A chalet can conjure up all kinds of images. Long before they became fashionable bases for skiers, they had a very different function. The original chalets were defined as a type of building or house, native to the Alpine region in Europe. They were made of wood, with a heavy, gently sloping roof and wide, well-supported eaves set at right angles to the front of the house.
The term originally referred to the hut of a herder. The word chalet is derived from the medieval Latin calittum, which harks back to the Indo-European cala, or shelter. Many chalets in the Alps were originally used as seasonal farms for dairy cattle which would be brought up from the lowland pastures during the summer months. The herders would live in the chalet and make butter and cheese in order to preserve the milk produced. These products would then be taken, with the cattle, back to the low valleys before the onset of the alpine winter. The chalets would remain locked and unused during the winter months. What a waste!
Around many chalets there are small windowless huts called mazots which were used to lock away valuable items for this period.
With the emergence of the Alpine travel business, chalets were transformed into “vacation houses” used by ski and hiking enthusiasts. In Britain, the word chalet was used for basic sleeping accommodation at holiday camps built around the mid-20th century. Wow! Things have certainly moved on!
So if you’re thinking of renting one – hopefully ours! – for your ski and/or snowboard holiday, what are the key things to consider when choosing a ski chalet?
Proximity to slopes
This is very important. It’s not just laziness. In fact it’s not laziness at all. It’s just a key factor in getting as much skiing as possible. Why waste valuable time walking to the slopes? The Chalet at 11º East is in an unrivalled position, adjoining Bobo’s nursery slope. Your children could literally climb out of the window (but we wouldn’t recommend it!) and be ready for ski school! And it’s no more than 200 yards from the main Gaisberg lift too. So we’re truly right on the slopes – but just yards from the village centre!
This speaks for itself, although long transfer times don’t necessarily always translate into fewer hours on the slopes. Nevertheless, the transfer to us from Innsbruck is just 75 minutes. Transfers are easy with taxis and the Ötztal shuttle is in plentiful supply.
Quality of food
Are menus available prior to booking? Special orders catered for? Is a wine list available? All three are at the chalet at 11 º East. Well, what did you expect from a quality chalet like ours?
What’s the staff/guest ratio?
This can be very important. In our case we have two delightful chalet girls together with Sandy the proprietor. Three staff for 10 guests is one of the best ratios you can find anywhere in the mountains!
People return to both the Chalet and Obergurgl because of the après Ski. The Nederhütte, at the top of the Gaisberg area promises to “rock you to the limit” from 4pm onwards four days a week with live music. The resident band enjoys the colourful name of the Nederlumpen. You can even dance on the tables with impunity, encouraged by the owner, who also provides snowmobile transportation back to Obergurgl for skiers who have overdone the schnapps – or are simply not keen on skiing down in the twilight, even though the restaurant has erected floodlights to help you find your way home. Umbrella bars and nightclubs jostle for business in the village itself. Our favourite is the Barrel Bar, at the foot of the Gaisberg, constructed with three huge barrels which help provide excellent après ski and even après après ski!
The website – those photos can be very deceiving!
Is it really a chalet – or several apartments in one building? In our case we are a genuine self- contained Chalet. The place is yours and only yours – apart from our staff. If you want to wander around in shorts, that’s up to you!
Who else shares the premises? Can we make as much noise as we want?
With our superb Bose sound system you can not only make noise , but also enjoy it in perfect stereo – and there’s no one else to worry about (apart from your friends or family in the chalet with you of course!).
How about the grandparents?
Many of our guests bring their grandparents. Because of the short transfer times, they can even come for part of the week if they prefer. Apart from relaxing, or watching their grandchildren on the slopes from the comfort of the sofas (or skiing with them, of course), there’s always plenty to do. We are in the heart of the village and many of the resorts huts are easily accessible on foot as well as on skis, making meeting up at lunch as easy as the nursery slopes!