Snow Time

Saturday 22nd October, Earl’s Court, 11:15am: I had just arrived at Metrosnow, billed as ‘the greatest wintersports show in the world’.  It still being relatively early on a Saturday morning, there weren’t many punters hanging around, and the poor people manning some inflatable promotional activity outside Earl’s Court looked bored and cold.  Once inside the venue, I was confronted with what can only be described as a wall of enthusiasm.  My friends were running late, and so I plunged into the maze of stalls alone.  Wrong decision.  Single drifters are easy prey for those trying to sell something, and before long I was weighed down with more than enough goodie bags containing, among other things, cereal, toothpaste, an energy drink, magazines and a DVD.  It was the kind of situation where you end up pretending to talk to someone on the phone in order to avoid catching and would-be pushy salesperson’s eye.

While the front section of Earl’s Court was given over to travel companies, resorts, and national tourism boards, the back section was completely dedicated to retail.  There was everything a wintersports enthusiast could wish for, minus the snow.  The main reason for my going to the event was to stock up on ski gear, and I was on the lookout for some exclusive deals.  I was successful in some areas, but none of the bigger brands such as Dakine, Salomon and Atomic were cheaper than normal.

 One of the more interesting aspects of Metrosnow was that it was one of the few occasions that all types of snow-lovers congregated under one roof.  From fur-wearing chalet bunnies to ‘steazy’ snowboard types with hoodies down to their knees and multiple piercings and everyone in between, it’s safe to say that it was a mixed crowd.  Throw in a few convention-obligatory characters (sexy ski girls, someone dressed up as a mountain goat, and some unfortunate individuals in onesies) and it makes for very entertaining people-watching.

A main attraction was the London Ride competition, which consisted of guys and one girl with little notion of self-preservation hurtling down an artificial slope, flying off a hip kicker and performing some jaw-dropping stunts in the air.  I couldn’t figure out what was more impressive: the speed and height at which these nutters were turning and flipping, or the fact that most of them were teenagers.  It made me feel rather self-conscious about my comparative lack of skill with a pair of skis…

Overall, I felt that Metrosnow was a successful event that had something for everyone.  Children were kept entertained with ice skating, curling, and a huge inflatable slide.  Die-hard skiers and boarders were in seventh heaven with the mind-boggling array of hardware on offer.  And for everyone else there was plenty to look at, buy, eat and drink.  The only thing I would say it was lacking was any kind of atmosphere.  Granted, Earl’s Court is a fairly dead space to work with, but I think the event organisers could have tried a little harder with what people were greeted with, and also with the music sporadically played over the tannoy system.  The retail aspect was great: where else would you get everything under one roof?  But having now kitted myself out with enough ski gear to last several years, my reasons for going to an event of this kind would not balance out the £16-£18 ticket price.  It was a good day out and a very successful shopping trip, but not one I see myself repeating next year.

Images courtesy of Charlotte Rottenburg

Alpine Antics in Courcheval

What do you think when you hear the word ‘seasonnaire’?  Someone staggering around beach resorts trying to organise bar crawls and wet t-shirt competitions?  Posh girls named Isabella working in a chalet?  Jack Wills reps encouraging punters to get drunk and buy some, like, really cool stash?  All of the above might apply, but having worked as a seasonnaire in Courchevel for the last four months, I can safely say that these stereotypes are more often than not very far from the truth.

"seasonnaire", "France skiing", "skiing", "chalet girl", "piste", "apres ski"

Fair enough, we seasonnaires do party hard.  Après sessions that result in people skiing off bus stops or running down a red run in the dark are commonplace.  Our days off generally start at 9pm the day before: drinks, heavy night out, beer for breakfast, skiing, après bar, collapse.  But one of the main reasons for this play hard attitude is that, believe it or not, we do actually work hard for the rest of the week.  Before I came out to the Alps, all of my previous customer-facing roles had been ones where the customer leaves after a few hours.  If you have a tricky customer in a restaurant, it’s bearable because you know they’re going to leave at the end of the evening.  Out here, this is not the case.  These people are here for a full week, and when your job description dictates that you are ‘on call’ 24-7, the work takes on a new dimension.

My job title is ‘resort rep’, which in a nutshell means that I am the point of contact for my company’s customers in resort.  Our week starts on a Saturday, where we ship all outgoing customers to the airport, and bring the new ones back to resort.  Sounds fairly simple, you might say.  Now add in factors such as snow, fog, ice, missing skis, and an airport that is essentially a large shed and requires a special pilot’s license to land there.  You might begin to understand why out here we have a completely different kind of ‘Friday Feeling’.  Once everyone has finally got on the coach to go to resort, you then have just over an hour to speak to all fifty-plus of them, and sell them their lift passes and equipment hire, all the while trying not to be flung down the aisle as a crazy French driver barrels his way along mountain roads.  By the time everyone has finally been delivered to their hotel or chalet, the work is far from over.  The weekend continues with getting up at the crack of dawn on Sunday and delivering everyone’s lift passes, smoothing out and problems that may have arisen with rooms or similar, making sure everyone gets to ski school and basically running around resort like a headless chicken.  This is generally where one encounters the clientele that are going to make the next week something of a nightmare.  Rooms aren’t big enough, view isn’t good enough, speck of dust on the carpet…  These are particularly fun to deal with when it’s peak season and the whole of the resort is fully booked.

Admittedly, it’s not all stress and tantrums.  Once Sunday night’s accommodation visits are over, the rest of the week can go very smoothly.  One great part of my job is ski hosting – taking groups of guests skiing around the Three Valleys and getting a free lunch.  At this stage of the season, the sun shines all day every day, and life doesn’t get much better than sitting on a sun terrace on top of a mountain thinking ‘I’m getting paid to do this’.  And then there are the days where we’re not required to do anything until the evening, and can spend our days skiing some of the best runs in Europe.

So as with any job, the life of a seasonnaire has both highs and lows.  There have certainly been some weeks where a customer drives me to the edge of quitting, but then a blue-sky powder day turns it around again.  It’s certainly harder work than I was anticipating, and I’m not sure if I’d do this job again.  But for now, I’m living for days like the one I’ve just had – sunshine, snow and après.

Image courtesy of the author