Chalet

Univ has access to a chalet in the French alps and you could be there with your friends this summer... Take a look at the spectacular scenery on the Chalet Pinterest board (opens in new window.) Details on how to apply can be found here, and information on the Chalet's history can be found here.

For all FAQs scroll down or click here.

Over 100 years ago a Balliol don, Frances Urquhart, offered his summer home to student parties; we now share the summer with Balliol and New College. The Chalet sits in the foothills of Mont Blanc, in an area of great natural beauty. Access is by cable car to the local ski hotel and then on foot. The local towns are attractive and local cuisine is excellent; at the Chalet we live in French style, with dinner being the main meal of the day. Parties typically comprise a mix of subjects, graduates and undergraduates.  

It’s a typical alpine chalet on three floors with 11 shared bedrooms. Life there is beautiful and basic: there’s no electricity so cooking is by bottled gas and bathing is by a waterfall in the garden or a makeshift shower inside, but at least it now has the luxury of flushing toilets!

Univ runs parties of around 15 people. Typically, we spend alternate days with academic reading and then walking/relaxing; the Chalet is quite isolated on the mountain and lends itself well to both. If you’re interested in visiting it, you should have a basic level of fitness – enough to be able to enjoy the outdoor life but you do not need be a skilled hill walker or climber (nor fluent in French). We welcome novices. Skilled cooks are especially welcome! Costs usually amount to around £15 per day, plus your own incidental expenses. Getting there can usually be kept below £200. 

Thanks to the generosity of the late Dr Acer Nethercott the College has some funds to support those who are offered a place in a Chalet party but who would be prevented by cost. Those interested should approach the Academic Office. 

If you would like to apply, please email stephen.golding@univ.ox.ac.uk or keith.dorrington@univ.ox.ac.uk.  Please tell us your academic interests and any previous hill walking or sports experience. We also expect applicants to be “in good standing” with tutors and the College.

To find out more details, please read the Q&A and Chalet History (left-hand side) or have a look at the Chalet’s Facebook page for some fascinating past and present pictures of the Chalet and its visitors.

 

You can watch a video on the 2016 Chalet Trip below.

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How to Apply

Any member of College may apply to join a Chalet party. Applications are invited in January and close at the end of week 5 in Hilary term. Places are usually confirmed by the beginning of Trinity term. If demand exceeds the available places a ballot is held.

Interested members should write to Dr Keith Dorrington or Dr Stephen Golding (keith.dorrington@dpag.ox.ac.uk; stephen.golding@univ.ox.ac.uk), stating their subject and year, academic and leisure interests, and whether they have any previous experience of mountain life or similar.

We are always happy to reply to enquiries about the Chalet at any time but for fairness all applications are considered together in Hilary term. Further information is provided in FAQs below.

Successful applicants are asked to confirm their place by a non-returnable deposit of £5 per day that they will be at the Chalet.



Chalet History

The Chalet des Anglais (also known as the Chalet des Mélèzes from the larches surrounding it) is a traditional large alpine chalet on three floors. It stands on a small plateau at 1680 m, in a wood on the west slopes of the Prarion, one of the foothills of Mont Blanc, in the region known as the Haute Savoie. Below it in the valley is the alpine town of St. Gervais but access is usually from the village of Les Houches in the valley on the other side of the Prarion, via cable car (the Télécabine).

The Chalet was built by an eccentric Victorian, David Urquhart, in 1865 as a summer home and subsequently became the property of his son Francis (known as “Sligger”) of Balliol. Sligger invited his friends to the Chalet as the first reading party in 1891, while he was still an undergraduate, and the practice has continued, albeit interrupted by two World Wars. The Chalet was burned down in 1906 and rebuilt on a larger scale. When Sligger’s health gave way in 1932 he ensured that the reading parties should continue after his death. The Chalet fell out of use during the Second World War and Univ, on the initiative of Giles Alington, was responsible for beginning parties again in the 1950s. Sir Anthony Kenny brought Balliol parties back in 1970 and since then summers have been shared between Balliol, New College, and Univ. The Chalet is now administered by a charitable trust; the Univ. trustees are Keith Dorrington, Stephen Golding and Tom Smith.

