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Alpine Elements: Avoid?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello all,

I've been a lurker here for some time but thought I'd send in a few reviews etc from the past season. Sadly the first off is a complaint!

I went with friends for a week in St Anton last March, choosing Alpine Elements who charged ~£900 including ski carriage.

Initially everything went well and the flights and transfers were fine. Getting in to the chalet we had the usual introductory meeting with the teenage chalet hosts. The problems began when we had supper that night: the food available was pretty average and there wasn't enough. I don't understand why companies skimp on cheap items like veg, potatoes and bread which leaves plates empty. This gradually got worse and one morning (after a probably big night for the hosts) the table hadn't been cleared from the night before and no breakfast had been laid out. This was only ever bread, juice, jam etc and rarely anything cooked so it was easy enough to get it out of the fridge. This does somewhat make the whole point of having a chalet pointless though! Complaining just resulted in the obviously hungover manager (who I think lived upstairs) coming down and producing a few more (from frozen) loaves before disappearing back to bed. I was so p-ssed off I just went out early for the day. The low point of the catering was the starter one evening: slices of raw tomato and cheese with some dressing drizzled over the top. That was literally it, it must've taken about fifteen minutes to prepare if that. Apologies if this is some sort of Alpine delicacy and I'm just a Brit barbarian but it seemed like a p-ss take on their part.

The chalet itself was an Austrian-style "Haus" which often have all the charm of an Immigration Removal Centre compared to wood-panelled French chalets but this one was especially bland. It was a way out of town but there was a bus and St Anton is a proper town so I accepted that as part of the deal. What wasn't acceptable was having to have a repairman out twice to fix the shower and toilet which were damaged: I can't remember exactly but it was another irritation.

All-in-all, what's the point of booking a chalet holiday if the food is s hite? You can book your own chalet self-catered anyway and flights and transfers etc are fairly minor admin, especially when the company office (as invariably happens) make you supply a whole load of info that you can easily type directly into an airline's website yourself. It just seems like a lot of hassle when you can eat out and save the money: also now hosties have two nights off a week that's only four nights' scoff done for you, and afternoon cakes can be bought from the shop on the way home. So can the plonk that's fed to us as well. I remember reading Belle de Neige's blog (that was turned into a book) and laughing at the rubbish that was palmed off on customers.

I've not bothered to complain, should I? I doubt there'll be a refund just a "we're very sorry" e-mail from whichever drones haven't been able to escape for a summer season on the French/Spanish coast and if I'm lucky a discount on another crap holiday.

Anyone else think AE are w ank? Go on, make me feel justified in moaning!
ski holidays     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@justabod, Hi and welcome snowHead Maybe write a nice review of someone for balance wink but that's not as unreasonably ranty as some I've read!

Never used AE myself (back when I booked chalets, they didn't have a great reputation, but I thought they'd cleaned it up. Maybe not.) However, what I learnt was that overall I got a better deal and service from smaller companies who just ran a few chalets rather than the bigger operators. It meant booking our own transport, but that's not too big a deal. I think the smaller ones depend a lot more on their reputations and repeat customers, and tend to run them themselves so have a lot more invested in the outcome.

In Austria, chalets are less common. The best value is likely to be found in a family run pension, which will cost you more per night but they don't take any days off so you're getting fully catered, proper hotel service. They are usually nice places, but in somewhere like St Anton you'll probably still end up a little out of town to keep the cost down – St Anton is not known for its low cost accommodation!

Yeah, you probably won't get anywhere with a complaint, and it doesn't sound like it's worth your time. Put it down to experience, and next time ask on here for recommendations before you book.
snow report     
 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@justabod, welcome to Snowheads.

This poster seemed to have a great time with AE recently:

https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3356627&highlight=alpine+elements#3356627

However a few snippets from 2018 suggesting they are not all that:

https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=59900&highlight=alpine+elements&start=80

A few gripes on Trip Advisor to which in fairness they respond to and seem to have good intentions of correcting.

