Choosing the right accommodation on a ski holiday can be equally memorable as your time spent whizzing down the powdery slopes. The tough part however, is how to find the best place to stay from the thousands available online.
For the picture perfect ski holiday, you can’t beat a great in-house atmosphere, something which your friends and family will all enjoy. Though when you opt to reserve a few hotel rooms, it doesn’t really have that cohesive community feel.
Catered ski chalets are a favorite among groups and families, as they not only offer total privacy, but are also highly cost effective when you’re sharing between a couple of people – somewhere between the price of a hotel and a self-catered apartment.
Essentially, a ski chalet is booking your own private house – sometimes it’s even staffed for you with chefs, butlers, and housekeepers! (Chalet is the Swiss term for a wooden house with overhanging eaves, typically found in the Alps).
Thinking about a staying in a ski chalet for your next winter holiday? Here are a couple of things you should know about.
Things to Know About Ski Chalet Stays
High Season Gets Booked Out
Booking a big chalet is a great way to save money when you’re traveling as a group or family (or a group of families!!), but if you’re booking during high season, be aware that the price increases dramatically, and it also books out quickly.
The term ‘chalet’ is used all over the world, so it’s important to check when high season is for the specific region you’re visiting; for a catered Morzine chalet in Europe this is generally February through March; in the US this is typically from November through until April.
The earlier you go, the quieter the slopes, which means better deals on accommodation, however, there is generally a risk of no fresh snow. That said, early season is perfect for beginners who are less confident on the pistes as it’s less crowded.
Similarly, you can find better deals on chalets if you hold off until later in the season – you do risk poor skiing conditions the later you go, but, on the plus side, the days will be longer and the sun should be out more for enjoying off slope activities.
Not Your Average Alpine Hut
While the term chalet is a French-Swiss word that has originally meant an alpine farmhouse / herdsman’s hut, chalets today have come a long way; nowadays the term is associated with luxury properties.
Normally, a good chalet will accommodate 6-8 people and still provide all the high end luxuries like gourmet kitchens, home theaters, living spaces with open fires, jacuzzis, heated ski rooms, fitness centers – some even come with their own wine cellars!
The primary thing to consider before booking a ski-chalet are your group interests. Like any private accommodation, one chalet will vary greatly from the next, so it’s important to put priority on the features your group most needs access to.
There are many variations of ski chalets, and some come with services like chefs, cleaning staff, childcare, and even ski instructors. Others are completely self contained and leave you to your own devices.
So don’t just book a chalet without having done the research into the type of amenities they might come with – these can often make or break your holiday depending on what you were expecting.
Make Inquiries About the Owner
It’s common to undertake research and read reviews before you book a hotel room, but with ski chalets you can take this one step further and make inquiries about the owners.
If you come to know who the owners of your chosen chalet are, chances are that you’ll be able to find first hand reviews about the quality of the accommodation and the services which go with it.
Do they take care of their property, are they onsite all the time, do they hire a management company or run the chalet themselves?
Chalets owned by individuals usually offer much better service than those owned by a chain of companies, largely because they take pride in their home, and more often than not, are local residents of the town where you hope to ski (who have better knowledge of the area than a non resident owner).
Think of it as a comparison between staying in a chain hotel vs staying in a locally owned bed and breakfast. The difference here being that you get the whole house for your own use privately.
The Ski-in, Ski-out Option
Many chalets across Europe have a ski-in, ski-out option, which is great for skiiers wanting to make the most of their time, because it means you can start skiing straight from your cottage.
This is essentially the winter equivalent of an oceanfront property, where you can walk straight out onto the beach; the chalet will be located right next to a prime slope, and all you need to do is put on your skis and jump straight out onto the trail.
You won’t waste any time on ski lifts, transport, or heading up and down the slopes – it’s the height of convenience! With that convenience though comes a more expensive price tag, so this is something to keep in mind, but often well worth paying for.
Take Gifts for Chalet Staff
There are many ins and outs of chalet culture, but if your chalet comes with in-house staff, it’s always worthwhile to arrive bearing gifts.
Aim for something original, that they might not have access to in the mountains. Novelty food items make for a great gift, and if you know where the staff may have come from, this can be powerful information.
For instance, European chalets often import their seasonal staff from Britain, who may be missing foods from home like marmite or golden syrup.
Canadian ski resorts are often full of Australian staff, so if you’re traveling from Australia, stocking up on items like Vegemite, Tim Tams and Anzac biscuits will likely see your service greatly improved!
There’s nothing wrong with sucking up to the staff, however keep in mind that you’re sucking up – not bribing them.
You should always respect the staff, and gentlemen should be especially respectful around young female employees.
Leave Your Shoes at the Front Door
It’s expected that you leave your shoes at the front door before entering your chalet. When it comes to what to wear, chalet life is spent in socks, which keeps out the wet snow, and means you’re not tracking in mud or the like from the outdoors.
Yes, you’ve rented the house as your own for the time that you’re out on holiday, but you’re still spending time in someone elses home, so treat it as you would want yours to be treated.
It’s a great idea to travel with slippers if you’re not comfortable walking around in socks – but it is a ski chalet tradition to rock out in your ski socks.