Many people dream of doing a ski season and whilst ski-bum #vanlife is one option – there are distinct benefits of becoming a bonafide resort worker, earning actual cash. How about a job as a ski resort transfer driver?
As grown-ups the idea of being a 90 hour a week chalet girl or a resort rep for a ski tour operator doesn’t seem to tick the life goals boxes so we asked ourselves the question, what jobs could we do in resort that would enable us to live and work in the mountains for a ski season?
Our friends Viv and Jason found one answer to ski season jobs – spending last winter in the Portes du Soleil as ski resort transfer drivers. We decided to grill them about everything that’s involved in being a ski resort transfer driver – is this the kind of job you could see yourself doing to spend a winter shredding the pow?
When considering any season long commitment, we think it’s important to be furnished with as much information as possible so a bit of background into Viv and Jason is useful reading. If you’re not into spending the season in a home on wheels, then you can skip to ‘Let’s Talk Transfers’ a little further down this page.
Who are you?
We are Viv and Jason Day (AKA DaysAway). Our Border Collie Leelu is now 12 years old and loves coming with us on snowy adventures.
What do you do?
We are freelance Outdoor Instructors. Our qualifications include Mountain Leader (UK) and we have recently obtained our International Mountain Leader qualification (this takes around 17 months from start to finish so is a pretty serious undertaking).
Our jobs can vary from instructing / assessing Duke of Edinburgh Award students, leading charity challenge participants in the UK (for example on Snowdon Challenge; Yorkshire 3 peaks; or a 50 mile Ridgeway Challenge), to leading treks abroad such as hut-to-hut walks in the French Alps and Norway, snowshoe treks or taking school expeditions abroad to Nepal, Zimbabwe, Borneo, Ecuador…
Last winter we worked as airport transfer drivers moving holiday makers between Morzine and Les Gets ski resorts in the Portes du Soleil, and Geneva airport. This meant that we could afford to stay out ALL WINTER!
You’re #vanlifers – so what’s your ride?!
The oldest and longest member of our campervan family is a 2002 VW T4.This has been our trusty vehicle for adventures all over the UK and France for many years although we have only recently officially converted it to an official campervan.
Vehicle number 2 is a 10 tonne Leyland DAF Truck based motorhome. It was originally a prison transport vehicle, but decommissioned in the 1990’s. When we bought it there were lots of things wrong with it but we solved the majority of them, ripped out and replaced the appalling interior with something more appropriate. Once tarted up, we took it on a 16 month adventure climbing, Via Ferrata (high rock hiking whilst wearing a climbing harness and tied to a steel wire), hiking, skiing and snowshoeing in the French and Spanish Pyrenees, the French Alps and everywhere in between. We wanted a big vehicle with enough space for us, the dog, and all of our wet / snow gear plus to accommodate our daughter who stayed with us for a month. We lived in it whilst we were travelling around, getting experience of the Alps and Pyrenees for our International Mountain Leader qualification. However, now that we have it and have a slightly different lifestyle, the truck is going to new owners for new adventures.
And so we bought vehicle number 3 – a proper Motorhome – a 2002 McLouis Lagan – about 4th hand from ebay! It’s left hand drive and was originally from Belgium. I’ve got to admit that it has taken me some weeks to get used to it and cope with the fact that my perception was that
‘only old people to do this’
and am obviously in complete denial about my age! However, as predicted, I now love it. We’ve had several trips around the UK and, let’s face it, it’s cost us about the same as buying a van and converting it but has more space and less mileage on the clock.
We specifically went for a LHD import because of the specification that offered. Useful things like more leisure batteries, all batteries stored inside, heating which circulates around the whole van meaning less chance of freezing and internal water tank (things we have learnt previously and from other people!). We have added an oven (lasagne and cake are important to us) and a solar panel set up. We are also excited about being able to drive it virtually anywhere and no longer being restricted by 7.5T limit signs!
When did you first take a campervan skiing?
December 2017 we took the VW T4. We had intended to take the Leyland DAF but due to ‘technical issues’ we couldn’t. Incidentally, this is also when we met Hannah and James (AKA Winterized)!
Let’s talk transfers!
