Brrrrrring, Brrrrrrrrring! It’s 6.30am when my hand, unwillingly, flops out of the duvet and starts bashing around to turn the alarm off, before my room mates are disturbed. I’ll be honest, it’s the hardest part of the day. But when guests have ordered their wake-up drinks for 7.30am, I like to look more than half awake when I knock on their bedroom doors with black no sugar and English Breakfast, extra strong. But just think, the earlier you are in the chalet, the more preparation you can get done so you can maximise your ski time; let’s face it, that is the reason why you are there. Everything will speed up once you’re into a routine. So as soon as I’m in the kitchen it’s oven on, croissants and pain au chocolates in, last night’s wine glasses in the dishwasher, table wiped, laid, and coffee ready to go in the cafetiere.
VIP SKI has very strict guidelines as to how everything presented, and breakfast is no exception. At first, even though you learn so much on their week’s training course, it all seems very fiddly and a lot to remember. But after the first two weeks of hard slog and just when you think you’re never going to get everything done before midday, suddenly it all falls into place; poaching an egg with the perfect runny yolk whilst whipping up some moist, moreish carrot cupcakes seems second nature.
The breakfast has to be on point for the guest (once I’ve had my own caffeine fix!). This meal is going to set my guests up for their hard day of skiing. There’s a sense of satisfaction to throwing open the dining room curtains to a sensational view of the mountains and laying the table with real French bread, yoghurts on ice, oven warmed pastries, jams, honey, Nutella, juice, different types of tea… and that’s before I take orders for cooked breakfasts. I use the free time when my guests are filling their stomachs to whip up a cake for afternoon tea and, if they don’t seem in a hurry to hit the slopes, a bit of prep for that night’s dinner. Being organised takes all the stress out of the job, and gives you more chance to ski until the last lifts; clean your kitchen whilst you are cooking and prepare for the evening meal in the morning. Because even though you know that after breakfast you still have to hotel clean all the bedrooms (make the beds, clean the toilets and baths, dust and hoover) and set up afternoon tea, the skiing is what it’s all about. Yes, of course, you want to do a good job and make the guests happy (and if you go in with that approach you can’t really go wrong), but like all the other chalet hosts, you’re there to ski your buns off.
Last season, not including Sunday (transfer day, the hardest one of the week when you have to clean the chalet from top to bottom and get ready for a new set of guests), I skied 84 days out of a possible 96. As soon as my morning work is done, I quickly pull on my sallopettes, contact my friends and head out for a day of blue skies and fresh powder. And that’s the other great thing about working for VIP SKI, even if you’re in one of the bigger resorts like Val d’Isère or Meribel, you still feel like you’re part of a small family and we can guarantee you’ll make friends for life. There’s older people taking sabbaticals from their usual nine to fives, university graduates on gap years, even people who have retired – but everyone has one thing in common that unites them all – the desire to be in the mountains and ski, ski, ski.
Last season in Meribel my highlight was my birthday – a champagne lunch with the rest of the VIP gang at the top of a mountain overlooking the whole of Le Trois Vallee, Plummers colouir (one of the many couloirs I skied in knee deep powder), the Gebroulaz Glacier hike, rewarded with crystal clear ice sculptures and miles and miles of untracked terrain, and, well meeting the girl of my dreams who turned a great season into the perfect season. Who could ask for more? Well I suppose another season wouldn’t harm!
Of course the nightlife plays a big part in life in the Alps too. You’d be surprised how much energy you have even after a days skiing, preparing and then serving a three-course dinner party for eight people at night. Just like breakfast, once you’ve made the menus two or three times, you perfect the art and find yourself to allow more time to entertain the guests, providing fantastic customer service.
The secret to working efficiently is to keep organised, do everything in order, wash up as you go and keep the work surfaces wiped clean. That way you’ll be out after you’ve served coffee and mints, dancing till the early hours, especially the night before your precious time off. Before you know it, that alarm is going to go off just before seven and that kettle needs to be boiled. Despite that it’s still the best job you’ll ever have! Cup of tea anyone?