| by A McGreavey
How’s lockdown been for you so far?
I think like for many it’s frustrating, we’re desperate to get on with things and get back to doing what we love. We’re very grateful to have lockdown out here, with the outside space and scenery. My thoughts go to those who are vulnerable or in big cities, where lockdown must be really hard.
You moved to Chamonix a few years ago now, what took you there?
I originally came here for a winter season in November 2013. My plan was to come for a few months, then obviously the plan changed! It seems to happen a lot here. Our neighbour came 15 years ago for lunch and is still here. Talk about a long lunch!
What kept you there?
People say I’ve always done things in the wrong order. I had my children young, then took a job in the city, decided I wanted to get my degree and chose to do that alongside some time outside the UK. During those first few months I fell in love with having the mountain on your doorstep. I also actually fell in love, having met what would turn out to be my future husband Steve who was also out here on a sabbatical. After some time, we both agreed we were happier out here and decided to start a new chapter.
For someone who is thinking about moving abroad, what advice would you give?
Be open minded. One thing that keeps people together is the community, when you first arrive find a job or project that gets you meeting people. I took a job in a local bar and met so many of my friends during that period. For seasonal places like here, once the season finishes and the “seasonaires” leave, your involvement in the local community will show that you’re here to be part of it properly.
When I first decided to move to Chamonix, I knew that there were a lot of opportunities for me despite my French being very basic. That being said, it’s important to really put the effort into giving back and embracing local culture. Places like Chamonix are very multicultural so expect to meet people from all walks of life. Also, when you get there remember why you came, you’ll find a lot of people have the same reasons!
You set up Mountain Action Holidays in 2019, is this the first time you’ve been involved in the travel and tourism sector?
I’ve been working in the tourist industry for 15 years. One of my first jobs locally after I left my bartending role was helping people find the right chalets for the summer and winter breaks. I found owners would really struggle to fill their places during the “off-peak” months, where the weather can be just as good, and the same activities are available. For customers, it’s less busy and the pricing can be really good. This seemed like a win-win and as an idea it kept coming back to me.
Even for the peak months, so many people were saying “I’d love to come but I don’t want to do anything that crazy”. The thing is, you don’t have to!
There is a perception of a mountain activity break as being something that you need to do all day every day, pushing yourself to your limits. For some that sounds like the best thing ever. In the same breath, if you don’t want to throw yourself off a cliff edge or make the first lift at the crack of dawn then don’t!
It’s ok to just do a handful of runs and have lunch with a view. The penny dropped for me during one holiday that it’s my holiday, I should enjoy it the way I want to. That philosophy really stuck with me and, with another big step forwards, ta da, Mountain Action Holidays was born!
Have you done much adventure/activity travel before?
I’ve done a lot of travelling and in that sense, I’ve been very lucky. One of my favourite trips ever was Costa Rica, where provisions were quite basic, and the accommodation was a mix of “luxury” and more “functional”. Looking back on it, I don’t think the accommodation was ever really that luxurious, it certainly felt like it compared though!
There were 12 of us on a bus, travelling around for 3 weeks. The companionship and bonds we created with each other were so strong, we’re still all good friends today. This is when I realised the value in a small group size for adventure and activity travel, as any bigger and you lose the feel of it as a shared experience. You start as strangers and by the end of a trip like this, or ours, you’ll have some new best friends!
What’s your favourite thing about living in the mountains?
There’s so many! I love the outdoors; the scenery is stunning. The weather here is extreme. It’s very hot in the summer and then heaps of snow in the winter. More than anything I love that every day is different. A big part of that comes from the community. Getting to know your neighbours and being around people that really want to be here is wonderful. Put this all together and you get something magical.
What’s some of your favourite activities, winter and summer?
Cor, that is so hard. Really hard actually! This is why we try to give so many choices. One day here I’d walk along the river and see the water and think ‘wow it’s high today, I bet white water rafting would be amazing’, the next there’s bright blue skies that would be perfect for some via ferrata. I can be quite a scaredy cat sometime so via ferrata gives me the safety and security to let me push myself!
For the winter, I love snowshoeing. Having the dogs here (3 of them), getting out in the thick snow gives them a great workout, while I’m stomping along in relative ease in my snowshoes. Skiing is always a great time; we forget sometimes how lucky we are to have that as an option every day!
Oh, before I forget, E-bikes started appearing out here a couple of years ago for hire and I can’t recommend them enough! The area around here is of course really hilly so to have a motor to propel you up the tough bits means you can see lots more of the valley in the same amount of time.
I told you it was hard to narrow it down!
What would you recommend someone planning a group or family getaway? Where should they start?
Well, that depends. Everything we offer is on the website and that’s a good place to start but it really can vary. For example, we’ve got a small group coming in July for a 50th and they just want to kick back and have fun. Likewise, we’ve got another group coming at the same time of year for a super long hike. Our packages try and cover all bases, but my best piece of advice would be to give me a call or send me an email. We really believe everyone can enjoy the mountains, so get in touch and we’ll make sure it’s exactly what you want.
What would you say is next for Mountain Action Holidays?
We really want “everyone” to mean everyone when it comes to enjoying the mountains, that’s why we’ve added more destinations including Croatia and The Lake District, UK. With this, we’re hoping to secure accommodation with better accessibility for those who need it. Watch this space!
Well thank you very much Julie, it’s been a pleasure! Hope the rest of your lockdown goes ok.
No, thank you! Good luck with yours too!