Be it a trip to any snowy mountains or a skiing adventure; chalets are the most common type of houses that we could find there. The beautiful A-frame architecture of the roofs that lets a thick layer of snow nicely settle in, the wooden walls with wide overhangs attract the attention of tourists around these chalets. This is why renting chalets is one of the most common businesses in the snowy mountain hill regions.
What is a Chalet? | Chalet Meaning
The chalet is a type of wooden house that is found mostly in snowy areas or snowy mountains. It is a unique style of housing where the roofs have angular sloping, and the entire house is typically made of wood and timber. Snowfall is usually very heavy in the frosty mountains. If the roof is plain and straight in such areas, then the snow would eventually turn to blocks of ice, thereby affecting the structure and integrity of the wooden material that the house is made of. Hence chalet houses have become popular in the cold regions as the triangular roofs would ensure that heavy snow is not left settled on the roofs.
The Chalets originate from the European continent in areas along the Alps Mountain Range. Also known as the Swiss Chalets, the chalet houses are famously found in parts of Europe (Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Monaco, etc.) and also in parts of North America.
The wooden roofs and walls of the chalets are usually made of several planks of wood. Each plank is 7.5 centimeters to 15 centimeters thick (3 inches – 6 inches). There is a lot of science behind the roofs of the chalet houses as they are built in such a way that they provide insulation.
While slopes of the roof ensure that snow is not heavily accumulated, they are built at an angle that would ensure that a small amount of snowfall is surely rested on the roof. While people are inside, the heat generated from them could also not escape out because of the snowy roof, and hence that heat would radiate around the house, giving us warmth and comfort.
Thus, wooden planks of the roof are usually built thick to bear the snow load and are arranged at an angle of 45 degrees or more so that a sufficient amount of snow stays on and the rest of the snowfall slides down onto the ground.
The architecture of Chalet Houses
The chalets are usually constructed as square-shaped houses, the roofs are made of wooden shingles, and the flooring is arranged from stones and rocks or an ordinary wooden floor. The house entrance is a traditional gable front design, and the windows, too, are given a similar gable-front architecture.
The eaves of the roof (i.e., edges of the roofs) are carefully taken to be extra thick and wide to shed ice water away from the foundation of the house. Another key aspect that describes the Chalets is the overhangs of the roofs. They are extended beyond the walls of the house so that the snow would fall at a certain distance away from the living area. Logs of timber or wood are stored between the eaves of the overhang roofs. These stored logs are taken down regularly for using them for the fire pit inside the house.
The sidewalls are usually low and are mostly extended beyond the ends for forming porches or loggias. The wooden flooring is also extended to the porch or a balcony. Balconies are very common in the chalets and are designed with wooden carvings for a stylish look from the outside. In costly chalets, the railings are also carved for a grand view.
Chalet houses are mostly 2-storeyed or 3-storeyed houses where the upper floors are considered as the main living space. Hence, the upper floors are decorated with high ceilings, wooden moldings, and various kinds of brackets.
Windows are equipped with vertical hinges so that it opens like a door. In traditional chalets, 2 windows are usually located on either corner of the entrance. The other windows are usually located on the high ends of the side walls. Every window is usually designed to have a small sloping roof, just like the roof of the house. The eaves of windows overhang from the face of the wall to make sure that snow doesn't get accumulated. These tiny A-Frame architecture constructed above the window would help people keep the window open even during snowfall without letting too much snow flow into the house.
History of Chalets
The word chalet comes from an Indo-European word, Cala, which means shelter. Just as the word suggests, chalets were initially used as a sheepherder's dwelling during winters. This concept of a square-shaped wooden house with triangular roofs and decorated facades dates back to the early 18th century. It was the era where the chalets have become most popular. History suggests that the chalets have started in the Alpine Regions of Central Europe, where there is extreme snowfall for half of the year.
Chalets were initially used by farmers in Switzerland, and the French Savoy for a type of pastoralism called transhumance. Farmers bring their livestock in herds to lowland pastures in mountainous regions during the summers. Chalets were never a permanent housing option as people with families do not stay in. Only a few people used to go in groups along with their cattle. Just the right number of people required to manage their herd would go together to live for a month or 2 in the chalets built in the lowlands itself.
Since selling dairy products was a very common business in the 18th century, people used to make cheese and butter inside the chalet houses. All through the month or two that they live, the dairy products were well preserved to sell after going back to their houses during winters. The chalets houses were usually well-equipped with only things that are not prone to destruction even when the houses are left empty for long. This is because the people empty the houses as soon as the winter starts hitting as it is impossible to live during the heavy snowfall season.
The Chalets in those times used to have two or three floors. The ground floor is usually turned into a barn for resting the cattle. The people live on the top floors. The cattle are kept on the lowest floor because it is difficult to drag the entire herd through the stairs. The snow accumulated on the roofs acts as an insulator, not letting the heat inside go out and not letting the cold outside come in. So, the excess heat radiated from the cattle stays in the house, making the upper floors warm and comfortable to stay in.
