25 Feb Everything you need to know about a ski chalet holiday
What sounds better than comfy, cosy, casual accommodation, great home cooking and a sociable, friendly atmosphere?
Well, it’s exactly what’s in store if you choose a catered chalet for your ski trip.
I try to get away to the mountains every winter, and I’ve been lucky enough to have stayed in a variety of ski accommodation over the past few years – chalets, (budget) hotels, self-catered apartments and an Austrian pension (a kind of Bed & Breakfast). I’ll admit I’m not quite brave enough for a campervan, like some. But it’s catered chalets that I keep coming back to, for a whole heap of reasons.
Other than visions of mountain chalets glistening with snow, if you’ve not tried a chalet holiday the name won’t give away much. But there’s an awful lot more to a ski chalet holiday than a style of alpine architecture.
So, I’ve put together a guide to my favourite choice of ski trip accommodation, to let you in on the secrets of why it’s so much fun – and why it can be a really practical choice for your holiday.
P.S. If you want to find out more about my recent ski chalet trip to La Plagne in France, take a look at 8 photos that will make you fall in love with La Plagne, France and La Plagne, France: A complete ski resort guide.
What is a ski chalet holiday?
You’ll be staying in a hosted ‘chalet’, a house or apartment with private bedrooms and communal living spaces. You’ll also have a host or two, who might or might not live in the property as well. They’re there to make sure you have a fantastic time, offer advice, keep the place ship-shape and prepare and cook two to three meals a day for you.
Unlike a self-catered apartment, you won’t need to worry about the housekeeping, shopping or cooking. It’s also a big step away from a hotel as you’ll find a much more relaxed and casual atmosphere, and you’ll be sharing facilities with fewer people.
Chalets can be hired privately, for exclusive use, or one bedroom at a time. It’s often easier to have a chat with tour operators over the phone to find out what options are available in the properties you’re interested in.
Just one word of advice. A chalet doesn’t always mean that you’ve got a whole, log cabin to yourself. A ski chalet can be a house or a larger apartment in a complex. It can be an old or new property. I’ve stayed in modern chalet apartments and a beautifully-converted ancient stone chalet – and loved both.
Who will love a ski chalet holiday?
I’m fairly confident you can find a chalet holiday that suits almost anyone.
It’s perfect for groups of friends, as you’ll have plenty of space to socialise and feel at home. Booking a whole chalet for private hire is enormously good fun. Chalet’s are also a great idea for larger families or a number of families. You’ll have plenty of communal space to share but you can also retire to your own rooms when you want some quiet times.
For smaller groups of friends and couples, chalets are ideal if you like to socialise, or want a space that’s more laid-back and comfortable than a hotel. It’s worth emphasising that although meals are eaten together there’s no forced socialising, so if you’d rather keep yourself to yourself no-one will mind. I’ve always found other chalet guests to be friendly but also respectful of one another – after all, you’re sharing a home. There’s usually enough space to find a quiet corner if you prefer one, but equally find someone who’s up for a beer.
If you’re a little shy or prefer not to share spaces with other guests, a chalet might not be your cup of tea.
How does the accommodation work?
Chalets can vary in size enormously, I’ve seen everything from chalets for six guests through to sixteen or more. You’ll book a room (or number of rooms) for your party. There’s no dorm-style room sharing.
Each room will have it’s own bathroom. It might not be en-suite, but it’ll be close by and yours for the week. Your host will keep it tip-top during your stay.
How swish your room is will depend on your budget and your location. It probably won’t surprise that the most luxurious and beautiful chalets cost considerably more in the most desirable resorts.
How does the food work in a chalet?
Your chalet host will prep and cook breakfast and dinner each day. They’ll usually also whip up tea and freshly baked cakes ready for your return from the pistes in the afternoon.
Usually a help-yourself affair of toast, cereals and fruit – with copious tea and coffee. In most chalets there’s a hot option too, that might vary every day. My absolute favourite was freshly-made pancakes in the beautiful chalet we booked in Serre Chevalier a few years ago. Such a treat to wake up to!
