Confirm your holiday with only a handshake – the new way to book your family skiing? Behind the scenes with Wendy

Wendy started her career in travel working seasons as a rep in both Greece and the Alps before setting up a travel agency, with husband Michel. Snowbizz and Sunbizz specialised in family ski and the Greek island holidays.

We thought we’d bring you bit more of what goes on behind the scenes starting with a Q&A.


Q. Best bit of the job?

All the lovely guests who have skied with us over the years, who we now count as friends, and watching their children grow up. And working with my family and adopted family which includes Sarah and Jo who’ve been with us since they left school.

Also hearing all the wonderful success stories from the Junior Ski School. And that’s not just about the ski racers that we’ve produced. It’s even more special when the skiing crosses over and has a positive effect on other issues like general confidence at school.

I also love having our dogs working with us, a lunchtime walk with them is a great stress buster.

And of course getting to ski with family and friends at the end of the season – it’s one of the weeks that I most look forward to.


Q. Bad bits?

Having to turn down so many really good young people who want to work a ski season for us. Some of them have grown up with the company but we’ve only got eight places and the competition is fierce.


Q. Biggest changes?

I really miss chatting to old and new guests on the phone. Almost everyone emails now so when they do phone it’s always good to catch up.


Q. Biggest challenge?

Transfer day and Turin Airport.

Michel and I are The Duty Office – most weeks are fine but bad weather and delays bring all sorts of challenges. And none that you can really prepare for. We just have to think on our feet because we are relying on so many people: reps, drivers, cabin crew, check-in staff, cleaners – they’re all equally important on transfer day.

Fortunately being small, we are so hands on that we can normally nip a problem in the bud. But this relies on really good communication down the chain. I love when there is a problem that our guests appreciate we can act quickly and turn it around.


Q. What makes you angry?

When someone in the chain of suppliers isn’t working as effectively as the rest and they perceive one little detail to be a bit daft and unnecessary so don’t bother, and then things escalate to where it does become a problem.

Also negative people. Anything is possible if you think positively.


Q. Any near disaster stories?

Early days computers – when they could just crash and lose all your data. I remember this happening back in the early 80s to one of our big tour operators who I worked for. That nightmare stayed with me, so early days we kept a manual back-up system, just in case.

We had Zoe, the puppy, in the office at the time. We had a couple of close shaves with her as she was a real foodie and adored the smell of carbon on those old-fashioned credit card slips.

One manic day late November, a first-time guest from the year before, who wasn’t a very easy man, phoned to check where his flight tickets for New Year were. There was nothing showing on our system and in a panic we turned the office upside down in case Zoe had been the culprit.

Finally, I was left to apologise. It was a mystery but I had to admit our mistake and explain that they would be unable to travel as there wasn’t a hope of finding more flight seats or accommodation.

As expected he went loopy. Crazy loopy, which should’ve been the give-away:

“What do you mean you can’t find my booking? – I shook hands with Michel in Puy last year and said I definitely wanted to come back. If my handshake isn’t as good as my word ………..

Another life lesson learnt!


Q. Wasn’t he just winding you up?

Absolutely not – I know I’m usually good for a wind-up but this guy was absolutely serious, ready to report us to ABTA the lot. Fortunately by the time he’d calmed down we’d miraculously managed to find more flight seats.

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