By Chloe Hardy
It takes a lot of people to run a ski resort. We caught up with a few of the people working on the slopes and behind the scenes in Morzine, Avoriaz and Les Gets to find out what they do and how they do it.
CHRISTELLE COMBÉPINE – HOTELIER AND INDEPENDENT SKI LIFT OPERATOR – LES GETS
I don’t have a single job. I have several! I’ve run Teleski de la Turche with my father since 2009. It’s the last independently owned ski lift in Les Gets and it’s been in my family since 1946. In 2015 I bought an old hotel, La Grande Laniere, with my partner. We’ve refurbished the entire hotel and in February 2018 we received a three-star rating. I’ve been a municipal councillor in Les Gets since 2014. I also practiced law until 2008 so now I help other private ski lift owners across France who are having legal difficulties.
In the winter I work intensely doing two jobs. For example, I start my day at the hotel overseeing breakfast. Then I prepare to open the teleski with my dad and his colleague Franck. We have to do technical checks every day before we open to the public. I spend my day between the teleski and the hotel, doing admin and looking after guests. After the teleski is closed, I go back to the hotel to see the guests and work on the reception. Sometimes I go to meetings at the Mairie in the evenings, too. Unfortunately I have very little time to ski, which is a shame when you work at the foot of the pistes!
The best part about my job is working in a beautiful place, with great people and guests. There’s a lot of solidarity in the mountain environment, particularly amongst lift operators. I am very lucky to meet lots of different people from all over the world in both my jobs. It’s so enriching to work in an international environment and it’s a beautiful thing to form relationships with so many guests.
STEVEN PONTING – SKI PATROL – LES GETS
I’ve been a ski patroller for six years and a mountain bike instructor for eight. My main responsibilities as a patroller are to check the ski pistes are safe every day, and secure avalanche prone areas if there is an elevated risk, either by manually setting off slides or using explosives. Throughout the day we respond to rescue requests for injured skiers, snowboarders, walkers and sledgers. The first task is finding the victim, which can be difficult, especially if they’re off-piste. Second is assessing the injuries of the victim, then requesting the appropriate backup, equipment and evacuation method.
Becoming a ski patroller isn’t easy, the entry test is the hardest part. You ski an off-piste course set out on a black run and are judged by groups of other ski patrollers. You have to ski fast but be in control at the same time, showing that you have correct technique and can go fast if necessary.
The best part of my job is being on skis or a bike and outside every day. Plus, riding fresh powder before the resort opens, riding a snowmobile and meeting lots of new people!
I’ve seen many injuries in the winter. It’s crazy all the things that can happen to the human body, sometimes even the doctors don’t believe it. Like the time someone dislocated both their hips and all the doctor kept saying was, “this isn’t possible.” But what I find really interesting are the different ways people react to being injured, like when a twelve-year-old is lying in the snow with three broken vertebrae, totally calm, telling his dad, “calm down, everything will be fine.”
AURELIE BERTHOLIER – PRESS AND COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER – AVORIAZ OFFICE DE TOURISME
I am responsible for press and communication for Avoriaz. Before this, I worked as a freelance photographer, specialising in snow sports. You’ll find some of my photos on the Avoriaz website.
I keep the international press informed of what’s going on and what’s new in Avoriaz, so I supervise digital communication both within and outside of the resort and I maintain all the editorial aspects of the Avoriaz 1800 brand, like press releases and resort guides. I’m also in charge of photo and video content.
I love working with journalists from all over the world. I also really enjoy the process of creating marketing campaigns; from coming up with an idea to sharing it with the world. That’s really rewarding. But finding the time to do everything can be pretty difficult!
I get to do so many different things in this job, but I really enjoyed my first report on architecture, which I worked on with the magazine AD Architecture. I was able to follow all the interviews and I learned lots about Avoriaz’s eco-responsibilities and unique buildings. The future of our resorts is definitely eco-responsibility. We need to protect our mountains.
There’s lots of exciting things going on this winter, but the one I’m looking forward to the most has to be the free barbecue space and new play area in the Lil’Stash. I have as much fun there as the kids do and I love relaxing in the forest during my lunch break!
Check out Aurelie’s photos on Instagram.
NEIL SHARP – PARK SHAPER – AVORIAZ
This winter will be my fourth season working at the Avoriaz Snowzone. Our daily tasks involve opening the parks, reshaping the jumps and features, helping clients, testing the modules and even emptying the bins. From time to time you can add helping with events, driving a skidoo, welding, tree surgery, wearing the Shreddie outfit and a whole host of other random tasks.
The weather can sometimes make work very difficult. Too much or not enough snow. Too much wind. Too cloudy. We get it all. If the mountain is busy and combined with hot and sunny weather, then it can make a big difference to the workload. It all depends on the snow conditions really. But working outside in such a beautiful place is the best part. Even though the view is the same, it changes daily, if not hourly, with the weather. It’s also great to be able to snowboard every day.
One of the most memorable moments for me was during an interseason. I was helping one of the pisteurs work on the gas cannons (for setting off avalanches). There was snow on the ground and we had to get to the top of the shoulder between Pointe de Vorlaz and the Brochaux lift to change out the empty gas canisters. It turns out the most efficient way to do this is by helicopter. So we got picked up from the side of the Avoriaz road, dropped at the top and changed the canisters over. The helicopter came and picked up the empties, and we had no choice but to snowboard and ski back down to the bottom of the Brochaux. I basically got to go heli-skiing and got paid for it!
FRED RICHARD – COMMERCIAL MANAGER – LE PLENEY MORZINE
I’ve worked as commercial manager at the Pleney since 2011 after taking some time out from my job as an architect to do a season. After a winter spent working at the lift pass office my boss told me there was a new job available so I took it!
My main duties are running the cash desks, managing the website, working with tour operators, large groups and school groups, managing contracts and advertising. We’re a small structure but at the same time we’re dealing with millions of Euros and thousands of people. In the winter we have 170 employees but just three or four in the office. We’re all very enthusiastic so it’s good and exciting most of the time, but sometimes we’re very busy!
My main goal in my work is to improve our communication with the public, keep people better informed of what we’re doing and what we can offer. We’ve worked on our customer service a lot over the past few years and now we have a mixture of French natives and international English speakers on the cash desks so we can help international customers more effectively. This year our fidelity points system is totally online, which makes it much easier for customers to access and use their points. We’ve also changed some of the pistes this winter to make them a bit more exciting in some areas but gentle for beginners in others, so look out for a few changes on the piste map! And for the first time we’re offering a beginners’ pass, which lets first-time skiers and snowboarders use the beginner areas on the Pleney for a reduced price.
In terms of the future, we’re trying to to diversify our activities. We’re working hard on our summer activities and this autumn we did lots of work on the mountain bike trails, so this summer we can develop new tracks with professional advisers. In the winter we’re trying to be open to more activities, like ski touring, splitboarding and walking.
Visit ski-morzine.com for more information.