If you don’t know the story of Kim Matthews, who left her life of fast food and skateboarding behind to travel to the Austrian Alps in a plea to earn some cash and to deal with her mother’s death, you must have been living under a rock. It is the ultimate feel good winter film with the perfect mix of romance, comedy and to top it all off it’s filmed in the picturesque ski resort of St. Anton.
Whilst working in this affluent area of the Alps, in the chalet of dreams, to a mega rich businessman and his family, Kim still manages to become a slopestyle snowboard champion (despite never setting foot on snow before), throw house parties with fellow Chalet Girl Georgie and fall in love with the chalet owners’ very handsome son, Jonny (played by Gossip Girl’s Ed Westwick). Oh, and let’s not forget the generous tips from corporate guests, helicopter trips and being befriended by slopestyle prodigy Tara Dakides; Kim really does seem to have lucked out. Of course, the reality of being a Chalet Girl is not always quite how it appears in the movies; you would be pretty lucky to be working for Bill Nighy and Brooke Shields for starters. In fact, the truth of working in the Alps can be very far removed from the sugar-coated story you see on the big screen.
The Chalet Girl emerged in the 60’s, offering rich property owners cheap cleaning and cooking services in exchange for a season long stay in the alps and generous tips from the guests. More recently it has emerged into a gap year experience for the stereotypical ‘posh’ girl; a convention portrayed in Chalet Girl through the character Georgie. Georgie, a seasoned chalet girl, is described by the actress Tamsin Egerton, as “a very privileged young girl who has had the good fortune to be able to go on skiing holidays from a young age.” But is this happy-go-lucky life that Georgie seems to live just a myth? If Kim, the stereotype defying Chalet Girl, can experience this then surely it is possible for everyone.
Image Credit: Tiffany Bui from Pexels.com
After speaking to Anna Ludnow, who worked as a Resort Manager in the Austrian Alps for over a decade, it is clear that an experience commonly looked at through rose-tinted glasses is not always as amazing as Chalet Girl leads us to believe. She tells me of the trials and tribulations that come with the job; and it’s not all as rosy as it would appear in filmdom. “For me, there were massive highs and lows. Something specifically bad is dealing with death in the resort, remember you are in your early 20’s in a high-pressure environment.” These tragic occurrences unfortunately come with working in the Alps, although in Chalet Girl, the most unfortunate thing which happened to Kim was hurting her wrist and being rejected by Jonny in favour of his American fiancé, Chloe.
While Anna’s experiences at times were stressful, especially times where bad weather, cancelled flights and road closures lead to unhappy customers, Anna spoke about this making her “more independent and able to cope with the most stressful of situations.” Despite this Anna was quick to speak of the many positives of working in ski resorts. “I made friends for life and got to ski loads”. The latter being one of the main enticements of the Alps’ hospitality industry, a justifier for the time spent hundreds of miles away from their families.
But is this main draw to the job really a draw? Chalet girl turned Blogger Aoibhe Devlin spoke about the lack of skiing and the surplus of work involved in the job, and it’s a far cry from Kim and Georgie’s workload, something outlined in her blog post, ‘The Real Life of a Chalet Girl’.
“I have been working tirelessly six days per week, waking up at 6.30am every day and not finishing work some days until 10.30pm. Yes, we did get to snowboard during the day however only after we finished our 4 hour shift doing breakfast service for the guests and fully cleaning the chalet. After our few hours snowboarding, it was back home, in the shower and ready for evening service in the chalet.”- Aoibhe Devlin
Aoibhe’s real-life run-through of the sheer workload involved is not something that is mirrored in the blockbuster. Kim first arrived in the Alps expecting it to be on par with Aoibhe’s experience, something which Georgie was quick to correct her on. “This is the best job in the Alps. They use the place to entertain clients plus a few family weekends. Apart from that, they're hardly ever here.” A situation that real-life chalet girls could only dream of. Maybe Georgie was right, her and Kim did have the best job in the Alps’, so before you start hastily applying for jobs, just remember it’s not all naked hot tubs and corporate clients. That is sadly a reality that only Kim and Georgie can live out.
Feature Image Credits: Pikrepo.com