Winter Living in the French Alps

Wednesday 04 October 2017

Added by: Black Diamond Lodge

Life on the Piste

Living at Altitude

The mountains are beautiful but hazardous environment.  Here is what to look out for:

-          Dehydration – At this altitude and latitude, it is extremely dry and you must ensure you consume sufficient water to keep your body and skin hydrated.  Typically, 3 litres a day is recommended, but this will increase depending on individuals and the amount of physical work and exercise they do.  We recommend that you label a bottle with your name and carry it with you everywhere so you can monitor your intake.

-          Sun – At altitude there is less atmosphere to filter the sun’s rays.  In addition, snow and ice reflect up to 95% of the sun’s rays compared with around 20% which is reflected in the normal environment in the UK.  You should always ensure you use adequate sun cream, a sun-blocking lip balm and moisturizing cream.  This is for your own health and to ensure you look presentable when delivering service to the guests. You should always wear sunglasses or goggles with UV protection, but it is good manners to remove these when talking to a guest or other member of the public. 

-          Roads – Mountain roads can be steep and slippery.  Many drivers in the area will not be used to these conditions.  Roads are very hazardous and you should ensure that you take account of this as a driver, passenger or pedestrian.  You should never encourage a driver to rush.

-          Snow and Ice – Many of the steps and walkways around chalets can be very slippery and many injuries can occur just walking around the chalets.  Also exercise caution within the chalet entrances where melting snow will make surfaces wet and slippery.  Please ensure that others keep walkways clean, dry and snow free.  It is essential that shoes and boots around chalet entrances are always kept tidy to avoid any additional hazards.

-          Overhanging snow and icicles – As the season progresses, snow overhangs and icicles form on chalet roofs.  As the temperature changes, these will slide off and drop from time to time.  This snow and ice is extremely heavy and if you are underneath it, will undoubtedly injure you.  Whilst clearing snow around chalets, please be aware of this hazard, and where possible, significant overhangs of icicles should be cleared.

-          Avalanches and off piste skiing – Each year in the Alps guests and seasonnaires are injured or die in avalanches.  Many of these individuals are those looking for more extremem off piste skiing.  There are specific avalanche safety training opportunities and you should always ensure you follow guidelines.  At a minimum, always be equipped, ski or board in groups (keeping your distance one to the next) and carry the correct avalanche equipment.  Always ensure that other members of the team are aware where you are going and when you are due to return when skiing off piste.    Check your local resort for avalanche talks and training and be sure to attend prior to going off piste.

Beware of Frostbite

Frostbite affects body tissues that are exposed to the extreme cold and/or wind for prolonged periods.  The temperature and wind levels can change very rapidly on the mountain - always carry layers with you and ensure you have a facemask or scarf to wrap around your exposed facial areas whilst riding chairlifts.  Keep your toes and fingers moving if you find you are losing circulation and feeling the cold - and find somewhere to warm up as soon as you can by taking off your boots and gloves and placing your extremeties in tepid water (not warm or hot!) and allowing skin to thaw.  Do not return to the cold until all circulation and warmth is returned.

Look after your Feet

Most winter season work involves standing and walking for many hours.  Your feet, legs and back can become very tired and injured if you are not wearing proper supportive footwear.  Invest in some supportive shoes and boots - and ensure outdoor footwear is waterproof (not just water resistant).  And remember, you will most likely be on your feet when you are off duty - so make sure your ski boots and boarding boots fit well, are warm and dry and are supportive for your foot structure and skiing or boarding style. 

Evenings Off - Going out in the Alps

Most resorts offer a selection of nighttime activity for when you have a break from your work.  French ski resorts are notoriously casual - so don't bother packing anything too formal.  A few nice tops / shirts and some funky winter boots (waterproof!) should do it.  And of course you can accessorise with a lovely warm hat.  

You may wish to bring smarter clothes for special occasions such as Christmas and New Years Eve. 

It Warms Up!

After the rush of half term holidays, the sun rises in the sky and the days warm up.  Even though it may dump with snow, the days get longer and warmer.  Bring some lighter weight clothing, such as shorts, t-shirts and trainers for the end of the season weather.

Ski/Board Clothing/Equipment

Most ski companies provide you with a lift pass, skis and boots (if required) for your use only.  And when you are on the mountain off duty, you should bring your own ski clothing with you, including ski jacket and trousers, thermal under garments, fleece, socks, gloves, hat, sunglasses and goggles.  You’ll also need a pair of walking or après-ski boots with good, non-slip soles.

Insurance & Welfare

Be sure that you are adequately insured to work and play in the mountains.  Check with your employer as to the level of insurance coverage they supply, and be prepared to top this up with your own seasonnaire policy to ensure you are able to claim for medical travel and expenses should you need to do so.

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