During my most recent ski trip to Courchevel I stayed in a catered chalet for the first time. I didn’t really know what to expect from a chalet before we arrived, having always opted for hotel accommodation on our previous ski trips in Europe. Overall I enjoyed our chalet stay and there are some aspects of chalet accommodation that I prefer over a hotel, but it all comes down to your personality and what you are looking to get out of your ski trip. I’ve put together an overview of my experiences with hotels vs chalets so if you are tossing up between the two for an upcoming ski trip hopefully this will give you a good idea of what to expect.
What is a catered chalet?
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a catered chalet its probably because they’re mainly just popular with British skiers and not really known of elsewhere in Europe. Essentially they are private houses that come equipped with staff who take care of the cooking and cleaning. From what I observed during my stay in Courchevel it seems that most of the people who run these chalets are quite young, fresh out of university and are maybe working at a resort during their gap year. The quality of the chalet and staff largely depends on how much you are willing to spend. We booked our holiday through Skiworld and stayed in one of their Signature Chalets which are considered to be a 5 star grade. The staff at our chalet were wonderful, the meals were excellent and the chalet facilities were of a very high standard. And the cost was still considerably cheaper than a 4 or 5 star hotel.
One thing to be aware of with chalets is that they are a lot more sociable than a hotel stay. Assuming that you aren’t travelling with a large group of friends, you will be sharing the chalet with strangers. You have your own room obviously but everyone comes together at meal times and dines around the same table. We got along well with the other people staying in our chalet and didn’t have any problems, but if you’re someone who likes their privacy you would be better off booking a hotel.
Our catered chalet provided a cooked breakfast, afternoon tea and a four course dinner on six out of the seven days. The staff have a well-earned day off on the other day but will still leave out a continental breakfast that morning. I was impressed with the quality of meals that were cooked for us in the chalet, especially because the staff were always happy to cater not only for dietary requirements but personal tastes. At the time of booking we were asked about dietary requirements so the staff knew ahead of time to make special allowances. My boyfriend is allergic to mushrooms and the day we arrived they spoke with him about this and made sure that he was provided with an alternative when mushrooms were used in one of the evening meals. And when I requested to have the vegetarian alternative one evening they were more than happy to accommodate this. The staff always made you feel like nothing was too much trouble. They even baked a birthday cake for my boyfriend and provided a packed lunch to take with us on our transfer back to the airport!
When we’ve stayed at hotels we’ve always booked the half board option, which means you get breakfast and dinner included. The dinners are usually a set menu of four or five courses and in my experience the quality of the meals has been a bit hit and miss depending on the hotel. Generally the higher end hotels will have more than one restaurant and this gives you a little bit of variety in your evening meals and the quality of the food is much higher.
One key difference between half-board and a catered chalet is that drinks are not included with half-board. You have to pay for any drink you have with your evening meal and this includes bottled water and soft drinks. Our catered chalet however provided aperitifs as well as white, red and rose wines during dinner, all included in the package price. So while a catered chalet is less flexible in terms of meal times, you definitely get better value for money than at a hotel especially if you enjoy wine with your evening meal.
I’m of the belief that spa time after a day of skiing is an absolute necessity. Therefore I always make sure that any hotel I book has a swimming pool at least, and preferably a sauna as well.
While chalets don’t typically have their own swimming pools, ours did come with a hot tub and sauna which are shared with the other guests. You could also book massage treatments through a local company and the therapist would come to the chalet to do the massage (I didn’t try this myself but one of the other guests in the chalet did). Bath robes and slippers were also provided for each guest.
Both hotels and chalets typically come with ski storage so you have a communal room to store you skis/snowboards and boots.
If you’re looking to save a bit of money I would definitely opt for a room in a chalet. Even a high end chalet like the one we stayed in was still more affordable than a 4 star hotel over the same period - and I would consider the chalet to be of a higher standard than some of the ski resort 4 star hotels I’ve stayed at in the past.
Tips for choosing a chalet
My personal preferences when booking a chalet are:
- Book a signature chalet or equivalent - this ensures you get the best quality meals and facilities (eg, hot tub)
- If travelling as a couple, book a small chalet. Our chalet accommodated 10 people and I wouldn’t recommend going any larger than this to make sure you don’t get stuck with larger groups who take over the common areas
Have you stayed in a catered chalet before? Do you prefer them over hotels?