Despite a catalogue of disasters, injuries, swine flu, limp-wristed chalet girls and lack of snow, life ticks on in this strange, wintery place.
‘Tis a land populated by a bizarre conglomeration of cultures and weirdos. The Russians, of course, are a spectacle to be marvelled at. An entire nation of Katie Prices, tottering around on sheet ice in stilettos with their David Guest lookalike Mafioso husbands (well, employers, more like) bringing up the rear, complete with giant cigar, plastic flasher mac and narky-looking, diamante-collared Rotweiler . Or to put it another way, chavs with zip taste, who have suddenly won the lottery and think if it’s shiny or made of a dead animal it’s worth having.
Nowhere else will you find such a pile of hideously expensive hideous crap. Shops pedal things like red and white rhinestone-encrusted headphones and white skiis inlayed with diamonds that cost hundreds of thousands of Euros. They say this is one of the only places on earth the rich can actually make a dent in their wallets. And considering a small, forlorn and puny hotdog, with a dribble of ketchup in a stale baguette costs 15 Euros out here, it's hardly a surprise. In fact, everything is lined with either white fluff or diamonds. There are women who quite literally look as if Liza Minnelli threw up on them, carrying Chihuahuas in pink earmuffs (yes, that's the dog in the earmuffs) and wearing enormous fur coats made from the corpses of a thousand squirrels. Most of them don't ski...they are the worst kind of snowbunnies.
Why do rich people look so fucking miserable? I’ve lost count of the number of stricken-faced coat-racks I’ve seen wondering around this place in the last month with their lower lips on their foreheads, towing a Romanian nanny and three small, evil, children also dressed in fur. Usually pink. Those pelts must weigh heavy on those knobbly little shoulders.
Russians. They have a reputation all of their own out here. There’s practically a chapter in every tour operator’s manual on ‘what to do in case of Russians’. Or if there isn’t there should be. Because they are not like any other people on earth... they are bizarre.
The culture clash between Brits and Russians is quite something. The politest wouldn’t-say-boo-to-a-goose nation is shocked and appalled by the sheer front of them. ‘I mean, don’t they have words like please, thank you and sorry in their language?’ is a question I hear asked frequently.
It’s an irony to watch these ‘ghastly new moneyed peasants’ (not my words, I’m paraphrasing) being waited on hand and foot by the cream of the British upper-middle class and aristocracy’s children. This whole place functions on the slave labour of unsuspecting British teenagers and (typically) it’s the French who get the last laugh. Although one can’t help snigger with them. Ripped from Daddy’s arms. Tearful and missing their ponies. Stolen away from the womb of King’s School Canterbury and Cheltenham Lady’s College and dumped in a chalet to give them some life experience before university. Up to the armpits in the cum-stains, poo, pubic hairs and vodka-vomit of some erstwhile serfs who’ve struck gold.
A recent set of Russian guests marched straight past the outstretched, welcoming palm of their mortified young chalet host (a lovely, polite, hard-working young woman), dumped their luggage at her feet and barked at her to make them tea immediately before ransacking the place, puking on the sofa cushions and leaving them next to the radiator over night to crisp over. They then ordered her to clean the mess up. ‘Well that’s your job, isn’t it?’ they muttered. It would be nice to think that the revenge taken by the chalet girl in question (charging them triple the dry cleaning bill and pocketing the difference) made a dent in their enormous wallets. But of course, it didn’t. Afterall, these are the people who can afford to have an entire bubble lift turned off for a week because it ‘sounded too noisy next to their chalet’.
...But remember that little trick next time a chalet girl asks you for the dry cleaning bill....
My mind is cast back to the wad of food-budget cash ‘stolen’ from a chalet along with a Rolex watch and various other bits and pieces, last season. The pit-bull faced owner of the watch in question tried to put the finger on the chalet host but seemed oddly unwilling to talk to the police and disappeared from resort in a cloud of mystery shortly thereafter. A lot goes missing from both chalets and staff accommodation during Russian New Year.
There is shortly a revolting looking film coming out called ‘Chalet Girl’, which from first glimpse of the trailer is basically Cinderella on skiis. Yeuch! I shall reserve comment until I’ve seen it (2.5 hours of my life I shall no doubt regret sacrificing) but I’ve noticed several totally implausible plot themes already. I mean, a chalet girl would never shack up with a punter, for a start. But anyhoodle, I digress....
....Because of this film, some Sunday Times journalists were sniffing around the resort last week doing an expose on Russian bad-behaviour in Alp-wide ski resorts, and a friend pointed them in my direction as a source of illicit gossip. What could I tell him about? The drunken routs? Piles of cocaine? The bar girl last season who had the fortune to witness an inebriated thug eating a glass until his mouth bled? (He actually crunched through the shards and swallowed them, presumably to show off to his friends.) The mysterious, bottle-blondes who drift from hotel to hotel from hour to hour, ‘visiting friends’? The gruff, lascivious old men who won’t allow ski technicians to touch their ‘wife’s’ feet, but have no problem complaining loudly when the silly tart’s toes start hurting? (It’s a bit difficult to fit someone’s boots when you can’t touch their feet, surely? )
The upshot, of course, of this mixture is the strange sort of inverted snobbery which has developed among the seasonaires. They look down their noses at us, because we mooch around in baggy ski pants, sorrels and beanies, or mud-soaked fake Ugg boots from Primark, with chalet hands and we all stink of onions.
We look down our noses at them because they look fucking ridiculous, leave skid marks in the toilet and behave like football hooligans.
...But then they tip us a big $100 note at the end of the week, tell us to keep quiet about the wife swapping and the gun in the bedside drawer and are gone in a whiff of overpowering perfume....until the next bunch of wankers arrive....
...you know, working in a ski resort would be fantastic if it wasn't for the punters...