Skiing With The Super Rich | A Secret World of Drugs, Prostitutes And €7,500 Tips
“After a drink and drugs-infused bender, our guests decided to have a baseball game with the week's supply of eggs…”
Words by Ollie Peart
I don’t know about you, but when I get the urge to go snowboarding, the first thing I do is tap “Cheap Ski Holidays" into Google, click the first link, order by “Price, lowest" and try and get as much bang for my ever decreasing-in-value pound, as I can. I want flights, food, transfers, ski passes and a weird “extra" like a sleigh ride, for as little money as possible. There are thousands of people like me, who do that same thing year after year.
And just like me, those people will notice as they roll through their chosen ski town in a bus adorned with nothing more than a flickering LED clock, that tucked away behind the colossal faux hotels or chalets most of us stay in, sit an array of mega luxe chalets, so bafflingly stunning that even Kevin McCloud would be astonished by them.
"The most excessive? 'Our Russian guests who asked us to "rent" a litter of puppies for their kids’ Christmas present.'"
As you drive past you’ll try and peer over the chunky wooden and steel automated gates, dazzled by the multi-coloured light display that’s so garish it’s almost cool. But you’ll see nothing. This billionaire's playground is off limits to the likes of you. You’d like to look inside though wouldn’t you? Of course you would.
Well, you’re in luck. I’ve tracked down some staff from these uber-rich chalets, and asked them to spill the diamontes on what goes on behind these very expensive doors.
In the interest of my sources' anonymity I’ve changed their names. Discretion is at the heart of the luxury chalet business. You’ve got to be trustworthy if you want to work for a billionaire. I start by asking Alan (I could have possibly thought up a better name…) about the most excessive thing a guest of his has ever done.
“It must have been our Russian guests who asked us to "rent" a litter of puppies for their kids’ Christmas present."
Who rents puppies? Especially on holiday? I have no idea, but the concept didn’t strike me as excessive, that is, until you hear what they had to do next.
“We had to redecorate one of the guest rooms just for the pups, including putting real grass on the bedroom floor and hiring a round-the-clock Nanny for them because the kids couldn't possibly be asked to take care of them!"
That can’t have been cheap…
“It cost €17,500 (£14,500) including a complete repainting of the room and hiring the nannies. We bought the puppies but returned them straight after Christmas so all-in-all we had them in the chalet for four days."
That works out at €4,375 (£3,625) a day.
Money seems to open a door to a world where nothing is impossible. It can be done, provided you have the cash.
Sarah shrugs off one of her guests requesting white truffle to go with his meal. A request that would end up taking hours to arrange and cost just over €1,000 (£850) to pull off.
“That’s a pretty expensive side order," she says, relatively unfazed.
If you have the money though, then why not? What’s wrong with splashing the cash? Well, one problem that springs to mind is the impression that with enough money, you can do whatever the hell you please. Could extreme-wealth go to one's head?
“After a drink and drugs-infused bender, our guests decided to have a baseball game in the chalet with the week's supply of eggs and some pots and pans."
Of course it can.
“They caused £25,000 of damage. The worst thing was that the owner of the chalet was arriving the next day. We worked around the clock to get the property back in order so they wouldn’t find out."
The expectation is that the staff who work in these chalets will sort it out. No questions asked. Sometimes guests take this to the extreme, pushing the boundaries of what is considered acceptable on the staff, expecting nothing other than unwavering compliance. I quiz Alan on what the most difficult task he was asked to do by a guest was.
He tells me about the time he had to turn a blind eye to a cheating husband.
Already a moral breach that goes far and beyond what is expected from a typical worker in the service industry, and rightly so. But it’s what he has had to lie about that leaves me in utter disbelief.
“A family consisting of a trophy-wife, who was a model back in her native Russia, their lovely, perfect children, and his parents. They left the property and he told his family to go ahead and go back home in their private jet. He told them he had just been called to a last minute business meeting. He went one way and the rest of the family the other. His limo returned within minutes of him leaving and we thought that we might have forgotten to pack something of his. It turned out that he had booked, behind his wife's back, the property for another week. This time though he spent it as a dirty holiday with two identical twin prostitutes."
“He sent all the staff, bar me and the other manager, home and told us not to disturb him with anything else but a quick clean every morning."
I resist asking what the mess from a Russian billionaire and two prostitutes looks like. It can’t be easy to turn your head the other way and ignore it. It intrigues me, do they enjoy the work?
“I still really enjoy my job. I’ve been doing this for more than 10 years together with my wife, working on the yachts in summer and private high end chalets in winter. The best of both worlds, summer in the sun and winter in the snow!" Alan tells me.
But what about Sarah? She’s left the business now, surely that’s because she hated it? Or did she enjoy the whole thing too?
"I resist asking what the mess from a Russian billionaire and two prostitutes looks like…"
“Yes! Regardless of everything, working in luxury chalets is by far one of the best experiences I’ve had. The challenge of rich and demanding guests is actually pretty fun to deal with."
And maybe that’s it. Maybe these billionaire types know that the staff like to be kept on their toes, constantly surprised and challenged by ever more eccentric, morally abhorrent and downright weird requests. I mean if anything it makes for a great story. It keeps us minions fascinated by the peculiar behaviour of the rich. Or perhaps Sarah and Alan enjoy the work for another reason…
“I think the biggest tip we received was €7,500 (£6,250) for me and my wife, for a week. We’ve done pretty well from tips. A few years ago after a winter season in Courchevel, we travelled around Australia for a year, and definitely not on a budget, just with the tips we’d made."
It certainly makes the idea of: “getting in a gondola with 12 pairs of shoes, delivering them to the guests at their lunch table, removing their ski boots, replacing them with their shoes and then between the two of us, returning back down the gondola with 12 pairs of ski boots, poles and skis" as Sarah had to do, more bearable if you know there is a possibility of loads of cash at the end of it.
I think it would be fun to be a billionaire in a chalet for a week, just to see how they roll. I wonder what it’s like to live in this luxurious bubble of plenty where pretty much nothing is off limits. So how much would a ticket into this incredible world set me back for a week then?
“A property in Courchevel I worked at which is staffed with more than 15 staff, sleeps 8 people, goes for around €500,000 (£420,000) a week at Russian xmas and New Years."
Yup. Half a million euros a week. If you and seven of your mates fancy it that’ll be €62,500 or £52,738 each, thank you very much. But when you consider some of these chalets feature gold leaf swimming pools, steam rooms, wine tasting rooms, personal chefs, drivers and chalet staff, it’s perhaps no wonder.
But until you can afford staff that will bow down to your every whim, maybe resist asking your 100 euro a week chalet host to clean up after you and your twin prostitutes.