This isn’t normally included, as you’ll probably be out and about. If you like preparing a packed lunch for when you’re out on the piste (like we do), just ask first before taking over your host’s kitchen. As long as you do so, I’ve always found chalet hosts to be hugely accommodating. They’ll just let you know if there’s any no-go areas in the kitchen (sometimes they’ll have to contend with a few health and safety rules and the like), and when they’ll be busy cooking. On one occasion we were free to do what ever we liked provided we prepped food in the dining room rather than the kitchen. I think our hosts were both curious and impressed with our enthusiastic cheese-buying.
You heard me right! A freshly-baked cake and hot drinks are a given, I’ve even come across hot soup or bread and jam as an extra if you’re ravenous. A great way to fill up before heading on to the bar or a pre-dinner sauna session.
You’ll want to be hungry before your evening meal. Often a three course affair, your host will cook something different and delicious every night. Expect hearty, tasty comfort food with a nod to the local cuisine. Think boeuf bourguignon, tartiflette and risotto. Most places also offer complimentary, bottomless (and very drinkable) wine with your meal. Not enough to get trollied (although you’re welcome to bring your bottle) but more than enough to comfortably lubricate the evening.
It’s normal for chalet hosts to have one evening off per week (it’s often a Wednesday). It’s the perfect opportunity to try a local restaurant. Take advantage of host’s local knowledge for great recommendations. That’s not to say you can’t eat out other days during your stay, just remember to politely give your hosts a heads up the morning before at the latest.
Any other great reasons to choose a chalet?
So many! It’s honestly my favourite accommodation on a ski trip. To sum things up, here’s a few more compelling reasons to consider a chalet for your next winter holiday;
You might wonder why for a mid-winter break, but a private balcony for enjoying a cold beverage at the end of the day is a delight.
Access to spa facilities
Staying in a small chalet? You might be lucky enough to get a private hot tub or sauna. Bigger chalet or chalet apartment? You’ll almost certainly have access to a pool, sauna or hot tub but you won’t need to share it with as many guests as you would in a hotel.
If you don’t plan to be on the piste all day, or just like chilling out on an evening, a ski chalet is perfect. You’ve got a cosy living room and space to play games or just relax. Think of it like all the best bits of being at home.
No pressure to go out
Unless you want to. There’s everything you need for the week in one place. No need to go food shopping, search for restaurant tables or dig out your flip-flops for the resort’s pool.
Why a ski chalet holiday is my favourite
I usually ski with a big group of friends, with anywhere between five and ten of us. Organising a trip that keeps everyone happy, and doesn’t lumber anyone with too much admin, housekeeping or even supermarket shopping, all whilst sticking to a budget – isn’t that easy. But that’s where a chalet holiday is perfect.
We can all be confident we’ll like our accommodation, and besides, we don’t mind if space is a bit tight. We love to eat, so having someone filling us up with great food (without any of us having to chef) is wonderful when you want to make the most of your days on the piste. And it’s fantastically sociable – just what you want when you’re catching up with friends.
Lastly it’s one of those rare holidays where the more there are of you, generally the better value you’ll get. Once you’ve put aside a little spending money, there’s very little to pay for once you’ve arrived. It can surprisingly work out cheaper than self-catering in some resorts (back of the envelope figured of course, but still pretty compelling).
We can just rock up, have fun and not worry – and all without the formalities of a hotel.
- Pack your slippers. This place is going to feel like home, but they’ll also be a fair few of you traipsing snow around underfoot. Best keep your feet cosy and dry.
- BYOB. If you’d like to drink something other than what is included in your package, you can. I’d recommend a quick trip to the shops on your arrival to stock up on any soft drinks or snacks you might want, and beers if they’re not included (and remember, snow makes an excellent drinks chiller).
- Wash kit. You’re unlikely to get hotel style freebies so don’t forget to bring a full wash kit.
- Sauna ready. If you’ve got a sauna or hot tub in your chalet it goes without saying that you’ll want to pack swimwear. I’d also bring flip-flops and a cover-up or dressing gown to get there and back without freezing.
If you’ve not tried a ski chalet trip before, give it a go. I think it might just be the best way to make the most of your ski or boarding holiday this winter.
(Agree, disagree? Tell me in the comments below!)