And sometimes, the mountains call you back for another season, despite your words from five years ago that my season days were over. And you oblige.
I applied for my fifth season on a whim after living a relatively settled life back home for almost two years. Normal life wasn’t cutting it, it was time to mix it up again…..
After a brief search, I accepted a job with a small company based in Meribel, the centre of the Three Valleys ski area in the French Alps, running my own little 7-bed chalet apartment, just above the main town.
And this was my view on the first week, my new office. This would be the first time I’ve run a chalet on my own, after previous seasons of working solely as a chef, but I was keen for a slightly new challenge.
My kitchen is completely open in the apartment so there is no escaping burnt meals or mistakes! But it also means I have the opportunity to get to chat with my guests and get to know them.
Deep snow work commute
The first 10 days were spent training and preparing the chalets for opening, and in the evenings, getting to sample other chalets practice dinners. I also practised my own cooking and hosting skills, cooking up roasted salmon with Spanish stew and mini lemon possets with some slightly sunken chocolate brownies (blaming it on the altitude!). After five years I was a little rusty – but it’s all come flooding back…
The first five weeks of guests have mainly been families ranging from 4 to 7 people, some with young kids and some with teenage or adult children. As we moved into January, this switched to groups of adult friends.
One of the beauties of the job is the constant change – change in guests, change in weather conditions, change in piste conditions. Every week brings it own set of challenges, ups and downs.
The view back down the mountains from the bus stop near my chalet.
My average day
The day begins at 6.45am with the top chalet teams making the half-hour journey up to upper Meribel from our staff apartment down in Les Allues, via the bakery to pick up baguettes in Meribel Village.
At this time of year, mornings are still dark, with the mountains illuminated by the bright headlights from the piste bashers grooming the slopes ready for opening. The quiet streets are lined with seasonnaires huddled in hats and staff jackets making their way to work.
I get to my chalet around 7.15am and prepare a hot breakfast for my guests, followed by making afternoon tea and usually the dessert for the evening meal.
I then zip around the chalet making beds, cleaning the bathrooms and tidying up the apartment before leaving the chalet anywhere between 11-12pm.
And then, it’s off to snowboard.
I usually head back to the chalet around 4pm to the prepare the four-course evening meal, finishing anywhere between 9-10pm.
This is a typical day apart from Monday when we head down to the valley to shop for the week, and Saturday when the old guests leave. I then deep clean the chalet for the arrival of the new week’s guests.
And Wednesday is a day off!
My chalet is ideally located right next to the piste, so I can usually get a cheeky hour or so in, even on busy weeks.
We were blessed with a huge amount of early snow in December which has created a cracking base, even when the sun and rain have tried to ruin the party.
Our season lift pass is for the whole Three Valleys area and I’ve also been able to explore fancy Courchevel (complete with a Prada on the high street) and Les Menuires.
At the start of the season, we had two lessons on our days off – a welcomed refresher as I was pretty rubbish!
We’ve been unfortunate that on two of our days off recently, there have been strong winds which closed most of the lifts and we had to resort to playing party games and watching movies.
Me and my awesome roommate Erin
Christmas in the Alps
For Christmas, I was hosting a family of 4 who had lived in France for many years and requested to have dinner on Christmas Eve – which suited me just fine! As I didn’t have much time during the day on Christmas Eve, I hopped on the bus to La Blanchot and took one of the many short walking trails which dot the mountain through the woods, ending with a hot chocolate at the Ronnie before heading back to cook dinner and being treated to champagne and foie gras by my guests!
In the evening, we headed to our local bar where we exchanged our secret Santa presents as a team and sung our hearts out to The Fairytale of New York…
On Christmas Day, I did my regular chalet duties before heading out for a short snowboard down to Meribel, pausing by the side of the piste to ring my family and bask in the sunshine.
I had a few presents from friends and family which I opened on the bubble lift back up to Meribel with a Spotify Christmas playlist blaring and a ham and cheese baguette for Christmas dinner!
Living in Les Allues
In terms of where you live on a season, there are usually two scenarios.
One, you live in the main town and usually live in a rabbit hutch (as on my last season, the triple bunk bed joys).
Luckily, we have the alternative – a 15-minute bus ride to the south of Meribel, with a 3-storey house in the little village of Les Allues (and no triple bunks, just twin rooms!).
Our local bar, supermarket and bus stop are all within 5 minutes walk and the buses run until midnight.
I feel in love with this little village, the wooden chalets and tiny details, the church bell chimes and the sleepy French feel.
After a hectic few weeks, I’m now getting into a bit of a routine and looking forward to enjoying January – decent snow and quiet slopes!