At the London Ski Show back in October I bumped into fellow Yorkshire natives James and Gemma Greenway who invited me to visit them this winter at their business Green Mountain Chalets in St. Martin de Belleville, and earlier this week I finally got the chance to ski over from La Tania with my girlfriend Claire and take them up on their offer.

As we sat beside the woodburner in their cosy lounge with a glass of red and chilled out guests passing to and fro I asked them how they’d come to set up the business, and here’s the story they told – in true Yorkshire fashion it’s simple, straightforward and no nonsense and I’m relating it to you because it shows that the dream so many of us have – of a life in the mountains – can be achieved if tha applies thissen…

“We had our first ever chalet holiday in Les Arcs in 2009,” said James, 34, “and on the way back home we discussed the holiday and the idea of living in the Alps and basically thought we could do a better job of running a chalet – so we set about doing so.

“Within four weeks of getting home from that holiday we were back in the Alps having taken more time off from our jobs in Leeds in recruitment [James] and the law [Gemma] to search for a chalet. We didn’t find anywhere straight away but came out again for a further weekend and used St. Martin as a base – it wasn’t necessarily where we wanted to set up our business – but as it happens we succeeded in finding a chalet here that we could rent rather than buy and that was ideal for us.

“So, we then spent April to November of 2009 sorting out all the paper and legalwork for the business, setting up a website, advertising, etcetera at the same time as working in our regular jobs and trying to keep secret from our bosses the fact that we were going to be resigning soon!

“We both packed in our careers in Leeds in November and drove out to the Alps in a £1900 Land Rover for our new life with no real idea how to run a chalet. We’d never even skied the Three Valleys before! Our first guests were a New Zealand family looking to enjoy their first white Christmas, and they didn’t seem at all phased when we told them they really were our first guests – ever.

“But amazingly it’s all worked out – we look back and wonder what made us think we could do it all now, but we’re obviously getting something right as we’ve had loads of repeat custom – one guest has even been out seven times and is booked twice more for this winter”.

Indeed, Green Mountain Chalets has only ever had five star reviews on Trip Advisor, has been recommended by the Guardian and has been voted number one of eleven speciality accommodation listings in St. Martin de Belleville (the prettiest of the Three Valleys resorts, incidentally).

Gemma, 30, probably hit the nail on the head with what makes Green Mountain Chalets work . “The personal touch is important for us,” she told me. That’s apparent as soon as you walk in to either of the two chalets they now operate – there’s an easy going atmosphere and great banter between James and Gemma and their guests, and if you add to that a superb cave for the appetising and filling dinners they provide and warm, cosy lounges and bedrooms in which to relax then really the winning formula isn’t all that hard to attain.

What is hard to attain, however, is the drive, enthusiasm and sheer ballsiness to go out and get what you want in the first place, which is really the moral of this tale. For how many people spend most if not all of their lives dreaming of living in the mountains but never actually do anything practical about it?

Sure, James and Gemma had a lot in their favour when they decided to change the course of their lives – young, driven, personable and with no family commitments it was maybe easier for them than for others – but the bottom line is they weren’t content to merely dream and talk about it, they went out and did it.

Now they get to hit the slopes of the world’s biggest ski area at least three or four times a week, can hike and ride those same mountains in summer, and regularly make new friends from all over the world – all at the same time as making a living doing something they clearly enjoy.

What’s not to like?

But don’t take my word for it. Check out Green Mountain Chalets yourself at www.greenmountainchalets.co.uk or (www.facebook.com/greenmountainch).

You could even book a week with them – they still have space in early February and are offering special deals in March, and with the snow as good as it is this season the skiing above St. Martin should be sensational.

 

 

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