The History of Chalets

If you are planning a holiday to go skiing, you are probably deciding between a hotel and chalet. You might find that you are interested in a chalet or have stayed in one before, but you do not know much about them. The history of chalets can be somewhat interesting, especially because they have grown in popularity among the British, but they are not British. Chalets, also called Swiss chalets, are actually native to the Alpine region of mainland Europe. They are typically wooden houses with sloped roofs and wide eaves. The eaves are generally at right angles to the house’s facade.

Construction

Chalets were designed to withstand the rigors of life in the Swiss Alps and other Alpine areas. These mountains are very tall, very cold, very windy, and snow regularly falls throughout the year. From the roof to the base, chalets are created with these factors in mind. The roof of a chalet is typically made from a very heavy wood that slopes gently. The roof is heavy because it has to be sturdy enough to support the weight of accumulating snow. In some areas, roofs cave in every winter because gathered snow is incredibly heavy. Chalets are designed not to cave. Also, the roofs slope so that most of the snow actually slides off the roof. However, the roofs are not sloped too much. If they are too sloped, then the flat surface of the roof acts as a sail that catches the wind. This creates pressure, and the roof can act like a wing. If the slope is too high, wind will hit the roof, creating high pressure on one side of the roof and low pressure on the underside of the roof. This is the basic premise behind how an airplane wing functions. Obviously, you do not want your roof creating lift, so the roofs are at a gentle slope.

History

The term chalet comes from Switzerland. It originates from the Arpitan language and generally meant a herder’s hut. Many of the older chalets in Europe were originally dairy farms during the summer months. They were seasonal farms. During the summer, the dairy cows would come from the pastures in the lowlands. The cattle herders lived in the chalet and made dairy products all summer. As winter came along, they would move back to the lowlands. The huts would be locked and remain unused all winter. Because of this, many chalets feature a mazot. Mazots are small, windowless buildings that are used to store and lock any valuables that will be in the chalet during the winter.

Some newer chalets that were designed specifically for guests might not feature mazots. A travel company such as The Oxford Ski Company will typically offer a mix of authentic and new chalets. The difference between old and new chalets might not be readily apparent. Most of the traditional houses have been upgraded to feature all of the modern amenities. Some of them still function as seasonal farms during the summer.


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