If you are a free agent and really want to improve your skiing, and you don't mind roughing it a bit, the world is very much your oyster.
Doing a ski season or "being a ski bum", for most people, is all about getting a lot of skiing in that would otherwise be unaffordable. For others it can be a fun way to fill the winter months of a gap year, meet new people or a chance to explore different career options.
The tourism industry offers a good selection of jobs, from managerial positions to working as a ski instructor, ski rep, chef or barman. Do not overlook the possibility that what starts out as a way to get free skiing can lead to a career as a chef or a manager in resort accommodation. If you want to learn the language, remember it will not happen unless you work with local people.
Veteran seasonaire, James Young, has spent eight winters in The Alps and can't recommend it enough: "I decided to do a season to improve my skiing and by the third winter I was a qualified instructor. It's not just the skiing that appealed to me though, I met lots of likeminded people including my wife and also managed to pick up Italian."
Do not overlook the possibility that what starts out as a way to get free skiing can lead to a career as a chef or a manager in resort accommodation
With the release of the film Chalet Girl, 'doing a season' has become a talking point. All sorts of more or less distinguished people hit the media to tell us what it was like to be a chalet girl. But the first thing to emerge from talking to young men and women who have 'done a season' is that it really is, for most people, simply a question of getting in a lot of skiing that would otherwise be quite unaffordable unless you, or more likely mum and dad, are very rich.
The first thing is to decide is where you want to go. Don't forget that there are two hemispheres and it is possible to ski all year round. New French ski Champion Tessa Worley's father skied in New Zealand one half of the year and France the other. For Brits, France is the most popular destination. North America is difficult because of the visa problem and a lack of jobs at the moment. True, it is possible to use your initiative. Sabine who did a season in North America told OnTheSnow.co.uk it can be nerve wracking "I used to get stomach pains going through immigration and you had to be very careful what you carry with you and make sure it fits in with your story. No family photos and letters saying darling I am going to miss you so much, when you are supposed to be staying for only two weeks".
For Brits, France is the most popular destination. North America is difficult because of the visa problem and a lack of jobs at the moment
Once you have decided where you want to go, you have to be clear about what you have to offer an employer - experience, languages, a cooking qualification or of course an instructor's qualification. The best job for skiing is at night or in the evening - bar or restaurant work. You can catch up on sleep when the season is over. Being a ski rep for a tour operator is the near ideal way of getting time on the mountain and on the customers' side of the bar in the evening. Even then you will be skiing for your guests and not just for yourself. The internet is a good place to start looking or talk to friends who have already done a season.
Working for a well known company like Ski Esprit, Crystal Ski or Equity, who have been around for years, will always pay your season's ski pass, accommodation, and some meals too.
It is a pretty informal job market place and first come first served is the rule although application forms have to be properly filled in. You should apply in May for the next European season although there will always be jobs later on. Sabine got her first job at Christmas when someone broke their leg. Make sure that your job actually allows you skiing time. Don't forget a day job will keep you busy when the ski lifts operate unless you have previously agreed arrangements to take time to ski.
You should apply in May for the next European season although there will always be jobs later on
Remember that accommodation provided for resort workers is not luxurious and you will not have room for much stuff. If you fly out the baggage limit will affect you as well. Ideally talk to some one you know who has worked in the job you are thinking of taking before committing yourself. It is worth joining the Ski Club of Great Britain who will advise on jobs that are available and what they know about different employers. Betony Garner press officer at the Ski Club of Great Britain told Onthesnow: "There are many jobs in hotels and catering that are not well paid but you get to spend a season or seasons on the slopes. On the other hand qualified instructors do well especially in resorts like Meribel and Val d'Isère where the many British skiers appreciate the lack of a language and even a cultural barrier." The recently effective European Union legislation makes it legal and easier but do not expect all the local ski staff to appreciate the competition.
Betony pointed to an interesting new trend. Thanks to the internet it is now possible to live and work in a ski area at least some of the time based at home. So you have a job and you can ski but the two are not directly linked. "This is not statistically proven information but I have noticed it as a trend" she says.
Talk to some one you know who has worked in the job you are thinking of taking before committing yourself
What about Chalet Girl the film? Real-life ex-chalet girl 'Bexia' says instead of this rom com, she'd have rather seen "a movie where a girl went off to work a snow job for a season, because she's crazy for skiing and/or snowboarding, and had to work her ass off, dodge the sexual advances of sports louts and weird old guys, live in military-esque quarters, learn to deal with hangovers like a man, and holidaying English people in France thinking you're basically a housemaiding whore, because you don't have the vast sums of disposable cash needed to indulge a passion for snow sports without working a shitty job at the same time, that is a movie I'd want to see." Sabine says "Yes that's exactly how I remember the job. I haven't seen the film yet."
Read part two, "Doing a ski season: how to get a job"