But overall my impression is they are a bit hit and miss - which seems to be par. But there are some very good operators out there based on what I've read on here.
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You need to Login to know who's really who.
justabod wrote:
All-in-all, what's the point of booking a chalet holiday if the food is s hite? You can book your own chalet self-catered anyway and flights and transfers etc are fairly minor admin, especially when the company office (as invariably happens) make you supply a whole load of info that you can easily type directly into an airline's website yourself. It just seems like a lot of hassle when you can eat out and save the money: also now hosties have two nights off a week that's only four nights' scoff done for you, and afternoon cakes can be bought from the shop on the way home. So can the plonk that's fed to us as well. I remember reading Belle de Neige's blog (that was turned into a book) and laughing at the rubbish that was palmed off on customers.

The first few holidays I went on in the 90's was catered chalets with likes of Crystal, Skiworld and some smaller operators. This was when we were young, free and single so we were going off-peak and invariably getting cheap as chips deals. But we soon identified many of the downsides that yourself identify above plus a few others you didn't list. So we started DIYing. Which actually was a bit more tricky back in those days (later 90's) but as become a lot easier - to the point now, it's pretty much a piece of urine. But I do understand the attraction still of the likes of AE to many - especially newbies. But in your case maybe it's time to break the shackles and put the next trip together yourself.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@justabod,
Quote:

slices of raw tomato and cheese with some dressing drizzled over the top.

If the cheese was a decent mozzarella, that is a classic Italian starter
https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/222659/tomato-mozzarella-salad/
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
When we were going to catered Chalets we found Inghams to be good on food, but our only time using Crystal sounds very reminiscent of your experience! I came to the conclusion that veg is more expensive in ski resorts than it is to us in the UK hence why I always felt this was a bit limited. These days Inghams don’t have catered Chalets but Ski total have them which is part of the same parent company that owns Inghams.

As we now need to go peak weeks due to kids in school we have switched to DIY and doubt we will go back even when we aren’t tied to school holidays now.
ski holidays     
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
honestly chalet holidays are hit and miss because it is very contingent on the chalet host and/or resort manager to keep the hosts to the right standard.
Haven't been one one for years but when we used chalets we always knew it was rolling the dice - some excellent and some very disappointing
ski holidays     
 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I don't think I'd ever pay full freight for an AE chalet. Too many similar stories to this going right back to the early days when they were a niche snowboard operator.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Welcome to Snowheads!
Your experience of Alpine Elements is similar to mine, although I only have one experience and it was Meribel in 2008 or thereabouts - if hope that they might have changed a bit in a decade!

I've had more honest levels of service from holidays that pitched themselves at a slightly lower level, mainly Skiworld. And several different experiences from Crystal. On the whole, what p*ssed me off about the AE experience was that the gormless early twenties staff reckoned that they were way cooler than the punters, who only existed to get in the way of their day's boarding. "Yes, it might have been the first dump of snow in a few weeks but you're out there for the season mate so you will get more of these, in the meantime how about doing a little bit of cooking?"...was what we more or less said to the staff.
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
@tomj, thanks mate. Yes, you're here for a season, well done. I envy them their lack of cares and that they've yet to go out to work and find out how dull the commute is and how tedious the office job their humanities degree has earned them. However all of us in our party have moved through that and we were all professionals who savour the week in the mountains.

@jedster, yes I agree and that's why I'm going to go either private guided (expensive but someone to deal with the hotel and find us glorious powder every day) or UCPA (cheap, cheerful and also with a French-trained guide). I've said it on the other thread but I loved the UCPA in Les Contas, everyone seemed happy to be there and this was reciprocated by the guests.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
The problem is several fold.

1. People want a good deal for their holiday, so the price should be 'competative' (read: good value = cheap) This in itself is a hangover from the all inclusive holidays elsewhere in Europe.
2. People who are responsible, can cook to a high standard for a quantity of people as well as clean & change over chalets, host and generally be on hand for every whim and work a lot more hours than in the UK cost money and that puts up the price of your holiday especially as there aren't enough skilled or experienced staff wanting to do seasons.
3. The rise and rise of the Chalet holiday has seen the larger TOs struggle to keep up - getting a supply of fresh fruit and veggies across several chalets in each resort is a logistics nightmare, and it will come from a central wholesaler, not the local supermarket on the company credit card, if they can't supply enough veg, they don't deliver enough veg and no back up is on offer.
4. Young Seasonaires generally don't care that much, they're there to ski/board and have a good time.

