Is this your first season - we give you our Equipment tips...
You got the job. You are now looking at five months of mountain mayhem - as well as a liberal smattering of hard work of course - so what do you need to take?
At Natives we've got more combined winter seasons than a medium length ice-age. So here are our suggestions.
Some form of eye protection is absolutely vital. You either need a pair of good quality shades or some goggles; in all honesty it is much better to have both.
Sunglasses will restrict you to fair weather skiing: they don't work well in fog and are next to useless if it's actually snowing. Goggles look pretty dumb when reclining in a deck chair or walking round town.
Make sure sunglasses are 100% UVA and UVB protective. Shades which aren't are worse than none at all - they trick your eye into thinking it is darker than it is expanding your pupils and making them more vulnerable to damage.
Goggles should be fully protective as well but you also need to think about lens tint. Dark lenses won't help you see definition in flat light, but the oranges and yellows that work best in poor visibility are often unbearable if it's really sunny.
Some goggles have interchangeable lenses for different conditions. As a one-off lens for any snow the Oakley Fire Iridium is pretty hot. But bear in mind you could buy two perfectly suited pairs of many other brands for the same price.
Generally it is best to buy clothing in the UK. You might find think that competition would drive prices down in ski resorts. In North America this can often be the case, but in Europe there is more of a captive market in the isolated stations and clothes are generally either comparable or slightly more expensive than in the UK.
You will also have very little time in those first few weeks to go shopping - what time you do have you'll want to spend up the mountain. When the sales start after Easter is the time to get gear on the continent.
Both skiers and boarders tend to wear clothes a bit baggier to allow freedom of movement these days. But girls (and guys?) with nice bums should think about other people and stick with a more figure-hugging pant. ;-)
Probably you'll have a company ski jacket provided. Unfortunately you will still almost certainly need one of your own.
Very few workers tend to wear uniform outside of work hours. Partially because this is because it has a slightly 'geeky' feel about it, like wearing school shoes on a Saturday. Also because it invites unwanted attention from guests: questions; services; and sometimes heckles (like hyenas, punters can be dangerous in packs).
If you don't have much money to spend, you might want to think about ex-rental clothing, which is a fraction of the price.
You need something good quality here. You'll be wearing these almost everyday. Waterproof, breathable and with taped seams, otherwise you'll be putting on damp pants in the morning.
Salopettes - ski pants with braces - are very out of vogue these days. They do stay up better but they make going to the toilet and lift-nookie a bit of a chore. You can also accidentally perform a 'self-melvin' if you do the straps too tight.
Again, ex-rental trousers can be a real saving if you're on a tight budget.
Staying warm is all about layering, here are a few tips:
- Ladies tights with the feet cut off make excellent thermal leggings. Go for a high denier (the thickness) for more warmth and better durability, fishnets are notoriously ineffective.
- Get a decent quality fleece for your upper body - cheap ones really don't work very well and come to bits, good ones are virtually indestructible. A good wool jumper is probably superior to a bad fleece.
- Cotton next to the skin traps moisture, man-made fibres work much better. If you really suffer from the cold it is well worth investing in a micro-fleece top and a couple of thermal T-shirts.
- Gloves or mittens are really important and shouldn't be scrimped on. If you don't have much cash or get cold hands easily go for mittens; they are much warmer, so a cheaper pair will be adequate, a good pair really good.
The first thing you want to get are your boots. The difference between a rental set and your own specifically fitted pair is incomparable. Go to a good boot fitter that carries a lot of different brands, otherwise they might try and put you into a shape which isn't really the best for your foot.
For ski boots it is probably best to buy in resort, a good quality shop will be able to make adjustments if you find areas that are rubbing when you ski or your heels are lifting. You may also be able to pay in instalments if you hand over your passport.
Snowboard boots don't tend to have as many inherent problems, if you get a decent pair it really doesn't matter where you buy them. You do need to consider whether they will be compatible with the binding system of board you'll get though.
Skis and Boards
Most companies will have a deal with one or more local shops that provide their staff with free equipment in exchange for custom. With skis you will probably be able to get a set for the season, thoughunless you personally bring in a lot of trade or make good friends with the ski-techs you are unlikely to get a particularly good pair.
Boarders often find that they are allowed boards for a more limited period and might be asked to give them back over peak weeks, which is obviously infuriating. Rental boards are also generally step in systems, much easier for the shop but not the preferred setup of most good riders.
You might well be content with what you end up with, but if you've got the funds and you are going to be out for the whole season then your own kit is definitely the way forward.
You are unlikely to need a bike unless in Zermatt (see right)