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  Thursday, 6 January, 2005, 16:36 GMT
Snow easy job being a rep
The Austrian ski resort of St Anton
Skiing for free is the big perk

Ski all day, party all night. Or at least that's the theory.

Thousands are drawn each year to the prospect of delaying full-time employment with a winter season working in the Alps.

Serious ski bums will do anything - washing pots, cleaning toilets - if there is the promise of a free lift pass for the season in return.

And then there are the "reps", those smiling figures in day-glo jackets who greet you at the airport and promise you the snow will be fantastic all week.

The Matterhorn mountain can be seen on either side of the Italian/Swiss border
You never tire of the scenery

But the life of the overseas representative, to give them their full title, is not the four-month jolly most people imagine.

While there are undoubted benefits, not least the chance to ski for free, the demands on your time and energy are immense.

I found myself posted to the Italian resort of Cervinia, nestling at the top of the Aosta valley on the border with Switzerland.

With the Matterhorn mountain peering down majestically over the whole area, you never tired of the scenery.

But you could not honestly say that about your clients.

A typical day started with a hotel visit, and a first opportunity to be plied with problems before guests headed out to the slopes.

You need to be an organiser, negotiator, diplomat and entertainer

But by 10am, as a rep whose duties included guiding, I was up at the first cable-car station ready for the best part of the job.

Whatever the weather, my role was to lead a maximum of 12 intermediate skiers around the resort for the day.

A pre-season training course taught us how to safely guide the group, with a different route for each day.

With guiding finished, the medical centre usually beckons and the blitz of paperwork that accompanies any injury to a client.

You quickly become au fait with the joys of filling out insurance forms, and on good terms with the local doctor.

More hotel visits follow before dinner, after which you are responsible for organising "evening entertainment".

Karaoke nights usually form part of the evening entertainment
Karaoke: make a fool of yourself to amuse guests

The first night is usually a bar crawl, where you have kindly negotiated a free drink for everyone in each hostelry.

Then there is the "quiz and karaoke" night, where you are inevitably obliged to make a prat of yourself with a rendition of Light My Fire to kick off proceedings.

By the end of the evening - when you are desperate to get some sleep - you cannot get people off the microphone.

Saturday night is all right for, er, preparing information packs for your next lot of arrivals.

Every Sunday it was off to Turin airport, seeing off one group before, barely 30 minutes later, getting the smile fixed for the next.

Only 80 a week

Then it is back on the coach and on to the microphone with the welcome spiel, before collecting millions of lire for ski passes.

After the chaos of getting everyone kitted out with equipment at the ski hire shop, it is on to the welcome meeting in front of 200 guests.

You need to be an organiser, negotiator, diplomat and entertainer, ready to deal with anything and everything.

It is the hardest job I have ever had - 24 hours a day, seven days a week, December to April.

And all for the princely reward of about 80 a week in wages.

But when the sun is out, the snow is fresh and the sky is blue it beats working in an office any day.

Academy
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