A view from the Alps: behind the Varsity ski trip

Morwenna Jones 6 February 2014

Exactly a week before lectures start and what am I doing? I’m not weeping over DH Lawrence, nor am I frantically completing essays that should have been written months ago. Instead, I am standing over three thousand metres above sea level, looking down on Alpe D’Huez’s notorious black run, ‘Tunnels.’ And the best part? I’m being paid to be here.

Racing through powder, dancing at mountain-top bars and socialising with students from all over the country is just a typical day’s work for NUCO Travel’s army of reps. This year, the company has provided holidays for over ten thousand students, run the legendary Oxbridge Varsity trip and, as the biggest student snowsports organiser in the UK, employed 306 reps who work anything between one week and two months.

But although as Logistics Manager Sam Passmore says, we have the “best job in the world”, it’s not all fun and games. Eighteen-hour transfers and staying up til 4am looking after drunk students are as much a part of the job as dancing your ski-socks off at après. The hardest week of all? Varsity ski trip.

2,800 students descending on one resort requires an immense amount of work. Preparation starts a week in advance in resort, before the rest of the 121-strong team of info, event, competition, insurance and front-desk reps arrive and the logistical nightmare of two hundred people arriving every hour begins. Then, during the week, after a long day’s skiing when participants are getting some hard-earned rest, reps are sorting out rooms, running the medical centre, and barbecuing the ever-popular free burgers at Varsity.

Consequently, given the scarcity of my downtime, I’m often asked if this job is worth doing, even for one week of our precious vac. For me, the answer is easy. Despite panicking about imminent dissertation deadlines and carrying my reading list to and from the Alps on many coach transfers, I’m on top of the world (almost literally). I’m in the Alps, I’m on skis and I’m part of a phenomenal team. Each team-member pulls their own weight, even to the extent of flying back to the UK only to run a coach out to the Alps again. As far as I’m concerned, the only way back to Cambridge is with two planks on my feet, and I’ve never been happier.