10 Minutes With... Fiona Dodsworth, Founder Of Mont Blanc Family Fun For Families In The French Alps
Do you live in (or near) a ski resort?
I live in Sallanches, so the nearest ski stations are Combloux (part of the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area), Cordon and Passy Plaine-Joux.
Which is your favourite ski resort?
I have favourite ski resorts for different reasons... I love all of our most local ones, as they are so family-friendly, especially Plaine-Joux and Cordon for very little skiers (just drag-lifts!) - the kids become confident and independent quickly... for my own skiing, I would choose Les Contamines (also in the Evasion Mont Blanc ski area) and Flaine (Grand Massif ski area) - amazing views, lovely pistes, fun snow-parks for the children (and in Flaine you get the bonus of amazing art sculptures and a ski resort designed like no other!)
What is the most important characteristic in a ski buddy?
One that enjoys picnics and chats and won't lead me into a half-pipe!
Skier or Boarder?
Skier! Though I sometimes think about having a snowboarding lesson, just to see what it's like!
If you could buy a ski property in any resort, which one would it be?
I think that I would opt for Saint-Gervais - it is close to lots of other excellent ski resorts (Les Contamines, Megève, Les Houches) and I love the architecture and dynamic art scene there.
What does skiing/the mountains mean to you?
I chose to live in the mountains for the nature, which for me is a constant source of inspiration for creativity - photography, writing, adventures en famille...
Which is your favourite season in the mountains?
I really love the arrival of every season, so marked in the Alps... but I would probably choose autumn for the palette of orange, red, brown, ochre and brown which appears on the mountainsides.
All-in-one or salopettes?
Salopettes, because it's then much easier to have a wee on the mountainside! That said, I dressed my boys in all-in-ones when they were very small.
Fondue or raclette?
Neither, I'm afraid, I LOATHE cheese - quite challenging in this part of the world.
Who would be your ideal ski/mountain companion?
These days, I enjoy walking/skiing/biking with my children (and their daddy, who carries them when they are tired!); but I also love hiking with one or two good friends, or simply hiking on my own.
Your favourite ski run/mountain walk?
I'm not a runner, but I do LOVE hiking . . . my favourite walk is probably from Barberine to the Loriaz huts via the Vieux Emosson (preferably with a night in the mountain refuges).
Many people dream of moving to the mountains but you’ve made it a reality – how did you make it happen?
I used to work as a tour leader (student and charity groups), so I could essentially live anywhere in the world near an airport. About 10 years ago, whilst living in London, I visited friends in Chamonix (and I had also been several times for work)... I was tiring of London's bustle, and was itching to live somewhere that I could hike, climb, cycle or ski when not working. I met so many people in a similar working situation who had settled in Chamonix, so I rented out my flat in London and moved to Chamonix. After three years living there, I moved down to Sallanches with my partner and we started a family.
Describe your style in 3 words
Natural? Creative? I am lost for a third...
We’re huge fans of your Mont Blanc Family Fun website. Tell us how it all started.
The idea for the website literally took shape in the "shallow waters of Lac de Passy, with the majestic Mont Blanc and the the surrounding snowy peaks shimmering in the background". At the time, my eldest son (now 7 years old) was 18 months old and I had struggled to find activities to keep up BOTH amused during the long winters of the Alps! Having worked as both a language teacher in the UK and as a tour leader (cities and trekking), I was used to doing "recces" for work, and always loved discovering new places and having adventures. Over the years, I began to document our family visits and decided to start a website/blog, with the aim of bringing together tried and tested activities for families au Pays du Mont-Blanc (I saw that this was a niche).
What’s your favourite family activity in the Mont Blanc area?
Winter and/or summer? My favourite summer activity: hiking and (easy) mountain biking / favourite winter activity: skiing and a bit of ice-skating and Christmas markets for chill-out time!
And your favourite non-family activity?
I would probably say heading out to the cinema, leaving the children with a babysitter - it's quite a treat these days to get a parents' night out! I recently saw the hightly acclaimed The Shape of Water in VO, with a friend, and we were both in awe!
What are the pros of bringing a family up in the Alps? And the cons?
The pros: sport & nature on our doorstep, the kids are bilingual, we live close to Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Austria (where we have family), so getting around Europe is easy.
The cons: bad weather days when the kids are small (but I am finding more and more activities through research for Mont Blanc Family Fun, and now that the boys are bigger, there are plenty of activities!);
Any tips for buyers looking to relocate their family to the Alps?
I would recommend that relocators learn French and get prepared for tedious paperwork and bureaucracy! But this balances out with the joy of living in nature!
For family activities in the Pays du Mont Blanc and the Chamonix Valley, visit montblancfamilyfun.com or follow their recommendations and review on the Mont Blanc Family Fun Facebook page
If you are interested in any of the ski resort Fiona mentions, click here to read our Guides to Ski Resorts For Ski Property.
To find a dream ski property in St Gervais Les Bains, Fiona's choice of ski resort to live in, click here to browse our selection of Ski Properties For Sale In Saint Gervais Les Bains.
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