Ever felt the urge to swap city life for snowy hills, chalet living and skiing in your lunch break? Kat and Al Judge did too, and in 2010 they upped sticks to the beautiful snow-clad mountains of Morzine to start up their luxury chalet company, AliKats (get it?). Kat told me the inspiring story of creating her dream in Morzine and explains how keen seasonnaires could join the AliKats team for the 2016/17 winter season.
It wasn’t a difficult decision and just felt very natural as I wanted to combine my passion for cooking with living in the mountains. We decided that working as chalet hosts first would be a good way to learn the ropes before setting up our own business, so we looked for a company with similar values to ours and it was a pretty simple transition from there.
How did working as a chalet host in Morzine inspire you?
I found that I really got a buzz out of making guests happy on a daily basis, and that kept me motivated through the really long working hours – for me that is completely central to what we do and I am always trying to think of new ways to improve our offering and make the guests’ holidays as perfect as possible. I obviously also loved being able to get up the mountain pretty much every day – that doesn’t happen so often now that our business has grown and we have young children but in our first season we skied 5-6 days a week, which was just incredible.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of quitting their job and setting up shop in the mountains?
Do it! Make sure you have a clear vision of what you want to get out of a change in lifestyle though, and what your priorities are, because unless you are incredibly fortunate then you will need to work hard to support yourself. If you want maximum ski/snowboarding time and are less bothered about having a big income then that is quite achievable with seasonal work, but if you want to build a business for a more stable financial future then the more prepared you are the better. Research the industry and market you are moving into, look at what competitors are offering and get relevant work experience.
What advice would you give to someone keen to try a ski season?
Make sure you are clear on what your objectives are. If you just want to ski as much as possible then it might be better to save up before you go and then not work for the winter. If you want a more well-rounded experience and to be a part of the community then working will be the best way to do that. Be prepared to work hard though!
What made you pick Morzine?
I came to Morzine for a ski trip a while ago and really liked the town and the fact that it seemed less showy than some of the posher resorts. such as Courchevel. It’s got a huge ski area (650km of linked pistes!) and has a strong summer season, too. It’s also only 1hr 15 mins from Geneva airport which makes it really easy to get back to England to see friends and family.
Where’s best to ski and party in the Portes du Soleil ski area?
My favourite place to ski is Mont Chery, which is on the Les Gets side of the Portes Du Soleil. It’s perfect on a blue sky powder day as it has amazing off-piste as well as fast red and black runs which are brilliant fun. It also has amazing views of Mont Blanc! I’m a bit out of touch with partying since having children but I really enjoy going to the Marmotte D’Or in Montriond – it’s a great bar run by two friends and they have brilliant bands on every Tuesday throughout the winter. It’s a favourite spot for seasonnaires and always has lively atmosphere.
What makes an AliKats chalet unique?
I think it is the attention to detail which is present in everything. All of our chalets have bedrooms with private bathrooms, hot tubs and amazing mountain views but we also make sure they are beautifully decorated and have thoughtful touches, like goody bags containing hip flasks filled with our homemade toffee vodka!
What makes a good skiing holiday in your eyes?
Good hosts I think – if you are well taken care of and don’t have to worry about practicalities such as cooking, cleaning, driving etc, then you can use all of your energy for skiing, eating and drinking, which is what a good holiday is all about!
How did you pick your three beautiful chalets, and where did you source furniture and design ideas from?
We have probably viewed more than 50 prospective chalets over the years and chose ours because they had all of the right facilities but were also full of character. The chalets are already part or fully furnished when we rent them but I use Pinterest as inspiration to make them really stylish. I buy soft furnishings from a mixture of places; there are some gorgeous shops in Morzine where you can buy lots of things with an alpine style but I also source other things from the UK when I want modern touches.
You’re also a stellar cook. What are your favourite mountain treats to make?
You can’t beat a good tartiflette! It’s delicious combination of reblochon cheese, lardons, potatoes, onions and cream but is pretty heavy so you need to make sure you do plenty of skiing in order to earn it. There is also lots of great food growing wild here, and I love to see what I can forage – there’s wild garlic in spring, then strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in summer and by August you can find delicious ceps and chanterelle mushrooms if you know where to look.
How did it feel to win a Favourite Food award in the Source Magazine Awards in Morzine?
It was lovely to have our hard work recognised, particularly as there are so many chalets and restaurants which also cook brilliant food here. The pressure is on now though to try and hold on to it next year!
What makes a good seasonnaire?
A positive attitude and lots of energy. It can be tough sometimes to stay motivated week after week when you are working long hours, often doing a physically demanding job and I’ve seen lots of people slip into the habit of not getting out on the mountain as much as they could. It’s always re-energising to go for a ski, even if you just do one run! So if you are a happy, energetic person who can work hard and play hard then you will have a great season and make a good employee.
How can someone come and work for you?
Send us an email to email@example.com with your cv and a little bit about yourself explaining why you want to do a season. You should also send your CV and a recent photo but they are not as important as a good personalised email.
Best thing about being an AliKat?
Knowing that you are part of a team that is working hard and delivering really amazing holidays is incredibly rewarding on a daily basis. We do our best to hire people who are good fun, so that helps too!
What’s a normal day like for the AliKats team?
Wake up by 7am ready to start breakfast at 7.30am. Serve the guests a delicious cooked breakfast such as smoked salmon and scrambled eggs or French toast with berry compote, then drive them to the slopes. Then it’s back to the chalet to clean up, service bedrooms, make an amazing cake for afternoon tea (chocolate brownies are always a winner!) and then once everything is sorted (normally around 10.30am) it’s time to go skiing for a few hours. The hosts would usually be back on duty somewhere between 4 and 5pm. Serve tea and swap the day’s ski stories with the gueasts, then move on to preparing for dinner. We serve drinks and canapes at around 7pm and then a lovingly prepared three course meal made with local and seasonal ingredients will be served at 7.30pm. Once dinner is tidied away and breakfast has been set up for the next morning then hosts are finished for the day (normally around 9.30pm) and have the option of either having a glass of wine or two with the guests, heading out to a bar to meet friends or else hitting the hay in hopes of an early start and some fresh powder!
Want to bag yourself a job in the mountains with this lovely gang? If you would like to be part of Team AliKats send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why you think you would be a good fit, along with your CV and a recent photo.