Working Your First Winter Season at 40 – Week 5 – January has arrived.

After last weeks trials and tribulations this week arrived all shiny, new and full of possibility. The ‘clock’ reset as soon as the new guests arrived.

Funny how even when you think its the worst week possible, as soon as Saturday arrives you get to change your luck and start afresh. Its an interesting thought that the definition of your ‘worst week’ is totally personal to you. Your opinion of ‘worst’ can differ so much from the person next to you even if they are living and breathing the same experience. The gravity of ‘worst’ changes over the years as you identify new benchmarks. New ‘worst’ days.

My NYE ‘worst’ week is relative but I am sure glad to be coming out of the other side.

This weeks ‘fresh start’ just happened to begin at 06:30 when 20 brand new and excited faces rocked up to begin their snow holiday! A 6am arrival is not normal but special arrangements had been made.

Its nice to just sit and take it all in sometimes!

The first week in January also welcomed us with the prospect of a new team member joining us to replace the person we lost in New Year week (just to confirm…when I say ‘lost’ I don’t mean that they are wondering aimlessly around resort trying to find their home. I mean they quit!) We also had a little shuffle around of the roles short term to ensure we could maintain our high level of service until the new person arrived.

This may sound slightly odd but I am super proud to announce that this week I shall be demoted! ๐Ÿ™‚ For one week only I shall become a chalet host/ chef with my own little chalet and my own group of guests!

I could not be happier!

They say that a change is as good as a rest (apparently) and this is a big change. All my manager responsibilities will be covered by the owner for the next week and I shall cover the chalet requirements until the new team member arrives.

For the first time in a while I get to be a little selfish with my time. I can predict how my days will go. I can anticipate how much time will be spent doing things without needing to juggle a multitude of demands and the wider team support. I get to spend some real quality time with the guests. Plus I get to be creative and cook stuff!

Not my finest photo but I made cake! I found baking to be incredibly therapeutic! This delicious masterpiece is a carrot cake! Each day we bake fresh goodies for the guests to enjoy afternoon tea when they get back from the slopes.

I genuinely love the complexities of my manager role and how varied the position can be from one day to the next but it was so nice this week to be able to try something new. To reset myself after a challenging few weeks.

Cooking and hosting is not new to me as a concept or indeed skill. I was raised by a chef and have spent most of my life hosting one thing or another. It is however new to me in this environment.

So this week I am a host/ cook for the first time in the mountains! But its never straightforward! The new arrivals have taken over two of our chalets and requested to eat together all week. One chalet sleeps 16 and the other sleeps 8. Note the two chalets are not next to each other! They are a 5 minute walk apart and neither kitchen can manage with cooking for the full number in isolation.

So. Myself and the host/chef from the other chalet came up with a catering plan between us to rustle up some delicious treats and cooked them over two properties with some dashing/ driving in-between.

A logistical challenge for sure but it actually turned out to be really good fun with a lovely group of guests!

Consequently we can add another experience to the Katie travels with food in a van story board… This time it’s piping hot soup…We shared the cooking between chalets and didn’t consider how to transfer the finished product between accommodations. Lesson Number 3 in the mountains…think ahead!

Its important to mention that whilst our lives in the mountains keep plugging along we do still have the remnants of our old life in the background. The UK bricks and mortar is going strong with holiday rentals which I manage remotely. The rental just about covers the property costs which works well to not eat into our savings to much.

Our long term plans are ticking along while we search out rentals in France for the end of the winter season and we continue to research how best to make our transition permanent.

The most significant update however in our ‘non seasonaire’ lives this week is…WE HAVE SOLD OUR UK HOME!!
The place we once considered to be our forever home will now belong to another family who can make their own memories! Onward and upwards! Vive la France!

Back in December we accepted an offer to buy our home but we have been nervously waiting to see if the sale would actually happen! This week things have started to move and exchange/ completion dates are now being discussed! Not to mention that the buyer has started to contact all our utilities companies so is clearly quite eager!

Its all very exciting! Also hugely scary as we wont be physically able to be in the UK when the house sale goes through! Luckily for us we have an amazing family! Which is super fortunate as we are having to depend heavily on them to pack up the rest of our lives over there and put it into storage on our behalf!

We have been preparing for this eventuality for some time and so have already cleared out the loft and packed up most of our personal possessions. The real win is that we have managed to sell most of our furniture to our buyers so there wont be too much to actually go into storage!

The next major step in our French lives is now not to far away. Very soon we should have a bank balance that should in theory give us the new French life we are searching for.

Back in the mountains the pistes are so much quieter now that the NYE tourists have gone home and we have wall to wall sunshine! Blue skies as far as you can see!

The blue skies are glorious and make for stunning views from the summit and chair lifts but we are willing the snow to return…just a little bit of snow would go really far right now. The pistes are starting to look a little bare and as the temperatures drop the day melt is turning to sheet ice. Its been two weeks since we last saw the white fluffy stuff drop from the sky.

The lack of fresh snow and warmer temperatures during the day are making for some interesting thaws! This blanket of snow is slowing sliding off the corrugated roof of the communal bread oven next to our house.
I feel like we have been in the mountains now for long enough to make some judgements on its suitability for us as a permanent place to live long term.

From the very start of our France Forever discussions we always felt that the mountains were off limits as a location for our new life. There were two main reasons for this.

1. The mountains represent our play ground. The place we go to let off steam (or we used to in our past life when we had limited annual leave and a lot of steam!). We wanted to protect this as much as possible. Sure we may need to work our winters to survive financially but it’s our hope to play more than to work when we do work it will be for someone else who can carry the burden of ultimate responsibility.

2. Money. The mountains can be expensive especially if you want land or a large property and you want to tap into the tourist industry. Both of which we want to do so that we can have the options to make some money to sustain our French life and have enough space for our business plans. We felt our money would go further in supporting our goals in other areas of France.

Our experiences over the last few months living in the mountains is that it’s beautiful and can be almost surreal in its magic appearance especially after a heavy snow fall. Having said that, it’s also hard work up here. Altitude and weather can make the simple things in life much more complicated.

Thus far my original perspective on the mountains for our long term life remains. I like sliding around on the white stuff when the worst I can do is bruise my ego or my bottom but driving around on the white stuff is frankly still quite frightening!

The frosts have been especially beautiful recently!

This week ended on the positive note in which it started. I got a tip! A departing guest tipped me a bottle of cider and some cash to say thank you for a lovely time! It made me smile from ear to ear!

I can’t impress upon you all enough. If you are fortunate enough to have a mountain holiday, tips are a massive factor for the teams that work out here. We don’t choose this lifestyle for the money but a small tip (or even better a large one!) can make a huge difference to the workers. Makes us feel all warm inside too! Who doesn’t love that feeling?!?

Until next time…I am off to train our newest team member and to hand over the baton of chef/ host after a truly lovely week running my own chalet.

You can find out what we did last week here

6 Comments

  1. And so it began ๐ŸŒž

  2. Great news about your house sale.Good luck in putting the funds into your new endeavor. TAKE CARE and stay calm..๐Ÿงก

  3. I absolutely love reading your stories and you write it so well like a novel…๐Ÿค”maybe there is a book to be written Katie๐Ÿ‘food for thought..I would definitely buy …Congratulations on selling your home in the UK ๐Ÿ˜€

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