Since the age of 18 (when it was legal Your Honour) alcohol has played a not insignificant role in my life. It has been there at the major events; weddings, birthdays, graduations, saying goodbye…To be fair it has there at some pretty insignificant ones too, so much so that I am not sure if its the wine or the insignificance that causes me not to remember them.
And, fortunately I suppose, as I have developed a reputation for embracing alcohol, I have become known as a fun drunk, or, in darker moments, the person who makes others less embarrassed about their own drunkenness in a ‘thank God it wasn’t me who…’
spent all night vomiting in the sink
did the crazy jumping out from behind people with jazz hands dance behind unimpressed strangers
cannoned straight into a man with a tray of drinks sending the whole lot flying…
And so, as a maturing and increasingly wrinkly person my idea of working a ski season arrived with a sense of trepidation. As far as I was concerned a ski season is synonymous with excess alcohol consumption. How did I know this? My good friend and ex-seasonnaire who spent five months in a beery haze, gelling the hair of strangers and who has never ridded herself of the taste for Jaegermeister alongside the propaganda of commercial giants, the likes of Jack Wills. Not particularly empirical evidence but on this basis I was convinced that time in a ski resort would not promote my spiritual growth and would more likely accelerate my onward journey to AA (not the fourth emergency service!). But true to my stubborn nature I could not put the idea aside. So, I applied, trained and chose Reberty as a nod to my concerns, the place of one horse and one pub. I believed this stood me in good stead for withstanding the lure of the Jaeger Bomb, tequila, chalet wine and dirty pints…
Sire de Beaupre:
The beginning. When the guests arrive they are welcomed with this; a sparkling white wine (of sorts) which costs no more than 1 euro 22 cents from the large Carrefore (a supermarket) in Moutier, the town at the bottom of the mountain (aka the suicide capital of France). It could in fact be that this stuff is the equivalent of a UK Lambrini, which lends some sense to the suicide statistics. But having said that it is much more palatable than Lambrini (most guests quaff it, even those who profess to be in big business and connoisseurs of fine vintage, or even the Swedish who live in a wine dictatorship of exacting high standards on wine permitted to be sold in the country and none of these people are dead to my knowledge, least of all from their own hand). However, the most overwhelming testament to its palatabity is the staff willingness to consume it given half an excuse; the hot tub needs jumping in, as s component in Buck’s Fizz on transfer day morning or the above mentioned Swedish guests turning up so late that we drink three bottles (theirs) and gobble their pork log (long pork pie) waiting for them. And so the week has begun.
Vin blanc et vin rouge (aka ‘The Chalet Wine’):
The first thing that a guest might ask is ‘what kind of wine is this?’. Well, no, on second thoughts, the very first thing might be to express how it does not taste particularly pleasant (I’m being polite). The response to the second comment is ‘this is true’ and the answer to the first is, well, make it up (its a Merlot one week, Pinot the next) or give or it to them straight, like so; ‘it is a beverage loosely based on wine and coming in two colours, either red or white. It comes in 10 litre boxes which are located in that cupboard and you can have as much of it as you like.’ This response tends to improve the taste and quell any queries about the grape.
From my own point of view the stuff is pretty nasty (not nasty sic, which is in fact good) and not particularly intoxicating owing to it likely being watered down. Irrespective, over the last four months I have drunk a fair amount of the stuff and it seems the main reason (without over analysis) is to burr the sharp edges from an evening (spoken like a true alcoholic); the awkwardness with guests that I have little in common with or quite simply dislike (the man who joined a conversation about getting rid of something irritating and nasty by intoning that he had done this with his ex-wife qualifies) and with whom you can barely get past ‘how was your day?’, the social discomfort of dinning with these people and the moods of others (chefs mainly). Not only does it burr these edges but also your own; memory, energy and sometimes personality. Sadly.
Vinho do Porto:
The au revoir drink, served avec fromage. The cheese usually goes ignored, yet the thick, rich liquid gets destroyed. It’s not offensive, you might even call it approachable, but despite this and the entreaties of the guests – those you get on with – to sit down and have a glass, Porto is not what you want to be drinking the night before transfer day – the 5:30 alarm and the 10 hour toil. But that does not seem to matter at 22:00, it seems very far away, so you drink it anyway and then it matters less and less with each warm sweet sip.
No chalet is complete without leftovers. The toiletries go in your bathroom, the food in the bin, the alcohol most definitely not. They can’t take it with them, so they leave it behind; gin, vodka, whiskey (Johnnie Walker Black Label, Jack Daniels), brandy (Remy Martin), beer. In the most decadent of moments you might drink this on discovery, bleary eyed, at 07:30 on a Sunday morning in preparation for the long day ahead…
…but rarely. The gin is the preserve of The Chef, nothing turns his eyes as red and has them rolling around his head like Gordon’s and the whiskey has mainly been used up in hot toddies to ease cold after cold. You can look at this swag in two ways; it saves you money, which out here is often a prime motivator; or (and I think I fall in here) it induces you to drink alcohol you would not otherwise have drunk, with occasional head pounding consequences – the Remy Martin springs painfully to mind.
And beyond that you have to buy your own. Rarely a day has gone by over the last four months when leaving the mountain did not involve one vin chaud or two or three. But nothing harder, at least.
So, gradually, the good intentions, at least to some extent, have been eroded. Never more have I wanted to borrow the words of hallowed soft rock legend, Jon Bon Jovi: ‘sometimes you tell the day by the bottle that you drink’. And the fact is that when working a ski season the drinking is no myth, you could easily find yourself counting days in Porto, Sire Beaupre and spirit. If so, at the very least you will end up tired, run down, sneezing. And that’s how I find myself writing this, sniffling, coughing and with a hot toddy laced with ‘rhum’ in hand.