So it’s already been a good few weeks since I left the mountains in the Alps after my 8th winter season to return to the UK. When most of my other friends(those with children and proper jobs) are looking forward to the summer I return with, quite literally, a sense of dread and somewhat depressed that it will be at least another 6 months before I get to go back out there. I’ve packed away my waxing iron and have no intention of using any other such iron until I see the white stuff again. As a chalet host the end of season not only means I miss the skiing terribly but it coincides with missing the friends I have made who seem to, all of a sudden, know me better than anyone else. They have seen me at my best, shredding powder making that ridiculous noise of excitement I just can’t seem to contain, to my worst, either crying over a badly cooked cake or into a dirty toilet in a seasonnaire pub. Boom...that’s it season over. I’m home, how am I going to survive?
I am always surprised by the intensity of the emotions I feel at the end of a season. Yes, some seasons have been better than others, but in general it usually feels pretty awful, like I have just been dumped by my ski/board God of a boyfriend who has tired of his winter fling only to replace me with a much fitter, tanned version who probably likes mountain biking. I should know better as during a season you can’t help but develop close relationships with people you work, live, ski/board and socialise with, to the extent they feel like a family who are now scattered across the country in places you have never heard of before. Suddenly I feel like an outsider as people in the shops (and this has genuinely happened to me) laugh out loud at my dirty goggle tan, which to be fair can be pretty horrendous. I look around and it seems everyone is wearing grey, black or navy blue. Where has all the colour gone? I am polite and ask people what they have been up to but I quickly realise not much has changed although five months has gone by. Totally unprepared, I am bombarded with the media that I don’t want to see as it just makes me feel worse, and with shinning things that I don’t need to make me happy. With complete and utter sorrow I realise I have returned from an incredible place where I have watched the sunrise over the mountains (although admittedly I may have been washing up at the time) and had the opportunity to meet awesome people and experience the peace and tranquillity only nature can offer.
I spend the first few weeks trying to understand why I feel this bad and trying to convince myself that there were hard times and bad days during the winter season too, mainly when I was angry that my hangover meant I wasn’t out on the hill. However the reality of it is that working a season is just so dam good and now I am simply grieving its loss (at bit like how I felt after we decided to leave the EU!). I miss the mindless and totally pointless conversations and the shared frustrations you have as a chalet host, I miss laughing with my guests, I miss acting like a teenager again with very few concerns other than when will it next snow, and will my shopping turning up, I miss fancy dress nights and group cuddles whilst watching films. I miss being a seasonniare.
Now hang on, before this all becomes a bit doom and gloom, I finally get a grip, rediscover my emotional maturity and keep things in perspective, and this is how I do it:
1. I sort out all my photos and video’s from the season. It makes me smile to look back at them and then post them, tagging people for total respect on their skiing or boarding achievements and experiences or sometimes just for utter humiliation.
2. I sleep...a lot. It’s surprising how trying working as a chalet host can be and returning home I feel physically and mentally knackered, so I make the most of someone else cooking for me and I lie in and watch some crap on TV until I can’t take it any more (which actually isn’t very long).
3. I get busy seeing my family and my friends but try and not talk about myself and what I have done too much as it just sounds either big headed or just simply strange out of context.
4. I love to see everyone again back on home turf so try to organise a reunion to look forward to. Just because people have returned to their old life’s doesn’t mean they are no longer your friends.
5. I eat all the things I have missed, mainly Cornish pasties and cheddar cheese, and then I realise I have had enough of eating badly and that I want to feel healthy again. So I detox, nothing formal or fancy I just simply eat more simply and try and not drink too much, well no where near as much as I was in the winter. The benefits of this are that it is my first step towards thinking about next season.
6. Eating well leads me to getting fit. I have spent the last 6 months working a pretty physical job and then skiing as much as possible. I have legs of steel but I know my summer does not force me into such a relentless routine so I need to take the initiative and get active. I start back at the gym and do more yoga and cardio. Often I discover I have more ambition and now the time to try something new that will improve my skiing/boarding next season (like going to a trampoline park or just doing shit loads of squats again).
7. Igo outside. Yes I miss the fresh mountain air but there are some beautiful places to walk, hike, run, cycle or whatever back here, so I try and get back to nature.
8. I start to buy stuff for next winter. Its summer which means the sales are on. I can get excited about the new changes in design that will make me look and perform better next year. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard in the summer, but most of what I save goes on equipment and gear for next winter.
9. Finally I find it good to start something new or focus on a project. This summer I have gone big and have set up a new business with my boyfriend Steve. We are launching a new chalet hosting and cookery school called Fresh Tracks to help others who have a love of winter sports to learn the role. We are busy setting up contacts and networks and advertising our product, and we are proud to link with The Board Basement to attract people like you who are reading this blog to find out more about how you could make the most of your time in the mountains as a seasonnaire. It will not only keep me busy for the summer months but it will stop me watching too much ski porn, well until a little later in the year anyway.
So if you are thinking about working a season as a chalet host then get in touch with us and see how we can help you, and if you have returned from a winter season be kind to others and remember the fun and friendships you found in the mountains and try and bring a bit of that to your summer. I will be healthier, fitter and stronger, look better but above all I will be humble and modest about my season life as I don’t want everyone to find out how good it actually is.....or now come to think of it with the start up of Fresh Tracks, perhaps I do!
(Some of the pictures included in this blog are from our friend and professional photographer James Rushforth)