The low-down on chalet hotels

27th August 2009, by Chris Gill

Happy lodging, happy faces

Happy lodging, happy faces

If the chalet formula sounds a bit claustrophobic for your taste, the chalet hotel may be the solution …

The catered chalet holiday is as popular as ever, especially with families. Since en suite bathrooms and comfy sofas became the norm rather than the exception, the attractions of the chalet – more private and less formal than hotels – have increased considerably. Now, more people are discovering the merits of the chalet’s bigger cousin, the chalet hotel.

Chalet operators have for years set the pace in childcare. It was a natural extension of hiring British gels as cooks and housekeepers to hire a few as nannies, too; then all they had to do was identify a suitable room in a suitable chalet, and bingo – a crèche was born. For British parents reluctant to submit their beloved to the brutality of French nurseries, the chalet was the obvious solution.

Chalet hotels are a larger version of the same thing, with some additional advantages. Some are purpose-built, but usually they are based on buildings that have operated as proper hotels. As a result, bedrooms typically are more generous than in chalets. Facilities are often better – there is likely to be a bar (with moderate prices if you’re lucky), and there may be a swimming pool, spa or gym, for example. There may be a menu choice at dinner.

Two of the most long-established firms dominate the family chalet hotel market; Esprit Ski was the original family chalet specialist. Its programme is still dominated by chalets – but it now also includes chalet hotels. Mark Warner has always focused on chalet hotels, and has crèches in most of its properties. The editorial Gill family took several successful holidays with these firm in the days when the kids needed even more attention than they do now.

Strikingly, these firms major on top resorts. They both go to Courchevel 1850, Méribel, Val d’Isère, Tignes and La Plagne in France and to St Anton in Austria. The other Esprit resorts are Alpe-d’Huez, Les Arcs, Les Gets and La Rosière in France, Obergurgl in Austria, Saas Fee in Switzerland and Selva in Italy. Mark Warner has also has family oriented properties in Les Deux-Alpes (France).

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