful parents for our ability to entertain their children through the week so they had got a few moments of peace, 2 thank you letters (from the children), and some tips to spend on New Year’s Eve celebrations! We were ready for Week 2.

PERKS

Now you’ve made it this far I’m going to reward you with the knowledge of what perks are on offer!

  1. First and foremost you live in the mountains for nothing, we got a weekly contribution to food and all our bills paid at our deeply loved apartment in Nyon. It was a home away from home, living with people who I know for a fact are friends for life. This for me, is what made my season, there’s no two ways about that. We even had a balcony looking directly at the Pointe de Nyon, and a great little communal space to divulge all our tales in, and of course, watch the first winter Love Island.
  2. Ski equipment and ski passes for the entire Portes du Soleil ski area – this encompasses 13 resorts from Mont Blanc through to Switzerland.
  3. A very cute and rather nippy little Renault Twingo to get to and from work every day – petrol paid for.
  4. Bar week 1, 2 and Sundays (which is changeover day), every day had a good few hours ski-time to monopolise on. Our accommodation was ski in ski out so this made life exceptionally straightforward.
  5. Free or discounted lessons with some of the best ski and snowboard companies Morzine has to offer.
  6. Profits on the honesty bar stock as you fund and manage these yourselves – a great way to earn a little extra dosh.
  7. Staff evening’s out paid for by the bosses – a number of fantastic restaurants and even an escape room one night! The ski day we had planned was for the week that the resort closed due to corona unfortunately.

It’s not a bad deal at all. Once all costs are considered, you don’t get paid badly. It’s a lifestyle job; it’s not about the money. The first 3 weeks are a learning curve and a half to say the least. But, throughout the season you’ll get quicker and quicker, the training weeks and week 1 is not an accurate portrayal of how the rest of the season will pan out, even though it feels never-ending, trust me I know! So don’t let this put you off!

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2 Comments

  1. Ali Tea
    May 4, 2020 / 8:36 pm

    Loving your blog Abs and reading your reflections on the season ❤️❤️ Friendships forged for life without a doubt ?

    • May 4, 2020 / 8:45 pm

      Oh I’m so pleased you’re enjoying it! I’m having to strain my memory for all the little details that brought the whole thing together x

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