How about a Cold One? (Gap Year that is)

Chris on a snowboard on a railAre you contemplating a Gap Year before heading to uni? Do you already have ideas of what to do during your year off? Maybe you’re going to work, travel, start a business, launch a band, all of the above. Well, have you ever considered a working holiday? I did it and many others do the same every year, enabling them to fund their travels and experience life in a place as a local, often providing unique insights into the location.

I recently returned from an awesome week in the French Alps, where I was indulging one of passions: snowboarding. I actually learned to snowboard during my very own working holiday to New Zealand during my Gap Year, and without realising it at the time, I was treading the classic line of the ski seasonnaire. Our host for the week was a fantastic girl by the name of Sarah, who made our stay brilliant, with three epic meals a day, as well as cake on our return from the slopes, and immaculate rooms to boot. She was basically the difference between it being a week away and a proper holiday, and was out doing her second season as a host.

Signing up to go out and work a ski season can be a great idea on so many levels. For starters, you get to live in a ski resort for an entire season, which in Europe is normally from the start of December right through until April. This means that whether you already ski/ board or not, by the time you’ve been in the snow for five months learning and perfecting your sport, you should return a positive ski God. I had never set foot on a ski slope until I touched down in Queenstown, New Zealand, and in fact hadn’t even realised that you could ski in the country. However, by the time I left I was the proud owner of my own board and all the gear, as well as being able to rip it up with the very best of them, going from bruised beginner to confident rider by the time I left to come home, and igniting my passion for the slopes.

The second reason to consider a ski season is that it is the best of both worlds: paid employment, meaning you’re not having to fund an extravagent holiday and thus turn up to uni already in debt; and a wonderful demonstration of, and opportunity to truly develop, a sense of independence and freedom. A season as a chalet host, or similar, will see your culinary and domestic skills go from being non-existent or basic at best to you starting uni as the hall equivalent of Nigella Lawson! I had a job in a boutique hotel, which was basically the same as being a chalet host in as much as my day started with preparing and serving breakfast to guests, followed by cleaning and sorting out their rooms, afterwhich I was free to head up to the mountains if I had time or wanted to, before returning in the evening to be on hand to serve dinner and clear up afterwards. Long days but with time off to develop my boarding skills and some beer money in my pocket, it was pretty much what any eighteen year old with an adrenaline addiction could ask for.

Working as a seasonnaire is also an incredibly social experience. Whether you’re already a social butterfly, working a room like a networking pro, or desperately shy, by the time you return home you’ll be far more confident in social situations, including dealing with people that you might not necessarily like or get on with but who you may still have to work with – a valuable skill! Oh, and it’s fun. A lot of fun! Seasonnaires, from what I remember and understand, work hard but play harder, much like a typical vet student!

So, why not consider working a ski season during your Gap Year. With so many good reasons to take the plunge, it might just be what you’ve been looking for.

(We were out in France with Crystal, a UK company and part of Tui, who own Thomson. As such, they employ a large number of UK seasonnaires, although there are loads of different options, from other large companies to smaller, independent chalet providers and hosts. Some initial internet research is likely to be the easiest place to start. A humorous book to read if you are contemplating treading the pistes as a ski seasonnaire is ‘Chalet Boy’, by Andy Smith, who headed out to do a season a little later that many of you would be considering to do it, but his account of his time provides a great insight into the fun and frolics of life on the slopes.)

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