What is a Chalet | Meaning, Architecture, and Types

what is the meaning of chalet

One of the more interesting architectural designs in homes is the chalet.

This is the type of home that you often see in the mountains or areas where it snows a considerable amount.

It is an A-frame-style architecture that allows the snow to settle in on the sides.

The wooden walls offer overhangs that are wide and call attention to themselves.

The reason why the chalet is seen so often in this part of the world is that the roof allows the snow to fall away from the home.

A traditional flat or gently sloping roof not only holds the snow in place it eventually will turn to ice which may affect the integrity of the roof and the home itself.

However, the chalet does not allow the snow to stick to the roof and thus protects the integrity of the structure.

It’s little wonder that the chalet is a popular feature for tourists who often rent this type of home for their vacation.

Its unique style is so well associated with snow that its mere presence often enhances a skiing or winter vacation experience.

Made from timber and wood, this type of home has been around for centuries.

types of chalet

Different Types of Chalet Houses

Now that you know what a chalet means, let’s take a look at what are their different types and why are they becoming so popular in modern society.

The traditional chalet which dates back to the early 18th century has changed over the years as its purpose has expanded considerably.

What was once a simple home designed for farmers, ranchers, and sheepherders to live for a couple of months when bringing their livestock to the mountains; has now become vacation locations and second homes for the well-to-do.

Chalets are still the simple, A-frame roof on a square home design.

But today they have the modern facilities you expect from traditional homes.

The different types are now based on becoming holiday housing that is for temporary use, such as for visitors to a ski lodge.

And in some cases, they are more permanent structures for living most of the year.

1- Ski-in or Ski-out

You will find most chalets away from the mountains, occupying a place next to the resort.

However, the ski-in and ski-out chalets are right next to the mountain. You will need to have your ski gear with you when using these accommodations.

Quite often, they can be rented by the hour or perhaps by the day depending on your needs.

The ski-in and ski-out chalets are mostly used by those who want to hit the slopes right away.

They are a place to dress and change once you are either ready to ski or ready to call it a day.

Perhaps the best use for such a chalet is to have one available when you are done skiing and need a place to rest and recover before heading back to the hotel or resort.

2- Individual Chalets

For individuals or couples who want a cozy place to call their own while on vacation, the individual or small chalet is the perfect option.

Such chalets are mostly found on mountain resorts and are often rented for couples on honeymoons.

The resort will provide a management team that offers beverages and food when requested.

However, as desirable as the individual chalets are, for many resorts such living spaces are not cost-efficient.

This is because a chalet still requires maintenance and upkeep which makes a larger one that holds more people more economical.

This is why so many small chalets are rented at higher rates and apart from special circumstances are not preferred compared to the more budget-friendly larger versions.

3- Luxury Chalets

This is not the budget version of the chalet. This is a place for those who want the best of amenities to enjoy during their stay.

The two or three floors that make up this chalet include items such as king-size beds, large bathtubs, and even a fire pit.

Do not be surprised that gym equipment is included, and in some cases a hot tub.

Such luxury chalets let you order food and for those with the cash, have a chef cook you the meal that you desire.

Such chalets are so luxurious that they are often the highlight of the trip. So, it is little wonder that many resorts will have the luxury chalet as part of their accommodations.

4- Ski Chalets

This type of home is common at ski resorts located high in the mountains. This is the place for individuals, couples, and families to stay.

Today, they are the most common type of chalet in the world. The most common is a large size designed to hold up to 10 families comfortably inside.

They offer a square-shaped housing design complete with a gable front and side gables in the back.

In some cases, they can be simple, large rectangular structures with massive gable roofs.

Such ski chalets are generally budget-minded for the visitor as so many people can stay inside.

But this is the communal part of the ski chalet that lets you meet with other people to share stories and experiences. Or it can be rented for your large gathering of family and friends. 

5- Childcare Facilities

For the most part, small children are generally not found on the ski slope, and for good reason.

However, this can mean boredom for the child as the parents are off skiing. This is why some chalets are designed as childcare facilities.

This offers the child a place to play with other children and provides an option for families that cannot leave their children at home for some reason.

A typical childcare chalet offers nurses to care for the child and playrooms that have many activities available.

For parents who are concerned about those who care for their children at the center, the nurses and other employees must pass rigorous certification.

