The un-glamour of ski town life

There’s this strange glamour to living in a ski resort, amongst those who spend a week or two a year in the mountains. It’s one of the only two responses you will ever get from people back home. If it’s not crushing disappointment, then it’s definitely the wistful ‘oh, I wish I had been able to do that…’. As if the choice has only just popped into existence and you’ve missed the window of opportunity.

There were still ski resorts in the 80s, Janet. Nobody forced you to go and work for Goldman Sachs.

The reality that those people always overlook, is that living in a ski town can be tough. Janet from Goldman Sachs is imagining living in a ski town on her current salary, with a cushy chalet and a maid to clean up after her. Local jobs very rarely include investment banking; instead, get used to the other side of the table, because almost everyone who lives in a ski town works in the service industry. You can imagine long hours spent on the mountain, and evenings spent sitting around in a bar next to a roaring fire, all you want. You’re still almost certainly going to be working in a bar, restaurant, or chalet.

Get used to cleaning, Janet, because that’s one of the most consistent jobs going.

Even if you luck out and lock down a job on the mountain, you’ll still probably be working long hours for minimal pay. Forget those filet steaks, Janet. You’re not earning enough to go to those restaurants. If you eat out at all, it’s at the local joints. The ones where the staff know you well enough to occasionally give you mates rates. The truth is, nobody moves to a ski town to get rich.

The other main downside to working service industry jobs, is that the hours are almost entirely terrible. Between early mornings, late nights and the odd thirteen hours straight of cleaning, serving, cooking and whatever else might be required, you’ll be burning the candle at both ends just to get time on the mountain. Add the hours you’ll spend drinking, and you might as well kiss goodbye to a regular sleep schedule. Sleep is for the weak. It has no place in a ski town.

All that, and we haven’t even got into the huge, glaring inter-season problem.

Yes, inter-season. The time every local loves and dreads in equal measure. There are roughly four months out of every year in between the summer and the winter seasons, in which everything shuts. During those times, resorts become blissfully quiet, and the only faces you see are the ones you actually want to spend time with. It’s the part of the year that you spend every long hour working your fingers to the bone, looking forward to. The bit where the work disappears and you get to slow down just a little. If you plan on visiting family, or travelling, this is the time to do it.

The jobs all but disappear for two months, and therein lies the issue.

You had better spend all season saving, because income’s going to be in short supply during the off-season. Which is unfortunate, because you’ll also be spending all your time in the three seasonaire bars still open. By the time the tourists start returning for the new season, you’ll be so skint that you’ll almost be pleased to see them.

Even through all that though, the feelings of invisibility and the rude tourists, the bad hours and the low pay, it’ll still be worth it to wake up every morning and see mountains. It’s just not a lifestyle that comes without drawbacks, and if Janet from Goldman Sachs is really serious about giving up big city life, she should be properly informed.

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