Returning to the role of a Ski Tour Leader in my 50s

Written by Tour Leader Fi

5 minute read

Our fantastic Tour Leader Fi was featured in the Telegraph after hosting our recent Solos ski trip to Mayrhofen. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, here is a snippet of what Fi had to say.

 


When I was in my 20s, I was a ski rep shepherding school children on trips in the French Alps. Fast-forward 30 years and I was doing an action replay in my 50s! This time it was as a tour leader for adults in Mayrhofen, with Solos, in the Tyrolean Alps.

As travel restrictions began to ease this season, Solos found their Austrian trip fully booked and was in need of an experienced rep to look after a group in the resort – responsible for making sure the trip ran smoothly from airport transfers to hotel rooms, ski hire and lift passes. Without hesitation and with the memories of my youth flooding back, I jumped at the chance – working in the mountains was the best thing I ever did!

 

 

Following my younger days as a ski rep, when I worked five winter seasons in the French and Swiss Alps as well as summers in Egypt, Mexico, the Maldives and as a tour escort in China and Hong Kong for Kuoni, I became a travel guidebook editor and worked in content and marketing for a global technology firm, before quitting to set up my own content marketing business.

Yet, despite my success, there was always something missing as the years and my career progressed. The thought of returning to the pistes was never far from my mind. As a single woman with no children, I spent the best part of lockdown on my own with little work. I had never been more eager to escape, ski and mingle.

Some things never change. The 30-year gap seemed to melt away as I clutched a clipboard at the airport to tick off guests arriving for their holiday, the glistening snow in the distance and sunshine beaming at Innsbruck airport.

 

The nine independent solo skiers I was responsible for, all in their mid-40s to mid-60s, were typical of Solos groups. They were looking for like-minded travellers – their friends and family preferring the beach to the piste. If I hadn’t been clutching their paperwork, I’d likely have been joining them. Marc, 47, a software engineer from the New Forest, explained: “Why should I miss out if my friends can’t see past the ‘I’d be too cold’ myth?”

My role was to help the group get to know each other by arranging mountain meet-ups, pre-dinner drinks and, of course, après-ski get-togethers.

Although not required to ski with them I couldn’t wait to be back on the slopes and, thankfully, we all skied to a similar standard – mixed abilities can often be the blight of group holidays on the slopes. We bonded on chairlifts up Mount Penken, on the Hintertux Glacier and the pristine slopes under bluebird skies. Chat and glühwein flowed over lunches of raclette and strudel – I had to remind myself this was “work”.

“You’ve not stopped grinning,” my group observed. And they were right. I had missed mountains, fresh air and exercise, but mostly making new connections with like-minded people – I couldn’t contain my elation to be back behind the clipboard.

“The best thing about Solos is meeting interesting people you’d otherwise never encounter,” said Marc, a Solos veteran. “I’m here for adrenalin-fuelled fun – both on the piste and at the après-ski!” declared Debs, 56, a property asset manager from West Sussex, on her first Solos ski trip.

After a drink at the top of the Penken gondola to loosen up our aching limbs, we headed to Brück’n Stadl, a lively Tyrolean après-ski hub at the base of the Ahorn lift. We huddled around tall beer barrel tables and ordered Jägermeister shots and Williams schnapps – tame in comparison with my pursuits as a 20-something.

Thirty years ago, as a fresh-faced seasonaire, evenings were spent drinking with the ski instructors on the slopes until dark, followed by chaotic torchlit descents and skiing down concrete steps, not a thought given to our equipment or work responsibilities – miraculously I never missed a 4am airport transfer.

Now evenings were a little more sedate, organising teatime tortes, soaking sessions in the chalet hot tub, and dinners. I relished the (slightly) slower pace of après-ski and the task to make my group comfortable.

“Hearing tales of others’ past ski trips is a benefit of a Solos holiday,” said Tim, 51, a greenkeeper from West Sussex. “Go with the same people every year and you hear the same stories time after time.”

Our group recalled skis that were taller than our heads, button lifts that left oil on your salopettes, glacier-slow unheated two-person chairlifts, a time when only children wore helmets, and ubiquitous panda eyes from wearing sunglasses rather than goggles.

 

 

We swapped photos of bright neon fashion – my contribution was my first company ski jacket, while Mike, 65, a property surveyor from Surrey, showed off his original vintage 1980s Nevica fleece.

I shared flashbacks of long transfer days spent freezing waiting for arrivals, and the arduous task of having to cut up piles of passport photos to fit lift passes.

It’s these moments of bonding over our similar life experiences that midlife seasonaires cherish – while their 20-something counterparts nurse their hangovers.

In the five years as a ski rep in earlier life I’d dealt with broken bones, stranded passengers and even a company going bust. This time around I earned my tour leader stripes anew when the group’s flight home was cancelled at the last minute. Soon after, I’d calmly booked taxis and rooms in a nearby hotel and arranged new flights, all on my mobile phone – unimaginable in the 1980s. It was just a blip in a day of a midlife seasonaire.

When first approached by Solos Holidays, I had asked: “Am I not too old to be a ski tour leader?” It turns out midlife is the perfect age.

Not only was I able to handle the experience with the mature know-how that comes with older bones and years of travel, but I’d rediscovered the joy in my life, too – getting paid to go skiing, meeting like-minded people and waking up every day to do something I loved.

Read the full Article in The Telegraph here.

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