Our 2016 roundup & 2017 bucket list. What’s on yours?

by Mags_Nixon
375 days ago my husband and I made a concrete decision. To move to France to do a ski season. With our children.

As 2016 recedes, it is with gratitude and a smile that I wave it goodbye. 2016 for us was a year of planning & anticipation. And the year I started The Family Freestylers blog. A lot can happen in a year, 365 days. Decisions made that change your lives. Today we finally realised a dream of our own. Walking through the snow with our children to their first day at school in France.

Thank you so much to everyone that’s shown so much support for The Family Freestylers blog and our dream of heading to the snow. Here’s a round up of our best bits of 2016 and where we’ll be heading in 2017.

On New Years Eve 2015 Scott and I made the decision to return to Chamonix Mont Blanc after 10 years, in the hope that, as suggested by physios, consultants and GP’s, a prolonged period of skiing would help our 5 year old daughter with her mild cerebral palsy.

So on our first trip in 2016 we returned briefly to Chamonix to visit the Montessori school in Argentiere for the girls to have a half day taster. This post had over a 1000 hits so thank you for your support. Now that the girls have started in the Montessori school for the season, I will be continuing posts on the Montessori education and how we are finding it.

Following our week in Chamonix, we had a fabulous two weeks skiing in Meribel. A fantastic resort. Above is Bo pictured with her amazing ski instructor, Stephan. She still talks about him now. If you’re planning a trip to Meribel this season, Magic in Motion is an awesome ski school for kids! Read my post Kids Ski Lessons – Are They Worth It? This year I’ll be writing much about our first family ski season in Chamonix and all things ski and kids!

We also spent a lot of 2016 discovering amazing spots in the UK. We drove down to Cornwall in May visiting beautiful Gwithian to review the Vango Idris II campervan awning (click here to read). Gwithian is a wonderful tiny village perched on the North end of St Ives Bay. With the vast expanses of empty beach and dramatic coastline, we loved it. Long beach sessions at sunset, flying kites and sizzling sausages on a beach bbq – perfect!

