Live-In Hotel Jobs Abroad
Working at a Ski Resort in the Alps
We all have a list, if not written, somewhere in the back of our minds, of the things we would like to do in our lives and the places we would like to see. As a seasoned traveler, the idea of experiencing a ski season has always floated somewhere in the back of my mind, but because I’d never skied, or snowboarded for that matter, the low pay never convinced me to move to the slopes for the winter. Every other “seasonnaire’” (a person who works winter and summer seasons as a lifestyle) seemed to rave about the experience, talk about the “powder,” the nightlife and, well, the powder again!
One day, in the winter and between jobs, a lady wrote to me concerning an email I’d written to her six months earlier, offering my partner and I a job in a hotel in the Alps. The salary was much better than other ski jobs, but the usual perks, accommodations, ski and health insurance, all meals, lift pass, equipment hire, local transport, and sometimes ski or snowboard lessons, were not included.
Another item on my list, besides experiencing a ski season, was relearning French. I’d studied it at school but without the chance to practice over the last ten years, I felt it was time to immerse myself in a place and force myself to speak it again. So, we decided to take the job and, after investing in some ski wear and thermals, we flew in to our new home for the winter. I threw myself into the work, eager to be able to get out on the slopes and master the art of snowboarding.
Aside from the obvious fun associated with ski seasons, this trip was educational. As a raving advocate of learning languages in situ, doing so on a fun and interesting seasonal job was an amazing way to do so.
I was assigned to work with a 55-year old French woman whose English was limited to a “yes,” “no,” and “one, two, three.” I was thrilled at the prospect of being forced to speak and understand French straight away, though I did feel a bit sorry for the woman. The first month saw me saying a lot of “quoi’s” and forcing her to repeat herself constantly. Work was a struggle, as was the general chit-chat that would normally come with such a job. However, five months later, as we stood chattering away over a pile of laundry, it suddenly struck me that at some point during those few months I had learned how to speak French. Indebted to my indirect private tutor, I could happily leave my ski season having achieved one of the two goals I’d gone there with (my snowboarding skills still left a lot to be desired)!
Interestingly, a friend had gone and experienced a ski season in the Val ‘d’Isere and had learned no French at all due to the fact that she had chosen a tiny resort. On the other hand, I had chosen to work in a larger hotel that was largely staffed by French speakers.
So attempting to work a ski season in Europe can be an enjoyable way to learn a language. Switzerland is a great place to look since you can choose between French, Italian, and German but France, Andorra, and Italy are also good places for work and language acquisition.
The types of jobs available vary greatly and you can be anything from a porter, to a children’s rep, a chauffeur to a ski instructor, or work in or even run a chalet. The pay is generally very low so it’s often only the dedicated skiers or snowboarders who consider working long hours for little income, but the benefits of doing a ski season shouldn’t only be perceived in terms of the usual perks but also as language learning opportunities. Every minute is usually packed with either work, skiing or socializing--and very little sleep. Hotel and chalet jobs require you to rise early. It can be a very demanding and exhausting lifestyle, but it’s worth it.
||Caroline Nye has traveled and worked extensively all over the world, working in organic farming, wildlife guiding, teaching and musical performance, as well as volunteering in various international development projects. She has had articles and short stories published in Amateur Photographer (UK), Matador Travel, and The Healing Project book series, and recently won a Bunac Green Cheese scholarship for humorous writing. Caroline is currently managing a dance team in Spain.