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Memoir set in the 3 Valleys (Twin Tips in the Trois Vallées)

31st October 2014

Belle de Neige: Tales of Catastrophe, Sex and Squalor from the Alpine Underbelly by Belle de Neige, set in The 3 Valleys, French Alps.

Twin Tips meet Twin Peaks meet Lord of the Flies…

IMG_2727Down and dirty in the world of the chalet host. Belle de Neige has been blogging incognito for several years from Les Trois Vallées, France (apparently the world’s largest ski area) and this is her memoir of time served, mainly at Chalet Christina. If you are a parent with a teenage child – just out of school and just about to spend a Winter ‘gap-yah’ as a Seasonaire – this book is probably best avoided. If, however, you want the inside track of life on the piste, then this is a must-read.

Life on the mountain is indeed a testosterone fuelled cocoon. There are alcohol and drugs aplenty, shags galore and enough snow for all the snow bunnies to romp and revel into the early wee hours. Whether it is lashings of Mutzig (the seasonaire’s favourite beverage according to Yodel Magazine) or drinking Genepi out of a Wellington Boot… or, learning to graduate from a Jager Bomb, to a Jager Mega Drive, to a Jager Hand Grenade, all the while listening to the ubiquitous strains at The Drop Inn Bar of “Living Next Door to Alice” (yes, ok, we all recognise the song as Who the Fuck is Alice).

0992805708.01.ZTZZZZZZ

The Current cover

As the author observes: “ski resorts function unabashedly on the slave labour of randy British teenagers” and it is certainly true that the Brits abroad know how to party. But it is probably little wonder that people who live on top of one another, and who are the backbone of most ski resorts, lead life to the full – and occasionally over the top, whether it is shredding the slopes or managing to keep their personal lives together. Indeed, “extremity is normalised”. Surrounded by the enormity of landscape, the magnificent vistas, and the harshness and variability of the weather conditions, the mountains, simply put, have an odd effect on people.

Indeed, the life of a chalet host is not wholly the glamorous life one might think – it is more about cleaning toilets and dealing with clients, who often bowl up with the most outlandish habits and requests, that often keep the chalet host tethered to the toilet. In total, Belle reckons she polished the shower surround in the chalet about 300 times over the season. But a word of warning – if you phenomenally upset your chalet host or treat her (sometimes him – enter Belle’s eventual squeeze, Scruffy but Handsome) with disrespect, and she has well proven ways of getting back at you. Did you notice that your toothbrush had moved ever so slightly whilst you were out on the slopes? Be afraid, very afraid! Just give some thought to what it might have been used for (and you can be assured it won’t have been for cleaning teeth). Or Optrex? Meant for eyes but does wonders for the digestion if slipped into the diet – and this will only become apparent on departure (after all, the chalet host is not going to shoot herself in the foot by encouraging loose bowels in the chalet, is she? Just more skid marks to clear up).

Modern Skiier

Sartorial advice from the Belle de Neige Blog

Oh, and the hair, the sink gunk, the mess, the detritus, the visceral stains, the demands of punters, the cooking and warding off randy punters (or not) – all in a day’s work for our heroic chalet host. And all this for a free ski pass, and a lifestyle that is as far removed from city life and responsibilities as it can be. She is very  clear that she would encourage her own children to experience this kind of life as it is a rite of passage…. so it can’t be all bad! And it isn’t, there is a huge amount of fun to be had.

This is a memoir full of acute observations, ballsy accounts, fun, lewdness, irony and so much more, and if you are heading for the Alps, make sure to pack it.

 

Belle de Neige is living in London for the time being, with Scruffy but Handsome (SbH) and they both agreed to do a web chat with us.

TF: How’s the knee? (Belle de Neige ruptured her knee ligaments towards the end of the season)

BdN: Not in great shape. It’s one of those ongoing things that you’re always battling with once you’ve injured something. It keeps going all wibbly on me, and it’s a fine balance between strengthening it and making it worse!

But I’ve got this armour plated leg brace that I wear when I go skiing!

TF: Tempted to do another season?

BdN: Always! It’s hard to resist, but I also need to do something with my brain for a bit so at the moment I’m trying to be in the UK a bit. When these winter nights start drawing in it becomes a real temptation not to chuck it all in and head for the hills

TF: Who were your worst guests? 

