As we approach our 30th winter in Verbier, we thought it might be fun to share an account from one of our much loved drivers. What life is like behind the wheel? All the best people start out as a driver… In case you didn’t know, Tom Avery’s very first role with Ski Verbier was as a driver, in 1999-2000…
Bye Bye Driver
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘driver’ as: “a person who drives a vehicle”. At Ski Verbier Exclusive, we’re better known as “the backbone of the company”. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
A driver’s role is as varied as it is busy, incorporating all manner of duties from collecting freshly baked bread from the bakery at dawn, to re-stocking the wine cellars, clearing the snow from the driveways and delivering freshly laundered linen on changeover day, all to ensure that the rest of the chalet operation runs smoothly. A simple pick up for delivering skiers to ski school on time is more like a military operation – we don’t just wait with the engine running while guests pile in, we carry the skis from the boot room to carefully load in the van, help guests with all the general ski paraphernalia like carrying helmets, finding the mislaid glove, checking everyone has their ski passes and then do the reverse at the destination. While chauffeuring our guests in and around Verbier is a fundamental part of the role, a typical day requires a Ski Verbier Exclusive driver to be: handyman, plumber, electrician, postman, procurer, ski technician, deliveryman, binman, weather reporter, groundsman and more. The James Milner of ski seasons. With a van.
In sexier terms one might, and I often do, think of myself as a firefighter, buzzing around resort responding rapidly to all manner of requests to ensure that the guest experience remains up to Ski Verbier Exclusive’s impeccable standards.
Confidence and calmness under pressure are never more vital than when tackling the tricky driving conditions encountered around the resort. Thankfully our pre-season training consisted of a comprehensive education in the art of snow-driving, amidst heavy shouts for “the reds”, from Jordan, our unequivocally Liverpudlian head driver. We learn the best driving routes around Verbier according to the time of day and weather conditions. We learn the art of fitting snow-chains in the most efficient times possible, and we also make sure we know the weather forecast each day for when the inevitable question comes; ‘what’s it like up the mountain today?’
Actually, the whole training experience turned out to be a wonderful voyage of discovery for us both: Jordan taught me that the key to driving in Verbier was to stay in a lower gear when approaching an incline and that a lower gear was better when tackling a steep descent in order to utilise engine braking. In return, I graciously taught him that “the reds” weren’t the best team in the Premier League, and that he’d probably do better to stop wasting his time shouting about them…
Most importantly though, we learned that, as a rule of thumb, it is best not to get stuck. And if you do find yourself twixt snow and ice, then the key is rock and roll. Fire up the Status Quo and edge yourself out between riffs and gears to the safety of Swiss tarmac – or roughly the area that you could swear used to be such a couple of months ago.
While staying on the road is, unsurprisingly, fundamental to being a successful driver, each day constitutes a careful juggling act with equally pressing demands coming from every direction. With a span of backgrounds ranging from stage lighting and computer science to outdoor education and political economics our ‘easy company’ has a diversity of experience which ensures that we can handle any mission that the ski season throws our way. So while we might not all share a common interest in “the reds”, the SVE driving team is united in delivering the best possible service for our guests.