Life in the Alps has a distinctive pace and the people who are fortunate enough to live there are envied all over the world. The breathtaking views that the Alps provide are legendary, and images of their winter splendor can be found everywhere from framed office photographs in Tokyo to galleries in London to magazine covers in New York. The Alps are also well known for their world-class winter sports, including snowboarding, skiing and husky riding. People from all over the world flock to the region during its coldest months to participate in these activities and to have the chance of experiencing the crisp, alpine air. Life in an alpine village has more to offer than just one season, however, as people who actually live in one come to know well.
Life in the Alps traditionally happens in a chalet. This is a wooden home with a sloping roof that was once used as a home for the local herders and dairy farmers. Today, they are often the perfect escapes for vacationers. Chalets are the ideal home to fit into the Alps as they are built strongly and can withstand the weather and altitude. They also match beautifully with the scenery.
One of the best things about actually living in the Alps is standing outside one’s chalet and being able to witness the progression seasons over the course of the entire year. Winter is the most popular season, and winter mornings are hushed and calm. The waking light casts a soft glow that leaves the world feeling at peace, and the morning snow is pristine and shimmering in the light. During the day, bright-blue skies offset the sparking white snow and cast a blue-tinted shadow over the ground. The skies are jet black and filled with stars that would never be seen in a big city. It’s no wonder that this is the time that most visitors come to vacation. Villages throughout the Alps are full of activity as well as the fresh faces of happy vacationers. As winter passes, the snow begins to melt, causing water to fill the rivers and waterfalls in cascading torrents that are a sight unto themselves.
Spring arrives when the grass begins to appear from under the snow and turn green. The birds begin to sing. The snow atop even the highest mountains begins to melt. Flowers appear in the meadows and on the mountains, and soon everything is blossoming and green. The many types of blue and white gentians appear and are followed by an eruption of bright blues, purples and yellows from all the flowering violas, clover, globe flowers, buttercups and fragrant wild thyme.
As the days get longer, the skies remain clear and blue and the weather stays superb. The beauty of the summer season is one of the best-kept secrets in the French Alps. While most of the tourists come to ski, an intrepid few take advantage of this time to walk, hike, climb, bike, boat and paraglide in the beautiful scenery. Along the way, they get to see the 30,000 species of wildlife that call the Alps their home. Eventually, the bright summer sun begins to fade, signaling that fall is around the corner.
Fall comes late the region, but it is well worth the wait. The vibrant orange, red and yellow foliage set against the backdrop of mountain peaks is a stunning sight. The waning light is golden and the air is cool and crisp during this season. After a while, the first, tentative signs of frost will begin to foretell the winter snowfall and the start of the cycle all over again.
It’s no wonder why people who come to the Alps want to own their very own chalet there. Owning a piece of alpine paradise, whether it be as a vacation home or permanent residence, is by far the best way to experience the experience the change of seasons and all the French Alps have to offer.
Many people choose to build their own chalet so that they can cave a custom home on the land of their choice, but it’s important to remember that the cost of building a chalet is higher than home construction in many other places. Of course, there are many factors that can affect building costs, including the quality of materials, labor, proximity to local utilities and the grade of the land. However, a good rule thumb would be to estimate €2500 per square meter. This means that a 140 square meter chalet with two bedrooms would average around €350,000, not including the price of land.
This may cause questions of why building a chalet costs so much, but this is explained by the fact that building is of a superior level in a chalet than in most traditional construction. Chalets must have a concrete basement and first floor to make them solid enough to withstand any risk of avalanches or earthquakes. They are also build of locally-sourced, high-quality materials that give them their special appeal and use local craftsmen who are versed in traditional building techniques.
There are ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality and charm. One way is for homeowners to cut on labor costs by taking on some of the projects themselves. Possibly the best way is to buy a kit home to build. Companies in the area offer packages that can be adapted to fit individual needs and tastes but are also quick and efficient builds. These companies use Structurally Insulated Panels (SIP), which are precision made so that the primary structure can be erected in as little as three weeks. A typical SIP structure runs €450 a square meter. Since the structure accounts for a little under a third of total costs, this can bring the average the project under €2000 per square meter.
Living the Alpine dream doesn’t have to be a dream! Building a chalet can be a rewarding experience that means an owner can enjoy the beauty of the Alps all year long. With a little research and planning, a dream mountain home can be just around the corner.