Doing a ski season is an incredible experience – whatever your age or background. Not merely the preserve of the expected 19-year-old trust-fund blondes immortalised in the film Chalet Girl, there are as many different kinds of season as there are people. It all depends on the job, the company and the resort you choose to go for.
Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty around future travel, many operators are hopeful they will soon be able to begin to advertise jobs for next winter – now is the time to start preparing your CV and applications. While last-minute opportunities may open up later on when people drop out, this is the key period during which tour operators recruit for next season.
Here’s everything you need to know about the impact both coronavirus and Brexit have had on ski jobs, as well insight in the roles you can apply for, which resort will work for you, what to expect from the recruiting process, and how to nail the interview and bag your perfect position.
What impact has coronavirus had on seasonaire jobs in the future?
The Covid-19 pandemic has put all parts of the travel industry on hold as borders are closed and travel is restricted. Ultimately this has put a delay on the recruitment process for next winter.
“Until foreign office advice changes and we are clear when and how we will be able to travel this winter we’re not really in a position to recruit, so the process will be delayed until we have that clarity. Behind the scenes we are doing what we can to prepare for our return to business and keeping a close eye on the latest travel restriction news,” said a spokesperson for Crystal Ski Holidays, the UK’s biggest ski tour operator.
Rob Dixon, marketing manager from chalet specialists SkiWorld agrees: “We would advise that anyone interested in doing a season waits just a little bit longer – until we hear our government’s advice regarding measures moving forward.”
Potential applicants are encouraged to prepare their CVs for once the recruitment process can begin. Some companys, like Ski World, are accepting applications online now however very few are being actively processed and most are being kept on file until the future becomes more certain. “Early application is always good and we will start to review the applications for Ski World in the next couple of months,” said Dixon.
“Under normal circumstances, we would start our recruitment in June, looking first at any Crystal Ski employees from the previous season who might want to return, alongside TUI employees who may wish to transfer to Crystal Ski Holidays for the winter. We would then look at filling any remaining roles externally in July,” explains Crystal.
It is widely believed that there will be an increase in the number of applications from previous workers who had their winter season in the mountains cut short this year, potentially making the availability for new applicants limited, especially as operators look to reduce capacity and the number of properties available as part measure to recover financially from the pandemic.
“We are really hopeful the same number of jobs will be available and we’ll recruit the levels we need to ensure we deliver the exceptional customer service we’re known for. The season isn’t scheduled to start until November, so although we’ll be later than usual recruiting our teams, we have time,” said Crystal.
While the same traditional roles are likely to be available (see below), when ski resorts do reopen and operators are able to begin recruiting it is expected that there will be increased training to comply with future social distancing and hygiene rules – all of which are to be confirmed. Tour operators are also at the mercy of foreign governments and must comply with local regulations in the mountains as the world adjusted to a “new normal.”
“We will need to follow government advice regarding social distancing and requirements for workplace safety for all our employees. So we await these over the next few weeks before we finalise the roles and job descriptions,” said Dixon.
Those looking to spend the winter further afield, BUNAC, a careers company with over 25 years’ experience of arranging work placements in Canada, is offering advice during the pandemic.
“BUNAC’s Work Canada Ultimate programme is set to go ahead for the winter 2020 season and also includes a pre-arranged job and accommodation in Canada, providing certainty of employment in a time of instability,” said Emma Beynon, BUNAC’s marketing manager
While no new Canadian working visas are currently being granted, those wanting a visa are able to enter into the Canadian visa pool so they are ready to apply once borders reopen. “Those looking to work and travel in Canada have 12 months to enter the country and activate their visa once it has been granted, so there is plenty of time for them to plan their trip, and for the world to settle down and readjust post COVID-19.”
In a time of such uncertainty it is advised that all keen applicants are prepared to demonstrate their flexibility and eagerness, with all documentation and application material ready to submit once jobs are confirmed. A process that has previously been carried out over several months could be reduced to just a couple .
Those interested in applying should keep up to date with news from companies on social media and check online for the latest roles, many brands have dedicated sections on their websites – applications are all submitted online and interviews are likely to be carried out over video call.
What impact has Brexit had on seasonaire jobs in the future?
Since the British public voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 there has been a level of ambiguity around the future of the seasonaire in European resorts, this is likely to continue into next winter.
Reciprocal arrangements for British workers wanting to work a season in ski resorts will continue, at least for now.
The major concern is the number of jobs that will be available for British staff, as operators look to cut capacity to combat rising costs by reducing the number of chalets they offer and UK citizens look set to lose their right to work in the EU – there remains a real possibility British companies will not be able to send staff abroad in future.
Brexit has had a profound effect on the ski industry but until a final agreement is announced many companies are operating a ‘business as usual’ approach, so prospective applicants shouldn’t be disheartened.
Aside from Brexit, operators have been hit hard by new employment regulations in Europe, over the last couple of years. In particular, France and Austria have been clamping down on foreign tour operators to make sure they comply with existing local labour laws for seasonal workers. This initially prompted some chalet holiday operators, such as Inghams and Ski Total, to reduce the number of catered evening meals from six to five, so that they can ensure staff’s working hours don’t exceed the maximum allowed each week, without increasing staffing costs – a decision that was later reversed by many due to customer upset.
If you’re put off by the uncertainty of Brexit then considering doing a season across the Pond in North America is another option and there are numerous companies that require staff in resorts in both countries, but be aware this can be a longer process due to visa applications.
A picture of an acne-ridden, nervy school leaver accidentally burning an apple crumble may jump into your mind with the words ‘chalet host‘. However, in truth this is a highly skilled role especially with the increasing level of service offered by many chalet operators – although there is nothing wrong with being an 18-year-old host, guests’ expectations are high and cooking a good quality three-course dinner, plus canapés and afternoon tea in some cases, for 10 to 20 guests each day is no mean feat.
