Over the past 40 something years, I have spent around 1500 days skiing!! I wasn’t nerdy enough to chalk them up as I went, I just tried to figure it out recently when justifying why ski enthusiasts should read my ski blogs, articles and books rather than those of less experienced ski writers.
It all started in 1973 when I went with my family on a Swan’s ski holiday to Seefeld in Austria and was instantly hooked. So much so, that in all those years I have never missed a season’s skiing – whether it was just a week’s family holiday or a whole season working in a European resort or many entire winters living in the Banff area of Canada.
What was it that created my obsession at the age of 12? I still remember our Swan’s rep who seemed to me to be the luckiest person in the world, working in a beautiful ski resort all season, able to ski any day of the week. Then and there I vowed to emulate him and sure enough by 1982 I was working in my first ski resort.
That first season I worked as a secretary in a kids’ holiday centre in Crans Montana, Switzerland, called La Moubra. In early December I had boarded a train with two friends (one of whom, Simon, became my husband many years later) and paid one of them to help with my luggage (not the one who became my husband!) We wound up in the Montana side of the resort early next morning, dumped our bags at a pretty pension, and split up to knock on doors around town. I had an interview by the end of the first day and a job clinched 24 hours later. It took Simon a little longer but he eventually found a Christmas holiday kitchen job followed by a trainee chef position at La Moubra. We worked 8am-12 and then again 4-8pm, with a day and a half off per week – not bad from both the skiing and social point of view and great pay. This was the season of sun, snow, socializing and shopping – including a memorable spree to Milan!
Next winter we moved on to La Plagne, France, where Simon was a rep for a chalet company and I nabbed a prime job in a boutique from 3pm to 7pm each evening, having most of the day on the slopes as well as a good part of the evening free to have fun. This was a very different season – more slopes, more snow and a focus on getting to grips with off-piste skiing with side trips to Val d’Isere.
It actually took until the 1989/90 ski season for me to make it to the hallowed rep position I had so envied with Swans. I got a fabulous job with Crystal Ski, running Verbier and also in charge of airport transfers for their three other Swiss resorts. Lots of admin, faxes, phone calls and paperwork, but a lovely little studio apartment, masses of free time and some of the best skiing I have ever had. Meanwhile Simon worked all season as the Ski Club of Great Britain rep. This was when I was at my peak of fitness, expertise and daring – and Verbier was the perfect place for this. I now envy that 29-year-old self who regularly schlepped up the Stairway to Heaven, thought nothing of ducking ropes to ski the back of Montfort and took 45-minute off-piste hikes in her stride.
Promoted to resort manager for Crystal in Meribel (with Simon as my second-in-command) for winter 1991/2, we moved to Mottaret next, living right in the middle of a ski slope. I was able to ski to the bank and post office and come back home on a chairlift carrying a French loaf for lunch under my arm! My only regret this season was not to be able to learn how to snowboard – the newest trend – as I was pregnant! By the end of the season my 7-month bump was starting to cause speculation that perhaps my weight gain was not just the chalet food!
From 1992 the issue was how to incorporate ski babies and real work (Simon had just become an academic) into our ski bum lifestyle? The first idea was that Simon should use his Ski Club of Great Britain rep qualification to facilitate family trips. It worked! Several SCGB resorts were happy to put up the whole family in the Ski Club accommodation so long as we bought our own ski passes and food. So for the next six winters we skied three weeks at Christmas and three more at Easter with first one, and then two, boys in tow. After a couple of trips to France and Austria, we gravitated to the Hotel de Verbier where we welcomed back so heartily that we returned every year until 1999.
With boys of 4 and 6, skiing was becoming so expensive! They needed new gear all the time as well as lessons and increasingly more food. A better plan was needed and, after much scheming, Simon was headhunted by the University of Calgary and we moved to Western Canada in order to benefit from the mountain lifestyle – and affordable ski prices.
The three-year move turned into a decade of decadent downhill, Canadian citizenship and a new ski writing career for me. I added heli-skiing and cat-skiing to my portfolio and developed a lifelong passion for Canadian scenery, climate, people, politics and culture.
Although I now live in South Carolina (due to an irresistible career opportunity for Simon), I still ski 40 days per season. Our younger son is back in Calgary at university and the whole family meets up there for skiing every Christmas and we usually sneak in a second visit in March/April. New opportunities from the oblique move Down South, have included working for The Dallas Morning News ski section as well as many exciting trips to Colorado and Utah and a sensational ski week in Jackson Hole last season.
Since 2005, I have been a very prolific ski journalist: columnist for three wonderful winters for the Calgary Sun’s Snowscene section, writing countless articles for The Calgary Herald, contributing regularly for The Dallas Morning News huge ski section, getting a plum assignment for Los Angeles Times Travel and a fabulous feature article on Banff for Ski Canada Magazine. I wrote about a women’s heli-ski adventure for More Magazine Canada and my stories have been in multiple mags, newspapers and online. I run my own skiblog – and I am an enthusiastic ski social media networker – @skiblogger. You might even have read my regular contributions to Silver Travel Advisor.
One way I‘ve weathered the South Carolina humid heat over the past two summers has been to immerse myself in ski writing year round – this time for a new book on skiing. Called Winter Sport Tourism: Working in Winter Wonderlands, I compiled this compendium on winter sports with Simon, now a celebrated tourism researcher, writer, endowed chair and professor. He originally wrote Snow Business, the only book on the ski industry in the early 90s. Winter Sport Tourism now replaces this as the only book out there on the ski industry for professional, recreation and academic reading.
Comprised of 12 sections, each chapter follows the theme of ‘working in winter wonderlands’ featuring people who actually do, in a variety of ski resorts across the world. It covers a breadth of issues including:
- The evolution of winter sport tourism.
- The winter sport tourism product – the activities, resorts, and supporting industries.
- Understanding the consumer, and how to develop a customer-focused culture.
- Design and planning for winter sports resorts.
- Management and operations, both on- and off-mountain.
- Marketing, public relations and new media.
- Planning, management, and leveraging of winter sports events.
- The economic, social and environmental impacts of winter sport tourism.
- The future for the ski industry and how resorts need to cater to new consumer trends.
Every section includes three in-depth articles, based on our personal interviews and on-snow experiences around the world:
- ‘Spotlight’ sections focusing on the occupation of a frontline individual in the industry.
- ‘Profiles’ on a particular resort or organization.
- Detailed ‘Case Studies’ illustrating actual business scenarios.
- Online tutor resources including Powerpoint slides with links to relevant videos.
Where to buy:
Buy direct online or via good book retailers – price for paperback £29.99.
Publication date: 1 September 2015 – ISBN: 978-1-910158-40-1
Louise Hudson – [email protected]
Dr. Simon Hudson – [email protected]