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.

Reasons to do a ski season

Doing a ski season or "being a ski bum", for most people, is all about getting in a lot of skiing that would otherwise be too expensive. 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 like-minded people including my wife and also managed to pick up Italian."

Where to go

The first thing is to decide is where you want to go. 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 Harneis 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".

Getting a job

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, skiing with clients, and be on the customers' side of the bar in the evening. The internet is a good place to start looking or talk to friends who have already done a season. 

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."

Employers

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. Remember that accommodation provided for resort workers is not luxurious and you will not have room for much stuff. If you fly out then the baggage limit will affect you as well.

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 (lucky for Sabine at least). 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.

Read part two: "Doing a ski season: how to get a job"