This Is Me: Helen Lavender

The co-founder of the “uber-fun mountain holiday company”  rudechalets™ paved the way for chalet girls to become hotel owners…

Interview by Anna Langer

I set up rudechalets™ with my husband Chris back in September 2002. We had met each other on a ski season in Meribel – I was living in a campervan and working in a bar and Chris was on a sabbatical from work so had a warm apartment with a hot shower! We had an awesome season – hanging out and snowboarding everyday together with a great crew of people and then celebrating most evenings with epic après ski dance offs and pints of vin chaud! At the end of the season neither of us wanted to go back to our office jobs, so after a stint of travelling in India and South America we hatched the plan to set up rudechalets™. Chris’ background was in finance and sales and mine in PR and marketing which made for an ideal combination of skills for starting our own business.

Before Meribel and setting up our company I had worked as a chalet girl in La Plagne. Being a chalet girl is super hard work – a fact which is often overlooked by the people who apply for chalet host positions with rudechalets™. However if you are willing to work hard entertaining guests and cleaning the chalet; have the energy to go up the hill every day and party most nights, then it will definitely be one of the best experiences of your life! It was definitely my season as a chalet girl which inspired me to set up rudechalets™ and I would recommend doing a season to everyone!

I live in Morzine an do love it, however by the end of the winter season I am definitely ready to head out of town as the mountains and mountain life does become claustrophobic after a while. I usually head back to where I grew up i.e. the flat farmlands of Essex and then hit London Town for some much needed diversity and culture!

When I was younger I never had a burning desire to snowboard or live in the mountains – I just enjoyed sport, loved socialising and got a buzz out of hard work. My parents have always worked for themselves running the family farm so it was definitely them who inspired me to set up a business of my own rather than work for someone else.

Despite having now done 11 winter seasons I still love snowboarding. The best bit about snowboarding is heading up the hill with a bunch of mates super early in the morning on a bluebird powder day and riding until your legs burn and your face aches from smiling and whooping!

The female snowboard scene is as exciting as it’s ever been right now. If you visit the UK snowdomes there are an increasing number of girls sessioning the freestyle nights. When I started riding 15 years ago there were hardly any girls specific boards, whereas now brands like Burton are producing a whole range of snowboards for girls who ride which combine the latest developments in snowboard tech with cool graphics!

Growing up in Europe we are really privileged to be able to travel the world relatively easily. There are still so many places I’d love to visit and things I’d love to do. We’ve just bought a camper van so plan to spend next summer exploring the surf beaches of SW France and North Spain with our two children. As a family we’d also like to join a voluntary project in South America using the experience we have gained setting up rudechalets™ to work with locals who are involved in the development of sustainable tourism.


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