Its the end of February! How is this even possible! The season is literally speeding along and we are now in our 3rd month in the mountains and I feel like I blinked and missed it! The more time that goes by the more I feel thankful for writing the blog to remember all that’s been happening!
Its quite interesting to see how life and its priorities change in the mountain seasonaire bubble. How a simple guest arrival time on changeover day can make or break the team.
On Sunday each week I have a meeting with the owner to run through the next guest arrivals. We talk about everything from dietary requirements, ski passes and equipment hire, special requests, bed set ups (singles/ doubles), transfer information and expected arrival time!
I also get to hear a little about the guests themselves. Have they stayed with us before, where they are from and if the groups are mixed friends or small families. Its a great way to get a bit of a head start in terms of what to expect.
Sundays are an admin heavy day as its also the time to balance all the accounts ready for filing – for those that know me well you will remember how much I love a good spreadsheet! 🙂 We track weekly and season spend for each chalet – I find all the data analysis stuff super interesting and consequently create lots of visuals to monitor trends.
Once I have the information for the next check ins I can then break it down and provide each chalet team with the data they need to plan their menus and the working week to best support the guests.
Its also the point at which I get asked the ‘make or break’ question…what time are the new guests arriving?!?
Now. I had no idea previously but my answer to that question and how I present the information can have such an impact on the team moral!
You see, changeover days are notoriously long and physically taxing. The team gets very little down time on Saturdays. If guests are scheduled to arrive early (pre 1pm) or late (post 5pm) the news is typically met with enthusiasm. If however the guests arrive between 1 and 5 then the response is not so enthusiastic…
It basically means that the teams need to hang around in the chalet once the change over is complete and wait for the guests to arrive which reduces their down time and break in between shifts.
This week though I came up with a cunning plan!
It involved me locking myself in a chalet with a good book and a brew.
One chalet this week had a 3pm arrival so to give the teams a little downtime between guests one chalet I swapped with them and took my book and brew and chilled in 5* luxury for a few hours while I waiting for the guests to show up. Its a hard life on occasion! 😛 I am always happy to ‘take one for the team’ and relax on a comfy sofa with a trashy novel…and English TV!
My favourite dietary request so far this season has to be the vegan that would like some turkey on Christmas day! A super chilled guest who turned vegan out of a moral obligation to help save the planet but who’s Christmas Day would not be complete without a slice of Turkey…
Two new things happened this week!
Our new Chalet Host arrived and so I have been re-promoted once again and I got some new snowboard boots after my old ones started to cut off my circulation!
I am fairly confident that no money ever leaves the mountains.
As soon as pay day arrives most of the seasonaires that I know go out and buy new shiny things almost immediately. Thus far I have resisted the urge but alas I could hold out no longer…I am telling myself its an investment!
In all seriousness, I am managing to save quite a lot of what I am earning over here. Aside from hot chocolate, beer and shiny equipment there is not a whole lot to spend your money on. Its still quiet an odd feeling however to be earning about the same amount of money each month as I did in my fist ever job out of university as an inexperienced filing clerk some 15 years ago…
Back to the new person!
A great addition to the team! It amazed me how many applications we got for the role. What surprised me even more was the significantly higher number of guys applying than girls and how few applicants actually read the job description…
What potential recruits don’t fully appreciate is the time it takes to actually recruit. Reading every CV, interviewing, references…admin generally. Its exhausting and time consuming. Therefore, if you are reading this blog with a view to perhaps doing a season…please for the love of all that is important in the world….read the job description!
You mind find the following tips helpful in your job search:
- Personalise your application
- Tailor your cover letter/ CV to the job you are applying for
- Get to know about the company you have applied to work for
- Understand the job you are applying for and make sure you have the right qualifications/ experience
- Follow up on all applications
- Ask for feedback
- READ THE JOB DESCRIPTION
Its not rocket science but I am learning that job applications are a big thing. An entire industry exists solely to help you get the job you already found and want to apply for.
Something slightly unexpected also happened this week and a Cadbury Creme Egg from the foreign food counter came to the rescue!
Not once since we started this big adventure have I felt ‘home’ sick. We brought our ‘home’ with us when we hit the road in our motorhome in May 2019 and its all been very exciting and hectic since we left. Almost not enough time to even think about what we might be missing.
