Bladon Lines was, up until 1995, the UK’s biggest Ski chalet tour operator in the UK.
If you have one of these books, do you still use it? It includes some of the catered ski chalets’ favourite menus from the 1980s and 90s and tips and memories from Bladon Lines Chalet staff.
Chalet girls from this time couldn’t Google menus, or even find tips on how to make a home-baked cakes rise at altitude, (something very few chalet girls could do back then) instead, they relied on the Bladon Lines Chalet Girls Cookbook, I picked up this copy from a well-known auction site.
Bladon Lines chalet girls in the 1980-90’s had impossibly small budgets to cater for their guests, £25 a head for the week was considered more than enough by the accountants of ski chalet companies like Bladon Lines.
£25 was supposed to provide 7 days of breakfasts, 6 x 3-course evening meals and 7 home-baked cakes. In some ski chalets even, packed lunches were included. It’s hardly surprising that by the end of the week, portions were small and on occasion considerably less edible.
If a chalet girl accidentally burnt the evening meal, it would be creatively renamed to something like “Joan of Arc bites”.
Chalet guests’ most popular dishes included favourites such as:
- Chicken and pineapple Casserole
- Kitzbuhel Creamed Beef
- Pear Vinaigrette
- Camembert Surprise
- Gstaad Mushrooms
- St Anton Sardine Pate (Don’t ask! This helped chalet staff get back on budget)
Baking a cake that rises with altitude
Baking a fresh cake or biscuits every day was an instruction engraved on every Bladon Lines chalet girl’s contract of employment. A task that was beyond most. Even boiling an egg at 2,000m above sea level takes 15 minutes. To successfully bake a cake, requires less baking powder, less sugar and more liquid and a lot more heat. Chalet guests in the 80s and 90s often poked fun at some of the creations put on the teatime table.
The Bladon Lines cookbook also included stories from the chalet staff’s ski seasons.
There is a footprint in my pudding
The chalet cookbook also includes tips for things that go wrong. One chalet girl reported that she had put that evening’s delicious dessert, Lemon Biscuit Pudding, on the balcony to chill. A guest, who popped out for a breath of fresh air, hadn’t noticed the strange squidgy noise as his left boot ruined the evening’s special dessert. The chalet girl noticed the lemon goo on the chalet floor as the guest came back in. Without time to make another, the quick-thinking chalet girl used up lavish quantities of whipped cream to hide the footprint, the unknowing guests really enjoyed their pudding that night!
Christmas dinner was the most dreaded meal, even for the most seasoned chalet girl.
One Bladon Lines chalet girl couldn’t fit the job lot of frozen Turkeys the rep dropped off at each chalet in the small chalet fridge, so the quick-thinking girl buried it in a mound of snow near the chalet front door. Planning to retrieve it on Christmas Eve. It was only then she noticed the chalet owner’s dog’s footprints and the by now, very large yellow snow patch. Apparently, the Turkey was delicious!
Oven ready taxidermy
Another Bladon Lines chalet girl reported that her cosy chalet in Verbier walls were decorated with the owner’s stuffed heads of chamois and local wildlife that he had hunted over the years. A particular jokey group decided to play a trick on the chalet girl, one evening before going to bed they placed the biggest stuffed head in the oven. The next morning, the chalet girl put the oven on to pre-heat it before getting on with her chores, it was a while before she noticed the strange smell and even longer before she opened the oven to get the shock of her life!
We’d like to apologise for using the sexist term “chalet girl”, in this blog, these were different times in the 1980s and 90s, today of course they are now called chalet staff or chalet hosts, but they still occasionally burn the nights dinner or present an unrisen cake for their guests.
Bladon Lines chalet girls: A summary
Chalet girls faced amusing mishaps, like a guest stepping on a chilled Lemon Biscuit Pudding, cleverly saved with whipped cream. Christmas dinners, dreaded by even seasoned chalet girls, had humorous incidents, like burying a turkey in snow and discovering a dog’s involvement. Pranks, such as putting a stuffed head in the oven, added humour to the chalet life. While the term “chalet girl” may be considered sexist today, it reflects the language of that era.
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