A year ago I arrived at Our Chalet, eager to start in a new role as Programme Coordinator, after falling in love with this place as a volunteer. Even though I had spent a couple wonderful months here previously, nothing could have prepared me for what I have experienced since my return. This year has been unbelievable; full of adventures and new challenges. I learned to cross country ski, made dozens of igloos (which was very strange for this Florida girl), rafted with a group of hilarious teens, went canyoning, met hundreds of very cute cows, let a llama chew on me, spent a few nights cuddled above a cow barn with my co-workers, climbed countless mountains, turned Skippy Storrow (arguably my favorite creature here) into a superhero, watched the sunrise over the Alps, ice skated on a lake, and ate more cheese and chocolate than I would like to admit.
My friend Jenn always says she feels like her best self here at the chalet. I don’t think I ever understood how a place could have that kind of effect on a human until I experienced it for myself. I find that the person I am at the chalet is kinder, more patient, more adventurous, and stronger than the person I am anywhere else. It not just in myself that I this; it seems like no one leaves the chalet unchanged. I’ve watched girls push themselves to try things they never thought they could do, from hiking the peak of a mountain to watch the sunrise, snow tubing down an Alp, or abseiling into a gorge. I’ve seen leaders leave filled with pride after watching their groups take on every challenge side by side. I’ve been inspired by my chalet family who all have left their homes and families to share and learn from one another. Our Chalet has this uncanny ability to challenge each person to discover their potential.
I joke that at the chalet you are never really alone. While at times that can be the most frustrating feeling, it has become one of my favorite things about living here; it is constantly teaming with life. I’ve shared the staff house with 5 different seasons of vollies, and even though chaos reigns 90% of the time, I love the constant stream of people coming through every door and the laughter the always follows. I have met some of the most amazing women who support each other through every challenge and are always there to celebrate any win (even if that win is staying awake for karaoke in town). Our Chalet is my home and I am so glad I get to share it with all these crazy humans.
Guests regularly ask if I get tired; tired of the views, tired of the people, tired of the same adventures week after week. My answer is always the same: how could I? While in theory many days are the same (because the route up a mountain rarely changes), in reality no two days are ever are. The light on the mountains and valleys is always changing, each group brings new energy, and every single person who enters through the chalet doors changes it in some way. How can a person tire of these adventures?
This year, as we celebrate the 85th birthday of this amazing place, I can’t help but think of those who have come before me. What were their experiences like? Did they share the same sense of wonder and excitement upon arriving? Did they create memories filled with a sense of pride that they did things they never thought they were capable of? Did the relationships they began here last for years to come? How did Our Chalet change their life?
Before I came here I was told that there was something magical in the air that I would never be able to forget, and I wouldn’t agree more. Our Chalet has forever changed me and continues to make me the person I want to be, and I can’t wait to see what my future here holds.
Sarah Wach – Programme Co-ordinator January 2015 to present