Down to the nitty gritty – if you’re thinking about becoming a transfer driver for the season, there are some really useful bits of information that you’ll find in the next part of this interview with Viv and Jason. If you’ve got any questions for them, please comment below and we’ll get answers for you!
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a ski resort transfer driver?
A transfer driver is someone who is employed by a company to drive customers from the airport out to the ski resort they are staying at. You get supplied with a van and uniform. We were based in Morzine so if you went skiing there and saw the Skiidy Gonzales transfer vans, you probably saw us!
What qualifications do you need to be a transfer driver in a ski resort?
If you have a Cat Bon your driving licence, this means that you can drive up to 8 passengers. This is perfect for transfer driving as most vehicles (in France) are Renault Traffics.
If you have Cat D1on your licence, you can drive vehicles with up to 16 passenger seats. However, if you have Code 101on your licence, this means that you probably have grandfather rights and therefore cannot drive for hire or reward. If however you have taken a Cat D1 test then some transfer companies do have the slightly larger Renault Masters which means you can earn a bit more money!
If you are going to drive for a company that is going into Switzerland (Geneva Airport for example), your company will apply for a special visa for you. As part of this process you will need to provide a letter of proof from ‘somebody’ to prove that you have a minimum of 2 seasons of minibus type driving. I [Viv] had driven minibuses and crew cabs for a voluntary organisation previously so asked them for a letter on headed paper (I don’t believe that anyone checks up on it…)
This means that there is a bigger age range in transfer drivers than many other resort jobs – driving experience is essential so one to plan for if you’re considering a ‘gap year’ job.
How do you go about applying to become a ski season transfer driver?
- Ask someone with experience to recommend a good company to work for – they vary massively
- Look for an area you’d love to ski, then look around for transfer company
- Google it! Try some of these:
- Specifically – we can recommend Skiidy Gonzales for Morzine (it’s who we worked for and one of the best employers in the area), Powder Cabs and Getaway Vans. For Chamonix, Go Massif, Ski-Lifts and Mountain Drop-Offs
What does an average day/week look like?
You WILL have to work weekends as they are the busiest changeover times. We worked 3 days per week (that is usually the minimum you can do) and managed to get the days together so Saturday, Sunday and Monday. This was our schedule:
- Go to the office and pick up your schedule and work phone for the next day
- Collect a van and check it over for damage, screenwash, oil level, lights working etc.
- Collect booster / baby seats required for tomorrow’s schedule
- Drive home via the supermarket and boulangerie to make sure you have enough food to eat over the weekend in case your schedule goes t**s up and you don’t get back to the supermarket!
- Also go via the swimming pool for a nice relaxing swim / sauna!
- Collect clients, usually from various chalets and hotels in Morzine at allotted times using the handy Google Maps and Skiidy Gonzales app (not all companies have a handy app, it’s worth checking and makes it much more stress-free!).
- Drive clients to Geneva airport (around 1.5 hours from last pick up)
- Drop clients at departures, drive around to arrivals, grab your snacks and flask of tea and head to the arrivals hall and check in with the office desk located there
- You usually get a short break in order to drink tea / coffee!
- Wait in arrivals halls for clients, bundle them into your van with their huge amounts of luggage, drive back to Morzine an drive around dropping off at various chalets. We often good a good length break of maybe 3 hours (you would rarely drive straight back to the airport) so go and chill and walk the dog or pick up Sunday’s rota from the office if it’s ready.
- Drive around and pick up clients for delivery to the airport and repeat!
As Saturday but slightly less chaotic.
- As Saturday and Sunday but much less chaotic
- Pray that you don’t get a Monday morning rush hour slot else you will be queuing at the Swiss border along with half of France!
- Often on a Monday you might only get one airport rotation, happy days!
- Remember to fill in your hours book for the week
What are the perks of being a transfer driver for the ski season?
- Meeting brilliant people (mainly other transfer drivers) and the sense of fun and camaraderie
- Going out with like minded people on the slopes and to the pubs – you know them all from driving so instant friendship groups of people of all ages
- Being able to afford to stay all season in one resort (if you campervan dwell like we did so that means we actually made money!)
- Getting out on the snow up to 4 days a week – more if you only have a short schedule and can sneak in a ski between transfers!
- Learning to be a good and confident driver in snowy conditions and being super quick at getting snow chains on and off (you get training, don’t worry!)
