large chalet for rental

The History of Luxury Alpine Ski Chalet Rentals

Written by Julie Gauthier, Founder & Director, Art de Vivre

Wind back the clock to the 1960s. Skiing in locations such as Klosters and St. Moritz was the winter sport of the aristocracy. Many of the resorts of today were small, rural communities belonging to local farmers. In the 1980s the skiing business went through a massive growth phase with hotels developing, unskiied villages and valleys becoming resorts in France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. Of the many ski operators, only a quarter still exist today. What had been the sport of the few became the sport of the many with cheap deals and overnight buses heading to the snow.

Capitalising on this sudden popularity, Bladon Lines became the first chalet operator of this new age. The chalets were large, fairly basic and a chalet team of two would provide cooked breakfast, packed lunch, afternoon tea with fresh cake and 3 course dinner. The same staff also shopped, cleaned and made the beds. Bladon Lines was bought by Inghams in 1995 and was sadly neglected and phased out. Fellow chalet pioneers Super Travel were on the scene in the same period. Unlike Bladon Lines they still operate today in Zermatt, Courchevel 1850 and St Anton.

The true luxury chalet business started in 1997 with the launch of Descent, whose owner Kit Harrison offered a new unparalleled level of uncompromising service in the finest of ski chalets. Unheard of before this point, Descent marketed the chalets fully catered for £40,000 a week. The concept was a real game changer - extreme luxury in 5-6 bedroom stunning alpine chalets with pools and spas, 5 staff and chauffeur service. Key to its appeal was the high level properties and the employment of hotel standard staff. The collection grew year on year and in its final brochure had properties in Courchevel, Val d’Isère, Meribel, Les Gets, Verbier, Zermatt, Klosters and St. Moritz. The impact in the press was huge which also created a new corporate chalet ski market for incentives and team building. The concept was very expensive to run and very difficult to do and sadly the financial crisis of 2008 saw the closing of Descent along with several other ski companies.

In 2003, Channel Four ran a Grand Designs Abroad episode that followed Nicky Dobree’s passionate project of restoring a 17th century farm into a ski chalet named Ferme de Moudon in Les Gets, France. Alpine interior design had arrived with a chocolate box exterior and an interior where ancient beams blended with Christian Liaigre, Kohler and Andrew Martin. Saunas, massage rooms, outdoor hot tubs, heated boot racks and wine cellars were now chalet essentials. Not only did Ferme de Moudon win Design and Decoration Awards 2005, it joined the Descent portfolio.

Nicky Dobree’s interior design business sky rocketed from the media attention and she was able to bring a fresh alpine aesthetic to many of her projects. Gone were the dull chalets of the 80s and 90s with their cute, cookie-cutter, rural-cosy style. Nicky’s take was fresh with her signature logs stacked by the fire, use of white and cream, wood and stone, velvets, African feel and cow hides. Today Nicky Dobree is the go to luxury chalet designer with between 15-20 projects on the go at any one time and setting the tone around the world for private clients in Whistler, Verbier, Crans Montana and Meribel.

It’s not just the design that has changed. In the early years, food was cooked by chalet girls practising their dinner party skills. Nowadays chalet hosts and professional chefs serve the best cuisine for miles around. Meticulously judged and chosen at the beginning of each season, the talented chefs create their own menus using local ingredients to express their expertise and personality.

Today the alpine chalet is deemed the norm along with the private yacht and private jet. Owning a chalet is the luxury accessory of the wealthy.

The luxury chalet business has changed so rapidly with designer chalets becoming one of the most desired assets of their affluent owners. It is an emotional investment but none the less it is one that many owners wish to be appreciated by others. Art de Vivre is proud to offer these designer chalet rentals to their international clients. The architectural and design experience of each property creates a memorable ambiance, with the guests bringing the house to life, sharing together the owner’s passion for the Alps.

From my early ski rep days in Austria with avid skiers from the US and the UK, I have seen and appreciated the evolution of the alpine chalet industry with my own eyes, and I am proud to represent these designer chalets, some of the world’s most valuable real estate and the height of alpine design. They offer our clients who come from around the world - Canada, South America, China, Australia and Middle East - a home from home and a genuine, memorable alpine experience.

 

If you are searching for the perfect designer alpine chalet for this season, we suggest you take a look at our luxury chalet collection and send us an email with details for your stay so we may tailor some chalet options for you and your guests.

 

Mountains, Valley and Chalets: Our Zermatt Visit

Last month, the Art de Vivre team were hosted by Elysian in their beautiful chalets in Zermatt (1,620m). From the stunning mountain range to the quiet valley town and to the immaculately presented chalets, the visit gave us the chance to explore the exclusive destination of Zermatt and discover more exciting opportunities for our clients.

Breath-taking views of the majestic Matterhorn

When one thinks of Zermatt, they imagine the Matterhorn first and it’s easy to understand why. The positioning of the valley makes the Matterhorn most impressive from Zermatt and during our stay, the mountain was always catching our eye. It was visible from the train station, the bedroom balcony, the bathroom, the dining room and the restaurants. It impresses at all times of day, whether it’s in the soft pinkish glow of the morning, shining brilliantly as the sun hits the snow or the star-studded sky when the way of the first ascenders is illuminated with lights.

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It is only natural that the mountains host the main attractions to Zermatt. The most obvious is the skiing and the numerous mountain lifts in Zermatt, which take one to Europe’s highest-altitude ski area at 3,883m. A paradise for hikers and skiers, here you can find stunning slopes for all levels of expertise and enough space to ski in larger groups. 

