Paid Hedonism

(Archived Article)

by Iain Martin,

It happens to all of us in the end - we have to leave the comfy realm of academia and find something in 'the real world'.  And then what will you be doing in January?  Commuting to an office on a dark, wet miserable Monday, or instead perhaps planning exactly which sunny mountain restaurant to do lunch at?

We reckon the over-rated real world can wait.  If the world of the student is hedonism, working a ski season must be paid hedonism.  But hold on, were those fly-on-the-wall documentaries really exaggerated?

Becky Saxby, Chalet Operations Manager from Thomson Ski and Snowboarding explains: "It is fun, with plenty of time to ski and party, but there is a lot of hard work in between.  On average, the working week is between 50-60 hours, with just one day off."

The ski boom has certainly meant a huge number of jobs to fill - but where do you go to find this lifestyle of luxury?  Like most things these days the Internet is the best place to start. specialises in the world of the season worker.  We asked Iain Martin, founder of Natives, how the site came about.  "When we set up Natives earlier last year, the idea was to create a community for season workers - whether they had done a season already or wanted to do one in the future. 

"The Club des Saisonniers (for people who have already worked a winter) has been very successful and we are now starting to agree deals and discounts for members.  However it soon became apparent that there was a massive demand for information about ski jobs."

If you're looking for a ski job, it certainly seems to have all the information you will need.  With links to over 150 British tour operators you can see exactly who's out there.  And even better, to save you time, those ski companies actively recruiting over the Internet are highlighted. 

It's probably no surprise to learn that recruitment is becoming more and more an Internet activity.   Iain expects the trend toward recruiting on the Internet to continue, pointing out that the cost savings for both employer and job seeker make it inevitable. 

Becky Saxby agrees:  "As Britain's largest tour operator, we need to fill over 300 vacancies each winter.  This winter is the first we have actively sourced staff over the Internet, using sites like, and by 2002 we expect to receive 40% of applications via the Web."

So when should you apply for your winter in the Alps?  The time to start looking is from July onwards - any earlier and tour operators will still be too busy with the current season.  If you want to be keen you can apply in May, but most recruitment staff take a month's holiday after the winter and work only starts in earnest in June. 

Of course, if your studies are coming to an end (whether by choice or not!), you can still get a job for this winter.   Don't worry about it being too late, because according to Iain Martin, there are always some jobs out there. 

"Staff accept jobs and then drop out because they get offered something in the UK or get into a new relationship," says Iain.  "I'd say that's their loss, but it does mean that ski companies are usually looking for staff right up until the season starts." 

It's also not unknown for some staff not to make the grade.  If your alarm clock won't wake you up in the morning, it won't be long before you're back in the UK with nothing to get up for.  These early season departures mean though that most companies have to recruit staff throughout the winter as well. 

Take a look at Natives' Job Search page.  There are always vacancies for the winter, sometimes through to March.  So if the course work does get a bit too much or you fancy an extra holiday how about a sabbatical?

And if you do, one final word of advice - Iain Martin again: "It's not a stroll by any means, but a season in the Alps is a great feeling.   The only problem is that they can they can be very addictive and once you've done one it's hard not to do one more - and one can become two can become six!"

As well as info about who to apply to for a ski job, offers a few insights into what it's really like to work a ski season, including what to and what not to expect.  Here's a selection:

Do Expect To

Need lots patience to answer the same questions each week

Become an expert in Jenga and Trivial Pursuit

Need hands resistant to Brillo pads and Vim

Don't Expect To

Enjoy the pub-crawl so much when you're working on it

Enjoy cleaning toilets six days a week

Enjoy an 18-hour transfer day

Further Information

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This is an archived article and some details may have changed since this article was first published