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A good time to start a Chalet business!

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi, everyone.

We are Richard and Amanda and we have been fortunate to spend this winter in Lenk im Simmental an authentic and attractive alpine town located at the end of the Simmental valley at what is regarded to be the most beautiful valley end in the Alps. It really is a wonderful place with a history of snow sports dating back to the early 1900s. The Adelboden-Lenk ski area offers great skiing and snowboarding on well maintained pistes that are amongst the quietest I have ever been on. The destination is also popular for summer mountain tourism, offering a wide variety of mountain sports including hiking, mountain biking and paragliding.

We are planning to launch a vegan catered chalet holiday business here on the Lenk which will be called LiveLife Chalets. We will be starting small with a single 4-person, 2 bedroom apartment in a beautiful, traditional Swiss chalet. We live in the downstairs apartment and will be renovating the rental apartment this summer so its fresh and ready to go for next season. We're working on the website at the moment and planning to be open next winter from 23 December to 10 April. We will also be open in the summer from July to September, starting next year for mountain biking, hiking and wellness holidays.

So we would like to know what you think. The world has changed rapidly around us all over the last few weeks and before we have even finished our business plan we find ourselves having to deal with unprecedented uncertainty and change.

What do Snowheads think is going to happen to the ski market? Are you still planning to book a ski holiday next winter? When will you feel confident enough to book? Have your thoughts about where you might go changed as a result of the Coronavirus? Will you fly or look at places you can reach by train or by driving?

There are probably many other questions we haven't even thought of yet. We really want to hear your thoughts.

Richard and Amanda
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@LiveLife Chalets, welcome to snowHeads. snowHead
What do Snowheads think is going to happen to the ski market? See for example https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=152243#3564229

Are you still planning to book a ski holiday next winter? - Yes but with doubts about whether it will actually happen.

When will you feel confident enough to book? When FCO indicate its safe to travel and viable airlines have affordable flights.

Have your thoughts about where you might go changed as a result of the Coronavirus? No. Italy and France most likely with Austria a possibility. Switzerland if the price was competitive.

Will you fly or look at places you can reach by train or by driving? Doubt I'd drive. Usually fly but would certainly consider a train.

Good luck. Personally I wouldn't especially seek a vegan catered chalet but wouldn't rule it out either. Stay well.
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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?
I'd leave it another year
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Frosty the Snowman wrote:
I'd leave it another year

I tend to agree.

You don't want to launch and unlaunch/go bust in your first season.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
You are restricting your potential customers by doing a vegan only chalet.

If you have already bought the place I would go for it next year. What have you got to lose wink
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You are restricting your potential customers by doing a vegan only chalet.

If you have already bought the place I would go for it next year. What have you got to lose wink
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Are you sure there's enough of a market to justify the vegan element? I guess it aligns to your ethics so isn't negotiable but veganism doesn't have a universally good press (it hardly shouts fun!) and i reckon will put a lot of people off.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
But it appears to be very hard for vegans to eat in a lot of resorts. The hotel in Soldeu I stayed in added bacon to a lot of the vegetables. So there may be a demand.
As to seeing up for next year if leave it there may not even be a season next year
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I don't think people are going to change their holiday habits.

However, booking will be really late this year (unless this virus business resolves quickly, which I think is quite unlikely).

Also keep in mind we're heading into a recession. That might have a bearing on how robust the booking will be.
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All catered chalets that I've stayed at offered pretty good vegan alternatives, so it's hardly a unique proposition. 4 person/2 room doesn't scream "fully cater"to me.
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snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
All catered chalets that I've stayed at offered pretty good vegan alternatives, so it's hardly a unique proposition. 4 person/2 room doesn't scream "fully cater"to me.
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 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.
A vegan café opened here this winter. I think it was quite expensive but regardless I hardly ever saw anyone there.

On the other hand a café with what seems to me to be a varied but very vegan and vegetarian friendly menu has done well for the last couple of years.

I would think starting any business now is a huge risk.
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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
Always thought a vegan restaurant would well somewhere in the Alps so why not a chalet? It would be unique (as far as I know) so would have a great USP, and as there’s an increasing amount of people who are conscious about food and health the demand is definitely growing.

There is a big but though (queue jokes Very Happy ), how many committed vegans ski, of these how many would choose Switzerland over somewhere else and what country do you think the majority of these would come from?

