Saturday, 15 December 2012

Ski Season Training Week...

Sitting, sitting and more sitting.

Training to be a chalet host is loooong. And involves a lot of sitting, sitting through lectures, sitting at lunch, sitting in coffee breaks. Always sitting.

Every morning was an early rise, to prepare us for chalet host life I think, and something I'm used to thankfully. After breakfast we went straight in to lectures on a number of different subjects from Mountain Health including avalanche safety as well as protecting your package should you decide to do some serious Apre Ski activities of the bedroom variety, to Housekeeping and everything to do with making a bed and cleaning a bathroom.

Being a fairly large company there was the usual box ticking exercises of explaining the grievance policy should you do something wrong or decide to leave prematurely etc. Ski season operators have a notorious turnover of staff, with some people taking the job just to get a free ride out to the Alps!

The Fire Safety talk was fairly in depth and shocking including a video that was a little too graphic for my liking. It did re-enforce the importance of fire safety in the Alps with the chalets being built from lovely Pine wood and the realisation that, at altitude, it may take the fire department a number of hours instead of the usual minutes we are used to at home in the UK.

This point was bolstered when Kerry and I arrived at our chalet to find that the adjacent chalet had burnt down just a few weeks prior. There was no snow on the ground and the fire brigade were able to get to the scene very quickly. Even so the wood was so dry the fire spread and only a shell remains. Quite scarily we have to walk feet in front of the crumbling building to get to our Chalet and we have heard parts falling down during the night.

After all of our training we were called in to the main lecture hall of the hotel to have one final speech from the European Operations Director before we were let loose to hunt out A4 printed sheets that had been pinned up throughout the hotel. On them was the information everyone was craving, our resort and chalet placements!

We have met some amazing people, both from our cooking course in the summer and from the companies training course in the hotel, so I was a little upset that we were placed in a resort on our own. As it turns out our closest friends were all split up over the French resorts. What was a little worrying to start was that Kerry and I were literally the only 2 hosts to be placed in our particular resort, Sainte Foy.

We met with our Area Manager, a very French guy who immediately put our fears to rest. He explained how being chosen to run a chalet in Sainte Foy was a great compliment from the company. That the managers saw our potential over the rest to provide a premium, quality holiday and to run the whole resort without guidance (or interference) from management. This basically means that we run the resort ourselves, giving guests information and advice as well as maintaining the chalet to our standards.

So off we go! To Sainte Foy!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

36 hour day, 700 miles, beer pong tournament and breakfast at 7!...

We are in the alps... and already loving it! We left for our ski season today.

The day had finally come. It seemed like an eternity and then it rushed up on us before we knew it. Kerry's Mum and both of my parents were there at the train station to see us off, and a good friend Sarah came up to Victoria with us and our stupidly heavy bags. Lugging them the short distance down the road to the coach station was a real mission! But we found a nice italian and sat down for dinner.

Charlie, jemima, Stef and Lucy met us just as Sarah left for University. We had all met on the Chalet cookery course and by some fluke were all now employed by the same tour operator. We had a good chat and met some of their parents before heading across the road to the coach station where alot of young, ski/board people stood around with bags as big as ours! We all piled on to two coaches. It was a nice touch that there were 50 people to get on 2 x 47 seater coaches meaning we had plenty of space to loll around and generally spread out.

The coach journey was murder, for me atleast. It wasn't too bad on the way to the ferry but after we'd hit france it seemed to go on for ever. And it seemed I was the only one having trouble sleeping. I remember sitting there staring blankly in to space, everyone around me asleep, even the reserve driver, as thick thick snow fell. And we were only 2 hours in to France!

 We pulled up at an Aire, a small area similar to a service station, to fill up with fuel at about 8am. I used an android app I purposefully wanted to try out before our driving tour of Europe called NavFree. It allows you to download an entire countries road network on to the phone locally so the maps can be used offline (Without using data) The interface is a little clunky but it pinpointed where we were quickly and informed me we'd only travelled 400km and still had another 400 to go! That and I had to poo in a hole ;(

Everyone was a little bleary eyed and we all piled on for the last stretch. I did actually manage a little sleep between the aire and the start of the mountains, waking up to snow topped peaks on either side of the bus as we trundled down the autoroute. A quick check on Navfree showed we were only 40km from La Tania, the moutain village we were to be staying at. Of course these 40km were mainly the mountain road with steep hairpin bends that the bus struggled to negotiate. As good as our 2 drivers were at manoeuvring the large coaches, they just can't compete with the excellent (and sometimes scary!) driving of the French coach drivers.

We were greated in to the companies flagship new hotel by some of the managers, reps and hosts/hotel assistants from the previous week. We hauled our bags up some steep stairs and I was reminded just how much thinner the air was up here! We were only at 1400m altitude but my chest heaved for air, struggling with the half tonne weight of clothes and electronics I'd brought.

The afternoon was used for settling in to our rooms, collecting and signing for uniform and finally some welcome drinks and a small speech from the companies French Operations Manager. We were encouraged to mingle and get to know everyone and sat down for dinner, looking weary. After dinner we moved in to the lounge area where a large fire place sat with a chimney extending up and around a set of stairs that look like they could have been taken straight out of Harry Potter (Thanks Jemima)
All of a sudden 4 tables appeared, cups were laid out, an easel with a tournament hierarchy on was erected and a a loud voiced rep declared the start of the first 2012/13 Beer Pong contest to begin. I grouped up with a nice girl from Cheltenham who ski'd and we decided on “Sticks and Trays” for our team name, promptly getting annihilated in the first round!
The noise was incredible, everyone seemed to get a new lease of life and games were played for 5 minutes or until someone lost, with any drawn games being decided upon by a 'Dance off' resulting in some very funny and acrobatic moves!

The beer flowed and come 11:30 I was knackered, Kerry and I retired to our bedroom (which I've subsequently found out is an 'Executive' room!) so we could get some sleep before a 6:30 rise and breakfast at 7.

We are in the alps... and already loving it!