Now you've decided to take the plunge and try a 'cold' holiday for the first time, wading through all of the possibilities can seem a little daunting, especially if you are not going with experienced friends who can help and advise... So many options to consider and so much jargon - the whole process can be pretty off-putting and take enjoyment from what is supposed to be a relaxing (well, kinda) holiday! Apologies to our American / Australasian / Asian / African readers as the information here is mostly relevant to European ski holidays.
In our first article here, we'll consider the first of the various accommodation options you can choose from - Catered chalets, which are very popular amongst British (and increasingly, European) visitors to the Alps but not so common elsewhere...
Catered chalets are fairly unique to the skiing world and are quite different to any holiday you've had before. On catered chalet holidays you can truly relax as almost everything is done for you (aside from the actual skiing... ) as you will have 'staff' - a chalet boy / girl who usually 'lives-in' the chalet. Picture having an 18-21 year old maid, if you like (who is probably tanned, dressed in the coolest snowboarding gear, MUCH better at skiing / snowboarding than you and able to handle hangovers extremely well... ). It is normal for there to be one chalet staff member per 6-10 guests. The chalet staff member is there to cook breakfast and dinner, keep the (usually free) wine flowing, clean and wash up after you. In some chalets the chalet staff offer ski-guiding or 'hosting' which means that they will show the guests around the ski area, however this would probably be limited to people who have been skiing before as it really is a guided tour rather than instruction on how to actually ski or snowboard.
Unless you are part of a large group who are taking 'sole occupancy' of the chalet - i.e. taking up the whole building (chalets commonly sleep any number of guests between 8 and 30), you will share the chalet with others, however you do not share a room with someone who is not in your party.
Chalets are a wonderful, social way to make new friends on a skiing or snowboarding holiday. There is always a great mix of abilities and reasons for being on the skiing holiday - don't be intimidated by the possibility of sharing a chalet with a bunch of judgmental professional skiers, you are much more likely to be sharing a chalet with a group of friends who are there for the free wine and who will be only skiing for a couple of hours a day after their hangover has worn off and before the 'apres-ski' band start at the pub, or a family group with the lovely little Grandma who doesn't ski at all.
So there you go, we hope this is useful info for you and in the next article we'll have a look at self-catered apartments, hotels and 'other' options.