A restaurant / cafe is possibly more plausible as then you would be opening it out to more of a diverse cross section of the population who would come for some different food whereas a chalet is quite specific if that makes any sense!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
TBH, an ordinary chalet with decent vegan options might be the best idea.

Maybe not the best summer to be launching however...

Does something that small stack up economically? Esp. with Swiss employment regs., etc.?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Ahh, just seen @Claude B, s post, Sorry! As others have suggested, agree that starting anything right now is a tad risky, start small and see where it leads. Good luck whatever you decide to do! Smile
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Do lots of groups of four vegans go away together?
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Austrian Seagull wrote:
Do lots of groups of four vegans go away together?


Given the way the climate thing is going, I'd guess a lot of vegans wouldn't fly so wouldn't be potential customers.
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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?
I shall risk ridicule but, isn’t there a conflict between the wokiness of veganism and the perceived environmental damage caused by the winter sports industry as well as the transport requirements?
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I assume the OP are vegan. So they know their market. Of all the question they ask, the one question they DIDN'T ask was whether a vegan chalet makes sense. Wink

Launching a new chalet this year is probably risky. But maybe no more nor less as a vegan chalet.


Last edited by You need to Login to know who's really who. on Mon 23-03-20 21:26; edited 1 time in total
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@DavidYacht, The only vegan snowhead that I know travels by train.
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I have only been to Adelboden for a couple of days skiing on the way to other places so my comments are very limited.

Does the snow really last on the Lenk side to April - it has been poor in February.

The other thing I would add is transfers - presumably the nearest rail station is Zweisimmen - some form of transfer would be welcome unless the bus links are excellent which i am sure they probably are in Switzerland and integrated.
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My Daughter is Vegan - which isn't fun in Les Arcs. She mostly lived off chips, rice, veg soup and apple compote.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
@Old Fartbag, That sounds adventurous for a vegan Laughing Laughing
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Veganism/vegetarian is BOOMING and getting getting sexier, so you could be on to something: there's plenty of demand in the Alps and not much supply.

No idea what will happen re. Corona, but probably the biggest issue will be finding whole groups who *all* want a vegan menu, every night. Obviously depends how many beds you have, but I think that might be tough. You'd open your market up a lot if you want veggetarian/vegan.

Another challenge is that - I think - it's really the under 35s among whom veganism/vegetarianism is booming, which isn't on your side either. Skiing demographics are getting older and older as millennials budgets get more and more strapped, and being in Switzerland probably makes it even more expensive.

I think there would be a lot of potential for a vegan restaurant/pre-prepared meal delivery service in the Alps though, and that would sidestep the challenges above...
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My daughter is vegan too, and I have been lectured on the carbon footprint of ski tourism of which arriving by train does not completely absolve.

However, looking at the OP I would be extremely hesitant at making any contractual obligation many months in advance, mind you I rarely book more than two or three months in advance and go for January weeks where there is usually good availability. If there is any hint of a repeat of Coronavirus being around, then I doubt if I will go skiing next year.

If it is any consolation I live in a West Country town, popular with second home owners, and Corona virus held no fear for them, while local residents self isolated ... so what do I know
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
A niche and declining chalet market, in a niche and faddy vegan market, in a niche resort, with skyhigh costs, with a mixed snow record, at lowish altitude, shortish winter season, in an era of global boiling, not known for its summer sports, in the middle of a global economic collapse, while Switzerland is swamped with a corona death plague that today is 20 times worse per-head than China.

Sounds good.

Who do I wire the monies to.
snow report     
 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.
Regarding people saying that being a vegan chalet cuts out custom from meat eaters... I disagree on two counts.

1. Vegan is - as somebody else put it - sexy, at the moment. Many vegans want to be assured that the pans, crockery, cutlery etc have not come into contact with animal product, so a place serving animal product can be problematic there. For every meat eater who turns away because you don't cater for their want, there'll be a strict vegan who is proactively drawn towards you - as opposed to any other chalet - on that premise.

2. I like meat but I'm open minded too. Especially in the 'active' environment of a ski trip, I think I could be quite interested to spend the week eating vegan, to see how that impacts my energy levels, focus, etc. I wouldn't rule it out as a potentially constructive move.