In short, the true cost of employing decent staff is not compatible with the large TO business model - small companies run chalets better, that's why they cost more.

When we had a chalet it was amazing how many guests had suspicions about the chalet, they generally relaxed after a few days once they realised we were great at our jobs and knew what we were doing - the stories they told us about how they'd been ripped off were shocking - someone once told use they were only allowed 1 rasher of streaky bacon each in the morning, then saw the hosts passing a massive bacon sarnie out the window to his friend.
ski holidays     
 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Have used alpine elements a few times with mixed (both good and bad) experiences. Given the price point they operate at to beexpectex. Generally speaking management try hard to keep things together but given how little staff get paid its not surprising things fall once in a while.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
Used them once and never will again. I don't know if we were just unlucky or if the problems we had were endemic. Our chalet hosts were very poor, the standard of cooking and quantity was awful. Fortunately they left mid week and we had a proper cook for the remainder. The original hosts had apparently been "head hunted " by Inghams which is why we have never used them.

In the end they did us a favour as since then we have organised everything ourselves which means we book accommodation with local providers and "self cater". Self cater means that we sort breakfast ourselves, lunch on the mountain, and evening meals out for a total cost less than a catered chalet.
snow report     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Timc, thanks. They've done the same for me as well as I'm going to avoid chalets as well. If there's a large group then OK, I'll just go along with everyone else but the UCPA dates for next year have been released so that's me square away... Is it really that much cheaper to go to a restaurant though? They're usually 20-30 euros a night aren't they?
ski holidays     
 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
sorry, I just don't uinderstand why anyone would want to go on a catered chalet holiday.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@justabod, In reality probably not much, but in practice if we have a good meal at lunchtime we probably won't go out in the evening, just have a snack of bread cheese and wine. Sometimes if the skiing is really good we skip lunch and have an early evening meal. These days it is the freedom to do and eat what we want when we want that is our main motivation for self catering.
snow conditions     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@Bob, Because they can be great. As has been said so many times. It all depends on the staff and just as importantly the management of said staff. There can be hard working conscientious 18-25 year old's but finding them is like searching for rocking horse poo-poo. AE seem to rely more tan some operators on younger more flighty kids than some operators, and they do cut corners on things like wine. They are the cheaper end of the scale so you get what you pay for. (insider view).
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Some years back, there was a great furore on various forums about Alpine Elements, both from clients and staff. It all centred around the company under-delivering on expectations... to everyone, it seemed.
I received contact from the MD, asking me to take down the main topic where they were being complained about. The main thrust of his logic was that snowHeads should delete it because a certain other popular forum had done so when asked. (That forum is virtually dead now btw.)
I explained that the correct way to approach the issue was to address the complaints head-on, on the forum and that if the story he had been telling me was the true picture, he should post that and that truth would stand up to the scrutiny of the community.
He kept coming back to me with suggestions that all fell short, often in slightly odd ways. For example, at one point he suggested that he write a response, email it to me and that I post it for him Confused
We must have spent about 3hrs on the phone over the course of a week:
"Well what if I just do this?"
"Well you can, it's entirely your prerogative but I suggest it wont be as effective as following my advice."
etc.

In the end, I don't think he posted anything at all, and the topic just stayed where it was.
My ultimate impression was of someone intent on finding a short cut, even if finding it was harder work than doing the job properly in the first place.

As I say though, that was a good few years ago and people, and companies, do change for better (or worse).
Personally, if I was in the market for a chalet deal, I'd probably only go with them if it was well-discounted, probably a [very] late deal. That way, if it fell short I'd feel I'd had my money's worth and if it didn't - bonus! snowHead
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