• Gemma Fottles

First impressions of a ski season in France

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

My current home is located 1500-metres above sea level. A small village in the French Alps, Tignes les Brevieres is surrounded by nothing but mountains and snow, snow, snow. None of my previous travel experiences has involved a stay in any one specific place for longer than three weeks at a time... but here I am. Ready for a full 5 months working in a chalet in the French Alps. So, what are my first impressions of my ski season?

It's... okay. I work 60 hours a week with one day off. The season is slowly kicking off and guests are starting to arrive in the resort. I share a bedroom with the girl I work with, in a house I share with 10 other chalet staff in the company. We eat together, ski together, work together, party together. It's nice, but it's intense... and I'll be honest, the most terrifying thing about starting my ski season has been the actual job.



I've worked hard ever since I've been old enough to work, but working a ski season is different. Apart from a newspaper internship in Honduras, I’ve never worked abroad. And apart from that one-month long, full-time internship in Honduras, I HAVE NEVER WORKED FULL TIME. EVER. So this is something... new. And strange. Life is work, and work is life on a ski season - they are so inextricably linked, so this is definitely like a full-time job on steroids.


And there's something else. I'm not sure if I'm happy with my ski season job. At least, it's certainly not what I signed up for...

All expectations of chalet hosting have been totally blown out of the water… Mainly because of my pretty drastic job change from chalet girl, making beds and serving dinner to skiied-out guests, to the commie chef. Yes. Commie chef. Despite my protestations that I’ve never worked in a kitchen before and will probably be awful at it, this is my job for the next 5 months. I also protested that as a vegetarian, I didn't really feel comfortable with the meat side of the job. In response, I was told that I didn't have to eat the meat... so what's the problem?


Indeed. What's the problem. Unwilling to humiliate myself further in front of the 40 other chalet staff members... well. This is now my job. I am a chef in the French Alps.


Being thrown in at the deepest of the deep end of the chalet kitchen hasn’t been a total bad call. Although I was more than a little bit nervous to begin with, I'm working with a grizzly Irish chef and I’ve gotten out of my comfort zone. I'm giving something a shot that, realistically, would never have even dreamed of doing. Or wanted to do. As my best friend reminded me, I’m now a chef in the French Alps, and how many people can drop that into conversation?


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Staying put for 5 months abroad

Despite the changes to my ski job role, I'm enjoying my ski season so far... but after the year of travel I've just experienced, I have to admit that my feet are starting to itch again - and not just for the slopes.


For a fairly unorganised girl of 21, I’ve managed to travel quite a lot. Most of it has been cheap as you like, dirty backpacking – scraping all of my money together through crappy part-time waitressing and blowing my meagre funds on seeing as much as I can. As readers of this travel blog will know, I was also lucky enough to bag a job as a UK travel reporter for SPAR International right after I graduated from University. Four months, all over the world, writing about my experiences on the way. But despite such an extensive repertoire of travelling, nothing could have really prepared me for the start of my ski season. It felt, in some ways, like all the excitement and adventure kind of ground to a halt and I realised, oh shit! This is actually a job, I'm not just travelling and having an adventure: a ski season is hard work. And it is in the same place , doing the same thing, every single day for five months...


But I'm just expressing my rambling conflictions, here. The reality is that it's week 3 of my ski season, and I'm happy. It's not exactly what I thought it would be, but waking up to the sight of the alpine mountains every day has not yet gotten old. And I can't imagine that it will do anytime soon.


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