To some of you lucky buggers out there, skiing is something you do before or after work or something you do at the weekend. For us poor, mountain deprived Brits, skiing is tends to be a luxury limited to a one week break in the Alps every few years. As such, this is more directed at Brits, and anyone else working in the UK who want to to go skiing for a week or two but can't really afford a ski holiday.
Years ago after I got made redundant from the last office job I had, I was having a beer with a mate who also got made redundant from the same job. He had managed to get some job interviews lined up already but I just couldn’t find anything I wanted to spend 40hrs a week of my life doing. "Well what do you want to do?" he asked
“I kinda just want to ski all day but not teaching people..."
“Why don’t you work as a ski host? You pick up the guests in the morning and take them skiing around the mountain all day, bit like a ski instructor but without the teaching”.
“WHAT?? That's a job?”
How had I missed out on this for all these years?
Within 2 weeks I was ripping around the Matterhorn in the Swiss ski resort of Zermatt. Because it was already February, the ski season was well under way so there were no full time ski jobs, but there were what are known as ‘peak week’ jobs where you basically get flown out to work during the busy times during school holidays.
I had been flown out to work as a Ski Manager for 2.5 weeks to help with February half term. Flights, hotel, ski pass and some meals were all paid for by the company. On top of that I also got £120 a week +tips which was basically beer money, but not too far off what a full time ski bum would have left over after paying for rent etc.
So what is the job exactly? Depending on who you work for, depends on what the position is called. Generally it’s a Ski Guide, Ski Host, Ski Manager or Mountain Host but basically it’s a Rep job. Don't be intimidated by the term 'guide' as it's not a big mountain guide position where you are taking people off piste and into the backcountry everyday (it's actually illegal for you do to that without some serious qualifications), it is all on piste within the ski resort's boundaries. But yes, there is more to the job than just skiing!
Your day usually starts at about 8.30am when you collect your guests from their hotels or meet them at the top of the mountain. Once you've got your group you head off to go skiing for the day, going to all the best places doing pretty much what you would be doing normally, except this time you've got 6 people following you. There are two 'must dos' during the day though; the first is to make sure you get your guests to the day's on-mountain lunch reservation on time, and the second is to make sure your now tipsy guests make it from their lunch reservation back to ski school in time to collect their kids at 3.30pm.
After that we would generally have an afternoon meeting with your team before heading back to your staff accommodation to get showered and changed before heading to your guests' hotel to hang out in the lobby to catch them on their way to dinner to see if there's anything you can do for them. Sometimes there might be other money making options available for you in the evening such as babysitting but if that doesnt take your fancy, you will generally be in the local bar by 8pm.
Now the best part; in order to make sure you know the mountain well enough to guide people around it, you are normally flown out early enough to allow you 3 days of 'free' skiing before the first guests arrive. On top of that you get 1 day off a week to do as you please. My last peak week contract was for 13 days and of the 9 full days skiing, 4 of them were spent skiing without guests...
Experience wise you need to be a very competent skier and should be comfortable skiing black runs, but you also need to be outgoing as well because it’s also a very social job. Interacting with kids is no doubt also going to be a big part of most roles too. As such, peak week job dates are set around school holidays so you don’t get to choose when you go.
Below are some of the best websites to find peak week jobs or any full time, full season jobs in Europe. You will need to be allowed to work in the UK or Europe, either by residency or work visa for pretty much all the jobs.
Oh and FYI you'll notice most positions don't have a salary listed, a ‘competitive salary’ is going to be around the £100 a week mark. Some more, some less. You certainly won't get rich doing it but hey, you get to go skiing. It sounds like slave wages but when you factor in the cost of flights, ski rentals, accommodation, ski pass and food, it's can work out at a pretty good deal. Well that's what the Employers say anyway.
Most peak weekers have full time jobs in the UK but take a few weeks holiday from them to come out to get paid to ski for a few weeks.
Even if you can't ski or snowboard there are plenty of jobs out there working off the mountain that will all give you a few hours off over lunch allowing you to ski everyday. If you did a full 5 month season, skiing 5 days a week you would rack up 100 days skiing. To put that into perspective, most people go skiing for 1 week each year, 100 days is the equivalent of 14 years of ski holidays. You will turn up as a beginner and you will leave an advanced skier or snowboarder.
Ski seasons have been some of the most incredible, life changing experiences I have ever had and everyone should try it. Living and working with a group of like minded people in a stunning mountain setting with every spare minute spent skiing (or drinking) really helps you realise how amazing life and time off can really be.
WARNING: Snow based jobs will make you reconsider the 9-5 lifestyle...