So you’ve bagged a job, booked your flights and you’re off to work a season in a ski resort. Good work! Now you can prepare yourself for the wildest, most exhausting winter of your life. Michael Pettifer, MD of ski insurance specialists MPI Brokers, has been helping seasonaires recover from stolen wallets and blown knees for years, and knows a thing or two about the pickles you’re likely to get into.
If you’re still gainfully employed by New Year’s Eve, you’ll look around and wonder what happened to all your comrades. A fair few will be back at home already, nursing broken bones or bruised egos. The wily veterans on their fifth season in a row will laugh: ‘Who need’s ’em?’ they’ll say. ‘They never had what it takes anyway.’
So what exactly does it take? What separates the apres-ski heroes from the faceplant zeroes? Well, here are a few golden rules, for starters…
1. Be friends with EVERYBODY
Yes, yes – of course, you need friends for all the cuddly stuff. But just as important is the fact that in a ski resort friendship is the quickest route to free stuff.
One experienced seasonaire’s advice is to make sure you’re mates with people in as many different jobs as possible: ski shop employees (free ski servicing), bartenders (free drinks), coat room attendants (free storage), private chalet hosts (free chalet to hang out in), chalet staff (free leftovers), lift attendants (a blind eye turned when you’ve forgotten your lift pass). And make damn sure you’ve got something to offer in return beyond a hug and a ‘thanks, man’.
2. Wave goodbye to a ‘private’ life
Actually, it’s not so much like living in a goldfish bowl: more an aquarium packed with a wider cross-section of people – including some pretty odd fish and the occasional shark – than you’ve encountered before.
Don’t do anything you don’t want the whole resort finding out about. When you meet a fellow seasonaire for the first time expect him or her to know your name, where you’re from, and who you’ve been sleeping with.
3. Pack about 500 pairs of underpants
Because you’re never going to keep up with your laundry. The alternative? Have your Mum/friends/The Red Cross send fresh pairs over every week.
That said, you should also avoid the temptation of bringing fashionable clothes. Most of the time you won’t wear anything other than ski pants and thermals.
4. Clean your bathroom
Don’t wait till the fungus starts to grow. Make a rota. Keep to it. The same goes for your chalet or apartment kitchen and its fridge. Exact a forfeit from the slackers…
Just because you spend every morning cleaning up after your guests it doesn’t mean you can’t take your work home with you. Epidemics of Skier’s Tummy have ruined many a holiday and a proven cause is lack of hygiene among resort workers.
5. Use hand cream, ALL THE TIME
Thanks to Helen Peterson of Le Ski for this one. If any of your work involves cooking, cleaning, washing up or shovelling snow, your hands are going to fall apart without hand cream. Don’t forget to use a high factor suncream all season and see our feature on winter beauty tips.
6. Check the snow forecast before you go on a bender
It’s 5pm, and tomorrow is your day off. What do you next? Get the evening going with a couple of Jaegerbombs and a Flaming Sambuca? No. You check the snow forecast. You don’t want to stagger out of bed at 2pm to discover you’ve just missed the best powder day of the season.
7. Get snow savvy
You don’t want to become an avalanche statistic. Never head off-piste without full safety gear – including bleeper, probe and shovel. Listen to the professionals and catch Henry’s Avalanche Talk or a similar course. Don’t just carry a bleeper, learn how to use it. If you can afford the outlay, invest in an ABS backpack like Haglöfs Vojd ABS 18 or 30.
8. Get some decent insurance
And make sure it covers you for ski racing, the terrain park and activities such as heli-skiing, as well as those expensive doctor’s appointments in the resort. It’s good to be covered for a trip home to Blighty in case of a family funeral, too.
Holidaymaker policies don’t cover you for a full season, you need a specialist one offered by a company that knows its onions. Thievery thrives in ski resorts, so take care of your skis and lock them up if you are leaving them unattended. Don’t leave your season pass and wallet in your jacket when you take it off in a bar or restaurant, and if you’re taking your laptop don’t forget to add it onto your policy.
9. NEVER stop skiing
Because if you’re cleaning loos or cooking eight hours a day and driving to Geneva airport three times a week and you don’t ski, then what’s the point? Whatever the world throws at you in your working hours, skiing will make your winter beautiful.
10. And remember, you can put anything in a baguette
Here are a few ideas for what to put in a baguette…
Have Your Say
Of course, there’s no way this covers all the complexities of the ski season experience. But it’s a start, right?
Help us turn it into the ultimate ski season survival guide. First, share it with your seasonaire friends. Next, add your suggestions in the comments box below – if they’re good, we’ll include them in the list with full credit given to you. Finally, bookmark this page so you can come straight back to it throughout the season.
May your season be full of powder days and polite clients. Good luck!
You can also read Michael’s feature on Seven Ways to Avoid Injuring Yourself This Winter. Photos on this page are by: Stock Photo, Izzi Hardy, Haglöfs, Welove2ski.
October 17, 2014jat
Instead of listening to Avi reports and just getting the gear, please please please take a course! It’ll teach you life long lessons and be much handier I promise;) Other advice? Have fun. You’re living everyone else’s holiday!
October 18, 2014Michael Pettifer
Very good advice indeed Jat – avalanche danger is a real and serious threat that everyone should consider very carefully. A chap called William Carey wrote a great piece on his experience surviving one, and the lessons he learned, on this very website. Well worth a read: https://welove2ski.com/how-to-ski/avalanche
October 17, 2014Abby beck
Awesome guide! If only I was packing my board and heading off to be a seasonaire… living it through my sister who is just off to Whistler to be a ski instructor (not jealous at all!)
October 18, 2014Michael Pettifer
What’s holding you back Abby? Still, what fun for your sister to be starting on that journey. And in such an excellent resort too…
October 19, 2014Greg
I am off for season 15, but I would have done only one season if I did a normal seasonaire job.
October 20, 2014Michael Pettifer
15 seasons?! Greg, you truly are one of the ‘wily veterans’ referred to at the start of the article. Top stuff.
October 31, 2014arcticfox01
Did a season a few years ago and I’m finally heading back this winter – really agree with this list, especially the hand cream & packing tons of undies/socks!
September 25, 2015Mickey Fitzsimons
Brilliant blog. Had me laughing my ass off.
September 26, 2015Felice Hardy
Glad we made you laugh!