Families That Ski Chalet Together, Stay Together!
The Chalet: Why Skiing’s Oldest Lodging Option Is Also One Of Its Best. Chalets are gaining popularity in North America. And for very good reasons.
By Barclay Idsal
Photos courtesy Beaver Creek Resort Properties
Editors Note: The author also works for ski.com, one of our favorite alliance partners in the world of luxury skiing.
There are plenty of reasons why in the home of skiing, The Alps, ski chalets are the most sought-after form of mountain lodging. Not only does their architectural style lend itself to relaxing by a fire, getting cozy in a library or enjoying quality time in a large common area with family or friends, but they usually offer some of the best access to the mountains as well.
When it comes to hosting a group, chalets make getting on and off the slopes a breeze while delivering a little bit of something for everyone in terms of ski lodging.
Growing up, I was lucky enough to enjoy a weeklong stay at a ski chalet in Vail, Colorado courtesy of some family friends who lived down the block from where I grew up. Skiing with my siblings, home cooked meals, and more card games than I can remember made for a childhood trip I’ll not soon forget.
Photos courtesy: Rock Resorts
Staying in a ski chalet means togetherness and if the chief marketing officer of Ski.com knows anything about his favorite pastime, it’s that spending quality family time on a ski vacation is just as important as getting solo time on the slopes. “There’s just something magical about unlocking the door to a ski chalet for a weeklong stay with your family,” says Sherman who spent a week in Zermatt back in 2019. “You have this whole new space to yourself but the way it’s appointed is all 5 stars.” At many chalets, you can add a butler, housekeeper, or even a personal chef for the duration of your stay.
Historically speaking, chalets have come a long way since their humble origins as the homes of local shepherds in the French and Swiss Alps. These days, chalets range from charmingly traditional abodes to breathtakingly modern mansions complete with full kitchens, memory foam mattresses, and most of important of all—a fireplace to gather around.
Photos The Stein Collection At Deer Valley
Ski Chalet Etiquette
• The custom in Europe is to give chalet staff physical gifts upon departure. For North Americans, twenty percent gratuity is highly encouraged.
• Always take your shoes off in the “mudroom” before entering the main living spaces.
• Maintain the fireplace by regularly taking out and disposing of the ashes.
• Make a personal connection with the chalet owner (see below)
• The chalet is home. Treat it like one and it’ll feel like one.
When booking a ski chalet in North America or Europe, not all are complete, private homes for rent. In fact, some cheeky chalet owners market themselves as whole homes when in fact, they represent a situation much closer to a Bed and Breakfast. For this reason and many others like it, Ski.com’s Dan Sherman recommends travelers consult their professional travel advisor to make sure they book the right ski chalet at the right time of year. However, most chalet owners are salt of the Earth locals who care deeply about their community and rent out their chalet by way of tradition. In many instances, you’ll personally meet the chalet owner and their genuine hospitality might be the number one reason you book a return trip.
Photo courtesy: Rock Resorts
Before we move forward, it bears noting that the definition of a ski chalet changes from continent to continent. In the Alps, chalets are often styled specifically to a certain aesthetic. In Europe, the chalet experience is also a little more steeped in tradition and can include elements like charming chalet staff and old school alpine recipes that make for a quintessentially “old world” experience.
The North American chalet on the other hand is more of a ski-in, ski-out lodge that generally adheres to the chalet architectural style. While a caretaker or manager typically keeps the chalet fresh for all its guests during their stay, and private chefs are certainly available for hire, a chalet rental in the USA will often be more of an independent endeavor, which in turn can offer guests space to unwind in privacy with friends or family, all while keeping a low profile.
Some of the best ski destinations in the USA that offer chalets are Vail, Telluride, Deer Valley, Beaver, Creek, and Aspen. At Vail Mountain, the Game Creek Chalet, located atop the famous Game Creek Bowl, offers its guests 360 degree views of the Holy Cross and Gore ranges. In terms of ski in, ski out, it doesn’t get much better than this. Similar and equally luxurious are the Trapper’s Cabin in Beaver Creek, the Galena Chalet in Telluride, and the aptly named Ski Dream Home in Deer Valley, Utah.
Photos courtesy Beaver Creek Resort Properties
The only drawback to booking a ski chalet? It sets the bar pretty high for future family ski vacations, which is why you make friends with the chalet owner.
To book the right ski chalet, timing is everything. For the holiday periods, things begin to book up in the early summer and the majority of inventory is gone come November. Sherman says if you want your ski chalet for Christmas, “you need to start making plans as soon as possible because most of the prime inventory can be gone come late October.”
** Barclay Idsal is the Content Marketing Manager for ski.com. Before settling down in Steamboat Springs, CO with his wife, Barclay spent a winter living and skiing in Chamonix, France where he learned the ways of ski chalets, brioche, and alpinism. Today, Barclay makes a living writing about ski travel amongst a host of other things adventure related.