Every day as an Our Chalet volunteer was an adventure; whether I was working on guest services, programme, hanging out in the staff house, or exploring Switzerland on a day off, I was always doing something new and exciting. My favourite memories, however, are those from activities I never expected to do during my time here.
Taking an overnight trip alone
Before coming to Our Chalet, I had never even been on an overnight trip with a friend. However, after travelling around with other volunteers during the season, I eventually gained the confidence to spend a night in Geneva on my own. I stayed in a hostel for the first time that night, and – to my surprise – managed to explore the city without getting horribly lost.
Skiing down a black run
During the season, I only had the chance to go skiing once. I went up to Engstligenalp with Emma, one of the interns, and we started out on the blue run. After a couple times down the blue run, Emma asked if I would go on the black run with her, and although I hadn’t been skiing since I was about 10 years old, I agreed. The first part was quite steep and I went painfully slowly. But I managed to get down the first part without falling. Towards the end, however, when the run turned into a blue run, it surprisingly got a lot steeper and I ended up sliding on my bum. Nonetheless, I attempted a run that seemed daunting to me and had a lot of fun.
Although I had sworn to myself that I would never snowboard (I hated the idea of my feet being bound together and had heard so many stories of broken wrists), I did try snowboarding during my time at Our Chalet. To start, I asked another staff member who snowboarded to teach me the basics. We walked over to a close-by bunny hill, and I tried to get a feel for the board and sliding down the hill. However I couldn’t figure out how to turn and continually fell on my face when I tried. Although I actually found the falling quite fun and definitely funny, I decided I wanted to take a proper snowboard lesson the following week. By the end of that lesson, I was (mostly) successfully turning and falling a lot less.
Sledging down a mountain
My idea of sledging had always been a plastic bum sled down a backyard hill. However, I soon learned that people sledged down actual mountains on ski runs and sledge runs with proper, old fashioned wooden sledges. On one of my days off, we borrowed a couple of the Chalet’s sledges and went to Silleren to sledge down a ski run. From the top of the mountain, the sledge run looked terrifying – skiers were zipping past at high speeds, the hill looked quite steep, and I had no idea how to steer — I had never even felt the need to steer a sledge before! The first time down, I was constantly stopping myself to avoid the skiers, to make sure I didn’t sledge off the side of the mountain and to control my speed “just in case.” However, after a couple times down, I started trying to see just how fast I could go. I wasn’t stopping myself or even trying to slow down.
Other snow activities
During my time at Our Chalet, I also tried out snowshoeing and cross-country skiing – both things that I was very capable of trying at home, but probably never would have. When I went cross-country skiing, we started off-track, and I was horrendous at it. I kept falling, sprawled out and onto my face. We eventually found real tracks and that made it so much easier because my skis were forced in a specific direction. Yet I would somehow manage to lose my balance every once in a while anyway. Still, it was a fun experience that I probably wouldn’t have tried elsewhere. When I went snowshoeing, I was hiking up Silleren, and I found it quite difficult to walk in them because they were very clunky and I had to place my feet very straight as I walked. But they allowed me to walk up parts of the mountain that I would have not been able to get up without the grip of the snowshoes. And in the end, thanks to the snowshoes, we made it up the mountain about as far as the weather allowed us that day.
Hiking a mountain in the middle of the night
I can’t say that hiking in the middle of the night sounds fun. But trust me, it was. One night, me and 3 other volunteers decided to do a sunrise hike. We got up at 3 in the morning, and headed out to Chuenisbargli, a world cup ski run. The hike was quite easy and the view of the mountains and the stars were stunning. As we got closer to the top of the mountain, the sky began to lighten up, and by the time the sun started peeking out, we were sat at the top waiting for it.
Visiting a country no bigger than 160 km2
Towards the end of my time at Our Chalet, I made a trip out to Liechtenstein with Katy, one of the interns. Before coming to Our Chalet, I didn’t even know that Liechtenstein existed. We visited the capital city, Vaduz, and hiked up to the castle and wandered around the vineyards and old town. The area was absolutely beautiful and I’m so glad I made a trip out there.
Climbing up the Our Chalet hill without stopping
Anyone who’s been to Our Chalet knows about the “Our Chalet Hill.” At the beginning of the season, it was quite difficult to walk up to Our Chalet for me. But the first time I walked all the way up without stopping, it dawned on me just how much fitter I had become. Being at Our Chalet has encouraged me to be more active by exploring cities and towns, hiking, and trying many new outdoor activities. As a result, I have definitely become healthier and fitter.
Making close friendships
Of course, I expected to make friends while I was at Our Chalet. However, I never anticipated how close I would become with all the other volunteers and interns. But being surrounded by girls my own age with similar interests and a mutual excitement for exploring nature and Switzerland allowed me to create close bonds with each of them. I can now say that I have friends all over the world.
Beth, UK/USA – Our Chalet Assistant Spring 2018