On my second season in Val d’Isere, while being at an apres-ski bar (this is an occurring theme with Si, as you will find out in this article), I met Si. Quickly, we both realised that we had heard of each other through other people because we enjoy the same kind of riding but had somehow never met each other. We managed to bond very quickly and have remained super close since. Even though he has taken a step in the wrong direction of working in the city (boo) he still remains as passionate about snowboarding as he did when he first did a season all those years ago. His favourite (and probably only) trick is a backflip and as much as I hate to say it, he does them pretty well. I recently caught up with Si to chat about his experiences as a seasonaire and to provide some tips for people who are excited for their experience of a lifetime.
Sasha: What is your history of snowboarding?
Si: My brother and sister had both done seasons and I was really excited to see what all the fuss was about as soon as I finished school. I did my first season on my gap year and worked as a chalet host in Tignes. While at uni, I was the snowboard captain and took part in a lot of competitions. After uni, I went on to do another 4 seasons in Val d’Isere, while working as a rep for a big tour operator for 2 seasons and then finished it off by working at a ski rental called Snowberry.
Sasha: Wow! That is a lot! Can you describe what the experiences in the Alps were like?
Si: They were amazing. In short - you get to have the time of your life, surrounded by people that want the same thing and snowboard every day. It’s paradise! The only thing that is missing is some time for yourself. There is not a single calm moment during the 6 months that you spend there. As a chalet host you wake up, make breakfast, then go riding after the guests go. Post riding, come the compulsory post-riding beers and then the dinner service. After dinner it is back out and for more drinking. 2 am is considered an early night and at least 3 times per week it’s ‘Dick’s (Dick’s Tea Bar is a nightclub in Val d’Isere) till Six’, which means a big night out. Most of the days you are not just drunk but sloppy drunk. God I sound like an alcoholic! Anyway, in any other place, you would be in a world of pain, but not in the mountains. The mixture of fresh air, adrenaline and fun while riding the next day is the best hangover cure there could ever be. Getting a group of friends together to ride together with makes it all the better. Not only does it make it more fun, but you also get inspired and motivated.
As I said before, each one of the seasons I have done has been different. The first one, at 18 years old, was a good lesson for me. I was young and naive and therefore the season was a big lesson for me. You get to live with 6 other lads that you have never met before for 6 months in one apartment. It was super easy to get on. Those people become sort of your family for the next 6 months and you end up doing everything together, and I mean EVERYTHING, which was a laugh in itself. It also taught me to not take things too seriously. I remember when I was 18 and got bothered to not be let off work as early as my friends and there was this 23 year old who was like ‘Oh, who cares, it’s only 20 minutes and we will still get to go and enjoy everything Val d’Isere has to offer.’ Made the season much more relaxing and not as rushed.
After Uni I ended up doing 4 seasons in Val d’Isere. It was completely different. The whole seasonaire community ended up becoming like a family and therefore it drew me back to do more and more seasons. I got to have everything that I wanted at my doorstep - a mix of passion, playground and great friends all mixed into one. I wouldn’t choose any other place over it. You actually never know who you will meet on your season and what sort of connections will be created. I worked 2 different jobs there - as a rep for a large tour operator and as a ski tech at Snowberry. While working for a tour op, you get to be part of a big community of seasonaires and therefore an easier time getting to know people. It was a great start to ease into the life of a seasonaire. Working for Snowberry provided me with more time because it was not as full on. Both were great and both provided me with some incredible memories!
Sasha: You are right about not knowing who you can meet and not having a clue about how deep the connection can go. Look how far we have come! Now onto another question, what has been your craziest story in Val d’Isere?
Si: There are a few. The one that stands out the most was a story from one of the team trips organised by the tour operator I worked for. It is a tradition that some time in February, on a day off, most of the staff get together and a trip to a town called Annecy is organised. Everyone from the company gets together, which includes not only staff from Val d’Isere, but also from all the other ski resorts where they are operational. The usual proceedings are that everyone is dropped off in the centre of Annecy and there is a game of rounders in the field by the lake. On this particular occasion, it was pouring down with rain and therefore the game of rounders was not on the cards. The next best alternative was to go to a bar. There is a tradition that normally goes hand in hand with this outing, which is to get as drunk as humanly possible before or even during the coach trip to Annecy. I, along with some of my friends, decided to take this one step further. We started drinking the night before. One of the bars in Val d’Isere hold a yearly DJ competition and our friend Archie was taking part. So we had to go and show support. Obviously this night turned into one of the ‘Dick’s till Six’ kind of nights and the next thing I know is I am being woken up by my roommate in a rush saying that the coach was going to leave without me. This was a bit of a blessing in disguise for me as I was in charge of the coach and therefore it had to wait for me.