As an extension of this, you could look at how much further than other chalets you could take your environmental care. Wouldn't it be amazing if you could buy your foodstuffs and drinks without any plastic packaging? If it's your chalet, could you look at solar? Could panels generate enough electricity over 12 months to power the lights and phone chargers of your guests for the whole winter season? Environmentally conscious is just as sexy as Vegan, at the moment, and you could easily wrap it into your existing concept.
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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
I would suggest using the term 'Plant based'. yes, it's the same as vegan, but the term vegan can carry a lot of negative connotations, a lot of people get exhausted by vegans talking about being vegan, vegan, vegan, vegan....

Plant based is the term that offers maximum appeal, there are high end restaurants using the term 'plant based' and being very succesful to.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Why conflate the two elements of an apartment and vegan catering? How about you providing delivered-to-order Vegan meals as one business, and a self-catered apartment as another? If your apartment clients are Vegans, then there's an added bonus to them of having the caterers downstairs. If they are Vegans but prefer to do their own cooking, they can, and if they're not Vegans and self-catering, then they can go and do their own thing.

You extend the scope of your business if you offer 'to order' Vegan meals separately: i.e. self-catering chalets and apartment owners anywhere in the village can drop off a standard order form in the morning, ready for collection in the evening. Or delivery, with a charge. You could have an on-line order form only, so that you can turn away orders if you're overloaded.

If our village had an outfit similar to yours, we would happily add a Vegan to-order link to our websites, as it only enhances our own offering.

This approach maximises the potential reach of your business on two fronts: rental of a self-catered apartment and vegan catering. And if one side of the business doesn't make the going, then the other side can still be successful.

Just a thought.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
@LaForet, excellent idea
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Yes, I think so too. I suppose the most extreme vegans who wouldn't contemplate a place where the pans might have come into contact with meat would not rent the apartment, but whatever option you adopt will exclude some section of the market.
snow conditions     
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Thank you very much for all of the comments and observations so far.

It is reassuring that many of the problems/issues facing the ski market that we found during our market research have been raised in this thread. Global warming, changing skier demographics and concern over the environmental impact of ski tourism are critical.

We think Lenk is well positioned to overcome these problems. There is a train station here in the town and it is possible to make the whole journey from the UK by train, leave London on the Eurostar after work on a Friday overnight in Paris and arrive here Saturday afternoon/early evening. Leaving by train the following Saturday morning will have you back in the UK with time to sort kit and have a good night's sleep and be refreshed and ready for work on Monday.

We are a relatively low altitude town but even this year there were very few no-ski days and mainly due to high winds. We had some fantastic powder days too and many days with excellent on-piste conditions and bright sunshine. We will provide daily transport from the chalet to ski lift and there is the option of Lenk Betelberg, which is our local ski area with fantastic beginner and intermediate terrain and also plenty of fun to be had on tree runs and off the side of the pistes for the more adventurous. Lenk Metsch is a few minutes up the valley and gains access to the whole of the Adelboden ski area with terrain park, fantastic varied pistes and loads of areas to explore. We can also easily get guests to the Rinderberg lift in Zweisimmen that takes you up into the Gstaad ski area.

Thank you for the positive comments about vegan/plant based catering. As people have guessed, yes we are vegan but you don't have to be to come here! We will not try and convert you but we would love to show just how good plant-based food can be as part of a healthy and active lifestyle. We recognise the comments about how difficult it can be for vegans to eat in the Alps and want to provide a place where it is easy. The truth is we don't know how many vegans ski but we do know that almost a quarter of the UK population is actively trying to reduce meat and dairy consumption so why wouldn't many of those same people also be skiers or snowboarders?

We are starting small because at the moment we just have one chalet available to us but there is plenty of capacity for future growth. We will be specialising in small chalets for 4-6 people with a high level of service. Our aspiration for the future is that you can book private accommodation with your own host and then come together as part of a larger group of like minded people to ski, socialise etc.

Thank you for the comments about cost and Swiss employment laws. We think we can make this economically viable for between £1000-1200 per person per week. Travel, kit hire and lift passes would add around another £450 depending on how far in advance you book the train.

Despite the current situation we will carry on preparing to launch LiveLife Chalets next winter and look forward to welcoming some of you as our guests.
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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?
We're running a poll at the moment for the business logo. We would be very grateful if you could spare a couple of minutes and give us some feedback.

https://99designs.co.uk/contests/poll/54bffd572b
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Personally I think you're nuts (or maybe nutroasts) in the current situation but then mavericks sometimes make it work.

