Parents in Business: Al & Kat of AliKats Mountain Holidays

In 2010 Al and Kat Judge swapped city life for fresh mountain air and upped sticks to start a business in one of nature’s biggest adventure playgrounds: the expansive Portes du Soleil mountain resort in the beautiful French Alps.

Initially starting out as a ski chalet company, their business AliKats Mountain Holidays, has been transformed into a carbon neutral, zero food waste, year-round operation. As well as offering family holidays during the summer and snowy seasons, they now welcome parents and solo travellers on well-being retreats, which combine holistic activities – yoga, Qi Gong, mountain hikes, wild swimming and forest bathing – with life and leadership coaching. Here we talk to Al Judge to discover more about the vision that has driven their journey.

What led you to relocate to the Alps and start a business?

It wasn’t a difficult decision and felt like a natural way to combine our passions (food, skiing, time in the mountains) with a better work life balance.

Kat previously worked in marketing sales and I worked as a management consultant in London. We decided that working as chalet hosts first would be a good way to learn the ropes before setting up our own business in the Alps, so we looked for a company with similar values to ours and went from there.

As we got to know Morzine we fell in love with the area, which has so much to offer as a real French town as well as a ski resort in winter and bike park in the summer. We genuinely got a big kick out of playing a part in making sure our guests had amazing holidays.

We obviously also loved being able to get up the mountain pretty much every day – that doesn’t happen so often now that our business has grown and we have three young children, but we still love our life and all the benefits it brings to our family.

Tell us about AliKats Mountain Holidays and how the company has evolved?

We have 12 luxury chalets and offer catered and self catered holidays in both the winter and summer months. All our chalets are within eight minutes drive of the ski lifts and we offer a private chauffeur service to ensure guests make the most of their time in the mountains.

Creating delicious food is a central part of our business, Kat is passionate about it and ensures all our menus are based on local, seasonal ingredients that showcases the best produce from our corner of the Alps.

Our biggest business developments have been to do with protecting the environment. In the last 12 years that we have lived here in Morzine, the climate crisis has become more urgent and the impact that we have on the mountains can be observed through things like glacial retreat and snow coverage. This led us to make the decision to become carbon neutral and zero food waste, and to do all that we can to support the local community in finding solutions for the region of Morzine to reduce its environmental impact.

In early 2019, we helped launch Montagne Verte – a charitable association with the objective of providing environmental solutions for people and business in our community. All of the projects we run are about reducing waste, reducing carbon emissions, or both. For example, the AlpinExpress is a project designed to incentivise more people to travel to the Alps by train. As around 75% of the carbon footprint of the average ski holiday is as a result of flying this is a key objective. By providing a large range of discounts to tourists who travel by train Montagne Verte are encouraging more people to choose this option over flying.

Why is sustainability so important to you?

When you look at the environmental impact that modern lifestyles have on the planet and you look at the data around climate change, we have no choice – we must change the way we live and we have to do it now. Businesses should be at the forefront of leading this change and governments will then follow.

It is time and energy consuming, but we see that consumer trends are changing rapidly and we believe businesses who lead this change will be rewarded with customer loyalty in the long term.

What are the Back to Nature retreats and why are they relevant for parents?

This year we’re really excited to launch a series of Back to Nature weekend retreats in Morzine. They combine rejuvenating outdoor activities – yoga, Qi Gong, mountain hikes, wild swimming and forest bathing – with life and leadership coaching, and provide an opportunity to press pause on the everyday and immerse yourself in the natural wilderness of the magnificent Alps.

The mental health benefits of getting back to nature have been widely published, and this is an opportunity to really experience this first hand in breathtaking scenery with the guidance of professional coach Caitlin Cockerton (PhD, CPCC) and her repertoire of powerful leadership, mindfulness and embodiment tools.

If you feel stuck at a crossroads in your life or career, or simply overwhelmed by everything that’s happening in your life and the world around you, these retreats will really help you reset. As a professional Co-Active Coach, Caitlin has helped many exhausted parents rebalance and redefine their work, life and parenting existence. The retreat programme is designed to bring you back into balance, allowing you to reconnect with yourself and others, and set clear personal intentions for your path ahead. They are also a lot of fun and an opportunity to meet, laugh and talk with like-minded people who want to enjoy the great outdoors.

The four-night fully inclusive retreats take advantage of the stunning mountain seasons. The retreats are based on small groups of 4 – 12 people, and we still have spaces on Summer Flourishing (23-27 June 2022), Autumn Harvest (12-16 October 2022) and Winter Wonderland (26-30 January 2023).

For more information on AliKats mountain retreats please visit: https://alikats.eu/retreat-hub/

Follow AliKats sustainability journey on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/alikats_mountain_holidays/

For information on one-to-one and communal coaching programmes with Caitlin Cockerton, visit:

https://www.greatheightspathways.com/

For more information on the charity Montagne Verte please visit:

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