Thinking of Doing a Ski Season?

Don’t let the thought of being mocked by wealthy 18-year-old gap-year students put you off doing a ski season.

As a comprehensive-educated lower-intermediate skier, I was a little unsure what the ski season would have in store for me. I applied for jobs late, without doing any research into what it might be like, other than having vague ideas about snow and parties, accompanied by some rather unpleasant work. However, I did hold preconceived notions about the sort of people I would be spending my winter with, prejudices that I now know to be largely unjustified. It would be fair to say that a majority of seasonal staff are likely to be privately educated kids on gap years. The stereotype that this group will likely be going to a developing country after the season to do some kind of volunteering, is also true to an extent. So the question really is, so what?

Maybe I am wrong, but it would seem that class prejudice remains rife in Britain, and, as shown by my preconceived thoughts on Seasonnaires, I am just as guilty as anyone else. Despite harbouring a considerable chip on my shoulder throughout my university career, I discovered that, on the whole, the gap year crew were a pleasant bunch. Much nicer than many of the people I have chosen to associate with over the years. Due to living in very close quarters, usually with two or more sharing a room, a sense of camaraderie quickly develops among the staff, often based on a them-versus-us attitude towards clients. (Though I do not condone client bashing, after all, it is the tourists who pay for us to be there, I am just telling it as it is, however unpalatable.) In this environment, talk of stables, servants and public school rituals, though unfamiliar, became less abrasive and more normal. The chip on my shoulder was gradually worn away, which, I hope, has made me a somewhat less judgemental person.

Ski holidays have long been the preserve of the upper middle classes, many resort remain so to this day, but the workers are an increasingly eclectic bunch. To me, diversity is always good, mixing with those you would not normally encounter is essential training for life, providing ample opportunity for learning. I say this as a middle-class kid from a comfortable suburb, about as close as it is possible to be to being slap bang in the centre of any class spectrum you might want to draw. Until I was in my late teens, I had probably never met a single unemployed person or aristocrat, I would imagine that some of those I grew up with still haven’t.

Doing a ski season should be looked upon as an opportunity to learn new skills, social as well as technical. In my case, along with my skiing and snowboarding, through being forced to share a room for the first time in my life, I developed the ability to live and let live. Where once I would have harboured resentment, I learned to accept. Apart from university there are few opportunities to mix with people from completely different social backgrounds. In my opinion, spending five months in the mountains is not a bad way to broaden your horizons.

About the Author: Katie Arbuckle is a writer and event manager about to finish her Ph.D. For the past six years she has worked in the Alps, taking on roles including waitress, kids club manager and ski guide. This season she will be working as a Resort Manager for a chalet company in Verbier, reporting back on the highs and lows of resort life through her blog You can also follow her Twitter feed, @doaseason and @ktbuckle, for regular updates and gossip from resort.

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