Treen was a favourite of ours. Rugged coastal paths leading to secret sandy coves with emerald green lagoons. Pedn Vounder is, in my opinion, the most stunning beach in the UK! But then I don’t mind wobbly naturalists. I’m up for being beaten on this award so if you think your favourite beach can topple Pedn Vounder (below far left) then let me know. I’ll be writing a guide to the best non-commercial campsites in Devon and Cornwall for families in 2017.
June saw us exploring the Channel Islands and writing the first of a series of posts on UK islands. Jersey, only 5 miles by 7 and a mecca for watersports is only a 5 hour ferry away from Poole. With remarkably few tourists, Jersey is a wonderful family destination. Boasting the most sunshine in the UK, beautiful sandy beaches, pumping surf and amazing seafood, put this on your bucket list as a family to visit. Click here to read read our post Top 10 Things to do with Kids in Jersey.  
From Jersey we caught a tiny ferry across to micro Sark and a love affair was born. I have no doubt that we will make repeated visits to this lovely little island for many many years to come. With zero cars, the only traffic you’ll find here are a bounty of bikes, a handful of tractors and the touristy horse and carts. Until you’ve ever experienced the bliss of traffic free roads, you’ll never realise just how fierce the built-in safety mechanism inside you is to protect your little ones from them. We take it for granted. It takes a few days for that to unravel, but the peace within once it does is addictive. Here you can cycle to your heart’s content around not a bit of tarmaced road. With many hire shops to choose from & with carriages and tag alongs available, families are easily catered for. Many visitors flock to Sark for the day. No. A day trip won’t let you connect to the soul of this place. Spend at least two or three nights minimum. Word is that it might not stay this way forever so snatch some of the good stuff whilst it’s still there. Read 4 Reasons Why Families Will Love Sark. In 2017 I’ll be continuing our UK islands series by hunting down and reviewing some other amazing UK islands perfect for family outdoor adventures.
The great thing about the Channel Islands is that they’re slap bang next to France. It makes sense therefore to carry on over to the Continent if you’ve got time. Condor Ferries sail over to St Malo (1 hour). We took this route to whizz down to Chamonix (again) to find accommodation for the Winter. The Alps in Summer are spectacular with some great family hiking trails and swimming spots. (Read about our hike to Cascade de Berard). Montreaux in Switzerland is fast becoming a favourite of ours with it’s stunning lake against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps. This year I’ll be writing about Montreaux and what are our top family favourites there. 
Come May we’ll be heading back from the Alps to our home turf in Devon. Blessed with beautiful beaches (read our 7 Amazing North Devon Beaches post) and an awesome coastline, North Devon is an epic place for families.
With Exmoor on the doorstep North Devon ticks so many boxes that it’s easy never to leave. I’ll be writing more about Devon, Exmoor and Cornwall in the Summer and the best beaches, hikes and experiences for families to discover. Our favourite find this year close to home was Outdoor + Active at Wimbleball Lake (below). A cross between adventure, outward bound and water sports, this place, set on the beautiful Wimbleball Lake, is perfect for adventuring families. Friendly instructors and affordable camping pods (book them early!) mean this is a firm family favourite. With so many activites on offer, it’s brilliant to get families out on the water and confronting their fear factor. Read our Outdoor + Active review and our take on their fab camping pods here. With the girls trying dinghy sailing at Outdoor & Active we’ll be stepping it up this Summer and reviewing a week onboard a yacht flotilla holiday in Greece.
Finally, we came full circle. 20 years after rocking up for my first winter ski season, I returned to Chamonix with my family. Full of anticipation, excitement and a tingle of fear, we’ve shacked up for the season ‘l’hiver’ and are 5 weeks into our adventure. With the girls starting school and the snow (finally) arriving, we can’t wait to see what adventures we get up. We are looking forward to reviewing awesome winter mountain activities such as tandem paragliding, husky dog sledding and heli rides. Already we’ve ratcheted up a whole host of rad family experiences – the ‘Touching the Void’ glass box experience, feeling the frost of a glacier first hand in our Ice Grotto experience at the Montenver, Mer du Glace and of course, skiing most days in the most beautiful setting in the Alps, under the watchful eye of Mont Blanc.
I really want to thank all of my readers who have shown so much support over the last 11 months. Anyone who has ever read, commented, shared this website, it is much appreciated. To all our instagram, facebook fans and twitter followers, again, thank you so much – every follow, like or re-tweet means a lot.

A New Year is absolutely the best time to start planning your year. What dreams do your family have? What is on your family bucket list? We would love to know and hear of the adventures you’re on or the explorations you’re planning.

And to those who need a nudge, remember Mark Twain’s words, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

Think it, book it, do it! Bonne Anneè

You may also like

8 comments

Bridgee 1st July 2017 - 8:45 pm

That’s one epic, fun-filled year! I’m looking forward to reading about your adventures this year.

Reply
Mags (The Family Freestylers) 1st September 2017 - 7:10 pm

Thanks Bridgee, I appreciate your support. We’re really looking forward to 2017 and all that it brings. Keep on travelling!

Reply
Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) 1st September 2017 - 6:38 pm

Your photos are so stunning, Mags. I love them! What a fantastic, adventure-filled year you’ve had. I really liked Sark too but we didn’t stay on the island. We used to sail around the Channel Islands when we were kids and my father just returned from Christmas in Alderney – he was raving about how beautiful and crowd-free it was. I feel quite inspired to revisit. Looking forward to reading your 2017 posts. Clare x

Reply
Mags (The Family Freestylers) 1st September 2017 - 7:08 pm

Thank you so much for your kind comments Clare. Oh you must go and stay overnight in Sark! The island takes on a whole new character from frantic day tripper vibe to a laid back, suspended in time quality, plus cycling home from a restaurant in the dark along quiet country lanes is so exciting for the kids – we even visited the observatory when we were there as the island’s got dark sky status. I’m going to be writing a UK island series – I’m so excited to try some new islands after Jersey and Sark this Summer. Thanks again.

