LADIES OF THE LODGE

You never know who might be coming to stay at Sir Richard Branson’s Alpine home. One of nine destinations in the Virgin Limited Edition, the property offers an indoor pool, two jacuzzis, fully-equipped spa treatment room and four chefs – the perfect mountain retreat. The team working at The Lodge need to be prepared for anyone and everything…

“My job is varied. One week you might have a quiet family of four, the next could be a busy corporate group of 42. Generally I start the day doing breakfast service, then help the guests get prepared for the mountain, before organising everything for the rest of the day. My favourite part of the job is hosting the corporate party groups. After a day up on the mountain, the first place they head to is après-ski, where they are ready to do some serious partying. We normally head to the front by the stage, then our job is to make sure they have all the drinks they need – often it’s jugs of beer which get liberally shared around. The group will then come back for dinner, before heading back out. Sometimes they’ll be dancing until the early morning at Etoile Rouge, then coming back to The Lodge to continue the party – they certainly have the stamina! The last hangers-on might go to bed at 6am, then I might be making Bloody Marys at 7am. The contrast is when we have a family group coming to stay; then you might have a live band coming to play with an audience of dancing kids. I love every second of this job…” Abigail Climpson-Stewart, Guest Services Manager“I was meant to go to New York, but I couldn’t get a visa, so one of my friends called me and said he had work for me in Verbier. I didn’t even know where it was. I then heard about the job at The Lodge when I was rock climbing in the summer with Hugh, one of the chalet’s chefs. A normal day for me is starting at 7am on a breakfast shift, prepping the buffet and sending out hot breakfast orders that the guests place with our front of house team as they come down for breakfast. then prep for the rest of the day, for example, making bread and afternoon tea. On today’s menu we have beetroot salad, roast chicken and lemon tart. The menu varies hugely as we use local, seasonal produce. The next chef will come in and take over at 2pm and continue prepping for dinner service. Last week we cooked for 42 people from Thailand – they came into the kitchen to cook for themselves as well a lot of the time, which was a lot of fun.” Linda Söderlund, Chef

“I used to work on Necker Island for Virgin Limited Edition but decided to swap my flip flops for ski boots and began working at The Lodge as the Front of House Manager six years ago. I took over as General Manager in October 2015 and have loved every minute of it. Most days I arrive around 7:30am and do a quick walk around the property and brief the team on the guest activities for the day before spending a few minutes at my desk. During this time I work on pre-arrival guest correspondence, ensuring that guest requests are looked after and that each stay is truly unique to each group. I’ll then run around helping with breakfast, which is a great part of my job as I’m not just sat at a desk all day. I get involved with the guests’ experience from start to finish. I manage a team of 15 so that is an interesting challenge and one where no day is the same! One of my favourite experiences and enjoyments working at The Lodge is organising weddings. We had three during my first summer in Verbier and have another two coming up this summer. It’s great to add all the finishing touches that make it extra special for the guests. Another perk working at The Lodge is that we are open during both winter and summer seasons which is a rare find in Verbier. I love the contrast of the seasons here. We have the skiing in the winter, which is equally as amazing as summer when you can bike, hike or paraglide – it’s a really active and fantastic place to live and work.”  Ashley Crook, General Manager

My job here is a bit like being Mary Poppins, I have quite a diverse role. I’ll start off the day working alongside the front of house team where I might help empty the dishwasher, then I might make coffee and tea, and then run around stocking up firewood before the guests return in the afternoon. Then I go down to the spa around midday and get everything ready for my afternoon treatments. I then do some admin, emails and boring things like that before submerging myself in lavender around 3.30pm where I normally do up to four hours of treatments. Then I become Mary Poppins again and prepare the bedrooms for the evening by carrying out our turndown service – I adore this part of the day because I love being meticulous making sure the room is perfect for the guest. Adjusting the lighting, putting a chocolate on the pillow, and ensuring the room is nice and tidy – everything has to be perfect! I like to make sure people feel special and that people are being looked after really well. After turndown, I sometimes help the front of house team a bit more before heading home for the day. Some of our guests have stayed at The Lodge up to 9 times, so I work hard to ensure their experience is a good as their last one! All of the guests I have met so far have been amazing and I remind myself often of just how lucky I am to be here.” Georgie Nicholls, Spa Therapist



LANGUAGE LESSONS ON THE PISTE

Verbier Language School invited Verbier Life for a French lesson up on the sunny pistes of Verbier.