These heights also host the stunning Matterhorn Glacier Palace, a carved tunnel of ice decorated with lit ice-sculptures and slides that you can interact with; a particular favourite amongst children. The main heights are Gornergrat (3,089 m), the previously mentioned Matterhorn glacier paradise (3,883 m) and the Rothorn (3,103 m). All of these provide a breath-taking view of the majestic mountain world around the Matterhorn, with lifts operating 365 days a year.

The untouched nature of the valley

Lower down the valley, between the towering mountains and the town, beautiful natural sights can be found. Footpaths carve their way down into the valley; past glistening rivers and untouched nature. More traditional buildings are spread sporadically around the outskirts of Zermatt around which you can find the best restaurants the region has to offer. ‘Zum See’ is a popular restaurant that hosts the best traditional dishes with in-season game and local organic herbs and vegetables. The chef came out to meet us personally on our visit, and the whole meal tingled our tastebuds and left us keen for more local flavours.

These open areas are also perfect for hosting fantastic entertainment and Zermatt’s pioneering clay pigeon shooting was one that we were keen to try out with our guide Kirk Tinham. The guns are laser-based and feature no ammunition, making them lighter and more accessible for those new to the hobby. The laser sensors detect whether your shot would have hit and the scoreboard and gun gives appropriate feedback based on hits and misses. This approach is not only safer and easier for large groups but is used by professionals to increase accuracy, as the gunman doesn’t need to resist recoil. We played a few rounds, and are proud to say the winner was one of our directors.

There are plenty of other activities that can host groups of all sizes in the region, and another that we are keen to try another time is fly fishing (July-September). Kirk offers clients the opportunity to privately fly fish the most exclusive lake in the Swiss Alps, with the iconic Matterhorn as a backdrop. This is particularly popular amongst businessmen, who have been known to host meetings during the activity.

Unwinding in the designer alpine chalets

As we retreated further away from the glorious Matterhorn, we came to the chalets at the opposite end of the valley. Chalet Grace is full of personality and the personal touches to interior design are hard to miss. We were delighted to be hosted in this chalet and to have the opportunity to explore its almost “Alice in Wonderland” style interior design of substantial mirrors and a “coffee table” which had been a door from a ruined Tibetan monastery, collected by the owner and repurposed into a stunning table. 

The charming games room was decorated with signed movie posters from Martin Scorsese, David Finch and Ridley Scott, and hosted a pool table, roulette table and a stunning cinema room. The wellness facilities, as with the other chalets, featured a hand-crafted sauna, a range of showers, a hot Jacuzzi (which is perfect for spending time on the balcony during the colder nights) and fitness machines.

Les Anges is a larger chalet with a darker wood forming its aesthetic, and the interiors feel more muted but stylish. The Jacuzzi here is built into the stone balcony, and the larger wellness facilities make it ideal for larger groups and business trips. Finally, Chalet Maurice features a stunning funicular that tunnels its way up the mountainside to reach the chalets’ underground floor - the experience reminded us of a Bond film. This facility means private clients who wish to remain anonymous can reach the chalet without passing through the town.

All the chalets have exceptional staff that can cater for every need, and offer a friendly and genuine service. Our chef that also cooks for the guests of these chalets was extremely professional, providing a seven course gala dinner and a more casual five course dinner for our large group of 15. The food was exquisite and was one of the highlights of the whole trip which is often the same for our guests.

As we tasted our way through the delicious menus, it was clear our talented chef had crafted the dishes with great skill and thought. In Chalet Grace the kitchen was open-plan and viewable from the dining table, meaning we could see our meals prepared right in front of us, an experience that every guest should try.

Our stay in Zermatt will stay with us for a long time and we thank Angeline, Joanne and the Elysian chalet team for our wonderful stay. We look forward to future visits to experience first-hand the authentic chalet experience in our alpine chalet collection

If you are looking to stay in a designer chalet in Zermatt or in another resort in the Alps, do send us an enquiry and we'd be happy to offer you some suggestions for your stay.

Room for Everyone: Large Family Villas for Rental

Written by Julie Gauthier, Founder & Director, Art de Vivre

We are often approached by clients to find a villa for a large family get together. With grandchildren, son-in-laws and distant cousins, all needing enough space and activities, what seemed like a good idea initially can become a stressful task for the host. Sound familiar?

Pleasing everyone and finding the perfect balance of location and property is where our expertise is invaluable. Luckily many of our private properties are made for large gatherings with vast areas of space in the gardens and living areas, separate sleeping areas, as well as many different areas for dining around the property.

While some guests will prefer a quiet relaxing time around the villa, the little guests may like to be on the beach and the active ones, be they teenagers or aunts and uncles, may want water sports, cultural trips, golf, hiking, snow sports or cycling nearby. We take pride in getting to know the complete makeup of each of our guest parties, using our experience and imagination to ensure each guest's priorities and interests are fulfilled during their stay.

Our portfolio and contacts have large villas and chalets around the world located in Mediterranean, Majorca, Ibiza, Italy, Cote d'Azur, Dubrovnik, Bali, Thailand, Caribbean, South Africa, Indian Ocean, Central America, South America and the Alps.

Whether you are searching for a villa or chalet for a family celebration, wedding anniversary, milestone birthday, family get together, special occasion or group of friends staying together, send us a request with your family's unique requirements and we will be happy to aid you in finding the perfect property for rental.

Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life.
— Albert Einstein