Thinking of doing your first ski season? Not quite sure how it all works? You've come to the right place. We've worked in catered chalet holidays for many years, and have done our time working for lots of other chalet companies before starting our own. For everything from benefits to baking, here is the rough guide to working in a chalet.
In a ski resort, there are many job types to choose from, all with their upsides and their downsides. In a chalet, there are usually three main roles up for grabs.
In larger chalets (6+ bedrooms) or luxury catered chalets, there is usually a chalet chef. The job is almost purely cooking, and you will be expected to have chef qualifications and/or lots of cooking experience. A chalet chef usually supported by a chalet host or chalet assistant. Aspiring chalet chefs should be sure to check out our Chalet Host's Cookbook...
In smaller chalets (3 - 5 bedrooms) there would usually be a chalet host instead of a chef. This is a mixed role: cooking, cleaning and serving the guests. Experience required depends on the company. Chalet hosts don't usually need to have any catering qualifications, though some cooking experience is essential. You will also be given lots of training before the start of the ski season. You might also want to check out our Chalet Host's Cookbook...
Often the role for first-timers, chalet assistants provide support for chalet hosts or chalet chefs. Your job would involve cleaning, serving and washing up, as well as offering a friendly face to all of your guests. No experience is generally necessary; here holiday companies are looking for the right personality. Bring bags of enthusiasm and a willingness to roll your sleeves up.
Shifts in a chalet are almost always split into morning and evening blocks with a big break in between. Perfect if you want to get out and enjoy a few hours on the slopes yourself.
With most companies, you'll be expected to arrive at your chalet around 07:00 to prepare breakfast. Your guests will eat around 08:00 before leaving the chalet around 09:00. After clearing up breakfast, it's cleaning time. Working in a chalet involves lots of cleaning, and you'll clean the whole chalet top to bottom every working day.
After you're done cleaning, you will usually be required to bake the cake of the day. You'll be given the recipes and taught how to bake 5-6 different cakes. Each day, you will lay out the cake of the day for guests to enjoy as a lovely welcome back to the chalet when they return after the day's skiing. You should be all done maybe around 11:30, then the time is your own to go skiing.
You will usually arrive back at the chalet around 16:30-17:00. If there's children in the chalet then you will prepare an early high tea (i.e. a simple, child-friendly meal) to serve around 17:30. Otherwise, it's straight onto the show piece: a gourmet three- or four-course evening meal. You might serve this around 19:30. After clearing up and loading the dishwasher, you will probably be finished and leaving the chalet around 21:30.
The above will be pretty standard five days a week. The other two days are your day off (often a Wednesday) and transfer day.
Transfer day is the day on which your guests arrive and depart. This is usually a Saturday or Sunday, though short-break guests may also arrive mid-week. Transfer day is a big day of hard work for everyone in the team and you won't be able to go skiing that day.
Most companies have set check-in and check-out times, but guests can depart and arrive just about any time. While the chalet is empty, you will need to scrub every inch of the whole building. Every surface, every sink, every toilet needs to look like it was just taken out of the box for the first time. You will also get very good at changing bedding.
The package of benefits you will receive as a chalet worker varies substantially from company to company. Here at Delicious Mountain, we proud to offer perhaps the most generous contract available in Meribel, including extra time off, free access to a vehicle and more. However, the below benefits are industry-standard and you can expect to see them included in your contract whomever you choose to work for.
Some intelligent questions to ask your chalet company during the interview might include: the location of your accommodation (i.e. your commute); how many people you will be sharing a room with (if any); whether start-of-season and end-of-season travel to/from the resort are included in the package; whether insurance is included in your benefits; and whether there are any rewards for mentions in guest reviews or similar.
Understandably, many people have a rose-tinted view of what a chalet season can be like. But it's not all powder days and apré ski. Here are some things for you to think about before you apply for any chalet jobs.
If you accept employment, you are here to work, not to ski. To some, it can come as a shock that the hours are long and the work is often demanding. You'll be expected to take your job seriously and to do it with pride.
The start of the season is tough. Your pre-season time in mostly scrubbing and carrying. Then it's on to Christmas and New Year: this is a busy and expensive time of year with demanding guests. You'll be run off your feet. Only when January comes do things calm down a bit. Then you will finally be able to relax and enjoy some proper ski time.
You will be customer facing the whole time, so you need to be the type of person who enjoys chatting and helping people with all sorts of specific and unusual requests.
Imagine if you went on holiday and your room wasn't clean. Or maybe your crockery? It's every guest's minimum expectation that everything will be spotlessly clean throughout their stay. Working as a chalet host or assistant, it will be your responsibility to make sure those expectations are met. If cleaning is a job you'd rather avoid, then this might not be the industry for you.
Being a good chalet host is mostly about being the right personality. For a holiday company you'll be their public face, what the guests think of you is a huge factor in how much they enjoy their holiday. So first and foremost, you need to have the right kind of personality. They'll be looking for someone who is:
For chalet hosting jobs then cooking experience is important, too. For chalet chef roles, you will need lots of experience cooking for large groups. This doesn't have to be in catered chalet holidays, though. Indeed some companies almost prefer your experience to be outside of catered chalets, that way they can mould you into the perfect catered chalet host. If you're interested in chalet catering, be sure to check out our Chalet Host's Cookbook...