4 beds ain't a lot to fill but essentially you do need to find groups of 4 vegans (or vegcurious) who all want to ski together in a niche place every week. £1200 per head plus travel and everything else (& I think you're lowballing for train travel based extras) is a LOT. You can be pampered at a pretty luxe hotel for that sort of money in a far more known resort.

So niche resort, niche price, niche customer profile in a recession where people unlikely to want to commit. Some people like niches - it makes them feel special. Hw are you going to find them?
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Like most areas of winter sports, if you want to make a bit of money you'd better start with a lot!
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@LiveLife Chalets
I hope this all works well, despite the weird times we're in. Overall, I think your target market will mostly be vegans who would like to ski, rather than skiers who would like to eat vegan food. Here you'll find skiers, the vast majority of whom would not choose a holiday based on vegan food, which will skew the responses.

I think there will be a significant overlap between people who want vegan food, and those choosing not to fly, and there's also a growing number of people (myself included) looking to reduce or eliminate their flying. Therefore an easy option to travel by train is a plus.

Re how Coronavirus may affect my choices next season, I don't think it will have a huge impact on my choices, assuming skiing in the alps is possible. However, I almost always book very late (normally a few days before travel) and base my decision primarily on snow conditions. I think a key consideration for many people will be cancellation options; if there were somewhere I wanted to go that needed to be booked a long time (for me) in advance, then I'd be happy to do so if I was happy there would be no penalties for cancellation. I'm pretty sure the insurance industry aren't going to want to cover this (many stopped offering travel insurance at all), so from your side I think you'd have to seriously consider allowing free cancellation. I don't know how the train / airlines will handle this though. One way in which it could work out is that I'd typically book train travel to the alps from York as 2 tickets; 1 from York to Paris, then the other for onward travel. I might buy the Eurostar part earlier, as this fills up earlier, while waiting to buy the Paris onwards later. If travel gets cancelled (I got caught up in the French general strike this season), Eurostar normally allow free rearrangement of that travel, and I'd be reasonably happy to book on that basis, potentially using the Eurostar for a non-skiing trip. I expect your target customers might also think on similar lines
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Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
I can see your offering being of real interest to Vegans who want to do some mountain hiking, cycling or mountain biking, or specialist interests such as botany, geology and natural history. Or even painting or writing. And who would welcome locating somewhere where they can leave the Vegan cooking to someone else.

You should also contact some other apartment owners to collaborate in the event you get interest but your apartment is booked - getting owners some bookings is always welcome and you would then find some reciprocation as well i.e. they'd point people to you if they were full. We have also acted as an overflow to one of the nearby chalets - an apartment is no competitor to a chalet, and so they welcome having you as an overflow facility, or to cater for groups where 2-4 people really want to have their own private space (not unusual in families, where perhaps grandparents like to have a bolthole).


Last edited by Then you can post your own questions or snow reports... on Tue 24-03-20 13:18; edited 1 time in total
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
There's no way i'd pay £1000-£1200 pppw + other expenses for a chalet holiday.

Perhaps that's just me. Though a sensible thing to look at is competitors, not just in Austia, or Lenk, but the ski market as a whole. There are operators out there who have a pretty snazzy get up for £600 - £800 pppw + other expenses, loads of beds pw go unsold during low demand weeks, even priced at £450-£550 pppw you can get a pretty good deal.

Aside from being plant based, what are you actually offering that is markedly different to everyone else on the market for that kind of price tag. illiciting a feeling of Value for money is one of THE most difficult things to do, the larger the tag, the larger the expectations.
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LaForet....


LiveLife Chalets wrote:
Hi, everyone.


We will also be open in the summer from July to September, starting next year for mountain biking, hiking and wellness holidays.



Richard and Amanda
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
From a business evolution perspective, I'd say get the business going first as 'flexitarian', once you have an established presence/clientele think, Vegan only options again. Although with only four beds on offer you may be ok, assuming everyone wants to go vegan for their stay.

As for next season skiing, yes we are still planning on a couple of visits. As always we'll likely book late (2-4 weeks prior to departure), choose an area we haven't skied before for least one of the trips.
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