Reply
Martin Bergljung 1st April 2018 - 2:22 pm

Hi,
Great to read your blogs about Chamonix. We were there over XMas and New Year. A bit disappointing as you write with no snow and also the air pollution… But the kids had a fantastic 2 weeks of ski school, so not all bad.
I have been in Chamonix several times since the 80s. And we were actually starting to plan for a year in Chamonix, maybe 2018. This XMas and New Year we got second thoughts though.
Maybe reading about your experience this season can get us back on track 🙂
cheers,
Martin Bergljung
Wokingham, UK

Reply
Mags (The Family Freestylers) 1st May 2018 - 7:08 pm

Hi Martin – thanks for reading our blog and for your comment. I agree completely – Christmas and NY were very disappointing. The seasons have definitely shifted now with generally one early snowfall in November and then then nothing until early Jan (4 years in a row now) but with snow still falling into May. We were really hoping for a white Christmas and it looked so promising…
The pollution has been very bad. The high that spanned across Europe for 6 weeks before Christmas (preventing the snow) trapped the bad air in the valley which is unfortunately common now during these weather systems. We live up in Argentière at 1252m & so thankfully we are too high to be affected but we do see it lying down in the valley and it’s a real concern. Now that the pollution issue has hit the media, the authorities are now having to tackle the problem but it will be some years before the levels reduce. There’s a good article here https://www.blackmail.ski/en/perspectives-en/interview-with-anne-lassman-trappier-president-of-environnmontblanc/ that explains the situation really well. I would definitely move higher up the valley to either Argentiere, Montroc, Le Tour or Vallorcine if you do plan to return in 2018.
Even with the late snow arrival and the issue of pollution, I still believe that our time as a family will be invaluable here. The girls are beginning to speak french and ski 3 times a week. There are countless outdoor activities for them to get involved – x-country skiing, ice skating, swimming, skiing/snowboarding, hiking & climbing. And we love the fact that Chamonix is a real town, as oppose to just a ski resort.
I’m so pleased your kids had a great time in ski school. I have written a post Kids Ski Lessons – Are they Worth the Money which will go live Friday. I’d love to know which ski school you went with so we can pass on the details to other readers.

Reply
Martin Bergljung 1st July 2018 - 11:21 am

Hi,
Thanks for the response. Valuable info.
My twin boys (6 years old) went to the ESF Piou – Piou club. I will tell you a little bit about it as I was confused about all the alternatives when ordering ski school from England. So this is the official French ski school as I understand it. With very seasoned instructors, you will not find any 14 year old instructors with no kids experience here…, they are all pro.
The Piou Piou club we used were based in Les Houches, just after the Prarion lift station and parking. And it offers morning or afternoon sessions. The morning sessions start at 9:15 and ends at 11:30 with a break in the middle. So quite tough but all kids seemed to manage. This ski school club require NO lift pass, you just park in the Prarion lift parking and walk over to the ski school. So quite important to know. You need Helmet, Ski, Boots, but no ski poles. And a snack for the break.
It is possible to also sign the kids up for the Lunch club, which starts just after the ski school ends. They get lunch served and stay until 2pm. So you can get quite a bit of your own skiing in this way.
The Piou-Piou club runs from Sunday to Friday (6 days) and a child should be able to learn quite a bit in those 6 days. Our boys had never done any skiing before and they progressed quickly. The second week they were moved up the the Croc Ski school, which require lift pass and they will go up to the prarion top station and continue ski school there. Learning to use chair lift and take on bigger slopes. You can do lunch club after Croc ski too. Ski poles still not necessary.
I was really impressed by the ESF ski school.

Reply
Mags (The Family Freestylers) 1st August 2018 - 11:28 am

Hi Martin. Great to hear you had a good experience with ESF Piou Piou, as we didn’t some years back at Les Grands Montets. I did mention our negative experience in my post today – Kids Ski Lessons, Are they worth the Money, so it would be very valuable for other readers if you wouldn’t mind posting your comment on that post (sorry I can’t do it my end). I’m so pleased that Les Houches Piou Piou stepped up and you were impressed. It’s great to know and pass on that information as getting it right the first time with ski schools often pays dividends with little ones starting out. Thanks again for your comments & feel free to contact me anytime if you want to ask about our experience here with a view to your (hopeful) trip in 2018.

Reply

Leave a Comment

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More