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What happens when the ski season ends

Posted by FindHomeAbroad on 05/05/2017


What happens when the ski season ends

This time, in many ski resorts, it is the end of the winter season …the end for the snow and skiing, make room (soon) for hikers and other mountain bikers … But once closed, what happens in a ski resort during the off-season? 

After 6 months of continuous opening (7/7 since mid-November for some), the ski resorts closed one by one, putting an end to their winter season. The last skiers took advantage of the very good snow conditions until the last days of the season and the now-closed ski resorts change in just a few hours:

– The background noise of the ski lifts fades away and makes room for a disconcerting quietness,
– The continuous flow of skiers suddenly ceases
– The vast majority of shops and restaurants close
– Shuttle/bus services stop overnight
– Car parks are emptying
– Seasonal workers leave for other horizons
– Only a few local residents who finally find a little bit of quietness…

But once the last skier of the season has gone, what really happens in a ski resort?

End of employment contracts for 90% of the employees

The closure of the resorts also sounds the end of the working season (and thus seasonal jobs) for many of the ski resort workers: ski instructors, perchmen, rescue trackers, groomers, receptionists, waiters, cooks, shop assistants. All the staff who work throughout the winter season to welcome the skiers will have to look for another job. Some are very active and have a second job during the summer (mainly in construction or agriculture), others will be able to go on holiday in the coming weeks, while others will quickly set for a new winter season in the southern hemisphere (many ski instructors leave for example to practice in Argentina and Chile).

In the ski lift companies, however, not everyone is seasonal and about 12-15% of the staff is hired on a yearly basis: in the back office, management, press relations, but also for maintenance. For them, it’s a new season that begins, at a slower pace surely, but always with the idea that the summer season will soon be there and with them, the tourists coming to enjoy the mountain in summer. Everything will have to be ready and operational when they arrive …

The shutdown of ski lifts

This is probably the most visible operation by the general public once the ski resorts have been closed: the ski lifts are “stripped” of their poles, some chair lifts are unloaded from their seats, the gondolas see their cabins kept at the station … Each lift switches to the “summer” mode.

At the same time, the personnel in charge of the ski lifts also carry out other operations such as:

– Powering off: the traction on the tow line is released
– Re-rubbering of the pulleys: the “tread” of the pulleys
– Changing the worn wheels
– Switching off all electrical installations

Other longer maintenance operations will occur throughout the spring, summer and autumn (changes in bearings, pulleys, 30-year revisions, etc.)

The big job of unmarking on the ski slopes

At the beginning of the season, after the first snowfalls, the trackers in charge of ski security gradually put in place all the elements of security of the ski area (nets, protective mattress, signalling elements …) as well as the markings of the tracks (milestones, direction…).

Once the season is over, the reverse operation must be carried out, ie dismantling all the equipment and storing it for the next season: dozens of nets, hundreds of mattresses and panels, thousands of To be retrieved, checked and stored.
This de-tagging operation must be carried out fairly quickly after the stations are closed in order to be able to continue skiing, snowmobiling or grooming on the whole ski area. Descending an armful of landmarks on the shoulder and in skiing, it is playable, on the other hand, to mark out once the snow has disappeared, it is a whole other job!

Keeping the material for the off-season

The specificity of a ski resort is that it only works in winter (apart from a few open areas all year round in Switzerland or in summer, such as Tignes or Les 2 Alpes). In fact, all equipment used during the winter season (snow groomers, trailers and other spare parts, snow cannons, snow motorcycles …) must be carefully stored (as far as possible in a shelter) from May to November.

Once the winter season is over, one must:

– Bring down all the snow cannons dispersed on the ski area (traced with a groomer) and “park” them dry. Some ski resorts prefer to leave the snow cannons in place and are “content” to cover them to protect them from the weather and the sun. Other “low pressure” snow cannons (these long poles that “flourish” at the edges of the tracks) do not need to be disassembled and can remain in place during the off-season.

– Carry out a complete overhaul of each groomer (rehabilitation of track trains, oil changes, filter changes, hydraulic pressure checks, etc.) before they are parked, but also to avoid that the sun and the heat to damage them)

– Snow motorcycles and trailers are also grouped and stored in a dry location in the various emergency stations and other garages.

Spring cleaning in hotels and residences

Once the rush of the winter season has ended, the hoteliers and managers generally do not usually spend more than a weekend off to unwind and would rather just get on with spring cleaning.

After a nearly continuous rental occupation during 6 months, the rooms/apartments are cleaned from top to bottom, a very precise inventory is made and the elements presenting dysfunctions are identified with the aim of being replaced (small electrical appliances, chipped dishes, damaged shower door …).
It is only after this final cleaning that the hosts consider themselves truly on holiday…

Sorting and inventory of ski shops/ski rentals

In the ski rental shops, the end of the season is mainly synonymous with sorting: the whole equipment park (skis, snowboards, snow blades, shoes, sticks, helmets, sledges …) passes into the hands of the ski man. 

– They start by throwing what is no longer in use or is not repairable ( torn off skis, cracked ski boots, split sticks …)
– They clean and disinfect all ski boots and snowboard boots
– They review the hundreds of pairs of skis by putting aside those needing repair (defective fixings, twisted stop-skis …)
– An inventory of what will be planned to buy for the next season (a pair of skis does not last more than two complete winter seasons)
– Finally, all the ski gear material meticulously sorted (Perforation, sanding, sharpening of edges, waxing …) will be carried out later (usually during the summer )

High-altitude restaurant removal
Managing a restaurant is not easy, but with the additional constraints of an altitude establishment (no access road for 6 months, no pick-up service of garbage, no sewerage …) it’s another thing! The end of the season in the altitude restaurants thus allows first to unwind a little after several months of sometimes intensive work. But the time to bask on a sunny beach has not yet arrived and they still have to clean the kitchens and different areas, to shelter all the terrace furniture, to lower the tons of cartons accumulated during 6 months, emptying the fridges/freezers, draining the water network (one is not sheltered from a late frost) … in short, work does not lack!

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