[sha-ley, shal-ey; Fr. shah-le]

A chalet also called Swiss chalet, is a type of building or house in the Alpine region made of wood.

Definition and origin

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." The term can nowadays be used for any cottage or lodge built in this style.

The term chalet stems from Arpitan speaking part of Switzerland and Savoy and originally referred to the hut of a herder. It derives from the medieval Latin calittum, which might come from an Indoeuropean root cala that means shelter. 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.

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.

Chalets as holiday residences

Today, chalets may be family or group residences in mountain resorts. They can be booked from private owners or tour operators.

The term chalet is also used in the hospitality industry to describe detached buildings.(semi-detached are called duplex or triplex) in other settings, including seaside resorts and as an adjunct to motel accommodation. These chalets can be similar to studio apartments with self-contained cooking facilities and/or bathroom and toilet facilities.

North American usage

In North American ski areas the word Chalet is also used to describe buildings that house cafeterias and other services provided by the resort, even though they often look nothing like the traditional Swiss chalet.

In Canada there is a chain of restaurants named Swiss Chalet.

Middle East usage

Usually Arabs from Lebanon and the Persian Gulf region refer to houses on the beach as chalets.

See also

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