The rep’s job is to be a point of contact for the guests in case they have any questions or problems. It starts with the transfer from the airport into resort, during which reps often sell lift passes, equipment hire and lessons. During the week, the rep will call in on their guests regularly or have an allotted time or place where guests can drop by to see them – be prepared to be an encyclopedia of information and a fast-acting problem solver.
Childcare is a big job in the mountains – parents want to enjoy the slopes, safe in the knowledge that their little angels are in good hands. Family specialist tour operators like Esprit Ski, The Family Ski Company and Ski Famille have a range of childcare options, including evening babysitting services. Companies will usually require some level of childcare qualification.
This is one of the most sought-after roles in a ski resort – possibly because of the opportunity it affords to drink for free. Bar experience is essential as resort bars can get extremely busy, and confidence when speaking with customers and a working knowledge of the language are both handy.
This is the infinitely more sophisticated term for a KP, or washer upper. The general kitchen dogsbody, a plongeur washes up, dries up and generally helps with anything menial that needs doing in the kitchen.
A ski bum does exactly what s/he says on the tin – this is a skier or snowboarder who bums around resort for the season. They don’t let something as irritating as a full-time job get in the way of hitting the slopes. This lifestyle can be executed well or poorly, depending on an individual’s luck, charm and chutzpah.
As you might expect, the big tour operators, such as Crystal Ski, Inghams, Neilson or Skiworld, are the ones with the most jobs available. The benefit of working within a larger organisation is that there’s a clear chain of command; there’s always someone to refer up to if things go wrong, and you can work as part of a big team if that’s what you feel most comfortable with. There’s also the added bonus of having a greater choice of destinations, as these tour operators work in a wider range of resorts.
Smaller, more bespoke companies offer a different, but equally attractive experience. Working for a more niche organisation, such as Le Ski or VIP Ski, can feel more personal – as if you’re a very important part of the company, rather than a cog in a much bigger machine.
Watch out for gap year programmes that charge applicants hundreds, or sometimes thousands, of pounds to secure a job in a ski resort – you can have the same experience by getting a job through a reputable company, without having to pay for the experience.
There isn’t time to go into every resort here, but do some research before you go. There’s a world of difference between a party resort (such as St Anton or Val d’Isere) and a family resort (such as Flaine or Les Menuires), a small, quiet village off the beaten track (such as Adelboden or Champoluc) and a sprawling French mega-resort spread over several bases (such as Les Arcs).
If you like the idea of independence, look at smaller resorts where you will be part of a select team with more autonomy. If you’re looking to have lots of support, bigger resorts will probably have a more sizeable team to slot into.
Tour operators will often let you express a preference, so go armed with the knowledge of your favourites – check out our guide to finding the perfect ski resort for you.
What employers are looking for
There are three credentials all companies expect from potential candidates; enthusiasm, confidence and a professional attitude.
Some of this is obvious – being punctual, polite, well-turned out and having some basic language skills all goes a long way. Also, making it abundantly clear that you are prepared to knuckle down and work hard rather than expecting a five month-long jolly is always a good idea. Remember to keep your CV up to date and demonstrate what you can offer employers that is unique.
A spokesperson from Crystal Ski Holidays says: “We love people with confidence, from all walks of life, with an ability to think on their feet.”
“Applicants with previous customer service experience who are fun, enthusiastic, energetic, friendly and professional are just what we are looking for.”
Being social media savvy is a plus. “We want our overseas resort teams to be engaged on social media too, regularly tweeting updates about snow conditions, current and upcoming events or perhaps an amazing photo they caught while out skiing.”
The interview process
Each company will have their own recruitment process, but some of the bigger tour operators, such as Crystal Ski, have group assessment days. In these, applicants are put through their paces in a variety of individual and group tasks. These assess team work, public speaking, logic and language skills. It’s uncertain as to whether group assessments will be able to take place due to future social distancing rules and interviews are likely to be carried out over video call at the beginning of the process.
Whatever the process, the important thing is to be confident and personable without taking over. “And our best tip for interviews… don’t fight for the limelight but make sure you shine by demonstrating good listening skills and interacting well with other candidates,” says Crystal.
Also, don’t worry about being a world-class skier: “We do like previous ski or snowboarding experience, but it isn’t essential – being friendly and professional are.”
There are numerous online portals which share blogs from experienced seasonaires and forums offering guidance, resort information and roles details. OutdoorJAC is one such site and has an online directory of the latest job opportunities from a variety of companies.
For those considering heading across the pond for a season, BUNAC hosts an annual job fair in London in the summer. This year it will take place virtually in August (date TBC). Job hunters will be able to pre-register once details are confirmed. BUNAC will then assist with scheduling virtual job interviews with a number of different hotels and operations including the Four Seasons Resort in Whistler and Panorama Mountain Resort.
If you are considering a season in Canada it’s important to know that all workers require a IEC work permit, which allows eligible British passport holders aged 18 to 30 the chance to live and work in Canada for up to 24 months – many companies will favour applicants who have had their visa confirmed and looking for work. Whilst no invites to apply for an IEC visa are currently being issued due to the coronavirus pandemic, those wanting a visa are able to enter into the visa pool, so they are ready and waiting for when the restrictions are lifted.
Those who feel uncertain about future travel have been assured by BUNAC’s guarantee. “BUNAC also have a lifetime deposit, so if participants’ circumstances change, either down to their decision, or due to matters outside of their control, they are able to defer their programme to the following year, or to another destination with no questions asked,” said Beynon.
Source: Telegraph Travels