This provides peace of mind for the parents who can leave their children to play while they go off to do their activities.

6- Forest and Hotel Chalets

There are also forest chalets that are now found well outside the forest, offering a remote place to get away from it all.

These are usually constructed for tourists who desire to live in the wild forest areas and experience unique nature-friendly living.

Plus, there are chalet hotels that provide all the convenience of a hotel inside a very large chalet-type building.

history of chalet

History and Architecture of Chalets

The chalet originated in Europe and was most likely from the people living in the Alps Mountains.

Sometimes called Swiss Chalets, you can find them across Europe and North America in the mountainous regions.

The word “chalet” comes from Cala, an Indo-European word that means shelter.

The chalet was originally built by sheepherders and offered a place for them to stay during the winter months.

Although the exact origins of the chalet are not fully known, it is believed that this type of structure started back in the early 18th century.

At that time, square houses with triangular roofs and facades that are decorated were common features.

So, the chalet is a variation of the concept that has been around for many centuries.

The term Swiss Chalet denotes that the Swiss may have been the first to build them in the mountainous regions of their country.

A typical chalet of the time would have two or three floors. The house was large enough to hold the cattle or sheep on the first floor.

The people would live on the second or third floor. Because the heat from the cattle would rise and the snow on the sides provided insulation, the top floors were warm and comfortable.

The chalet is not a permanent home. Rather, it is a dwelling that was used in the winter months or when the snow fell in the mountains.

It provides shelter for farmers and sheepherders when moving the herd of the flock to the mountains.

Because the needs for managing herds or flocks are rather small, a typical chalet would house a person or two for six to eight weeks on average.

One of the activities that occurred in the chalet was the creation of dairy products.

A butter churn would be present so that the milk could be used to create butter and cheese products that would last through the cold winter months.

architecture of a chalet house

The Architecture

The architecture itself is straightforward. The house is square in shape with a triangular or A-frame roof.

The floor is either wooden or lined with stones and rocks.

While the roof is made using wooden shingles. A gable-front design is used for the front door and the windows of the structure.

What allows the roofing to shed the ice water away from the foundations are the eaves or edges.

They are extra thick and extend well beyond the walls of the home.

So much room is available that many owners will store firewood in the eaves and take them down for the winter to be used for burning in fireplaces and stoves.

The windows, thanks to their vertical hinges will open like a door to allow the sunshine in.

You will find the windows on both corners of the entrance and high up on the sidewalls to avoid any buildup of snow.

In fact, the windows themselves often have a sloping roof just like the house to help keep any snow or precipitation from coming inside.

Another interesting aspect of chalets is that the wooden flooring will extend to the porch and the balcony, which is a common feature.

Add to this the wood carvings which often decorate the balconies to give them a distinctive appearance.

The low sidewalls are often extended so they help to form the porch.

However, the railings that are sometimes seen on chalets are relatively recent and normally reserved for the more expensive or luxurious structures.


Why are chalets made of wood?

Chalets are traditionally made of wood because it is a strong and durable material that can withstand extreme weather conditions.

Wood is also a good insulator, keeping the chalet warm in winter and cool in summer. Wood is a renewable resource, so it is environmentally friendly.

Chalet vs cabin vs cottage – what’s the difference?

A chalet is a type of cabin that is built with a steep, sloping roof. Chalets are typically made of wood and have large windows to let in natural light.

Cabins can be made of any material and do not necessarily have a sloping roof. A cabin usually refers to a small, rural dwelling, whereas a chalet can refer to a vacation home.

Then there are also the cottages that are often made of stone or wood and have thatched roofs. They usually only have one story.

What’s the average cost to build a wooden chalet – can you build it yourself?

The average cost to build a wooden chalet is between $30,000 and $50,000. This will however depend on the type of wood, size, and design of the chalet.

It is possible to build a chalet yourself, but it is difficult and time-consuming. It is recommended to hire a professional contractor.

Final Thoughts

Chalets were popular not only for the simple architecture that made them relatively easy to build but also because their design would help them last when not in use with little in the way of maintenance or repairs.

These are regaining their popularity back with more and more people now choosing to build their homes like a chalet.

If you do not have any plans to rebuild your home with a design like a wooden chalet, worry not, there are various options for you.

Plan your stay in a luxurious chalet hotel or in a wild out there to enjoy. I am sure you will going to love it.

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