This week I had a bit of a personal low. Nothing in particular bringing me down really but I was just momentarily overcome with a lack of familiarity. France is our home and where my heart belongs but on a seriously dull day in the mountains where the drizzle blocked the view I got a feeling that I needed something ‘familiar’.
One of my regular tasks is shopping for last minute things that the team needs, normally due to dietary changes (see above Pollo-pesc!). This specific demand resulted in a trip down the mountain to the local supermarket…wandering aimlessly, feeling a bit sorry for myself with no real justification and collecting the bits I needed I found myself in the ‘foreign food’ aisle.
There, like a beacon of light was a wealth of familiar UK food stuffs. Not least of which some Cadbury’s Creme Eggs! Two creme eggs later and a quiet moment in the car park surrounded by no one but radio playing the song Fast Cars (a personal favourite tune of mine) and the cloud lifted and so did my spirits! Folk-law suggests that an apple/ glass of wine (fill in your own here) a day keeps the doctor away…for me it was a creme egg! Its the small things!
That time is now! My Photography was always going to come with us to France but perhaps not in the same vein as was previously. A booking for a wedding in the summer kick started a revamp of my website and bringing back online all the things I loved about my company.
Its so lovely to be visually creative again so watch this space as the website is progressing nicely. Photography is not only my true passion but also a big part of our long term plans over here.
House update…waiting for exchange…its a lot like waiting for paint to dry… we have now been waiting for over a week. Each day the very well paid solicitors and estate agents tell us – “today’s the day”
We continue to wait…but we are very quickly running out of time to make it all work. The delays are unbelievably stressful and having almost no control over the situation is a really uncomfortable feeling. Our families are all lined up in the UK to move us out of our house and into storage, everything is in place and ready to go but we are in limbo.
The past few days have been filled with ‘what if’ conversations. What if we move out before exchange and it all falls through..what if we wait until exchange happens before we move out but then we wont have the resource in place to actually do it and we will have to fly back to the UK. So many what-ifs! It felt a bit like the ultimate gamble with no obvious winning bet.
Whatever option we choose to go with there are financial implications. In the end it came down to a leap of faith that the sale would happen and we set the move out plan in motion incurring all sorts of costs but keeping everything crossed that our leap would not result in failure.
Sometimes you can’t control everything and you just have to go with the flow…many sleepless nights of going with the flow!
Its actually quite odd selling a house and not purchasing another immediately! The chain is broken! The excitement of the next chapter will continue for a good while yet which is ace!
The house hunting in France has ramped up now. We have a spreadsheet of all the properties we have found that we are interested in and they have been ranked against various criteria. I love a spot of analysis! It feels like the number of people searching for property in France has significantly increased recently. All the forums are buzzing with folks that want to move before the end of the year. I am hoping he additional competition does not make our lives harder!
Part of the analysis is all about business potential. We can’t afford to retire yet so whatever we buy will need to sustain us financially.
A huge perk of the winter jobs we are doing is the level of exposure that we are getting to the business side of things. Its a massive learning curve but invaluable. For example the cost of laundry is astronomical! But on the flip side we now know the average catering costs for guests and the sort of food they would expect should we provide catered accommodation in the future.
When we were initially job hunting for the winter season we got talking to a lady with a property in Morzine. She offered us exclusive use of the 10 bed chalet in exchange for a fixed price for 6 months. We would be responsible for selling the beds and providing any services to the guests but we would keep any profit left after she had been paid.
At the time we felt it was a bit beyond us given our level of experience and didn’t want to wipe out a large percentage of our savings on something totally unknown so we opted out. Turns out that this is quite standard practice in the mountains. Not many chalet companies actually own their accommodation – they lease it from the owners for a fixed term/ price contract.
Also turns out that this way of doing business is on decline due to an over saturation of properties in the mountains and a reduction in independent chalet companies. The new offering is a profit share scheme where the financial liability is shared between the property owner and the business owner. All quite fascinating and yet another insight that would not be possible without working in the industry.
We still have so much to learn but each step brings us closer to our forever dream and we hope you stick with us on the journey!
Much love Katie & Dan
You can find out what we did last week here