Hélène Zamora is native of the city of Grasse on the French Mediterranean coast. She soon discovered the pleasure of skiing and learned to ski at the ski resort of Val d’Allos.
Having a great passion for the profession of pisteur since she was very young, she faced the challenge and overcame all the previous steps: first grade of pisteur, made her debut in an exceptional season in Tignes showing her worth, and then returned to Val d’Allos with the desire to evolve and advance in her profession. She later specialized taking care of avalanche prevention. Later, she passed the training related to the second degree of pisteur and obtained the first aid diploma. Finally, she culminated her training surpassing the third degree of pisteur. “Initially, I did not expect to get where I am today. I did not aim for the top. I wanted to evolve myself, becoming a better professional and not necessarily promoting”.
With this philosophy of personal improvement, Hélène Zamora currently manages the slope service of Val d’Allos, as the head for 14 snow groomer drivers, 3 snowmakers and 28 permanent pisteurs + 2 extra operators.
I Love Ski – Director of the slope service since 2007, what do you like most about your job?
Hélène Zamora – The job of director of the slope service is completely different to any profession in the city. There is a key factor, a common passion that binds us all who work at altitude: the mountain. The mountains are a beautiful office, we enjoy being outdoors. The attraction of our job is mainly related to nature, it is also multi-disciplinary (one day we prevent avalanches, the next day we rescue skiers, then we work to maintain the slopes …)
As the director of the slopes department, all the attractiveness of the work I had at the beginning is lost… Now I’m there to manage, so that the slope service works. When one is a pisteur one does not think at all of the workload that entails being a director! My work is mainly social: we try to do management, it is interesting to see the characters of people. You must know how to change your way of being according to the people you have in front of you. We go into more details of the activities, we try to motivate others, to go hand in hand, to achieve the goals. I am here for others to advance.
I Love Ski – What are the difficulties related to your work?
Hélène Zamora – Mainly the risk: all the actions that are linked to the opening of the slopes. Depending on the conditions of the snow, the opening can sometimes be difficult. The ski area of La Foux has many trip points (170 trip points in Seignus and Foux), a difficult station with a large PIDA (Avalanche Prevention Plan). Just that … it’s stressful! Sometimes it continues to snow and it is difficult to allow skiers access to some slopes. Special conditions must be taken into account. For me, the most stressful days are avalanche prevention days. We have the pressure of opening (doing it well for the client), respecting schedules and ensuring the safety of all.
Photo : slope service of Val d’Allos
I Love Ski – You are currently the only woman in France directing a slope service. How do you experience being a head woman in this work environment?
Hélène Zamora – To be in that position, you need character. Since 2007 I have been in this position, I have experience, and every time I am less impulsive. Over the years, I learned to better handle stressful situations.
When you are a woman, you have to show that you are as good as men or even better than them. Diplomas are very important, you have to prove your competence, often more than a man.
At the beginning, when I was appointed director of the slopes, it was a problem, it did not please everyone. At first I got uncomfortable reactions. It took me years to make my place, especially in this predominantly man’s world. But my last director of slopes supported me, and prompted me to introduce myself as director of the slopes.
The sector is still very masculine, but as a woman, we bring another look, another sensitivity, we see things differently, even for administration. And we have the advantage of being able to do several things at the same time!
I Love Ski – As a woman, how do you reconcile your personal and professional life?
Hélène Zamora – I have two children (8 and 10 years old) who are very independent. They go to school alone. The days of avalanche prevention, I prepare everything to be able to follow them remotely, with the telephone. And it works! They have understood the obligations of my work. And then, I’m not alone. I have family, friends who help me when necessary.
I Love Ski – What are your professional aspirations?
Hélène Zamora – Our work faces a great challenge: climate change. As slope managers, we have to deal with climate change, temperatures that are not necessarily very cold at the beginning of the season, snow that does not always happen when we want, the postponement of hiring employees… I wonder a lot about the future because it is a real problem of the ski resorts.
I love my job, but I do not know if I’ll continue doing it until I’m 60 years old.
We finish this Face2Face of Iloveski with a woman who proves her worth, regardless the work environment. Val d’Allos has become a wonderful example with its policy of creating mixed work teams, integrating women among its management and human resources teams.
Check back, we hope to make a similar interview soon to a woman in charge of a structure dedicated to snow in Spain.
Meanwhile, we invite you to read other recently created Face2Face featured articles: