Alpine Luxury

Chalet Blanc is a hidden gem in Châtel, Portes du Soleil and the recipient of the LUX accolade Best for Luxury Ski Trips & Chalets from France. We spoke to Michael to discuss the award and find out more about what makes Chalet Blanc so special.

Chalet Blanc is an all en-suite 5-room luxury chalet in a small hamlet just outside of town. An enviable position surrounded by nothing but open fields and uninterrupted views of the surrounding mountains and down the valley. All rooms are large and spacious, beautifully decorated with very confortable beds. Some have additional mezzanine levels for extra people, often kids, and all have balconies and full en-suite facilities with baths and power showers. The lounge is large with wrap around views of the surrounding mountains, there is an open log fire and the sofas are huge and so comfortable that there have been several attempts from guests to buy them! There is also a state of the art multi-room media system with huge libraries of movies and music, full Satellite TV and access to all online content. On the south-facing terrace sits a fabulous brand new hot-tub, in the perfect position to take in the views, plus a massage room and sauna inside. All great after a hard day on the mountain.

Michael tells us about how his firm aims to always provide the best possible service to guests, and what techniques are employed in order to ensure their visit to the establishment is memorable for all the right reasons.

“There are several ways I try to give my guests the best possible experience. I start with getting the right team in place; great people with a passion for service. With just one independent chalet I’m able to provide a truly personalised service to each and every one of our guests. I’m always thinking about how to improve, how to give our guests a better experience. I try to predict what anyone could want and have it available in advance or laid out for their arrival. I know what my return guests like, their favourite cocktails for example, and I will make sure to have plenty available. Anything we can do to make our guests and their holiday feel special. The devil is in the detail, as they say and we pay meticulous attention to all the little things that make the big difference. Molton Brown toiletries, GHD hair care, Egyptian cotton linen, towels and robes and soft slippers are almost standard these days in a luxury chalet so additionally it’s the little details that make the big difference. Fresh fruit every day for example, or marmite on the breakfast table or fresh ground coffee imported from Brazil. Guests receive a welcome pack with their lift passes, sunscreen, lip balm, water bottle and other useful items to take on the mountain. There are USB charging points in all the rooms, the Wi-Fi is strong in every corner of the chalet, and the fire is lit in the morning and before they get back from the slopes. These things may not sound like much, but it is about trying to make sure everything is just right. Add great service, a top chef and individual attention and guests have not a single worry, other than maybe what time they want to get to the slopes or what drink they should have next.

“Everything is or already has been taken care of and the mantra of ‘Nothing is too much trouble’ is very real and very important at Chalet Blanc. Anything that can be done to improve the experience we will do. I am also a real stickler for cleanliness and making sure the chalet and the vehicles are immaculate at all times.” To provide a positive experience for guests, staff must be aware of the chalet’s aims and behave accordingly, helping the chalet to be the best in the business. Michael highlights teamwork as being integral to the functioning of the chalet, as well as noting that he offers incentives to staff that keeps everyone focused and working hard, especially at the end of a long season.

“Teamwork is important to me. I have mentioned already how important it is to find the right team to work with. Once you have the right people with the right attitude it is easier to get across the standards we should attaining. It is only a small team in the chalet, four including me, so everyone is vital to our success and I make sure everyone knows that. We all have our roles but still we all need to come together and produce as a team, not individuals. Everyone turns up early before the season starts to have plenty of time for training, so they know exactly what they should be doing and they feel comfortable before the first guests arrive. From training and throughout the season, it is important to build a good team spirit and keep everyone happy. I put a lot of stock into trying to make sure they have a great season – that they also have time for themselves to go skiing and enjoy the mountain.

“In the chalet, I run incentives that keeps everyone going through what can sometimes feel like a long season. For example, I give prizes away every time anyone is mentioned by name in reviews. We also have very generous guests so their tips are always good and if it’s been a particularly tough week, they get a little extra in their pay or we go for a slap-up lunch. A happy team with high spirits only helps to improve the experience for our guests.

Discussing what makes the establishment unique, Michael thinks the attention to detail paid by himself and the team set it apart from other luxury ski trips and chalets in the area. The bar is always full stocked, ensuring guests have a great stay and the 4-course evening meal is something Michael is particularly keen to mention, “Fundamentally, I think it is a combination of many things, some of which I’ve mentioned already. Primarily though, attention to detail is paramount and it permeates into every area of what we do. From the little touches to the extensive selections, guests are made to feel at home and totally pampered at the same time. No expense is spared on the menu or the wine list, the bar is fully stocked and the ‘Gin Station’ is always on hand. The canapés are mini gastro delights served with champagne and cocktails every night, the 4-course evening meal is a highlight for all our guests and individually paired with a range of award winning wines.”

Looking back, and then forward, Michael explains how guests’ expectation have changed since he started at Chalet Blanc, and how both the facility and himself have changed in order to fulfil these requirements.

“I try to keep ahead of my guests’ expectations so while they may have changed; I always aim to improve things to keep ahead of the curve. I replace things before they get old – recently added whole new linen, cutlery, crockery and towels. I have replaced the decking on the terrace, installed a brand new hot-tub this year, upgraded the technology over the years as it improves all the time and regularly maintain the whole chalet to keep it from looking tired. I’ve added to the team to be able cater better for my guests and their requirements, to make sure we weren’t stretching ourselves and to be able to do more and do it better. Cocktail nights is another addition that is a big hit with guests!”

Lastly, Michael comments on what the future has in store for Chalet Blanc. A new kitchen is going to be installed, whilst a second chalet is potentially on the horizon in the new year, with the same level of service and luxury, but different from the current chalet.
“Ultimately, I will be installing a new kitchen this year, however, it’s the chef who’ll be happiest about that as guests have no need to venture into the kitchen! Next year I’m hoping to be able to add a second chalet to the mix and potentially offer something a little different there. Still the same level of service and luxury but different from Chalet Blanc.”

Company: Chalet Blanc Châtel

Contact Name: Michael Atkinson

Contact Email: [email protected]

Telephone: +33 676 374 091