North East ski workers fear being frozen out of European resorts after Brexit transition period ends

Video report by Andrew Misra

Up to 25,000 young British people aged 18-34 head to European ski resorts each year to work in seasonal jobs, including in hospitality, maintenance or as a ski instructor. Many of those are from the North East.

With the end of the Brexit transition period creeping ever closer, fears that these workers will be frozen out of European ski resorts are growing.

Scott Petite says he was in a dark place mentally before working his first season in the French Alps three years ago. He says the mountains, far removed from his seaside hometown of Saltburn near Redcar, lifted everything for him.

Scott said: “Going from that place to a group of people that were just accepting and they became your ski family and other seasonaires will know this, you kind of get thrown together, never met each other before. Different backgrounds, different nationalities - it’s the people that make it.”

The 25-year-old was able to work six seasons in a row - heading to France in the winter and Spain in the summer - because of the current system whereby UK companies can move staff to temporary positions in other EU countries without visas or work permits.

However, the government has confirmed that will change on January 1. 

Scott worries that will make it much harder for people like him to do those jobs. 

He said: "I think it’s going to be very sad if they can’t do what I’ve done. People are going to miss out on great opportunities.”

Liam Campbell is also worried. Like Scott, he worked in the French Alps for a British company as a resort manager, before progressing to the firm’s head office. The 29-year-old leads recruitment from his home on South Tyneside, but fears hiring British staff may no longer be viable.

He said: “It’s at great risk. The chance to live, work and ski abroad is something that is some of the best experiences of my life and the chance to be able to share that with people who might not necessarily get the chance to do that in their own spare time is something that will be devastating to lose.”

At Silksworth dry ski slope in Sunderland, ITV Tyne Tees got the point of view of seasonal workers from the North East.

However, it is not just in the UK where people could miss out.

Charlie Gorman is from Whitley Bay, but is based in the French ski resort of Meribel. The 27-year-old has been training to become a ski instructor ever since leaving school.

Very soon, Brexit means the shared European agreement on qualifying will change - meaning she has one last shot in a race against time to pass before the end of the month. 

To do so, she must complete a slalom speed test within 25% of an Olympic skier’s time. 

But with ski lifts currently closed due to coronavirus, she may not even get that chance at all.

She said: “If I’m unable to complete my ski instructor qualification, it’ll just mean that the last eight years have been a complete waste of time to me."

There may be another way around qualifying - but that would mean converting to the French system and re-doing tests and exams, costing Charlie even more time and money.

Whether it’s abroad or at home, seasonal workers are keeping their plans on ice, and hoping their dreams don't melt away.