Tales of catastophe, sex and squalor from the Alpine Underbelly...

Belle de Neige

Monday, 22 October 2012

How to get a job as a chalet bitch. Dear Katie...

Dear Belle:

Love reading your blog, you remind me of a female Ricky Gervais. (I love him, I mean it as a compliment!) I'm currently sending out c.v's to tour operators to be a chalet host but have not had any luck so far. Is there anything in a c.v that makes a TO immediately want to hire someone? And things that make them immediately throw a c.v in the trash?

I'm 21, have worked as a waitress and I speak Spanish pretty well… but of course I have never worked a season... would they consider that as being not good enough or am I just applying too late in the game?

Any tips for what they look for would be really appreciated!


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Dear Katie

A female Ricky Gervais, eh? 

As you may or may not know I am exceedingly vain, and therefore anyone who showers me with compliments goes straight to the top of my VIP list. Give yourself a pat on the back. You are clearly awesome and flattery will get you everywhere, darling. I can tell you are a woman of sound judgement, impeccable taste and cultural sophistication. You’re a little older than the average Irksome Blonde 19 Year Old and you’ve had a bit of relevant experience with the waitress thing, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to land yourself a perfunctory season job, don’t you worry. That said it’s a little late in the game at this point so you might want to consider getting yourself on a reserve list with as many TOs as you can find so you’re ready to come to the rescue when (that’s WHEN not IF) the first spate of limp-wristed public school gappies drop out during Christmas week.

Sorry to say darling, but speaking Spanish will be about as useful as a cock flavoured lollipop unless you are applying to work in the Spanish Pyrenees, so I’d start there. That said, even thought they put it all over the job descriptions, 90% of Brit seasonal workers fail to make even a cursory attempt at speaking the local language (much to the chagrin of the natives) so I wouldn’t worry too much about that. The key thing for you, I think, is not to be picky. You can either be choosy about where you work, or what you do at this late stage in the game, not both.

On the subject of Tour Operators, I do have one or two pearls of wisdom to cast before you.

As the man himself once said, in the guise of David Brent:

“Trust, encouragement, reward, loyalty… satisfaction. Trust people and they’ll be true to you. Treat them greatly, and they will show themselves to be great.”

As a member of staff at one of the many great Alpine Tour Operators of the day, you can expect to experience absolutely diddly squat in the way of encouragement, reward, loyalty or satisfaction, let alone greatness. They will not trust you either. They will be suspicious of you, patronise you, suck you dry and discard you like an old, mouldy, bleach-damaged marigold at the end of the season (or half way through if you break your leg) without as much as a thank you. That said, you are not looking for congratulations, long-term job satisfaction or a career in toilet cleaning (and if you are, then I recommend you ditch the season idea entirely). Hopefully you are looking to ski? So as long as you remember at all times that this is a marriage of convenience you will be fine.

Is there anything in a c.v that makes a TO immediately want to hire someone? And things that make them immediately throw a c.v in the trash?

When I delve back into the foggy memories of the last few seasons I’m somewhat at a loss to answer this question. You would think that most TO’s would be on the look out for confident, capable, well-groomed, energetic, youthful individuals who have more than 72 hours’ cooking experience, and some vague competency in social situations. However going by the array of dribbling cretins I’ve worked among I cannot in all honesty say that these qualities are endemic among alp-workers. Not the majority of them, anyway. Which leads me to think that Tour Operators are pretty much open to anything as long as it’s able-bodied and can operate a hoover. Previous experience is certainly not an essential. Considering in general TO’s in search of reliable employees are choosing from a riff raff of drop outs, gap year coasters and mid-life crisis sufferers in general I don’t think there is anything specific that would immediately make then throw a CV in the bin. Whether you’re fat, thin, ugly, deformed, lame, gape-mouthed, fusty or just plain ignorant, only one thing is certain; they don’t want quitters. Ideally they want people who will quietly get on with it, handle their own shit, not get themselves paralytic every night and miss work / call in sick. In return they will (hopefully) give you a ski pass and leave you the fuck alone to get on with your job without breaking your balls (but don’t expect any praise.)

Therefore, if you do get an interview do not (as one of the people I spoke to over the phone last week did) spend the entire time moaning about your previous employer, whining dramatically that you never had enough free time and then round it off by admitting proudly that you quit your last job when the going got too tough for you. I couldn’t believe my ears!

What I recommend you exhibit:

1. The ability to boil an egg.
2. An anecdote about a situation in which you’ve successfully had to defuse a disgruntled customer of some sort.
3. A bit of backbone, flexibility and willingness to co-operate / help out in a crisis.
4. Cheerfulness / a rosy disposition

Katie, my advice to you at this stage in the year is that it’s a game of numbers. Scrape the barrel of your limited lifetime’s experience for anything that could be remotely relevant to the roles you’re applying for, write a (coherent, spelling mistake-free, non-vile and gushing) personal profile and cover letter, explaining what a practical, capable, energetic, friendly and enthusiastic person you are, willing to muck in, learn fast and get on with it. Crucially, explain why you want to do a season. Something along the lines of wanting to expand your horizons, challenge yourself and improve your winter-sports skills in the process should do the trick. Don’t forget to mention that you like skiing or have always wanted to learn and then apply for every job you can find. 

Of course you don’t have to work for a Tour Operator. You don’t have to be a chalet bitch or a ski rep. Failing all of the above, if you haven’t found any useful employ by mid-November get yourself out to Sierra Nevada and find yourself a nice gig in a restaurant somewhere. They pay better anyway.

…Something will come up. And when it does, grab it with both hands. It’ll be the best fun you’ve ever had.

Good luck m’dear.



  1. Hiya...
    We all know that you are up to your eyeballs in work, directing your season slave to cater to your every whim in your luxury chalet AND there are epic amounts of snow to contend with, but could we have an update please?
    Love your blog, and I'm not the only one


    1. James - never thanked you for your kind comment. I hope you're still reading ;P


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