So when on the coach, feeling hungover as hell, I had to sit right at the front with all the people in charge. We, however, were prepared. We had poured some concoction of drinks the night before to be consumed on the bus, which takes around two-two and a half hours. These two hours passed in a blur, mixed with a lot of gagging and feeling sick. Safe to say I was well and truly inebriated by the time we got to Annecy because I confessed my undying love to our area manager upon arrival, or so the witnessesses tell me as I have no recollection of this whatsoever. Next few hours we ended up trying out the wide array of bars that are available in Annecy. However the problem was that we did not leave any of them on our own accord but instead we were getting kicked out due to me being the ‘Village Monkey’ and getting glasses stuffed inside my jacket and me not realising due to my state. All of a sudden, I also realised 2 things: I had lost my favourite blue hat and also it started smelling like shit no matter where I turned to. I was very confused as to why, in the centre of town, there would be such a strong smell of shit and asked for help from my fellow drinkers, only to find out that the smell was coming from me. I still had no idea why but carried on drinking. After getting kicked out and running along the lake, jumping around and nearly falling in on numerous times, I decided it was time for me to have some fun. I had been in contact with a lady from another ski resort that worked for the same ski company and we quickly realised we both liked each other. So we decided to meet and seal the deal. In hindsight I actually feel sorry for her just because of the state I was in. Anyway, we found a hotel online and met up there. Due to it being a proper establishment, they were unable to offer us a room for an hour and we had to settle for a overnight room at a hefty price of €150-per-night. Being drunk and with some female company, I agreed. We went up to the room and were in the process of the act, when my phone started ringing. It was a mate of mine telling me that the coach was about to leave. This meant that we had to quickly get dressed and run towards the pickup point of the coaches in order not to miss it.
Again, due to me being chosen to be in charge of the coach, I had to sit at the front of the coach. Half-way through the journey I felt a lump in my pocket. Low and behold I found my hat. However inside it was a little surprise. It was full of the feces that I kept on smelling everywhere. Not understanding how this happened, I tried to show this surprise to the bus driver. He, obviously, was shocked, swerved the bus, nearly crashing, and then looked at me like I was mental. The second best option was to stand up in the middle of the bus, with the microphone that the excursionists normally have to point out all the sights, and scream at the top of my lungs: “Who pooed in my hat?”. It is also important to remember that the bus was half full with people that I didn’t know due to them being stationed at other resorts. As you can imagine, everyone was hysterical and some even tried to claim it was them just to see my reaction.
In the end the story takes a good turn because upon arrival, we carried on drinking more and ended up having a great night out and a memorable story for the rest of my life.
Sasha: I am speechless but I guess that's just typical you Si. Next, could you give us some of your top tips for being on a ski season?
Si: Well, the main one for me is to be out riding as much as possible. As I had mentioned before, it is a great hangover cure and just an all round fun way to spend your days. When else in your life will you be able to just get back to your apartment from work, put on your gear, take your board and just go for a ride? No matter the weather, conditions or anything - just go! I had some of the best days when it was a complete white out and you just reach the top of the cloud, pop through it and you are greeted with blue skies and, what looks like, a cloud sea. That view is amazing and if you have never seen it before, it is one for the books! Another thing that you can do on a bad weather day is to find a safe place that is full of powder and build a kicker with a bunch of your friends. This will help you because, as long as there is nothing on the landing, you can just try any trick you want and the chances of you getting hurt are pretty much none! You can try flips, rotations or just silly jumps and get away with it all. Some fun days have been had this way.
Some other personal tips include:
Ride with people better than you are. This way you will always be able to progress and get your level up. It will also help you see the mountain differently. Once I started riding with people, who’s level was higher than mine, I started noticing more side hits and fun jibs that you can find everywhere on the mountain. The riding just becomes so much more fun!
Next tip is for beginners - when looking for a job, try and find one with a big tour operator. Chances are that there will also be someone who is new to skiing or snowboarding and you can push each other to learn and join the rest of your friends quicker on top of the mountain.
Next tip is that if you are serious about riding then make sure to invest into your own gear. Boots are always a good start for skiers and boarders because they provide so much more comfort. Skis/Board are also a great investment and will definitely help you get better at riding. If you are low on money, try to find some last year models or find some cheaper brands. There are also end of season sales that start around April if it is already into the second half of the season and you still have not committed to purchasing any gear.
Next is the standard one. Be friendly. It is easy to just get stuck to hanging out with your clique of people who you work, eat and sleep with and not meet anyone else. Actively try and broaden your friendship group as you never know who you will meet. To meet new people you can try taking part in bar crawls that happen, taking part in resort-wide events, go to theme nights and just make sure you are social and try to meet more people. Bar staff are normally a good place to start when meeting people because they are likely to know everyone and be up-to-date with what is happening, which can make or break your season. My suggestion would even be to try and go as far as dating one of them but that is not obligatory haha
Another one that could be helpful is to watch some snowboarding/skiing movies before you get out to start your ski season. It will help you with the jargon, the gear and the knowledge of what is “cool”. On my first season, I turned up with some beige drain pipe trousers, a tight fitting Kelly Hansen ski jacket and my board. Needless to say that I looked like a twat and quickly changed to baggy and bright gear, which was cool at the time.
If possible - try and go to another ski resort. There are always people with cars or you may be able to borrow one of the company cars. Take it and go for a day trip to another ski resort. It is a fun day out and I have had a fair few good memories from those.
Back when I started, a hard drive full of movies was a must. There would often be times where there was no wifi in the apartment and having some movies always helped as you were never bored. I guess now it’s not as much of an issue but just having it as a backup would be useful.
Last but not least - NEVER SKIP APRES SKI OR TAKE NAPS! Seriously, they are the devil. Apres ski is where you get to meet the majority of people and therefore have more connections and have a better time in the resort. Alcohol energises you and after a couple of pints you will not feel the tiredness anymore. I promise you that! Some of my biggest regrets have been the nights where I stayed in and just watched movies on my laptop instead of going to have fun with my friends. It will only last a couple of months and they will fly by in a blink of an eye, so make sure to not waste any of it!
P.S. Here is a picture of Simon looking like a twat!
You can follow Si and his crazy adventures on his instagram - @si_jo89
If you want to hear more of Si’s stories, and there are plenty, be sure to keep checking our website. He has told me a few more and there are definitely some that you do not want to miss!