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Starting a Chalet Business

Jude has been in the ski industry 22 years and she mentioned when she started computers were twice as big as they are today, the screens were black and green, the internet was just developing. They used old fashioned hand-written diary systems to take bookings and nothing was stored on computers apart from a few spreadsheets (backed up on floppy disks!) She tells us how she started with Mountainsun Ltd, a few tips about starting a chalet business and about when she started using ChaletManager.  

I Started off in the ski industry as a manager of a shop in central London retailing and renting equipment and clothing. We started offering a small chalet on the side line for our customers (now Chalet Mazot) and when our retail business folded in 2001, i continued to sell the chalet through the internet from home, an ideal flexi-hours job for someone with a baby as i had at that time.

We formed Mountainsun Ltd in 2002 when we found Albergo Frohsinn in Dolomiti Superski, Italy, an area that was well known to Robert Jaffe, our director, who had worked in the village during the 1970's and 1980's for Small World (the company who were pioneer's of the chalet-board concept)

Over the years, as our business and the internet had developed, we have been looking for solutions to improve our booking systems and to keep up to date with the digital revolution. In 2004, we started searching for an internet based management system. We were unable to afford our own "bespoke" database/CRM system (we had quotes for £25,000) and found our needs more complex than something we could set up ourselves. We had a cut-price system developed by a database designer who was keen to use our business as a template that he could sell to others. Although this failed to meet our brief in many aspects, was slow and clunky, and seemed old fashioned and out of date as soon as it was completed. 

We have never stopped looking for an alternative or ways to improve our systems. We then found ChaletManager, it seemed to good to be true as it answered many of our current problems as well as providing a few additional features that we thought we could not afford! 

We have now completed a winter season using the system and have found it massively helpful in a number of ways, particularly saving time in our booking processes and providing a quick way to send guests information. The ski hire and pass sections have allowed us to develop better resort services than ever before. 

The main problems we had when we set up our chalet business do not exist in these modern internet days, communication to resort staff for example. Finding property is difficult and finding the right property is even harder - Location, Location, Location!

We lease all our properties and our most successful chalets sort of came to us, rather that us finding them, as we are sometimes contacted by owners that were seeking new tenants, or have found available property through the local grapevine. 

Anyone who is thinking of starting a chalet business would be wise to work at least one season for someone else's business, it is a great way to find out just how hard the job is, discover operational methods (right and wrong) and to make contacts. 

It's a tough game! There is massive competition in this industry so understand your USP and how to reach your target market (essential common-sense for any new business). We are still attempting to develop a successful business - one thing I have learned over the years is that it's constantly evolving, requires innovation and can never be static.

ChaletManager · 1707 days ago
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19.06.2013 (1707 days ago)
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Starting a Chalet Business