Each year as the ski season draws near, hordes of young women (and men too) descend on my region - I live less than two hours from major Western Alpine resorts - in search of room, board and free ski passes.
Some will find those coveted ski resort jobs, others will not and move on, unable to afford the high prices of mountain life in season.
So if you're a skier and can do something others cannot, this is your chance to market it.
If you're a qualified ski instructor, head straight for the ski school.
If you have any other official qualification - as a sommeliere, a certified nanny, a cordon bleu chef or a hospitality professional, you'll be far better positioned so snag one of those snowy jobs.
The same goes for any sports-related activity or anything that helps skiers ski better. If you're a massage therapist, you'll find it easier to get hired. Same thing goes for a sports coach, yoga teacher, spa assistant, especially if you're qualified - or if you can prove extensive experience.
Even if you don't have a physical skill or formal qualification, plenty of ski resort jobs may still be within your reach. Can you juggle? Sing? Paint? Tend bar? The ritzier resorts often hire entertainment or support staff to keep their wealthy clients - and their little ones - healthy and amused. A relative of mine once made a decent living as a photographer in Zermatt, so whatever your skill, brush it up and get an edge over the competition.
What if you can't do any of the above? There's almost always work for 'chalet girls' - cleaning house, taking care of guests, shopping and cooking. It's not the most glamorous thing to do but often comes with a free ski pass for your day off - and you'll be in the snow and mountains round the clock.
I spoke to Philippa Smith, Managing Director of Silver Swan, an upmarket recruitment agency for ski villa and chalet personnel. I asked her a few questions and heres what she had to say.
Women on the Road: What is the standard profile for a ski chalet job?
Philippa: Any woman can secure a ski chalet job – the type of job, the level of job and the pay would all depend on the level of their experience. The luxury chalet market requires candidates with some good 5* service/housekeeping experience. However, the mid-market chalet market just asks for friendly, hardworking individuals. Some kind of hospitality experience though is always an added bonus and will help in all job applications.
WOTR: Is there an age limit?
Philippa: There isn't an age limit as such but most companies offer shared accommodation so would recruit staff of similar ages. For a woman who has hospitality experience, is friendly and hardworking and happy with the often very low salaries on offer, age shouldn’t be an issue.
WOTR: What's the best way to find one of these jobs?
Philippa: Firstly write a good CV with all relevant experience at the top of the CV – anything hospitality-based should go first. A photo must also be attached. Then a lot of job hunting can be done on ski specialist job boards – Natives, Ski Jobs, Season Workers (see the Resources section below). Here you will find lists of vacancies for the ski industry. Alternatively come and register with Silver Swan Recruitment and we will help with your CV, then match you to our suitable vacancies and arrange your interviews on your behalf. I would always recommend calling the company you plan to apply to prior to sending your CV, it helps you be remembered.
WOTR: What is the most important factor?
Philippa: Work ethic is key. Working in a ski chalet is hard work (it's the hardest job I have ever had!) and there are daily challenges: you are tired, you want to ski but sometimes can’t and the pay is terrible. BUT if you work hard, keep on top of things, have a good relationship with your team and in return have happy guests, then hit the slopes on your time off……then it makes it all worthwhile!
WOTR: What is an automatic NO - who would you definitely not hire, and why?
Philippa: We would not employ someone with poor references. References are incredibly important to us as they reflect how a candidate has performed in previous roles. You must also have the right attitude – being difficult or rude at interview stage is not going to make us want to help you.
And there you have it, straight from a top recruiter!
Here are a few more tips to put success on your side.
If none of these avenues work for you, you can just show up. If you're not European, this might be one of the few ways you'll actually find a job. Someone who accepted a job back in July may have changed her mind by November, leaving employers in the lurch. It happens.
If you show up in the right place at the right time, there's a chance you might find a job right then and there. If resorts are desperate to fill slots at the last minute, they may turn a blind eye to your non-European passport or even try to get you a temporary permit on the basis that no Europeans are available.
Often, ski jobs come by word of mouth so make sure you network!
It's a great way to meet the people you need to know - those who already have jobs and can provide you with information. Many ski resort staffers do this several years in a row so they'll be great sources of information, since they've been there, done that.
And don't forget to visit the resorts' own websites. I know it's obvious but sometimes we neglect that. Most resorts have their own websites and some are huge, complete with job offers and valuable housing information. Barring that, some umbrella sites like Ifyouski cover a range of resorts so they can be a one-stop site for you as well as a great source of information for names, phone numbers and email addresses.
If you are a non-EU citizen, you can apply for a seasonal work permit in the hospitality industry for under six months. Here are some additional resources that might help in your job hunt.