I wake up the next morning and receive a text from a friend asking whether I fancy joining them for a New Year’s Eve party. With a glass of wine in one hand and my phone in another hand I bump into Dominic, who looks at me with curiosity and asks me what kind of questions I am looking to be answered. His girlfriend is visiting for a week, but that doesn’t stop him enthusiastically talking about his experiences in Val Thorens and abroad.
That same evening I meet Tine, at the bar of a hotel. She’s working as a receptionist and offers me a conversation, a cocktail and a big smile. When she shares her life story I become so engrossed I lose all track of time.
When I drive up to my friend’s house that evening, I meet his roommate. Over the next few days, I’ll be sharing my accommodation with 28 year old Max. It’s his second season as a ski man and his eagerness to learn and climb the ladder strikes me above all.
The next day is my first day on the slopes and so I pick up my gear at a snowboard and ski shop Prosneige. Conveniently, they also offer classes to a newbie who is clueless as to what to do with two sticks and a bunch of snow. I get the chance to have a chat with Eric, who is a boot fitter for the shop. Essentially, he examines and measures people’s feet. Boot fitters match the shape of the foot to a specific boot shell, volume, and flex pattern that will correspond to people’s skiing ability. They’ll then scan your foot to create a custom foot bed that will help align your stance.
That question came to my mind when I first visited Val Thorens. I could never imagine why anyone would agree to a shabby wage, working ‘flexible’ hours (which means practically 10 hours a day) and not being able to spend time with family and friends for months. I drove 11 hours to Val Thorens in France, the highest ski-resort in Europe to find seasoners or ‘saissoniers’, to ask what about life here is so special they would come back every year.