- Early starts can mean amazing sunrises and seeing wildlife all over the place – deer, hog, wild cats, buzzards, eagles…
- You can learn to sleep almost anywhere at any time on a busy weekend!
- You can do overtime in the form of extra days if you want to – if the weather is pants and you can’t get to the slopes
- You can choose to ski on great weather days and not feel you have to go out on bad weather days
- Getting to know a place and the lady at your favourite boulangerie
- The scenery is amazing, we never got bored on the drive
- If you get an empty run back (i.e. no clients) you can stop at the amazing boulangerie for coffee and pain au chocolat on they way back to Morzine!
- You can get seasonnaire perks such as a cheaper season ski pass (still expensive but cheaper!) and a season pass to the swimming pool – worth it if you are a van dweller!
- You can get cheaper transfer rates for you and your mates. One transfer to and from is included in your contract
- There was also coffee and cake available at the office – now that’s a perk!
What are the downsides of working a ski season?
- Early starts can mean getting up at 3am although this is not a regular occurance. Late starts mean you could finish at 1 am…
- Disrupted sleep if you and your partner or van mate are on different time schedules – I [Viv] often did earlies and Jason lates so we never left the dog for too long on working days
- Finding someone to come and let your dog out if you get trapped at the airport because of delays
- Your schedule will always change on a Saturday!
- February half term is sooo busy and goes on for about 4 weeks
- Boring whingers sat next to you in the van or worse, people who fall asleep half draped on you whilst you are trying to drive
- Those who expect you to lift their heavy luggage for them
- You should not drink the day of or the day before driving. You are responsible for people’s lives afterall
What things do you wish you’d known before embarking on your ski season as a transfer driver?
- That a good playlist on a USB stick in your van is essential
- That when the tumble drier at the launderettes breaks, it can take weeks to get it fixed – a problem when you are living in a van and snuggle to dry things
- That despite being ok with our initial training week being unpaid, we then had a week off before we started work which we didn’t know, or budget for. We got to Morzine the 7thDecember and first day of work was the 22nd
- We got paid monthly – so we got paid for the 2 days that we worked in December then it was a looong 6 weeks until we got paid again on the 10th February – take enough money to see you through the first 2 months
- Despite having a weekly contract of 24 hours, some weeks we only did 18, but others we worked 36 – you have no idea what will happen.
How much time do you get off?
Four days a week although if you get in super late on your last working day of the week, that might mean you are not up for getting on the slopes early on your first day off.
The question you’ve all been waiting for!
What can you expect to earn as a ski resort transfer driver?
We earned just under €1000 each per month for working 3 days per week. This meant that we earned in the region of €3000 for the season. However, we also did a few days overtime and this, on top of busy weekends up doing extra hours, meant that we earned an extra €1000 in overtime! So a total of €8000 between the two of us for the season. Not half bad.
What do you spend that cash on?!
We stuck to a budget of under €1000 for the two of us (and the dog!) each month (The fact that we then spent a huge amount of money on getting the clutch replaced on our camper truck is besides the point….!).
Ski Pass Savings
We managed to stick to this budget because we were doing a lot of snowshoeing. When we went skiing, we either bought a cheaper beginners area ski pass or a 5 hour / half day ski pass.
Watching the pennies
We ate out five times the whole season and four of those time were at the pub that does 2 for 1 amazing pizzas on a Tuesday. The fifth time was a celebratory evening with transfer driver friends at the end of season and most of that went on beer! When we could, we went to Lidl (not local) to buy cheaper supermarket food and we bought discounted food at the supermarket whilst trying to eat healthily.
What’s your advice for anyone thinking about being a transfer driver?
Do it! but get a good choice of playlists!
What are your plans for the future?
We are working as freelance outdoor instructors until August when we head to Norway to go back to be caretakers at the Amazing Arctic Hideaway and then we’re heading back to Morzine to go and work the winter season as transfer drivers for Skiidy Gonzales again!
Where can people find you?
So there you have it – the skinny on being a ski resort transfer driver – hints and tips, straight from the horses mouth!
A popular aire with ski resort transfer drivers, Les Gets is part of the Portes du Soleil and is one of the most popular resorts in France for motorhome skiers. Check out our resort resources here: