Where it All Began
During the 1990’s, there was a change in the winds for where those wanting a luxury escape were looking. As adventure and the experience economy began to grow, the then typical white sands and palm trees saw new competition enter the space, competition from the highest peaks of Europe. Many would argue that the luxury chalet experience has been around significantly longer, even back to the 1930’s when British skier Erna Low, developed all inclusive escapes to Austria with a price tag of £15 which included travel to and from resort, food, accommodation, ski hire, ski tuition and a lesson in German.
However, as is so often the case, little remains from those early years, save for the architectural influences.
During this initial growth period, there was little improvement in catered chalets, indeed some would say you were lucky if you had warm water in the property, bathrooms were shared, and the rooms were let individually.
Fast forward to the ‘60s, and with the democratisation of travel, package holidays boomed, bringing affordable holidays to the masses. This meant that travel itself became more affordable and participation sky rocketed. For the ski industry, this manifested itself as high-rise apartments in key resorts, delivering more rooms on a smaller footprint = lower prices.
By the time the ’80s arrived, skiing was firmly set as the holiday of choice for the upwardly mobile, meaning hotels, properties, resorts, restaurants and every other conceivable facility was expected to be of a higher calibre, delivering the service which those individuals had come to expect closer to home, in the mountains.
With the increased availability of places to stay, “chalets” became a less competitive proposition and as such, went through a much needed rejuvenation. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s we began to see the incarnation of what we know and love today.
When I began operating a small group of chalets in Crans-Montana and Méribel in the late ‘90s I still felt there was significant room for improvement. For the most part, these properties were “comfortable” but not exceptional, so we set about redefining the offering from the ground up… Looking back now, those properties were pioneering, giving what was then a level of service and accommodation which had scarcely been seen beyond private homes.
Where Are We Now?
Fast forward 20 years and the level of properties we now see regularly coming through our operators are exceptional. Client demands have always driven the changes we see in the service sector, and specifically in the luxury ski market, where once en-suite facilities would have been the primary selling point, it is now hot tubs, pools, wine cellars, games room, cinema rooms and yes, even bowling alleys…
Why Book a Luxury Catered Chalet?
It’s 4:30 in the afternoon and peacefulness descends on the resort. The whine of the cable cars has stopped, the sea of voices from the slopes has subsided, the rhythmical sound of ski boots crunching over gritted roads is all that reminds you a world still exists outside the chalet - and then, a glass of champagne is placed in your hand...
There is genuinely nothing like a luxury catered chalet to help you escape the real world, sit back and relax. Everything about the experience is there to make your life easier and better, from the moment you arrive to the moment you depart.
When you’ve spent the whole day skiing, often in separate groups, with some skiers being more advanced and others possibly in ski school, returning to the chalet to share stories and revel in one another’s adventures is a time-honoured tradition. But add to that a layer of service which would stand up against the finest hotels in the world, yet it’s exclusively focussed on you and your guests. From curated menus, evening canapes, private saunas, in-house pools and everything in-between you’re able to make the most of your time in the mountains - the real problem comes when it’s time to leave, and reality starts looming large - but there’s always next year...
I genuinely believe that luxury catered chalets deliver the best experience for families, corporate retreats, friends, or any group of individuals who simply want to spend more quality time together without the stresses of daily life getting in the way. There’s no shopping to do, no cleaning to worry about, and your private chef has dinner in hand. I implore anyone who has not been able to experience a luxury chalet to give it some real thought, but be warned, once you’ve done it, you’ll never change back.
It is a love of being in the mountains and cold snowy landscapes that still appeals to me. Whether the Alps or Antarctica, skiing takes you to all these places. I have many more to explore which is exciting.
I am an Alpine and Telemark skier.
Favourite resorts: Crans-Montana, Val d’Isere and Zermatt.
Ski seasons: Two in Val d'Isère, over 10 years in Crans-Montana and Méribel.
Favourite properties: Chalet La Bergerie in Courchevel 1850 and Chalet N in Lech, Chalet Grace in Zermatt.
Favourite lunch and après: Le Panoramic in Tignes. Be prepared to get settled in. Time it right to get the Tufs lift back to Val d’Isere mind you. The sun terrace of L’Etincelle in Val d’Isere late season. Only a short ski home.
My tip: You can never stop learning and this is particularly true when it comes to skiing. Always budget for a ski instructor or guide, you will get so much more out of your holiday. Book afternoon group lessons at New Year and Half Term. No morning rush, lessons are quieter, no queues. The children can learn whilst you enjoy lunch guilt free having skied with the children in the morning and avoiding the interruptions “please can we going skiing now”...