An alternative to an Alpine hotel or lodge is the humble ski chalet. These are the villas of the slopes, offering a whole home away from home on the edge of powder-plumed pistes and glaciers. In this guide, we take a look at just some of the features you can expect from ski chalet holidays, along with a few destinations that could get you packing the gear and counting down the days until December.
The different types of ski chalet out there
Before delving into the world of timber-built lodges in the mountain, be sure to consider the 3 pointers below, which reveal just a few features of ski lodges across Europe and beyond.
Catered ski chalet rental
An option that's open to holidaymakers who simply want to focus on their skiing is a catered chalet. These places have dedicated chefs and hosts to ensure that you always wake to a cooked breakfast and return to a filling meal. Of course, the additional service means that these sorts of stays will usually cost extra.
Luxury ski chalets
With resorts like St Moritz and Megève beckoning in the valleys of the European Alps, it's hardly a surprise that super-opulent pads at the base of the slopes are quite common. There's really no limit to the number of luxurious features you'll find within. Powder days can be topped off with a spa session in your private sauna or steam room. Evenings can be spent sipping champagne in an al fresco hot tub, surrounded by snow, while night-time can see you curled up by the fireplace.
Ski-in rental options
Many ski chalets will be proud of their ski-in, ski-out credentials. These signify that the home is close enough to the base of the slopes for you to join the pistes, just metres from your doorstep. They are great options if you like to be the first on the powder come morning or don't enjoy carrying heavy gear back at the end of the day.
Searching for ski chalets in Austria
Charming Alpine hamlets, medieval churches and beer-sloshing taverns are what make Austria such an enticing place to book a ski chalet. Well, all those, plus some seriously accomplished resorts.
Widely considered to be one of the best single-valley resorts in Austria, Mayrhofen is cradled in the wide base of the Zillertal. A babbling river flows through its centre, while ski chalet rentals spread out to join with the small villages of Finkenberg and Hippach to the north and south. Beginners might want to find their snow legs on the inviting slopes of Ahorn, but more established riders can make straight for the Penkenbahn gondola to the bowl of pistes above – watch out for the 78%-gradient Harakiri run.
Find romantic holiday chalets in Zell am See
It's impossible to overstate just how wonderful Zell am See looks in the winter. When the snows douse the peak of Kaprun – where there's speedy glacier skiing to be had – and ice cakes the lake, this resort becomes a veritable wonderland.
On the border of Italy in Obergurgl
You'd be hard pushed to find any chalet in Austria that's closer to the Italian border than those in the soaring resort of Obergurgl. Butting right up to the southern end of the Tyrol, this one's snowsure runs offer views over into the Sarntal Alps.
Find luxury holiday chalets in France
There's simply no ignoring the French Alps and their mighty ski fields. If you're keen on endless days of new pistes and rollicking après bars, this could be the country for you.
Sprawling glaciers in Les Deux Alpes
Les Deux Alpes is worth a special mention for its high-altitude glacier skiing, which is considered among the most reliable in Europe. As the resort tops out at a whopping 3,600 metres above sea level, the main ski chalet rentals in these parts prefer to sit in the wooded Mont de Lans valley below.
Family ski chalets in Morzine
One of the gateways to the large Portes du Soleil domain that actually extends across the Swiss border, the charming town of Morzine is great for both families and those in search of an authentic taste of life in the French Alps. The relatively low altitude of the tree-lined runs is countered by some hearty chalet rentals with fireplaces and room enough for the whole crew, not to mention enthralling stories of old slate stone miners.
Consider a ski chalet in Chamonix
Although Chamonix is nothing short of legendary on the French ski scene, it's not all about riding the white stuff here. You can also enjoy a vibrant town centre that's laced with cafés and elegant 1800s architecture, graced with the intriguing exhibits of the Alpine Museum, and topped with the soaring lookouts of the Aiguille du Midi cablecar.