It’s not uncommon to hear people complaining there are never enough hours in the day. This is certainly the case for me, especially when I desperately grasp at reasons to explain why my French is still terrible after living in Verbier for so many years. It’s too easy for us to say we don’t have time, when the reality is, we could find the time. The truth of the matter is, my attention span in a classroom is limited – the inner child in me comes out and I start looking out of the window waiting for the lesson to be over.

The clever ladies at Verbier Language School have come up with the perfect solution for people who prefer to avoid classrooms by taking the lessons out onto the slopes. Eléonore Ribordy and Rosi Pickard started Verbier Language School 10 years ago, and have since been responsible for hundreds of happy students improving their linguistic skills.

“Combining a ski and language lesson is the perfect way for those who are on holiday and who want to make the most of their time or for people who don’t like being confined to learning at a desk” comments Eléonore.

When VLS invited me along to try one of the classes, I was keen to give it a go. A French lesson out on the sunny slopes, why not? I met up with their teacher Céline, a fully qualified Swiss brevet instructor and also an experienced language teacher who works for VLS throughout the year. Her warm happy smile immediately put me at ease. The class was about having fun, enjoying the slopes, and hopefully, improving my French along the way.

One of the main problems when learning a language is having the confidence to just talk and not feel embarrassed at making mistakes. Céline helped and corrected me when a phrase wasn’t quite right by suggesting different words or phrases as we chatted on the lifts and during pauses.

“This is a great way for children to learn a language”, smiles Céline. “They can just learn as they go along, what colour their skis are, pointing objects out. Then if we stop for a drink, they can order their own hot chocolate. It’s a fun way for them to learn a language. The same goes for adults; for some people, actually ‘doing’ is the best way to learn.”

After an hour cruising around the slopes it was time to head back down the mountain. I can certainly see how combining skiing and language lessons is a great way to make the most of your time and learn in a fun environment. For children and adults alike, it’s a fantastic way to introduce a language or improve conversational skills without even realising you’re learning. For once, the time flew by and I wasn’t looking at the clock. Now if only there was a microchip I could imbed into my brain so that I can remember all the grammar…

 

www.verbierlanguageschool.com


Don’t be that Guy - Avalanche Basics

Just when we all thought that winter had forgotten us here in the Alps, she blew in like a grand diva, dazzling us with her brilliance. With all the excitement of this late start to the winter, it’s so easy to overlook the dangers that our freshly white-washed landscape holds and venture out with reckless abandon. Maev Cox played it safe by attending one of Powder Extreme’s newly-launched avalanche safety and awareness courses.

Each year, the mountains remind us of their awesome power in devastating slides that claim young lives. It’s a fact that ninety percent of fatal avalanches are triggered by the victim or someone in their party. The intention to do an avalanche course was gathering dust on my ‘to do’ list so I felt great excitement at the opportunity to tick if off by completing the ISTA (International Snow Training Academy) Discovery course under the instruction of Antoine Blaizeau. On a breathtaking day, during the height of the arctic freeze in January, our group of learners assembled.

As we began, Antoine introduced us to the concepts of ISTA, the innovative Lausanne-based program which designed the course. Simply put, ISTA has created a universal language for learning that doesn’t bog learners down with jargon and specialised terms. The main aim of ISTA is to make their courses accessible to anyone who plays on the mountain.

The Discovery course is their entry-level course. Its objective is to provide an introduction to the fundamentals of avalanche risk prevention as well as providing practical knowledge of the snow pack and how best to handle an avalanche situation. The course is divided into three parts: before, during and after. The bulk of the learning is covered in the first section and Antoine took the time to discuss the various environmental factors such as, but not limited to, wind, temperature, aspect, incline, precipitation and visibility that act as our clues. Understanding the variables within these elements is essential when assessing avalanche risk. Of course, human factors play a role too, such as always checking equipment and entering into a gentlemen’s pact which agrees that all opinions be taken into account at the outset of any backcountry adventure.

