Catered ski chalets are a popular option – and it’s easy to understand why. Here’s our guide to choosing a catered chalet – and some favourites.
The catered ski chalet is something of a British invention in skiing. It’s a popular concept, and the closest you can get to a ‘home from home’. Basically, you live in a chalet with your friends and the chalet company cook breakfast, tea and dinner for you. This basically leaves skiing and enjoying yourself as the only thing you need to do.
Ski chalets also have the advantage of lounge space to relax in (like you would at home), and many come with an outdoor hot tub (which you probably don’t have at home). On top of that, catered ski chalets provide value for money too. No wonder it’s a popular option.
‘You gets what you pays for’ (generally)
Catered ski chalets range in cost tremendously. At the more basic end, you might pay £350 - £500 per person per week.
The mid range takes you from £550 - £800 per person per week, and then the top end goes from there as high as you want - or don’t want - to go. There are some seriously swish and pricey chalets if you have the money and inclination: these are the ‘super yachts’ of the ski world.
In general, the price of a chalet reflects some of the following:
b) the space of the property
c) décor and facilities
d) quality of food and service
Sole occupancy chalets versus shared chalets
One of the most important questions when choosing a ski chalet is to decide whether you want to go for sole occupancy or go for a shared chalet. If you are a large group, you might want the privacy that sole occupancy gives you. If you are a small group, you might enjoy the social aspect of sharing a chalet with other skiers, giving you new people to meet and even ski with. Shared chalets can be a lot of fun in this respect. Of course, not everyone wants to spend a week sharing a living room with people they don’t know – who could turn out to be boring at best or annoying at worst. But as chalet standards continue to rise, most chalets have ensuite facilities, so it’s only the social space that you are sharing. And given that everyone has a shared love of the mountains, you’ll often meet likeminded people and can some great new friends.
In terms of money, you can take shared chalets on a per-person cost, so there is no financial risk. By contrast, with sole occupancy you pay for the whole chalet, you need to make sure that you can fill it. If a few people cancel on you and you can’t replace them, the per-person cost is going to increase. Taking a large chalet sole occupancy can work out with a slightly cheaper per-person cost than if you just booked places on a room-by-room basis. This is because chalet owners like to incentivise groups to book the whole chalet.
Ski-in/ski-out chalets – worth it?
One of the most common requests from skiers is for a ski-in/ski-out property – be that apartment, hotel or catered chalet. It’s no surprise: who wouldn’t want to be able to clip in their skies or strap on their board at the door of their chalet and be off; and then similarly be able to ski straight back to the chalet at the end of the day?
But in fact, funny as it sounds, there are good reasons for choosing a chalet that is not ski-in/ski-out. Firstly, what are the alternatives? There are basically three:
1. Your chalet is a short walk to the ski lifts
2. Your chalet is further than walking distance, but there is a bus
3. Your chalet is further than walking distance, but your chalet has a chauffer service to bring you to and from the slopes (many catered chalets offer this)
Counterintuitively, sometimes you get more skiing when you are not ski-in/ski-out. This is because if your chalet is giving you a lift to/from the slopes each morning and afternoon, then you end up spending longer on the slopes and feeling all the prouder for it. Obviously, if you are a family with young children who might not want to ski all day, you need to make sure that your chalet will pick up earlier (or be somewhere closer to the slopes).
Also, the reality is that many of the more attractive old chalets are not actually ski-in/ski-out, because they are old farmhouses that have been converted to ski chalets, but are not located on the ski slopes.
Outdoor hot tubs – lovely but…
For many skiers and snowboarders, the idea of a chalet with a hot tub on the terrace is one of the most tantalising propects of a ski holiday. Of course, who doesn’t like the thought of sinking into a steaming bath, glass of bubbles in hand, with a view out over the valley in front of you – and then to sit there and chat nonsense with your mates until it’s time for dinner?
However, what actually happens on many ski holidays is that some of the skiers who said that they really wanted a hot tub - indeed said that there had to be a hot tub – only used it once or twice for a few minutes. Now that’s all good, but a chalet with a hot tub will generally cost more than a chalet without. So only get hung up about a hot tub if you intend to get your money’s worth – or if you know at least the rest of your group will enjoy it.
Old farmhouse - or purpose built?
Another important difference between chalets is the kind of building the chalet is. Some of the most beautiful and spacious ones are converted old farmhouses, with plenty of character.
In contrast, there are chalets that have been purpose built for ski tour operators and chalet companies to rent. While these can still be nice, you’ll often find that these have slightly less lounge space per person, smaller bedrooms with less storage space, and a slightly different décor and feel.
The plus side of the more modern ones is that the bedrooms may be more similar sizes (saves on arguments!) and they might be built in very convenient locations.
Ski tour operator or indepdendent chalet company
There is another distinction to be made, when choosing a chalet. Some chalets are run by large ski tour operators, some by smaller ski tour operators, and some by independent chalet companies. A large ski tour operator's portfolio may have hundreds of chalets, whereas some independent chalets are just a couple who personally run one chalet. The advantage of a ski tour operator is that they can package up the chalet with train travel and transfers. By contrast, if you go with an independent chalet company then you have the responsibility - and flexibility - of booking the travel yourself.
The feel and service in the chalet is going to feel different too. With a larger tour operator, the staff running the chalet and cooking meals for you are generally going to be younger and less experienced. With an independent chalet company, you are generally going to have staff who have been with the company for longer; or, as mentioned, in the case where the company has just one chalet, it may be the couple running the chalet who cook and generally look after you.
In terms of accommodation style, the independent chalets are more likely to be old farmhouse buildings; whereas the larger tour operators will have a portfolio that includes more purpose-built chalets.
Some of Daniel’s favourite ski chalets
Sometimes the choice of catered ski chalets can seem overwhelming. There are so many – particularly in France where it’s a big tradition amongst British skiers.
In the next section we’ll give some of Snowcarbon founder Daniel’s favourites. In the next section we won’t name the chalets – because this guide isn’t about us advertising certain ones, it’s just to give you some (hopefully) useful information and guidance. If you are looking for suggestions for a ski chalet, please feel free to ask Daniel and he’ll be happy to recommend some based on the requirements of your group.
Morzine catered ski chalets
Morzine is heaven when it comes to chalets. There are a huge number of old farmhouses that have been beautifully converted and resorted – to cater for all tastes and budgets.
As you approach the resort from Cluses train station, it’s quite a sight to behold!
One of our favourites, in the Montriond area or Morzine, has space for 26 people with a massive dining room, a huge lounge with a log fire (pictured right), a sauna and an outdoor hot tub – along with top-notch food too. Morzine has a lot of chalets that are in the centre of town too. You pay more for the privilege of being in town, but you might consider being in one of the chalets a bit further out and get more space for your money.
Peisey-Vallandry catered ski chalets
Ski chalets in Peisey-Vallandry tend to be located in various areas: there are some on the slopes above Peisey-Vallandry, some in the village below, some in the old village of Plan Peisey and some in Nancroix.
There are some very good chalets here, including ones with beautiful, cavernous stand-out lounges like the one pictured, which also has an indoor sauna and an outdoor hot tub wth a view over the whole valley!
Peisey-Vallandry sits geographically right in the middle of it's more famous neigbours, Les Arcs and La Plagne. What you'll often find is that on websites that list chalets, the chalets here are listed under 'Les Arcs'. The reason that the websites do that is because they know that far more people search for 'chalet in Les Arcs' - because the name 'Peisey-Vallandry' is less well known. But actually there are far more chalets in Peisey-Vallandry than in Les Arcs - and the slopes of both resorts are seamlessly linked.