A typical chalet in the Swiss Alps

A chalet (pronounced in British English; in American English usually ), also called Swiss chalet, is a type of building or house, native to the Alpine region in Europe. It is made of wood, with a heavy, gently sloping roof and wide, well-supported eaves set at right angles to the front of the house.[1]


  • Definition and origin 1
  • Modern international usage 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Bibliography 5

Definition and origin

The term chalet stems from Arpitan speaking part of Switzerland and French Savoy and originally referred to the hut of a herder.[2]

A 'chalet' in the hills to the east of Orosí, Costa Rica

Many chalets in the European Alps were originally used as seasonal farms for dairy cattle which would be brought up from the lowland pastures during the summer months. The herders would live in the chalet and make butter and cheese in order to preserve the milk produced. These products would then be taken, with the cattle, back to the low valleys before the onset of the alpine winter. The chalets would remain locked and unused during the winter months. Around many chalets there are small windowless huts called mazots which were used to lock away valuable items for this period.

Modern international usage

A holiday 'chalet' in the Blue Ridge Mountains

With the emergence of the Alpine travel business, chalets were transformed into vacation houses used by ski and hiking enthusiasts. Over the years, the term 'chalet' changed to be applied generally to vacation houses, whether built in a strictly Alpine style or not. In Quebec French, any summer or vacation dwelling, especially near a ski hill, is called a chalet whether or not it is built in the style of a Swiss chalet.

Nowadays, in North America and elsewhere in the world, the use of the word chalet can refer to more than just a mountain location. The term chalet is even used to describe resort-like homes or residential properties located by the beach. For example, in Lebanon a chalet usually refers to vacation homes at one of the six Lebanese ski resorts, but the term can also refer to a beach cabin at seaside resorts.[3] In North American ski areas, the word chalet is also used to describe buildings that house cafeterias and other services provided to the tourist, even though they may not resemble a traditional Alpine chalet. In the United States, alpine Ski Chalets are gaining popularity in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain region during winter months. Most Ski Chalets are privately owned vacation homes that owners visit two to three times per year and rent out the remaining time. Owners of these Ski Chalets often hire Property Management companies to manage and rent their property.[4]

In the Levant, Egypt, and Kuwait, chalets refer to beach houses, rather than mountainside homes, and built in any style of architecture.

In Britain, the word chalet was used for basic sleeping accommodation at holiday camps built around the mid-20th century.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Webster's Dictionary defines a chalet as "A wooden dwelling with a sloping roof and widely overhanging eaves, common in Switzerland and other Alpine regions."
  2. ^ Harper, Douglas. "chalet".  
  3. ^ Pierce, Eleanor B. All You Need to Know about Living Abroad: Pan American's guide to living conditions in 93 countries
  4. ^ "Ski Chalet | History of United States & European Chalets". Retrieved 2015-09-30. 
  5. ^ Butlins FAQ, Butlins Memories. Retrieved 22 February 2012.


  • Dana, William Sumner Barton (1913), The Swiss Chalet Book; A Minute Analysis and Reproduction of the Chalets of Switzwerland, Obtained by a Special Visit to That Country, Its Architects, and Its Chalet Homes (reprinted 2009 by Nabu Press) ISBN 1-172-29267-1
  • Galindo, Michelle (2009), Chalet Architecture and Design, Braun Architecture AG ISBN 3-03768-021-0