 

Our day was a satisfying mix of time spent getting to grips with the material contained in the concise course manual and time spent on the mountain, analysing the terrain and getting hands-on instruction. During the afternoon session, we covered the second and third parts of the course. Antoine dug a snow pit which gave us incredible visual information on the various layers of snow on which we ski and helping us to understand what makes certain layers weak. Our team worked up a sweat despite the freezing temperatures as we mimicked a rescue situation, using our transceivers to search for a transceiver hidden beneath the snow. We learnt the patterns in which to search, to probe and to dig, in order to complete the most efficient and effective search.

As it turns out, our mind is the most important tool when it comes to avoiding danger on the mountain. Arming ourselves with knowledge is key and I’d recommend this course to anyone who likes to venture off-piste. The Discovery course is affordable (at CHF260 per person), concise and Powder Extreme are flexible on how and when it is run. Contact them on info@powderextreme.com or by phone on +41 76 479 87 71 or by visiting their desk at Surefoot for more information.

Antoine’s Top Tips:

  • Take the time. Avalanche risk is significantly reduced by creating space between individuals when moving about on the mountain.
  • “Don’t keep your tongue in your mouth”. In other words, trust your gut and don’t fear voicing your concerns, being outspoken could just be the thing that saves you.
  • Be mindful of changing conditions, what is true for the present may be altogether different later in the day.
  • Watch your ego and don’t let enthusiasm blindside common sense.
  • Don’t use a plastic shovel! In fact, invest in good gear all round.

 


Hiking Heaven

When did you last venture out to explore a new hiking trail? With over 500km of signposted trails surrounding Verbier and the Val de Bagnes, there is an exciting menu of options to choose from…

IMG_0066If you’re in Verbier over the summer months, then there’s a very good chance you will venture up the mountain to enjoy a hike. Walking is an activity accessible to most moderately fit locals and visitors - surely you just squeeze your feet into a pair of hiking boots and head off down a path? Often, people choose a familiar route, or might feel comfortable keeping Verbier in their sight to reduce the chance of getting lost along the meandering trails. With hundreds of kilometers to explore, maybe it’s time to push your boundaries and try something new? The tourist office has a great section on their website which enables people to look at some of their suggested itineraries in detail. The time the hike will take, the degree of difficulty, a map, altitude changes, points of interest and suggested restaurants (if available) along the route are all listed to arm you with as much information as possible. An overnight stay in one of the various mountain huts in the area is a wonderful experience – enjoy a simple, hearty dinner with other fellow hikers at high altitudes of over 2,000m and wake up to pristine mountain views. Verbinet has a good, informative page on their website with prices and links for booking, or contact the tourist office for more information. The weather changes fast in the mountains, so always check the forecast with a reliable source and be prepared with additional layers, the right gear and supplies. Also, always inform someone about where you are planning to go, even better, hire a local guide to accompany you. A walking guide does a lot more than just show you the way safely – information on local flora and fauna adds immensely to the experience. There’s 500km to explore – so put those boots to use! _KJS7784


PRE-SKI YOGA POSES

Jo Chandler from Wholeycow suggests some yoga poses to get you ready for a hard day up on the mountain…

 

Prepare yourself for the slopes with these yoga poses, selected to enhance strength and balance in your legs. We use the wall in these poses to create resistance and enhance stability. You can build up to hold these poses for 1 minute and make sure you repeat on both sides.

 

  • Chair Pose against wall: Utkatasana

Place legs at a right angle with your feet directly underneath your knees. Press your heels into the ground and reach up through the fingertips as you draw your belly button back to the spine.

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  • Warrior 1: Virabhadrasana I

Place a block (or something solid…like a soup tin) between your knee and the wall. Press the front knee against the block at the same time as you engage the back leg by pressing into the inner heel.

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  • Warrior 2: Virabhadrasana II

Place your block between the knee and the wall, the front leg is at a right angle. Reach through the back arm as you press your front knee toward the wall. Press into your front heel to feel your glutes switch on.

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  • Warrior 3: Virabhadrasana III

Hands and raised leg are at hip level. Keep arms straight, as you firmly push the hands against the wall and press back into the raised heel at the same time. For a challenge, try again without the wall.

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  • Horse Pose:

Place turned out feet under knees, and slowly lift your heels. Draw your belly button up and inwards, slightly rounding your lower back.