A deep day heading into Lee’s Trees at Sorcerer Lodge, British Columbia.

We decided to move to Chamonix, France, at a wedding. Not our wedding, of course, because we didn’t have one — but at Mikey Arnold’s wedding in Albufeira, Portgula, last June. I’d come from Norway and met Rebecca and the boys, and suddenly a casual discussion about moving to France turned into renting a friend’s house, finding two spots at a bilingual Montessori school, and initiating a visa application. All in the space of an evening chat and subsequent flurry of emails.

But it took me six months to feel like I’d moved. As June, July, and August flashed by in a haze of paperwork, packing, and logistics, I was also writing a book — to be released November, 2020, by Falcon Guides. We’re calling it The Ski Guide Manual at the moment. I owed Falcon a few chapters by September 1, so we boarded flights in late August and by the time we landed, I was on the home-stretch of freakout deadlines and editing.

Rebel soloed all fall, managing epic French paperwork, getting boys dialed at school, and ensuring our survival.

After sending those first few chapters, I went immediately into two weeks of work. Fall alpine climbing and bolt-clipping with a great guest from New Mexico and some other random bookings. Weather was perfect and we had a blast, and no sooner had I coiled the ropes from our last day of climbing, was I back into the mad-dash for a January deadline: 120,000 words, a couple-hundred photos.

Falcon wanted the book by Jan 15 and I had flights from Geneva to Seattle that day. Perfect-ish timing. In the end I sent the book at 2 p.m. on January 14, came home and packed, and flew the following morning. Rebecca had solo-mom’d all fall, practically speaking, the boys were awesome and understanding, and I had three weeks of work in Canada to pull off before flying home on my 50th birthday, February 9. Then I’d feel like I actually lived in France, with a family, and a life!

Our little house, with the Mont Blanc massif in the background

And so it came, finally. After turning 50 in the Seattle airport, without fanfare, I survived the long SEA-CDG-GVA journey, stepped off the airport bus, and bam, there was Rebel, and it felt like we lived in France. Boys were taking ski lessons, Rebel was running/hiking/skiing with dogs almost daily, I could walk to the trams in town, and we had some time to actually enjoy and do all these things.

“Finally, we live in France,” I said.

Rebel laughed. We loaded my bags, drove up the hill, and settled into the little home we’d rented. Phew.


Rob Coppolillo is an internationally licensed mountain guide based in Chamonix, France. His book, The Ski Guide Manual, comes out in November, 2020.