Season Blog: Working the Winter in the French Alps

Season Blog: Working the Winter in the French Alps
Part 1
By Ian Fehler

The first in a series of Season Blogs, we get the inside story of what it's really like to work a winter season. In this introductory post, Ian and his wife prove that it's not just 18 year old gap year students who can enjoy ski resort life, as they head out to Morzine on a new adventure.

Ian, about to devour a powder field

After I finished University 10 Years ago, I spent five years travelling around the world, spending time in the States, Australia, the Pacific and Europe.  Highlights included scuba dive instructing in the Caribbean and on the Great Barrier Reef and ski guiding in the Alps. Low points included selling encyclopaedias door-to-door in Melbourne & pot scrubbing the world over!

I did three previous winter seasons between 1998-2001 in the Trois Vallées and Colorado, and it was during my second season when I was resort manager in Mottaret for Skiworld that I met my wife, Deborah, an Aussie who was one of my chalet hosts.  We travelled for a while and did our final season together in the States.

After this Deborah had to head back to Australia as her visa had expired, so I decided to immigrate to Australia, and we got married in 2002 in South Australia. We bought a house in Adelaide, got a Spaniel called Daisy, and I got a job working in insurance, which was fairly interesting, especially after I moved into the Fraud and Investigations department.

Unfortunately though, we both just started to miss the mountains a little too much, and the brief trips to New Zealand and the Australian Alps were just not enough of a snow fix. There is also a shortage of snow in Adelaide, so the only thing that kept me sane was throwing myself into mountain biking. We ended up meeting a great group of friends through the mountain biking and we did enjoy being settled for a while. However, I finally decided that after three years working in an office, I just needed to get back to the real world one last time. It must have been something to do with hitting 30 years of age!
So, in May 2006 I took a year long break from my job, we sold all our furniture and most of our possessions, rented out our house in Adelaide, and headed back to Europe. We spent the summer working in the French Alps in the Flaine/Morzine region. This was where Deborah got the raw end of the deal; I was working as a mountain biking guide, whereas she got to cook, clean and run a chalet for 16 guests. She had to do this on her own and hardly ever got out to enjoy the mountains. I loved the summer, but she was not so much of a fan!

We both really liked Morzine as a summer resort though, and decided it would be a great place to do a winter season; Deborah was keen not to be left with all the hard work this time!
Thus, this winter we have headed back to Morzine, to run a chalet for 16 people between us. Deborah is keen to be the 'head chef' and my role is the host/cleaner/driver/wine monitor! We are working for a small company called 'Ride & Slide' and are hoping it is going to be a fantastic winter.

We have heard great things about the snowboarding in Morzine and are both looking forward to exploring the place. The season also will be very different from previous seasons, as we are no longer working for a big ski company, but instead a small luxury chalet company. During the season we also will have weeks where we have journalists and pro riders coming to test equipment staying at our chalet, and two weeks where we will be hosting snowboard training camps, which should certainly add interest to the season. I just hope we can get out on the snow enough, and fingers crossed the snow comes soon!
This winter could be very important for our future- if the winter goes well and we both enjoy it in Morzine then we hope to stay on for the foreseeable future and live and work there, and will get our dog Daisy flown over from Australia. But if it doesn't end up working for us, then we may well have to head back to Adelaide to our old house, and I will have to return to work in the insurance industry… I really pray it works out this winter!

Ian and wife Deborah

Ian is working for Ride and Slide chalets in Morzine, stayed tuned for his next instalment.