Creating a great first impression is essential. At Delicious Mountain, we typically receive well over 100 applications for the few roles we offer. Although we always read application thoroughly before responding, we have to be ruthless in shortening the list of candidates. And every other chalet company is, too.
From the first line, your application form, cover letter or email has to stand out for all the right reasons and none of the wrong ones. The first impression you give should be one of polite, friendly professionalism.
At the application stage, the chalet company does not want to know about how much you love to ski or how good you are on a snowboard. Of course, we love the mountains ourselves and we are thrilled that people want to ski and enjoy being in the Alps. However, the chalet company wants to know why you want to work for them, and maximum skiing inevitably suggests minimum work. As employers and small-business owners, your chalet company will see your job as more important than the skiing. To appeal to them, you should adopt this mindset, too.
With so many applications for every job that's available, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. Here are our top tips for making a great first impression when applying for chalet jobs.
Find and use their names. The personal details of the company owners are usually easy to find on their website. If you're calling or emailing, it makes a good first impression that you know who you're trying to reach.
Tell them why you want to work for them specifically. This requires spending a little bit of time finding out about the company and what they offer. What do their reviews say about them and their staff? What little details do you notice that make this seem like a team you would want to join?
Focus on the job, not the skiing. If time spent on the slopes or in the bar is the only reason you're travelling to the Alps, you're unlikely to make it through a full ski season. In fact, you're unlikely to make it to January. It's hard work, and there has to be at least one aspect of working in a chalet that would make you want that job even if you couldn't ski.
Highlight relevant experience. Even if you have never worked in hospitality before, it pays to talk about the aspects of your exerience which most closely resemble working in a chalet. This not only highlights your suitability for the role, it also shows your awareness of what the job is likely to involve.
If you are applying as a couple, say so. This will usually stand in your favour because couples are generally more stable in their plans and less inclined to spend the whole night partying before an early breakfast shift! But you should also mention how long you have been together as a couple. If you have only been together for a few weeks, ask yourself carefully whether it's a good idea to take a job where you have to work and live with this person day and night for the next five months.
Mention your other plans for the year ahead. Going travelling? Finishing your studies? Starting a business? If you have plans for your time before and after the ski season, it can be a big positive in two main ways. Firstly, it shows that you're an adventurous, enthusiastic person who is going somewhere in life: you're not just completing Netflix until the snow starts. Secondly, if you have other plans before and after the ski season, you're less likely to drop out mid-season, leaving your chalet company in the lurch. After all, if you have fixed plans, abandoning your ski season might also jeopardise your other plans.
Thinking of doing more than one winter? Say so! Especially if this is not your first ski season, this kind of long-term thinking can be very appealing to your chalet company. If you get on well together, maybe you will want to stay with them next year — meaning less recruitment and less training for them. Planning for more than one season in the Alps also suggests a seriousness and a commitment which not all candidates can offer.
If you will be cooking, it can be a good idea to attach a sample menu with suggested wine pairings. Some photos of recent dishes prepared by you would also paint you in a good light. The company is unlikely to change their planned menu based on your suggestions, but it shows initiative and allows you to showcase your knowledge and skills. Important: don't include anything which you haven't actually cooked yourself because they're likely to ask you about the menu at interview. For inspiration, check out our chalet host's cookbook...
Review your social media presence. Just set the ethics aside for a moment and be realistic: at some point during the recruitment process, some prospective employers are going to Facebook stalk you. So be honest and ask yourself what your online presence says about you. Especially when it's the only real information a stranger has at their disposal. If your Instagram is a masterclass in attracting likes during a mind-broadening worldwide adventure, then it's a big asset and you should even mention it in your application. But if your Facebook profile photo includes inflatables and a tray of Jäger Bombs, you should quickly change that and review your privacy settings.
Give real-world examples of using your initiative to solve unexpected problems. If you get the job, you will be left to work on your own a lot, dealing with anything that your guests and your chalet can throw at you. From a client mentioning they are vegetarian just as you are serving the beef, to leaky showers and lost skis — you'll need to deal with whatever comes your way, always with a smile on your face. Throughout the application process, you should try to demonstrate how you can work things out for yourself, and how you are aware that this is an essential skill for the role.
The application process varies a lot from company to company, and you should read their requirements carefully before getting in touch. If the chalet company asks you to submit an application form, this is the only way you should attempt to apply for a job with them: just emailing your CV could suggest that you don't have an eye for detail or can't follow simple instructions. Of course, there is no reason why you can't get in touch an introduce yourself if you have any questions before applying. Although you can do this via email, a thoughtfully-timed telephone call might be a better way to make a good first impression and find out what your potential employer is like.
You should start applying as soon as your favourite companies start advertising their job vacancies. This can vary enormously. Some companies recruit late to minimise the likelihood of employees changing their winter plans and dropping out. Others start recruiting soon after the previous winter season is finished.
The interview process also varies between companies, but the broad strokes are usually the same. Your prospective employer will short-list a few top candidates based on the application forms or CVs they have received. Depending on the number of applications, there may also be a second stage before the final interview.
The interview itself is usually just one conversation lasting 30-60 minutes, and is generally held via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or similar. For very specific roles such as senior chefs or resort managers, in-person interviews are also a possibility.