06 August 2012 by Jessica Boston and Jane McGarry
Meet the Owners: Chatel Alpine Apartment in the French Alps
A love affair with skiing that began as a 15 year old schoolgirl and a chance opportunity grasped with both hands led Jane McGarry to change her suburban life as a teacher in Bolton for an idyllic home in the French Alps.
From secondary school to ski school
“I’d started skiing on trips with my school and loved it from the start” says Jane “I’d already taken some ski instructor courses but my job as a secondary teacher was my main occupation.
I was involved in taking my pupils on a ski trip in the mid 1980s when I was offered a chance to begin working full time as a ski instructor helping to run a ski school in the Alps, the rest is history.”
Jane met her husband, also a ski instructor and together they set up a residential ski school business and started a family.
“When we were setting up the school we wanted to be sure it was somewhere special, we wanted somewhere French speaking as I’m fluent in the language, we wanted somewhere close to an airport for convenient travel for us and our customers, and more than anything we wanted to settle somewhere that could be a real home for us, not just a seasonal tourist resort.”
Chatel – the perfect mountain lifestyle
The French mountain village of Chatel ticked every box. Just an hour and a half by car to Geneva airport, Chatel is a village with a real local community. All the businesses are family owned and run by local people who appreciate the tourism opportunities the mountains bring but also retain an authentic rural lifestyle that endures year round.
It’s a destination favoured by French holidaymakers and there can be no greater endorsement to the quality of the place, from scenery to skiing, summer activities, exceptional food and value for money.
As Jane’s family grew she faced tough decisions about the lifestyle and education she was providing for her daughters. Splitting their time between Chatel and Dublin the girls attended a mix of French and Irish schools reflecting the busy tourist seasons. Chatel provided opportunities for freedom the UK cannot offer with Tamsen and Kirsty free to explore the village market without fear from a young age.
They also became avid skiers starting almost before they could walk. “By the time they were 9 or so they could out-ski me no problem” says Jane and their passion and dedication for the sport culminated in both girls representing the UK in the winter Olympics.
Converting the home into holiday accommodation
The growing up and moving on of their children prompted Jane and Ian to move into holiday rental repurposing an apartment within their home to provide holiday accommodation for independent travellers.
“We built our house to our own design with the help of a local architect and the apartment was originally included as accommodation for ski school staff. As times changed we felt it was better used as a holiday let giving customers the chance to experience a quiet, residential area instead of the busier apartment blocks more generally available.
It’s the benefit of a private chalet at the price of an apartment which makes it ideal for families and those seeking a more exclusive holiday.”
Chatel – a dream winter destination
With a family background in the service industry Jane and Ian are well equipped to offer their guests everything they need for a fabulous holiday, their success in achieving this is evident by the amount of repeat visits they get.
“A lot of guests through the ski school or apartment become lifelong friends” says Jane “They came back year after year because they love the area like we do and like the style of ski instruction we provide.
Guests at the apartment will often book in for lessons or guided skiing sessions with myself, Ian or one of my daughters so we can go straight out to the slopes together.”
Whether it’s the area, the pricing or just pure luck Jane has found their guests to be consistently delightful,
“I don’t know why but we just seem to attract the loveliest people, I’ve never had any problems and really enjoy showing our guests this wonderful area, it’s a dream job really!”
And it certainly seems to be a dream destination; in the winter season there are over 700km of pistes including a glacier and unlimited off piste skiing opportunities, “So even after over 25 years skiing here we still find new routes to explore!” and in summer the mountain biking and hiking is unparalleled and the mountain air keeps temperatures pleasant.
All year round the sensational views take your breath away and with day trips to Lac Leman, Evian and even Italy within reach one visit will never be enough.
“We love it here, I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t found this place. We are part of a vibrant local community, our family has had a lifestyle that brought amazing opportunities and immense pleasure. Sharing what we have built and found here with others is part of what continues to make our life so rewarding.”
Jane’s recommendations when visiting Chatel:
Hotel-Restaurant Les Cornettes, La Chapelle d’Abandonce
Treat yourself to a meal at this wonderful restaurant, the food is really exceptional with a menu that features delicious alpine specialities and local ingredients. We always go here for family celebrations, birthdays and so on, I tried to persuade my daughter to have her upcoming wedding here but she decided to tie the knot in Dublin instead.
Enjoy powder skiing with panoramic views
The ski slopes above Chatel offer incredible views, take a moment to spot Lake Geneva below, Mont Blanc to the south and on a clear day you can even see the Matterhorn.
Visit in summer!
Chatel and the surrounding area are so beautiful in the summer with a green landscape that goes right up to the mountain tops. The terrain is ideal for mountain biking and hiking and there is a skeleton ski lift service so you can travel up in comfort and walk down at leisure. I often take my daughters’ dog on walks this way, he’s not that keen on the lifts but knows it’s worth it for the wonderful walk back down!