A ski season is a beautiful thing: it’s a chance to meet new people, enjoy your favourite sport for five whole months and spread your wings in a foreign land. Plus, you get to ignore the world news for a while, and quite frankly who would blame you!
The last thing you want to do is worry – about what to pack, if you’ll fit in and if you’ve got the right threads. So here’s a list of the most frequently asked questions we hear before people head out on their first season.
1) What should I pack?
This is easily the most asked question of all time! Although face with a five month “holiday” you’re probably tempted to bring five months worth of clothes and kit, don’t! Realistically you only need a few weeks worth – they do have washing machines on the continent! That said, you can never have enough socks. EVER.
There are also a few things you might think would be useful, but end up being a waste of precious KGs in your flight luggage. So we put together a handy packing guide so you know just what to bring.
2) What if I can’t ski/board yet? Should I still do a season?
YES! Believe it or not, about 5% of seasonnaires come out having never skied or boarded before. Not to worry – ski resorts are full of people passionate about the sports – I’ve never known any newbie to be abandoned, as everyone wants to share the joys of gliding over the snow with you.
The downside is that many of your fellow seasonnaires have forgotten how they first started. Picking up skiing isn’t as simply as pointing down the hill and hoping for the best! Our word of advice – sign yourself up to seasonnaire lessons. You’ll find these through Facebook groups (e.g. “Courchevel Seasonnaires”) and by making friends with the reps in resort. Look out for the New Generation team who visit tour operator staff pre-season too. Usually they are free or very cheap at the start of the winter, and they’ll set you up for the rest of the winter.
If you’re still a bit nervous about turning up without putting on a pair of ski boots, why not head to your local snowdome or dryslope to practice? You can get lessons at a really good price and once you’ve got the basics, can do a bit of your own training too.
3) Which jobs are the best and how do I get one?
Good question – and the answer is completely dependant on how much you want to hit the mountain, and where you want to do it!
Barwork is great for having free days and meeting lots of people, but the late nights mean you’d have to be very disciplined to be up for first lifts! Hosting work can mean great tips and freetime. From 11am – 5pm you’re off meaning you can make the most of the quiet lunch period, though again early starts are unlikely.
The Ski School team put together a great blog on how to choose which ski season job is best for you. Once you’ve chosen your role, you can check out job sites like Natives and CoolSkiJobs to find out what’s available.
4) What are the people like?
Although there is a core group of people who make the Alps their home all year round, the majority will only pop up in winter, and a good 30% of them will be first timers like you!
Ski seasons are no longer just for school leavers and gap year students, they are appealing to people from all walks of life who want to try something new and escape the rat race. They also attract a certain kind of person – most seasonnaires are open-minded, friendly and keen to make the most of the winter, so making friends is easy peasy. Just get stuck in with your collegues or hit up the parties, ski lessons and seasonnaire nights in town to meet new people.
If you fancy getting in with the locals and finding out all the top secret off-piste runs, make sure to brush up on your seasonnaire slang before you head out, and brush up on the local language with apps like DuoLingo.
5) Is there more to season life than skiing/boarding?
We’ll pretend you didn’t ask that.
That said, there is plenty to do if you’re not shattered from hitting the slopes! There are plenty of activities for adrenaline junkies, as well as plenty of cool events to get involved in. There are music festivals in Meribel and Verbier, comedy shows in Courchevel and lots of ski races and competitions of course! Our favourite is the Valley Rally in Courchevel – you grab a team, get dressed up and complete a series of (messy) tasks all over the mountain range. All topped off with a BBQ in the sun – bliss.
6) What do I need to do before I go?
Insurance – If you already have a job, check out what your employer offers as part of your package. Many won’t cover you in the off-piste or park . Even if you’re not sticking to the piste, we recommend buying carre neige insurance which covers your rescue and transport down the hill. Also make sure to apply for an EHIC card which qualifies you to receive treatment as if you were a resident of that country.
We can’t stress how important it is to be covered. Broken limbs, ambulance trips and physio are all quite expensive on the continent (€8,000 for a heli-lift off the mountain!) so it’s not worth the risk. Enjoy your sport safe in the knowledge your covered!
Banking – using your own card abroad can invoke interest and exchange rate charges. So check before you go, and if they DO charge, there are lots of alternative options for you to use. These include “top-up” debit cards, many of which are free to use abroad. Check out Martin’s Money Tips for more advice.
7) Do I need a visa?
Not yet! Brexit may be looming but at the moment you’re OK if you are a citizen of a European Union member country, including the UK. Foreign nationals from any other country must hold a valid work permit and a long stay / working visa BEFORE entering the country of choice.
8) Anything else I should know?
Simply that you’re going to have the best winter of your life! A word of warning: they are highly addictive. This might be your first season, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t your last.
See you on the slopes!