For the beginner skier booking a ski holiday is a minefield, there are so many different types of accommodation that it can even be a conundrum for the more experienced. Here at Snowpads we have years of expertise in the market, having sold, rented and stayed in accommodations all over the ski globe. So, what we’ve done is compile a little glossary for your help.
Half board ski hotels.
Ok, this is an obvious one. Most skiers chose a half board or demi-pension stay consisting of bed, breakfast and evening meal. Many hotels will also include an apres ski buffet or afternoon tea consisting of home made cakes, tea, coffee and some even offer additional savoury snacks such as canapes or a home made soup. After a long day on the mountain skiers many skiers cannot be bothered with searching out restaurants so this is more often than not the ideal choice of board basis.
Hotels will range from uncategorised status through to 5 star luxury. Our advice is don’t be ruled by the star status. In France your hotel will struggle to go above two star status if the hotel has a small reception or the staff only speak French, even if it is luxurious. In Italy star ratings are given by the local communes so different resorts will vary substantially.
Bed and breakfast/Ski pensions/ Chambre d’Hote/Garni hotels.
Whilst these are also hotels they often sit in a category of their own. Mostly of a more modest nature, although not always, they form more flexible lodging options for skiers that want to eat out in a variety of different settings. More often than not they are smaller, more intimate family run properties and really can offer a charming personalised experience.
Full board ski hotels.
Full board is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These hotels are typically ski in ski out and the close proximity to the slopes will offer convenience for lunchtime meals in addition to breakfasts and evening meals. Often these hotels will be on the mountain and attract the family market where the children can seamlessly join the adults after ski school at lunch time. Some hotels that are further from the slopes will offer lunches at a dedicated mountain restaurant to avoid the need for returning to the hotel.
All-inclusive ski hotels.
Skiers must be very careful when booking an all inclusive ski package as it can often mean different things to different skiers. In Austria the all inclusive hotels will typically be of a 4 – 5 star standard that include full board (breakfast, lunch, dinner) plus bar snacks and drinks (alcohol and soft drinks) from 12 noon to 12 am. Within the U.K. package holiday environment All Inclusive ski holidays will also include lift passes, tuition, non-ski activities, tips and taxes. Club Med is the market leader here with around 20 ski hotels world-wide mostly in the 4-5 star category but some with a 3 star rating.
Ski Apartments/Ski Condos.
Apartments in Europe and Condos in North America – these are one and the same thing; self catering self contained units sleeping from 2 guests in studios to 16 guests in huge eight bedroom units. Where once these were the choice of budget orientated skiers looking for the least cost option in 2 star residences they are now typically 4-5 star residences with a raft of leisure facilities that will match many hotels with swimming pools, hot tubs, saunas, treatment rooms and spa areas.
Over time the lines have become a little blurred; an apart-hotel is a hotel with apartments, simple. For apart-hotels see the above description for ski apartments/condos. The only tweak being that it will have an on-site restaurant and often you will be able to pre-book a bed and breakfast or half board package before arrival. The facilities of a hotel but with the ability for all of your group to stay in one private residence.
Catered ski chalets.
The catered ski chalet is a British concept invented by the Austrian Erna Low. Rail travel, shared chalet accommodation, passes, and equipment were sold together. The idea was a house party in the snow and it caught on. Guests could either rent sole occupancy of a chalet or share with other skiers. The emphasis being the dining and socialising together whilst being catered for and looked after by, usually, British staff. Some have considered the experience to be rather insular in a British way; British staff catering for British guests, an island race experience. However, it does have massive benefits for families or friends that just want to spend some informal time together on a family holiday.
Self catered ski chalets.
As with the catered chalet experience this is exactly the same but without the provision of meals being included. In this scenario chalets are only ever taken for exclusive use. Self catered chalets will sometimes include a maid service and other times will not.
Hybrid ski chalets.
Following Brexit and its employment law changes together with the Covid pandemic the lines have been blurred between self catered and catered ski chalets. There now exist hybrid chalets that are self catered chalets with bolt on additions that can be pre-booked such as breakfasts, lunches, evening meals for selected nights only, packed lunches, maid services, midweek towel changes and cleaning only, meal and grocery delivery options, concierge duties, and in-resort chauffeur services.
Dedicated childcare accommodations.
Skiing with children is hard work but very rewarding. However, make life easier for yourself and your family. Imagine a scenario whereby children are taken to a dedicated ski school by their nanny or snow ranger who stays on hand to wipe runny noses and pick up dropped gloves. Where children are then brought back to your hotel apartment or chalet and fed. Where they are then looked after until 2pm or even 6pm? It’s all possible and these family childcare ski holidays have been increasingly popular over the last 20 or so years with a handful of U.K. childcare ski specialist companies offering this service.
Aimed at the youth and backpacker markets these low cost ski accommodation lodgings offer multiple occupancy dormitories with shared bathroom facilities to basic twin bedrooms en-suite. There are various companies that provide the service from UCPA in France to Contiki in Austria. Some even come with coach travel from the U.K. provided.
In addition to the above tourist lodgings you may also hear the following terms for alpine buildings:
These are tiny alpine rustic timber and stone chalets originally found in the Valais canton of Switzerland but also in Italy and France. In the Valle d’Aosta offshoot of the Val d’Ayas they are generally referred to as a Rascard.
They originally comprised two or three rooms and were constructed on stone pillars to elevate above the snow levels with cattle often being housed underneath for the cattle’s shelter and thus providing heat to the above building. Above the stone base they tend to feature fir or larch squared horizontal logs that interlock and a slate or “lauze” tiled roof. Often they will be marketed as romantic love nests for couples looking for that authentic alpine experience.
A mazot in the Alps.
This is an Italian word for a small dry stone mountain hut a little like a Mazot. I always find it quite amusing that there are now many hotels in the Italian Alps and Dolomites called the Gran Baita, meaning the big small mountain hut…but that’s just my pigeon Italian!
Basically this is a mountainside hut for emergency shelter on a shared basis but they have evolved to include hotels and hostels on the mountain that are often favoured by snow tourers, hikers, climbers, and off-piste adventurers. Often the mountain refuge will be a restaurant during the day offering food and refreshments for skiers.
Whatever your accommodation requirements you can be assured of access to it here at Snowpads, and if you can’t see it your email us and we’ll be only too happy to assist you.