by Stephanie Lightfoot
It is an irrefutable fact: Winter in the UK is miserable - cold, damp, grey, horrible, driving rain, runny noses, and pale skin. You wake up when it's dark, go to work / college / school all day, and then get home to find it's dark already. For most of my life, I have categorically hated winter.
That is until four years ago, when I discovered ski seasons.
Nowadays, I cannot wait for winter! I find myself counting the days 'til the start of December, marking off in my diary all the dates for the build up to the season - when the ski shows are, when the brochures are coming out, when next year's gear will be hitting the shops. I never would have thought it, but I am now officially obsessed.
It started after university. Not sure what to do with my life, and with a year to kill after my graduate employers kindly let me defer my job for a year, I thought it might be kind of cool to 'do a season'. So (before sites like the Overseas Job Centre were around to give you all the info on what to expect), I went to the local travel agents, grabbed all the ski brochures I could find and blindly wrote letters off to their HR departments, not really having any idea what I was letting myself in for.
I have never been more grateful to those school teachers who coerced me into doing a French A Level which I never thought I'd use. Nor did I ever think that I'd make use of the sales skills I'd learnt in Australia. But somehow I landed myself a job as a ski rep. I'd never even been on a package holiday or skied in France!
Steep learning curve does not describe being dropped off in resort in a snow storm on my own (I was sole rep), with no idea where I was going to be living, what I was supposed to be doing to 'set up the resort', a phone number for an accommodation agency which didn't work, no mobile, rusty French, a closed resort, a bad cold, and my first guests arriving in 3 days time!
But I coped. And loved it!
Repping is hard work (don't let anyone tell you otherwise). But you learn very quickly, make your mistakes early on, and by the time Christmas and New Year are over, you're into a routine and can make the most of your time on the mountain. For me, there is absolutely nothing to beat the lifestyle in the Alps, the views, the friends you make, being on the mountain every day, feeling healthy and being safe in the knowledge that no matter what goes wrong or how rude your guests are, at least you're not going back to the UK at the end of the week! So, when you're sitting in a traffic jam for 10 hours during February school holidays, while all your guests whinge, the bus is overheating, the driver's threatening to quit, and there is a chain reaction of children vomiting behind you, just remember to be grateful!
But in all seriousness, ski seasons can become a way of life and should definitely come with a health warning - 'snow is a highly addictive substance, you may be at risk of serious damage to your sanity'. What started as a one off gap year thing, I now can't give up, so be warned, becoming a powder junky is a serious threat.
For anyone who's enjoyed ski or board holidays and is planning some time off, doing a season should be a must! I can't think of anything better than riding all day with your mates when the snow's just dumped and the sky is blue. Nowadays I don't care about lying in the sun or going on holiday to the beach - all I want is untracked powder and the chance to work on my goggle marks!
If you want a job in the Alps, it isn't usually hard (if I can do it anyone can!). If you're over 21, have a European passport and some customer services experience, you should be able to find work. And depending on your skills and experience, there is a pretty wide range of jobs out there.
But what if you don't fancy the idea of working (don't we all!), what if you're not yet 21, or aren't on an EU passport, what if you can't do a complete season? The opportunities are much more limited. The idea of bumming a season has ultimate appeal, but the days of groups of people cramming into tiny apartments or living in the back of combi vans are long gone - the police, accommodation owners and local authorities have cottoned on to the fact that there's way more money to be made from weekly tourists. Heading out to the Alps with no job and no accommodation is unfortunately a nightmare with a pretty low success rate .until now! Taking pity on the endangered ski bum, I have consolidated what I know about seasons and given up working as a rep to set up my own company offering what I reckon is the ultimate season experience to anyone who's into snow.
Planet Subzero is about being a ski-bum in style, about saving during the summer so you can spend a work-free winter on the slopes, about improving your skills, about making the most of what may (assuming you resist the addiction) be your only chance to do a season. Planet Subzero provides reasonably priced seasonal and long stay accommodation in a gorgeous chalet in Les Arcs. Everyone who's got a passion for snow should have the chance to experience the best of season life. So, if you've ever thought that a week's holiday isn't enough, and dreamt of a winter in the mountains, if you've got some time on your hands and want to know what life in the Alps is really about, then have a look at the site - www.planetsubzero.com.
This is an archived article and some details may have changed since this article was first published