Unlike the sole purpose of sheltering cattle and farmers in the 18th century, chalets nowadays have become a famous housing style. The tradition is still followed to have angular roofed houses in the snowy mountain ranges, but they have been updated a lot over the years. Chalets now are well-equipped with all facilities of a modular kitchen, well-maintained plumbing, comfy bedrooms, hot tubs, etc. The flooring, too, is shifted from the traditional wooden flooring to tiles and other modernized options.
Chalets are now trending holiday houses, and there is a huge business being made out by renting chalets to tourists and visitors. In the current era, mountain regions are used for adventures like skiing, and the chalet houses are the best places to rest at the end of the adventure.
Standard Ski Chalets
The Standard Ski Chalets are commonly found at the start of mountain ranges for people to stay in before and at the end of skiing adventures.
These are the types of Chalets that are most commonly seen these days. The standard chalets are massive in size, shape, and quality. They are usually a combination of multiple square-shaped houses with a gable front and many side gables towards the back. Or a huge single rectangular house with an enormous roof gable as a whole.
These standard chalets are usually maintained as lodges by particular management. They are the ones who maintain the chalet and provide us with all the necessities that we might require. Usually, 3 to 10 families can live inside the standard chalets, depending on the size of the house. Hence, a tourist who does not mind socializing with others during their stay-in would usually prefer the standard chalets as they are budget-friendly.
People who dislike staying with crowds or couples who wish for alone time usually prefer these Individual Chalets. A management team would be residing nearby, and they would come to you anytime you need their service. These Individual Chalets give you a feeling like you are residing in your home without any disturbances, while the management would serve you food and beverages at regular times.
The Individual Chalets are rare to find as managing a big number of individual chalets is high maintenance, and hence the cost of renting them would also be high. Moreover, tourists usually prefer budget-friendly options, which is why hosting individual chalets is not so quickly preferred.
Chalets with Childcare Facilities
Skiing is a risky option for children, and it is also against the rules in many snowy areas. Going on a family trip and still wanting to go skiing without taking the children is an impossible task for tourists. Wanting to make a business out of this point, some chalets come with childcare facilities.
The facilities include well-reputed and well-trained nurses to care for the children in well-equipped daycare rooms that have many toys to play with. The people here are going to be certified with clear identity proofs. So, the tourists can happily leave the children in the daycare facilities of these chalets and go for adventures all day long.
While most chalets come with all basic facilities that are sufficient for a comfortable stay during the tourist’s trip, some tourists might want the complete luxuries to spend a great deal of time relaxing and regenerating in the chalet itself. For such people, luxury chalets are the best option.
The luxury chalets are usually of 2 or 3 floors with all the necessities. You would find hot tubs, gym equipment, a fire pit, king-sized beds, bathtubs, and other facilities that would comfort you. Some luxury chalets have an option to order food, while the different types of luxury chalets have an option to pay for a chef to come and cook anything as per your liking in the kitchen of the chalet itself. Making use of all the facilities inside and relaxing in such a house would be an experience that would be remembered for a lifetime.
Ski-in & Ski-out Chalets
While most chalets would be located a few kilometers away from the mountains, the ski-in and ski-out chalets are located exactly at the entrance of the mountain. Tourists have to wear heavy boots and other accessories before going on skiing. Dressing up completely for skiing and then walking towards the mountain in those heavy boots would be a tedious job. To avoid such problems, the ski-in and ski-out chalets are the best options.
People could stay in these chalets for an hour or two before starting their skiing or after their adventure. Also, if you want a place to crash as soon as the skiing is over, then these chalets are the best option. The ski-in and ski-out chalets could be rented for a few hours or days, any amount of time according to our interest.
The wooden walls, sloped roofs, and the unique style of chalet houses have always attracted people. The Chalet Hotels are such hotels where they combine all the comforts of the hotel service with the uniqueness of chalet housing. Chalet houses might typically be ordinary hotels constructed with a chalet design in the front, or they can be a series of chalet rooms that are joined together to make it a hotel.
The difference between chalet houses and chalet hotels is that a chalet would have a restaurant, a bar, and all such facilities that we would find in ordinary hotels. Hence the chalets are a little closer to the regular hotels that we would find in any tourist area that we go to.
The chalets are no longer restrained to snowy mountains. Many chalets are being constructed in the wild or forest areas to give a unique, nature-friendly living experience to tourists. These are similar to the wooden houses that are rented for tourists.
Best Chalets in India
Chalets are widely popular in India in the snowy areas of Kashmir and Ladakh. The Vintage Gulmarg and the Roseland Cottage in Kashmir are some of the most famous chalets. Both of them are chalet hotels, and they come with excellent rooms and perfect room service to make it the most comfortable stay for the tourists.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
1) What is Chalet?
Chalets are a type of wooden house commonly found in snowy areas.
2) Why are Chalets famous in only snowy regions?
Chalets are known for their triangular roofs. These sloped roofs make the snow slide down without settling on the roof and thereby spoiling the integrity of the roof. This is the reason why Chalets are commonly found in snowy regions.
3) What is the origin of Chalets?
Chalets have come into a structure in the 18th century where farmers needed houses along the mountain regions for transhumance.
4) Which countries are famous for Chalets?
Chalets are famous in Europe along the Alps Mountain Range and in North America.
5) Do we have Chalets in India?
Chalet Hotels are widely found in the snowy areas of Kashmir.