The Chalet is quite isolated (David Urquhart believed that if you lived with a constant view of the Mont Blanc Massif the effect would wear off) and looks out the across the Mont Joie Valley to the peaks of Aravis, often the setting for superb sunsets or spectacular storms. The only other building in the area is a chalet 200 yards away, used for holidays by the Boucher family from Utrecht. They are not often seen but are very friendly and welcoming to considerate chalet parties.

200 metres above the Chalet in the Mont Blanc direction is the Hotel du Prarion. It is owned by the Hottegindre family; the senior member, Madame Simone, is now semiretired, although she is usually at the hotel and enjoys contact with students. The management is now in the hands of her son Yves. The Hottegindre family have been good friends to Oxford students over decades and we rely greatly on their help, both in day-to-day business or if we have serious or unexpected problems. In return we provide them with a certain amount of custom – the “Pavilion”, with a magnificent view of the Mont Blanc Massif, offers welcome refreshment after a walk and it is traditional for each party to have dinner at the hotel on the final night of their visit.

The Chalet has been enjoyed by parties from Oxford for over a hundred years and offers an experience unlike almost any other. Many of the “good and the great” have been through the Chalet over the decades and have recorded their reminiscences in their writings. If you want to know more, try Chapter 6 of Sir Anthony Kenny’s autobiography; “A Life in Oxford” (John Murray, 1997).

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FAQs

How do I obtain a place on a party?

Simply follow the guidance in How to Apply. We are happy to answer any queries you may have.

What do I need to be an applicant?

Any member of College may apply. As places are limited we expect candidates to be “in good standing” (i.e. educationally and financially) with the College.

What activities take place?

The party is a reading and walking party. Typically, one morning is spent reading, the afternoon relaxing, and the next day walking on the mountain. A number of games are available and sometimes the evenings are spent in play-reading or game such as “Mafia”. However participation is always optional.

When is the Chalet open?

In July and August only. The summer season is shared with New College and Balliol and each college usually takes two parties of ten days each.

Do I need to be fluent in French?

Not at all, though a little French will probably increase your enjoyment. It is possible you may come back speaking more French!

What will it cost?

The deposit of £5 per day, collected in Oxford before the party, is paid to the Chalet Trust as a rent for the party. Each party then shares the cost of the expenses. With good management costs are usually below 15 Euros a day. On top of this is the cost of travel and also of chair lifts and cable cars while on the mountain; the latter usually amount to about 100 Euros each during the party.

Thanks to the generosity of the late Dr Acer Nethercott the College has some funds to support those who are offered a place in a Chalet party but who would be prevented by cost. Those interested should approach the Academic Office.

What facilities will I find there?

The building is a typical Alpine chalet over three floors, with 11 shared bedrooms. Bedsteads and mattresses are available and members need to bring sleeping bags. There are two indoor toilets. Bathing is by a makeshift internal shower or the waterfall in the garden. Cooking is by bottled gas and there is a gas-fired water heater. Room heating is limited to a wood stove in the main living room.

Do I need to be a climber?

Not at all. The Chalet is a walking base and we don’t anything that requires crampons or ropes and harness (though what people do in private is their own affair!). Of course, skilled climbers may always join a party and do some climbing, either during or after the party.

Do I need to be fit?

A Chalet party comprises mountain life, so you need to be able to walk up a hill but no previous skills are essential and we encourage ‘novices’ to apply.

Can friends from other Colleges be invited?

We are always prepared to consider friends nominated by applicants, providing they fulfil the same criteria we apply to Univ applicants. However this depends heavily on the demand for places because we cannot give members from other Colleges priority over Univ members.

What do I need to bring?

We give detailed guidance notes to each successful applicant but you need to consider the following: Good walking boots. For warm wear sweatshirt(s) or pullover(s), walking socks and walking trousers. A fleece jacket, gloves and a warm hat are useful. A waterproof cagoule and possibly waterproof trousers. Light wear, e.g. shorts, track suit bottoms, tee-shirts and soft shoes for the Chalet itself. We sometimes visit the lakes so something suitable (and decent) for swimming.

A sun hat, sunglasses and sun-block are essential. A 1 litre water bottle. A torch (a head-torch is most convenient). A camera. A sleeping bag. A small backpack for daily use.

How do we get there?

We provide detailed guidance notes to successful applicants. The typical pattern is flight or train to Geneva, bus to the Alpine villages and a cable car on to the mountain, followed by a 20 minute walk.

How is the party managed?

We are a democratic exercise and we all share the domestic jobs. Sometimes we also have a little gentle DIY to do.

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