Who wants to be a Seasonaire?

I learnt an awful lot when I spent the winter of my gap year abroad in the French Alps. Firstly, although I disapprove of the very much over worn Ugg boot – they were an absolute Godsend when it came to surviving freezing puddles and having to cross three ski slopes to get to work every day at 6.30am, in -2 degree weather. Secondly, the absolutely best thing to do in cold weather is to descend to a Canadian-filled Internet bar which serves mulled wine from 11am until 2am the following morning, and watch back-to-back episodes of British TV shows that you can’t get anywhere in France. Thirdly, a Nutella-filled crepe can solve any problem, any time of the day.
The work was hard, and by that I mean painfully exhausting. When you have shifts in a four-star hotel lasting from early morning to late afternoon or worse, then have to trek home through snow storms to an overcrowded four-person apartment, suddenly being a Seasonnaire doesn’t seem all it’s cracked up to be. I found myself reminiscing about being back home, innocently attending school lessons and dreaming about what crazy adventures abroad were to come in the Gap. I thought a lot about my family, and suddenly realised what it meant to be surrounded by those that love you, rather than three girls who think you have OCD because you like to shower once a day and change your sheets every fortnight.
Having attended an all girls’ private school up until the age of eighteen, I also came crashing into the reality of the gender politics of how a hotel is run and the male/female conflicts that can therefore occur within it. The manager changed twice. The chefs fought like lions, trying to outshout each other in the kitchens, or outmatch each other in their sexual conquests of waitresses and receptionists.
So despite working in what was seemingly a winter wonderland, an idyllic hotel with log fires, white linen and freshly baked pastries daily, surrounded by swirling snowflakes and Twilight-esque forests, I suspect the guests knew little of what happened when one went behind the door that divided guest terrain from that of the labouring mass that was our workforce. The highlight was obviously the skiing. Becoming practically a pro at jumps, black slopes and mogul fields meant that you gained a wonderfully cocky confidence. When my family visited for a week in March, they struggled to keep up as I ‘shot off’ down a red.
The real low point, on the other hand, had to be the rumours. I will never forget the morning I woke up at six and walked to work in the arctic landscape, only to get there to find out that my actions of the night before had reached the hotel before I had. It was like lightning. It didn’t help, of course, that my flatmates woke up hours later to find someone else still in my bed.
All in all, I have never regretted undertaking a winter season. I made lifelong friends, learnt some people skills, and will never forget how to thoroughly clean a guest toilet. Though the relief of returning home to an English Spring, with normal food, blossom trees and television was just what was required after five months of living in glorified French poverty.
Kim Simpson


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