Fig. 1. Working in the Alps
Five months up a mountain working hard transports the gap-year student from school or college-kid into 'worker'. Long hours, responsibility, a foreign country and environment. The above typifies the roles on offer, the only other being the elusive ski or snowboard instructor that is only achieved with 12 weeks of intensive on the slope training.
Thirty-five years ago you were dropped into a position where few if any spoke English. My French was ropey and I'd only been driving for a few months but I was expected to park guest cars, always negotiating snow and ice and a very tight fit. The pressure and challenge of applied learning is radically different to learning through books and classes.