What Makes a Great Chalet Girl?
Looking at customer feedback and various forum on traveller’s websites, it seems to matter less what the state of the chalet is, the quality of the food, or the location, as long if the chalet staff are good, helpful and efficient. Are they there on time, is the food cooked (irrelevant of the ingredients’ quality), are the rooms cleaned, does the chalet run out of supplies (bread, wine, coffee etc)? All of these are genuine points raised by guests.
Most guests comments concerning the Chalet Girls are of the ‘happy’ and ‘helpful’ or ‘unhappy’ and ‘unhelpful’ variety; first impressions really do matter. Whether it’s as guests arrive, first thing in the morning, as they get back from their afternoon on the slopes, or as the an errant guest falls through the door after imbibing a little too much alpine firewater, it is important to put that smile on as soon as the Chalet Girl sees her clients.
One of the easiest areas for the Chalet Girl to fall down on is the ‘morning after the night off’. It is fine for guests to appear late for breakfast, not having ‘put their face on’, or inflicting garlic breath on those around them, however, for the Chalet Girl it is tantamount to slapping a guest in the face. Late or non-appearing Chalet Girls is a regular complaint. Not only are the guests unhappy but it puts more work on the shoulders of the other chalet staff, which will hardly help the holiday atmosphere.
Organisation is probably the corner stone of any Chalet Girls success, with both the clients and her employers. Without being organised it is very difficult to appear happy and helpful, if everything else is in turmoil. Chalet’s tend to be run on a very tight budget, with little or no overstocking, there is not an endless supply of towels, bed linen, or spoons. If supplies do run out it will be the Chalet Girl who has to deal with the irate guests who have nothing to stir their tea with. James Hardiman (MD of Alpine Elements) believes that "a Chalet Girl needs to be a diplomat, able to handle and diffuse any situation that may arise, as well as make a really tasty chocolate cake".
Shopping for the chalet is usually done once a week. So, it is important for the Chalet Girl to know exactly what’s in her store room, and what she needs for the next week. They need to know how many guests, are there any special needs, are there any self-travellers (they may arrive early/late/never!)? They also need to have space ready for the deliveries; fridges, shelves, storage boxes need to be cleaned and cleared as much as possible. Of course emergency supplies can be found, or borrowed from the next door chalet but, alpine villages aren’t that well blessed with ‘open all hours’ style corner shops! It may be steep walk to the nearest mini-market, not something to relish with six inches of snow on the path, and an icy rain whipping past.
With skiing being such an active sport, it is important that the food should be nutritious. Usually have one, or two week’s worth of menus, which are stuck to for the whole season; there is little room for experimentation. Guests tend to be on one, or at most two week holidays, so will never know that ‘Monday is lamb shank and banoffee pie, Tuesday is…’
Chalet Girls spend much of their (very little) spare time counting the pennies. Pay is generally lower than low, which makes guests tips even more important. For the Chalet Girl this is another reason to deliver the chalet holiday that people expect – happy guests should mean happy tipping.
Alpine Elements specialises in ski chalet holidays, and makes sure that their Chalet Girls are given as much training as they need. This includes a pre-season week during which any problems can be ironed out, and those who won’t make the grade receive a free transfer! While a good Chalet Girl will make sure there are logs for the fire, and cake for afternoon tea, she can’t guarantee snow on the roof – yet!