BdN: People usually behave badly for a reason…..so I can have sympathy with people in general, as they are on holiday etc. But the worst ones we ever had were this family who turned up and were instantly really rude and demanding. Because they’d come late in the season, it was quite warm and due to the unique Alpine plumbing there was a smell of drains, coming up through the building. They couldn’t accept that this wasn’t our fault, and the company wouldn’t let me compensate them in any way whatsoever. They ended up ringing me about 3 times a day to personally insult me and tell me to ‘get down here and sort this out right now!’….and then finally ended up caling the owner of the company and telling her to go fuck herself!

So she told them to vacate the chalet. And in retaliation they trashed it. And WHO had to clean up the mess????

The poor chalet host.

SbH: My worst guests were Russians that couldn’t understand the idea of a menu plan and demanded bespoke food every day. Bit of a cock up from head office, but of course, it’s not them that have to deal with the demands!

TF: You mention your Dad – what has been his response to your blog/book?

BdN: I think he’s kind of in denial about the whole thing. He has read some of it, and found it very funny. Particularly the bits about him. The stuff about the orange juice and bacon sandwiches is not exaggerated! I don’t think he’s told any of his friends about it, though, but I think he’s proud that I’ve managed the feat of writing a book but not necessarily of its contents!! He’s still talking to SbH put it that way

TF: Tell us more about how you managed to keep your anonymity. Who knows who you really are?

BdN: I think my identity is amongst the worst kept secrets in the Alps. I’ve had people’s Mum’s coming up to me and saying ‘oooh i love your blog’. And people in bars asking SbH if he knows who this Belle de Neige character is. But the closest call was when I realised a copy of the book had been requested to be sent to the chalet I had previously worked in!

And I had an email from the owner’s PA asking if I knew who Belle de Neige was!

TF: What direction will your blog be taking this Winter?

BdN: The Agony Aunt of the Alps for seasonaires perhaps. I am actively looking for people to send in their stories possibly to compile them into another book. And definitely collating a book of Chalet Bitch recipes.

TF: Oh, food. Now that you have got onto cooking, Is it hard to get cakes to rise in the mountains or is that a myth?

SbH: Stick to yoghurt cake!

BdN: Victoria sponge is your worst enemy!

TF: Any other tips for the chalet kitchen?

BdN: A useful thing is to have Dorito Salsa. A quick addition to a vegetable stack, perfect for veggies. And lots of other things.

TF: What is your advice for not looking like a punter in resort?

BdN: There are 3 Golden Rules:

No Spyder

DO NOT WEAR SUNGLASSES WITH YOUR HELMET

Learn to carry your skis properly (Tom, TF’s in-house ski pro explains it thus: Lift skis onto shoulder, tips always pointing forward, binding behind the shoulder, skis linked so that the top ski doesn’t slide forward; drape hand over the top ski to anchor in position – and voilà, you too will look like a pro)

Thereby you will avoid punterdom!

TF: Still talking fashion, you mention fur in the book as an accoutrement. Yes or no? 

BdN: For the seasonaire it’s a no no.

TF: Top tips for someone about to embark on their first Winter  Season as a seasonaire?

SbH: Bring lots of socks

BdN: Pants

And Branston Pickle

These can also be used as currency

A strip socket

And get ski lessons

Especially if you’re a beginner. Because if you are you’ll meet people on your level, and if you don’t, you’ll just left behind and become miserable and bored

SbH: Ride every day. Even if you can’t see cos you can’t see from being drunk the night before!

TF: And where does life take you next?

BdN & SbH: Bit of drudge so that we can go back to the mountains,  and  meanwhile collate a recipe book for the Chalet Bitch. Handy hints on collaborative work. Readers: Send in any top cooking tips!

And what the hell are we doing in London? Don’t know!

 

Thank you to both Belle de Neige and Scruffy but Handsome for answering our questions.

Keep up with life on the piste via Belle de Neige’s blog, and via Facebook and Twitter.

And do drop by and connect with the Team at TripFiction via social media: TwitterFacebook and when we have some interesting photos we can sometimes be found over on Instagram too.

And for more books about life on the piste, check out our Pinterest Board 

 

 

 

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