Francesca Eyre is the eldest child of four. She lost her sister Jo (aged 15) and brother Nick (aged 34) to cystic fibrosis and is a carrier of the faulty gene. Following Jo’s death, Francesca moved to Ireland to train as a chef in Dublin. She set up a very successful catering company but returned to England when her mum was diagnosed with cancer, taking care of her two brothers after her mum passed away.
Whilst her brother Nick was being cared for by family, Francesca took a holiday to Morzine, France, where she met and fell in love with her now husband Paul. After running a series of chalets together they decided that it made sense to set up their own chalet business with Francesca as the chef and Paul as the surveyor. This was how Chilly Powder was born. Francesca and Paul designed the chalet and literally built up the business from nothing. Francesca is “front of house” and runs the day-to-day operation and service of all the properties. Paul runs the business and controls the accounts, marketing, administration, staff salaries and so on.
Married with their own business, the couple started to think about starting a family. Francesca explains:
“We didn’t know if Paul was a carrier of the faulty gene but decided to try for children. The chances of him being a carrier were 1 in 20, and we decided as a couple that we would not terminate a cystic fibrosis baby. Thankfully all three of my children are healthy.”
Now, 20 years on, Chilly Powder is one of the most desirable ski chalet businesses operators in the region.
What do you love the most about the mountains around Morzine?
We are very lucky that we go from 800m up to 1,800m. There is a massive difference in the different pastures; the higher up you get, the starker and tree free the mountains become. Down below in the summer we have pastures, streams, thigh-height wild flowers and then from about 1,600m the trees start to disappear and the scenery becomes more dramatic, rocky and you get smaller wild flowers. In the winter, you can ski through the trees lower down and past ancient shepherds’ hamlets; higher up you ski in powder and have “couloirs” etc. to challenge yourself.
You compete in a lot of tough events to raise funds for cystic fibrosis research. Which has been the most challenging, and what’s up next?
The Manaslu trail run was amazing but very tough at the same time – 220km with 15,000m of ascent. This run is in Nepal and based around the seventh highest mountain in the world; the highest path that you run/walk across is at 5400m. The Nepalese are amazing people, so the sights and sounds pushed me through the blisters and altitude sickness! I think I smiled the whole way round!
You have now raised over £6,000 for the CF charity.
“For me I live my life to the absolute full, on behalf of my mother, my brother and my sister, who have not been able to. I breathe for them.”