Tag Archives: alpine chalet

Does my catered chalet have to be in the ski resort?

Location, Location Location.

I’ve just answered a question from one of our clients about the location for a catered ski chalet. I thought I would expand on it here.

Qu. Rates aside is there any demand for the quieter out-of-town chalet or do 90% of holiday makers want the bright-lights?
The closer to town the better for your own logistics and also to improve your retention rate. You can always attract the first time customers with good marketing and price but long term a small business has to have a good repeat business rate. Though there is a section of the market that will stick with amazing service and an out-of town location but overall you’ll make life hard for yourselves.

Qu. We always do self-catered these days as we like mooching around town and looking in the shops. But things may be different in a catered chalet. Families may want the quieter place and never go out? There are many different kinds of people so we don’ t have to appeal to everyone but what is the accepted logic of chalet business please ?
This is a funny one but although there are many types of skier you’ll find you will attract a certain sort. The customers will react to where and how you advertise and they will tend to conform to the image you project, as an example if your advertising says “family friendly” and has lots of pictures of kids, you’ll attract the families and not too many single travellers! On the question “will they go out”, given the opportunity a family will. There are always things to do and see in a ski village and most families don’t survive well cooped up. Though saying that if they have no choice and they are prepared with games and DVD’s a spacious chalet is fine too.

Qu. Morzine or Chatel? We have only experienced the Morzine side so are interested in Les Gets/Morzine/St Jean D’aulps. Are we missing a trick? Is there good business opps in Chatel or Abondance? Much quieter though and quite far away in the car I think?
As ski destinations go, Morzine, Les Gets and Chatel are on a par, Morzine and Les Gets have become more well known over the last 10 years, I don’t really know why, the upshot is that it is easier to sell a holiday but that there is now more competition! You can run a catered chalet business in the likes of Abondance and St Jean d’Aulps but I think you’ll find it harder in the long term. Watching the businesses in these places (and I live in St Jean d’Aulps) the majority (not all) tend to gravitate to the bright lights eventually (or give up). It may be that they started in the satellite towns, built up some expertise/clientèle and contacts and that gave them the leg up into the well known areas and that’s fine. Knowing this though, I would be tempted to start in the main town and if I can’t buy, rent.

Espace Roc d'Enfer

Some background. Morzine, Les Gets and Chatel are in the Portes du Soleil. I’ll list the main towns (more correctly Ski Stations or Ski Resorts)  in bold and then the outlying villages.

Morzine, followed in order of popularity with ski holiday operators > > Cote d’Arboz/Essert Romand, St Jean d’Aulps and then Le Biot.

Les Gets probably has the same satellite towns as Morzine.

Chatel followed by La Chapelle d’Abondance, Abondance

Then of course there is the Grand Massif. Samoens is a popular town and has satellite towns of Morillon and then Verchaix. Les Carroz has Arâches La Frasse.

Over in the Mont Blanc region we have Chamonix, it’s “villages” have grown up somewhat so Les Houches and Argentière are both in bold, Vallorcine is still an outlying village and Servoz even more so. Don’t forget St Gervais and Les Contamines  and Megève (it’s unlikely you’ll be starting a business there!) which has outlying villages of Combloux and Cordon.

In the Aravis there is the Grand-Bornand which has Entremont and Le Petit-Bornand and La Clusaz has St Jean de Sixt, Thones and Manigod.

We have chalets for sale in all the above resorts. Many of them would be suitable as properties to be run as a chalet business. As an example here is Chalet Ancolie, situated in La Clusaz, 8 bedrooms, walking distance from the ski lift and for sale at 1 490 000 €uros. Click on the picture for further details.

Chalet in La Clusaz

I want to run a Chalet Business in the Alps

I used to get asked this question twice a week.

“How do I start a chalet business in the Alps?”

I think 2005/6 was the peak. Everyone wanted to move to the Alps, sometimes it was 1 in 4 of the enquiries we received . There was a lull in interest from 2008 to 2011 but the question is returning now. Not to the same level but maybe once a week.

Pic de la Corne 2014

I have learnt over time that the question should really be phrased a bit better. Perhaps:

“how can I make a life in the Alps?”

would be more appropriate. I think the reason that most people assume a Chalet Business is the way to do it is because most people that have gone skiing have witnessed at first hand a chalet business. The holiday cost them €800 so the embryonic business plan started over the dinner table.

€800 x 10 people staying in the chalet = €8,000

€8,000 x 16 weeks for the season = €128,000

That sounds like a lot of money! There must be a margin there?

Obviously you need a chalet or even better a small hotel, then there are the usual bills, food and linen to pay for too but surely there is a fair living to be made? And that’s not including the summer business. Right, sign me up, where do I start?

Well I’ve been there. Now I earn my living from my full time job with Alpine Property I’ve also worked a couple of winter seasons, I did run a chalet business (mostly summer based) for 10 years and now I live in the Alps with my wife and 3 children. Surely living proof that it’s a good idea? Well “Yes” and “No”. I’m now going to give my advice. Feel free to take it with a pinch of salt!

My first bit of advice is “don’t do it”. Well don’t start the chalet business that is. Living in the Alps is a great idea! Have a look at your skills, can you carry them over to the Alps and keep working? That’ could be a possibility? And it might be better in the long term. There are plenty of people that live in the Alps and make a living here or based from here. These are the trades I know of:

Accountants, #pilots, #lawyers, journalists, IT experts, various consultants and #project managers, guides (walking / biking / climbing), ski instructors, electricians, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, builders, bankers (in Geneva), doctors, nurses, #engineers, estate agents, interior designers, graphic designers, photographers, artists, writers, teachers, taxi drivers, hotels owners and hospitality workers….

The professions marked as # generally work away from home and use the Alps as a base. There are bound to be more, these are just the ones I know personally.

Alpine Property Team Meal 2011

Even with the various jobs I have mentioned there are some fairly thorny issues that you need to take into account. Living in another country is the main one. Of course there is the language but that isn’t half of it. The French have a different attitude to life and this should not be forgotten. In fact it’s crucial. Before I came out I read “60m Frenchman can’t be wrong”.  I read it but I didn’t really understand it. I’m still coming to terms with that 14 years later. I’ve three observations to make on this subject.

1. France loves rules. The French pretend they don’t. The state loves rules and regulations though and as far as a profession or job goes you would be well advised to find out about the rules and work within them. In contrast the UK seems to have no rules. Commerce seems to be something that anyone can try their hand at. Not so in France.

2. France is a socialist country. When labour governed in the UK (in my lifetime) they were only pretending to socialist. When Sarko was in charge in France he was only pretending to be right-wing. The fact is it costs a fortune to run a socialist country and this will need paying for. The cost of living in France seems high compared to the UK, everything costs more (almost everything) and everything in a ski resort costs more than that! It seems that in general the French are taxed considerably more that in the UK, this means that everyone needs to charge more to break even.

3. The French value their time off. Be that eating times or weekends. Never get between the French and lunch. An Anglo Saxon might find this funny but if you are French it’s deadly serious. It becomes before business. No question.

So if you don’t feel that you can carry over your current skills and you still think running a chalet is the way forward then hang on! I’ll go on to explain some of the issues and pitfalls in the next post.

PT 2, updated in Dec 2016.