January. Christmas done. Back to work and commuting in the dark. Rainy school runs. Waiting 96 days until payday. Not this year though.
Instead we’ve spent the first month of a new decade living and snowboarding in one of our favourite places.
So why here? Jim and I have been coming to Morzine and nearby Avoriaz to snowboard for the last 10 years, and as a family since 2016. We know it well and love it. Portes du Soleil has over 600km of pistes across France and Switzerland, as well as amazing parks and off piste. It’s also not so high to get ridiculously cold (in contrast to our time in Cervinia in the Italian alps before Christmas, where it hit -12).
The plan is to stay here until April and fulfil a dream to spend a winter season snowboarding. Some would argue that we should have got this out of our system a few years ago… before children. And yep, that is the norm and probably far less complicated! But to be honest, we’re already sticking two fingers up at social convention by giving up work/school to live in a van and travel abroad for a year, so if we’ve got the chance to realise a lifelong ambition as part of it, we aren’t going to pass it up. Plus, sharing this experience with Eden and Ivan is one of our biggest motivations.
Besides so far, it’s a walk in the park compared to our previous travels. Mainly due to the fact that we’re not moving around. It’s made getting into a routine – especially for the kids – much easier.
For most of January we’ve been based in an aire in Morzine. When we arrived at the end of December it was already home to several vans – a mix of campers, conversions and motorhomes. There’s quite a few other Brits and it has a nice community vibe, people are really sociable and try to help each other out. Admittedly, as the only long-term van-dwellers with kids, our social life is a bit quiet in comparison to the others, but everyone has been super friendly and welcoming.
Most people living here are out here for the season. Some have done previous winters and others have already been travelling, such as one couple Jack and Nina, who converted a Mercedes Sprinter van themselves. They also left the UK last July and have been on a similar adventure to ours across Europe.
The aire location is really good – a 15 minutes walk or free bus to the main lifts. Early on, Ivan and I discovered a beautiful walk along the river, which leads from the aire all the way into town. We’d never explored this part of Morzine before.
Another benefit of putting down roots is spending less. We bought our season passes well in advance when they were heavily discounted (plus the kids were free). Our main outgoings are topping up with fuel (our heating runs on diesel), LPG for the fridge/cooker, food and alcohol, laundry and occasional electric hookup.
As for the snowboarding, we’ve had consistently good weather and conditions for getting out as a family. Eden and Ivan are both doing really well and becoming proper mini shredders. They love the parks, riding the side pistes and especially the Lil’ Stash. There is so much for kids here (and big kids!) It’s like one massive playground.
Eden started the year with a REAL Snowboarding kids camp which definitely boosted her confidence. She had her first lessons with REAL three years ago and went on another of their kids’ camps in 2018. They are specialist snowboard instructors, rather than a ‘ski school who also do snowboard lessons’ and we recommend them highly. She has also joined their girls shred group every other weekend, when they focus on different skills like carving or park riding.
Jim has been focused on Ivan’s snowboarding – he can ride down the hill comfortably, go straight, turn and stop heel side and get down steeper slopes safely on his heel edge. The next step is getting him to turn toe side more. He’ll definitely benefit from a couple of lessons at some point as the aim is to get him riding properly by the end of the season.
Most importantly they are both loving their time on the hill. Nothing beats watching them get hyped about something we love so much!
As well as snowboarding we’ve enjoyed other aspects of mountain life – such as watching La Grande Odyssée dog sled race. We’d seen it advertised but didn’t realise it was such a huge alpine event – kind like of the Tour de France of dog sledding! We headed to Les Gets to watch the build up and start, as the mushers and their dogs departed on a 32km route across the surrounding mountains.
Free entertainment and activities, as well as hot chocolate for the kids and mulled wine for adults, kept us occupied and warm until the finish a few hours later. It was a great event to experience.
We’ve probably had more of a social life since being here than we did at home over Christmas! Our friends the Sharp tribe are also out for the season and we met up with them for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Morzine. A few days later Mel and I also took advantage and had a full girls day out boarding while the boys looked after the kids… Something we last did, pre-kids, in Colorado 12 years ago!
Our children have a lovely friendship and it’s been awesome for them to snowboard together as well as just getting outside to explore.
We also met up with our nephew Tom in Avoriaz while he was out here on a ski trip with friends. The kids loved catching up with their cousin.
For the last week in January we moved the van to Ardent, about a ten minute drive away, as our friends Dunc, Ben, Sam and Ollie were staying in an apartment there. We really love this spot as it’s such a beautiful location next to the Ardent cable car.
This boys’ trip (their first of THREE this season) coincided with a much-needed dump of snow which resulted in a lot of pow riding and laps of The Stash. Eden loved riding with her new crew!
And of course, all the snow made for endless winter wonderland photo opportunities.
Jim and I were also able to get out and ride together just the two of us (which rarely happens) thanks to Ben’s offer to watch the kids. It’s almost two years since I last rode powder and tore my ACL in Morzine so I wasn’t sure how the knee would hold up but it felt great.
It was definitely one of the best days, in probably one of the best Januarys, EVER*.
*This doesn’t mean January was perfect. If it was, Ivan wouldn’t have had a sickness bug which blew our laundry budget for the month, Vodafone wouldn’t have stitched us up and changed our contracts with no warning, it wouldn’t have rained for the last three days straight and we’d still be in the EU. But life is still pretty damn good.