Ski resorts by train

Chalets, chalets, chalets!

Sat 12 October, 2019


Daniel Elkan

Is a catered chalet your preferred choice of accommodation for a ski holiday in the Alps?   This peculiarly British invention, is enduringly popular. And it's no surprise why.

Catered chalets are the ski accommodation equivalent of a proper fry up for breakfast. Invented by the Brits, loved by many — and sometimes the only thing that will do. That’s because there’s nothing quite a catered chalet: a kind of home-from home in a ski resorts, where you can look forward to a (cooked or continental) breakfast, tea when you arrive back from the slopes, and a hearty dinner — with complimentary wine served at the table). No need to shop; more time to bop. And brilliant value, in this respect, too.

Many catered chalets started out their lives as farmhouses. As a result, many have high ceilings and rustic quirks that combine into beautiful spaces.

A ski-chalet holiday is also the most social way to spend a week in the Alps. For a start, it’s like staying in your own home, but without having to cook, so it puts everyone on a very relaxed footing. Chalet chefs cook your meals and staff keep the chalet clean and make your beds – it’s quite a service. And whether you find yourself nestled comfortably on a sofa in a log-fired lounge or stewing-slowly in a hot tub on the terrace outside (ideally with a view over the valley), there’s a definite feel of ‘winning’.

There are two types of catered chalet holiday.  One is where the catered chalet is owned by a ski tour operator, and probably comes as part of a package with travel included; the second is where you rent the chalet with an independent chalet company, and book your travel independently.

We are soon going to launch a section showcasing some of the fantastic independent chalets, as well as those with tour operators, for many resorts on Snowcarbon. This means that you’ll be able to explore many more of the wonderful places that we know and recommend to skiers that contact Snowcarbon.

In the meantime, here are a few thoughts on some of key points when deciding about a catered chalet.

Chalet location
Who doesn’t love the idea of a ski-in-ski-out chalet, literally clipping in your skis or strapping on your snowboard and beginning a beautiful day’s carving the slopes? The reality is that while there are some chalets that are ski-in-ski-out, the majority are not – being located a short walk to the slopes, or a short drive from them. If the right ski-in-ski-out chalet is available, great.  But ski-in-ski-out can also be a red herring.  A chalet that’s not located right on the slopes may well be a more suitable building and give you much more for your money. And if your chalet is a short distance to the slopes, then chalet companies will usually offer a complimentary chauffeur service, to drop you at the slopes.

Independent vs tour operator chalets
Every chalet company is different, whether that’s a big tour operator or a tiny company with just one chalet. What’s most important is that you get great food and service, and are taken care off well by chalet staff to look after you. Generally, the smaller the company (i.e. the fewer chalets a company has) the more likely they are to live and die by their reputation, and the more attention they ought to pay to making sure their guests have a fantastic time – not just from a good-intention point of view, but because their business depends on that.

Sole occupancy vs shared
Some chalets are available only on a sole-occupancy basis, where your group hires the whole chalet privately, giving you the entire place to yourselves. Others are available on a shared basis, meaning you can book the chalet by the room – sharing the communal spaces such as the lounge with other groups, and dining all together. Both have their advantages. If your group is big enough to take up a whole chalet, great. If yours is smaller, then booking on a per-person basis and sharing the chalet with others, will be more suitable. Obviously you’ll be sharing with other groups who you don’t know, but this is often a very positive aspect - many friendships are formed from these groups of likeminded skiers living together for a week and sharing a love of wintersports in the mountains.

Hot tub — or no hot tub
There is nothing quite like the idea of soaking in an outdoor hot tub, glass of bubbles in hand, as the snowflakes falling from the sky melt on contact with your steaming shoulders. But is a hot-tub a must have, or a nice-to-have? From experience, I’m always amazed at how friends who have vociferously insisted that any chalet we chose must have a hot tub, have ended up using it only once or twice for a short time. On the other hand, there have been many memorable times where people have spent hours in the hot tub, with many great conversations.  And indeed, a few all-night hot tub parties where far too much booze was drunk and no one made it to the slopes the next day. And remember, of course, that many resorts have public pools with spa and jacuzzi facilities, so whether or not your chalet has a hot tub you’ll be able to enjoy a soak either way.

Help finding catered chalets
We know some brilliant catered chalets, so just just send Snowcarbon Founder, Daniel, an email saying, telling him how many people in your group, and when you want to go, and he will come back to you with some great options.