Many keen skiers will spend the weeks and even months before the season getting their body up to speed, ready for the snow.  They run, squat, stretch and lift, hoping to improve their fitness and stamina.  While they may not ski into the first snow drift they meet, they can sometimes fall at the key hurdle of ordering a drink and food at the bar!

“But everyone speaks English” I hear you cry.  It is certainly true in the hospitality industry that many staff will speak some English.  The level may be patchy, or you may find that it is fine until you have a specific, more unusual, requirement.  This can be a particular issue if you have food intolerances or need to avoid particular foods for any other reason. 

Once you move away from the well-beaten tourist track then you are more likely to come across those who do not speak English.  The most memorable experience I have of this is from a skiing holiday in one of the less well-known resorts in Austria.  On the first day one of our group fell awkwardly and damaged her leg.  She clearly required an ambulance, which was duly summoned. Although she spoke some German, the pain levels meant that she had forgotten most of the niceties – and it turned out that neither of the ambulance crew spoke any English at all!  Filling out all the forms en route to hospital would have been a most interesting experience if we hadn’t had our own translator!

Our suggestion would be to learn the basics of the most common language in your holiday destination.  If you are in doubt about your accent then you can write a dozen or so useful phrases on a piece of paper and point to the ones you need.  Some online dictionaries also offer the option of hearing the word from a native speaker.  www.leo.de provides this option for those who are learning German (or other languages with German as their base language).  Be wary of online translation tools – they have their faults, and you cannot always guarantee wifi access at the top of a mountain!

If you have a food allergy or intolerance or other medical issue, then consider getting a translation of the issue and any medication you may require.  There are websites where you can get medical information cards in a variety of languages, for example AllergyUK.

Teri is a language trainer, specializing in teaching French, German and English to adults.  She no longer skis, preferring to find a good café, an exciting book and a “chocolat chaud” as she watches the family on their adventures.