Find out the real story from some of the 25,000 seasonaires and those who are now missing out about what working a season means to them and how they feel.
"Friends of ours who work for a British company have been told they are looking for EU nationals who can do their jobs first, and only if this were not possible, they might get a job."
Over the last couple of years my partner (British) and I (Dutch, living in the UK) have worked as campsite hosts in the summer for a Dutch holiday company that rents out tents and mobile homes. 50% of their workforce are British. Not long ago we had a phone call from them, saying that Brits can no longer work for them. We were scheduled to go to our usual campsite in Italy (Covid permitting) but my partner would only be able to work there for a maximum of 3 months.
My own situation however is simply bizarre. We were hoping that, with me still having Dutch nationality, we could get a contract just in my name, but, due to me living in the UK and not having a Dutch address there may be an issue. When I contacted the Dutch Embassy about this, they said that I would have to contact the Italian authorities myself, to ask for permission to work there despite in theory, me having the right to work where I want in the EU.
Friends of ours, who work for a different British camping company, have also been told that the company will try to find EU nationals who can do their jobs first, and only if this were not possible, they might get a job.
Like so many others in this situation, we’re really disappointed, not to mention the fact that we’re losing income now.
"[Applying to work] costs a fortune at my own expense and with a month's processing time and no guarantee of a visa at the end."
After spending 2 winters in the Alps working as a chalet manager (and plenty of months travelling either side of the winter too), my partner and I made our permanent move to the French Alps in the summer of 2019 to get settled before the end of the transition period.
I've always felt so much more immediately at home in the French mountains than I ever have in the UK and planned to spend a few more years working summers and winters, before setting up my own business out in France. Unfortunately, that all came crashing down when only a few months after our 'permanent' move, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. I, of course, came back to the UK to care for her and my family through major surgeries and weeks in hospital, along with many many months of treatment.
Of course, in the middle of all of this, covid hit, and every job I had for winter 2020/21, fell through. Now I see comments often saying we all knew the residency rules, and if people really wanted to have a life in Europe, they'd have got there before January 2021. As if life is that simple to anyone.
After nothing but bad news for 18 months (though all my family are still alive, which I am immensely grateful for) I finally had the brilliant news that with my seasonal experience in chalets, I'd gotten the job as manager in a luxury retreat in Spain. They have asked that I go freelance and invoice the company though (to save costs on admin their side) which is now leaving me an enormous visa application (11 documents in total), needing to produce a business plan, all of which needs to be translated and must be physically applied for at the Spanish consulate in Edinburgh.
This all costs a fortune at my own expense and with a month's processing time and no guarantee of a visa at the end. If I do not get it, the cost will have been far greater than everything I've earned throughout the pandemic.
"I have missed out massively as with COVID and passport issues combined it is going to be a difficult return to the mountains. Now I am just waiting, with no point in sight of when i’ll be back but always staying hopeful."
After watching the 2014 Winter Olympics I took my first snowboard lessons & fell in love with it! From then on my life revolved around snowboarding. The minute I left education I was straight into seasons doing 2 partial ones & they were the best months of my life. After Covid ruined my plans for my second summer, I hoped this winter to return to the independent French company I worked for last year. I absolutely loved it there and met so many amazing people from all over the world.
But now like many other similar companies they cannot employ UK workers. My opportunities are going to be so limited as now only larger UK holiday companies are accepting applications where competition is HUGE. Before there were lots of independent companies offering jobs which offered a completely different season experience. Looking at them all this year it was filled with ‘EU passport holders only’ which is so heart-breaking.
I have missed out massively as with COVID and passport issues combined it is going to be a difficult return to the mountains. Now I am just waiting, with no point in sight of when i’ll be back but always staying hopeful.
"I believe most companies will probably just employ English speaking EU nationals as it will be cheaper and way less hassle"
My partner and I have been ‘older’ seasonaires on and off for 11 seasons. I luckily secured a work contract and place to stay before the end of the year so we could apply for residency and therefore continue to do seasons. It was stressful and very last minute but we got to France and have applied for residency so should now be able to work seasons in France forever. It is happy days for me but I really feel for the future British seasonaires. I feel there may be a ‘young workers’ visa in the future however for those over 30 it will be a real struggle.
But and I think there is a big but, I believe most compabnies will probably just employ English speaking EU nationals as it will be cheaper and way less hassle.
Ultimately when you run a business you often go with the easiest option even if it sometimes means it is not the most ideal. I think the chalet business need British people to communicate with the guests on a personal level which is often hard when English isn't your native tongue. It needs to be hashed out soon as it's such a big financial gain to Europe to support our season workers!
“Working a season isn't just having a good time. It's a career”
I learned to ski when i was 9 years old in Glenshee, Scotland a few hours north of my hometown in Newcastle. I worked my first season in 2013 in the Spanish Pyrenees and absolutely loved it. Working behind the bar and helping in the chalet was hard work but immensely rewarding.
Fast forward 5 years I managed to persuade the company I worked for to give me a full-time job where I now manage customer services and the recruitment of our 30+ seasonal staff each year.
Having enjoyed so many seasons myself I am heartbroken that the next generation of seasonaire will not be able to have the same experiences and chances for a wonderful career like me.
Working a season isn't just having a good time. It’s a career. People work multiple seasons back-to-back and this is their lives.
Working a season also provides the opportunity for those who might not necessarily be able to get into snow sports the chance to do so. Meaning instead of paying the costs of a holiday, lift pass and rental charges they can live work and earn in the mountains. Denying these people the chance to enjoy the experiences would be a great shame as the benefits working a season can bring on a personal level are immeasurable.
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