High heels or mountaineering boots? A common dilemma, especially for a lot of the women who live in the Chamonix Valley.. Once such woman with a large & versatile collection of footwear and apparel is Heather Swift, who by day is an office-bound worker, and in her spare time can be found either half way up a sport or ice-climbing route, or dressed up to the nines conducting a ladies choir..
Heather freed up a few minutes of her busy schedule to be the next interviewee in our meet the locals section.. Find out why she has a penchant for fashion, what she gets up to in her spare time and the most improtant question - where can you find the best hot chocolate in Chamonix?!
How long have you been in your current role and how long have you been with the company?
Mountain Base is a French registered estate and letting agency based in Chamonix Sud, and it’s owned by three other very active locals Matt Edelsten and the two Andy(ie)s Symington! I have been heading up the rental team since I joined the company 18 months ago, and generally look after the advertising and bookings.
Your previous life in Chamonix was quite different, tell us about your experience in fashion / design..
Quite different is real an understatement! I did my degree in fashion design at Ravensbourne (London), and I specialised in women’s wear design. Time at Vivienne Westwood, Saville Row and living in Old Street opened my eyes right up, especially given I am from a small Derbyshire hill farm- to be honest they are still wide open 7 years on! Much of the day-to-day work was actually quite dull, but dressing models in Paris for fashion week was amazing, and certainly has no equivalent in Chamonix!
Out of work you're quite busy with Chambelles.. tell people who don't know what you do & what's coming up on your summer schedule..
The Chambelles is Chamonix’s very own ladies choir- great fun and open to all. I was asked to set-up the choir two years ago and have been leading it ever since. It’s very eclectic- we sing all styles of music in various venues throughout the year, and so far have raised around 6000 euros for charity. It’s open to all so get in touch if you are interested in joining in- though be warned the ladies are very dedicated and do work hard to learn the music! We have just finished our summer jazz program, but keep an eye on the website for future events and further information.
What makes Chamonix a special place to be for you?
The mountains! Of course I must also say the proximity to Italy, I love gelato…….
What are the best bits about your job?
I like my job, and I get to live in Chamonix. Surely that makes the best bit?!
And the worst bits?
My work chair has a perfect imprint of my bottom on it… (luckily said bottom is fairly small!).
What's in store for the future with the business, are there any exciting projects in the pipelines that you can share with us?
Well as the word is on the street already why not…. the sales team have out grown their current space so will be moving to a main street location. Very exciting for us all.
What are you personal goals for the future?
This summer I want to tick a 7b sport route. Boom. I have my eye on one in particular at Bionassy so best get training a little more.
What's your favourite piste or off-piste area & top tip to go skiing?
I love being in the mountains so anywhere back country wins for me. The Aiguille Rouges are always great fun, and the Glacier du Tour feels beautifully remote. Top tip? Get out there and enjoy. Obligatory tip? Stay safe.
Where would send someone who was after that something 'something special' in resort, to stay, eat or drink, or your favourite place for lunch or dinner?
Well I am a bit of a romantic so my current favourite date is a glass of wine and canapes with Bjarne at the beautiful Hotel Mont Blanc with Eric playing jazz on the piano in the background. It’s that, or a thermos of hot chocolate half way up the Brevent to watch the sunset!
Where will we find the best coffee or hot chocolate?
I am not a big coffee fan, but for hot chocolate I definitely recommend the Lapin Agile.
What has been your best ever day in Chamonix?
That’s a tough question having lived here for nearly 5 years, and being a lover of the mountains. So many days out climbing or touring have been ‘the best day’ ever, there is no way I can pick any one over another. Climbing the Frendo had long been a goal so achieving that last year was special. Climbing at the Envers with my partner Bjarne and friend Tania Noakes a few years back was also one of my ‘best ever’ trips- especially given I nearly keeled over in the sun on the walk-in. Can I say almost everyday?!
If someone was coming here for the first time, what would you suggest they absolutely must do or see in resort?
Face the crowds and take a trip up the Aiguille du Midi. You really cannot get that experience other than in Chamonix, and the second section going to the top is spectacular. It’s a must to join in the screams from the crowd as the car passes the pylons.
Do you remember your first trip to this resort?
Definitely! It was 7 years ago and I had come to try alpine climbing for the first time. My introduction to Chamonix was a plat de jour at Chambre 9, queuing for the Midi lift, so all fairly typical! I had a great week ticking off routes in the sun, and managed not to fall in any crevasses.
What's your favourite thing to do in resort when not skiing?
Climb! -rock, alpine, mixed, ice, even pulling plastic at the gym. That, playing my trumpet …. and nipping through to Courmayeur for the gelato.
What do you do in the summer?
In between the Chambelles, climbing, (work) and Bjarne?! I am the guardien of the building I live in, so doing the garden in summer is really lovely and a chance to relax.
Which is your favourite shop in resort?
ChaChaCha….and the ice-cream shop near Mc Donalds. The ‘Chamonix’ flavour is my favourite.
Where are we most likely to find you for après-ski?!
Skiing or snowboarding? What's your preference & why?
Skiing- I cannot snowboard. Skiing is less hassle for touring/mountaineering and the boots are easier to climb in!
You can meet Heather and the Chambelles tomorrow when they play their first ever Cosmo Jazz Festival, from 17:30 at the Pointe Isabelle Hotel. Get there early to bag yourself a seat!