Mark Eaton and his wife had been talking about moving to the Alps for years. Finally Brexit did them a favor and they took the plunge and have not looked back.
Once they had found their ideal ski area, they put their UK house on the market and started looking for a ski property.
On November 25th 2020 they headed for pastures new in The Maurienne Valley. Despite being in the middle of the pandemic, they have not had a single regret: “We wake up every day to an amazing view (sometimes without the snow!) and have already made new friends in the area”.
The Maurienne Valley has access to a huge variety of ski terrain, most notably easy access to Les 3 Vallees (Meribel, Courchevel, Val Thorens) and with access to amazing cycling (pedalpowder) making this area perfect for summer and winter.
We thought it would be beneficial to ask Mark and his wife to share their story to give some insight for anyone considering doing the same.
If you are interested, SnowOnly has 1000’s of properties that would be ideal for you to consider. Every seller is carefully selected so every enquiry is dealt with professionally.
S.O.: What resorts you were considering and what type of property?
M.E.: This was entirely dictated by our budget, which drove us away from the more well-known (to Brits) ski areas. We could have opted for an apartment in Portes du Soleil or Grand Massif, but exploring this area, we realized we could get so much more for our money elsewhere.
We now live in The Maurienne Valley on the Col de La Croix de Fer route which is a mecca for road cyclists, with several of the best-known Cols from the Tour de France.
We love the authentic charm and in fact the ski area is huge, (the 4th largest in France and 6th largest in Europe). There's all year round potential income and activities, not least of which is road cycling.
Les Aiguille d'Arves is a prominent point of interest for photography, hiking, climbing, mountain biking and many other activities. It is a particularly good area for family holidays. It was not hard to focus our attention on this area, once we realized the potential.
Having a large chalet means we are able to see a future long term, where our home generates an income.
What made you finally decide to take the plunge?
Brexit. We've talked about moving to the mountains for the last 9 years, but as with so many things in life, "now" was never the right time. In a way Brexit did us a favour, as we really had to make a big decision to do it, or not do it. It was actually not a hard decision when put in this position.
What was the process like through Covid and any other challenges that you overcame?
The biggest challenge was selling our UK house with a very definite deadline from Brexit, as well as Covid restrictions and delays on the selling process throughout. It is challenging making plans to close down one’s life in the UK and set up another in a different country, with the jeopardy of your buyer pulling out, as can obviously happen to anyone.
We went right to the wire, finally completing on our house sale in the UK on 25th November and leaving for France that day with a trailer, a full car and our old cat Biggles in tow.
There were other challenges too, such as setting up banking and admin generally, the language barrier and more general logistics. Other obstacles included distances to obtain building supplies, the different types and sizes of various renovation materials and moving into an alpine property in the winter, but the really hard thing is that you face so many challenges all at once.
Did you use an agent and what was your experience like?
We came into contact with several agents, most of whom spoke little or no English, (which is fair enough). We can't stress enough that even professional agencies often did not reply to emails. We had to get our French friend to call on our behalf many times. The agents we met were actually really lovely and spent a lot of time with us on viewings.
How long did the process take from start to finish?
We began looking at property and at this area, when we were planning our skiing Honeymoon road-trip for Jan / Feb 2020. As we were travelling through the Maurienne, it was one of the areas we looked at online and we arranged a viewing for the beginning of Feb 2020. We later returned in July and October for viewings and checking out the area, and moved in at the end of November.
Do you have any regrets?
No. We both knew this was what we wanted and the hardship of not seeing our loved ones really is linked to Covid, not the decision to move, so we accept that as part of life at this time, not as a result of the move.
What have been the benefits of your move?
We have not fully experienced the benefits yet, due to Covid restrictions, but a sense of wellbeing and happiness that we are doing the right thing, the thing we want to do, being where we want to be, living the life we want. Being the only full time inhabitants of a mountain hamlet is a far cry from living in a built up town and we generally feel less stress. We are also looking forward to the time when our friends and family can benefit from coming here to enjoy all the area has to offer.
What advice would you give to anyone that is also considering moving to the Alps?
Learning the language is terribly important and is very helpful, but it is not realistic, (in our opinion) to learn it whilst planning to move. The other challenges mentioned are just too much in themselves to add the pressure of learning a language at the same time.
We recommend help. We were very lucky to have a French friend who helped us out a lot and we also were very lucky to meet others here who have helped us. We have used a great hand-holder for more technical admin, which is well worth the money and should not be extortionate.
We found it incredibly useful to join all the forums and groups going, to immerse ourselves in all aspects of the new life way before we moved. We met local friends, gained important knowledge and began to understand what we would and would not be able to do.
Don't assume things are done the same as in the UK on the whole. For example, we have learned that French businesses and administrative professionals often do not reply to emails at all. Pick up the phone to get results.
Visit the area, look around, book to stay locally to meet people. In normal times, visit local bars, restaurants etc to get chatting. When you start telling people you are moving to the area, you will make friends and get help!
Finally, just do it. Make the decision and work towards it whole heartedly. It will work, because it has to. You won't regret it.
For more information on some great cycling in The Maurienne Valley, please contact any of the links below: