We stayed at Chalet Helvetia over Christmas 2012 with friends from the UK. I don't disagree with much that has been written below, except the EspiritHolidays "responses" to two of the reviews. The review by 'anotherproblem' from 2009 seems like a very accurate description of our experience in 2012. The change in management seems to have done little, if anything, to improve the chalet or the level of service.
So if you do decide to book Helvetia, lower your expectations, take a charitable view toward the management's descriptions of the quality of food, wine, decor and service, and go for the skiing, not the chalet. Without further ado ...
The location, a hop and a skip from the Nasserein lift, is excellent for skiing and renting equipment - there is a rental shop right next to the lift. It is a mediocre location for enjoying downtown St. Anton (~10 minute walk). It is not a nice or luxurious location in general. The chalet is next door to a gas station and the chalet owners operate a taxi service out of the chalet. This wouldn't necessarily be a problem, except that the taxi company uses the same front door as the chalet guests. Which meant that at all hours of the day, strangers were traipsing through the common area of the chalet, including the mud room where our shoes and jackets and personal effects were kept. We rented the entire chalet, so the discovery that we would share the common area with a business and its employees was unexpected.
The food was not "mouth-watering," "tasty" or "innovative." Nor was it prepared by a "chef," unless by chef one means "18-year old on gap-year holiday." It was edible almost all of the time. At least once it was simply inedible.
BaileyWilson's review of the wine selection is spot on - whatever the management may claim, the wine is of extremely limited variety and poor quality. We were served two wines - the same two wines, a vinegary white and a sour red - every night for the entire week, regardless of the type of food being served.
In addition to the "chef," two other teenagers apparently enjoying their gap-year played the roles of "service professionals" during our stay at Helvetia. They were all very nice young britons who are there because they want to ski, not because they are service professionals. I don't fault them. I do fault the chalet management for its highly misleading advertisements regarding the level of service we could expect, and for failing to provide this staff with the level of training that would have actually resulted in acceptable service. As mentioned above, the food was cafeteria-grade. In between serving courses, the entire staff would disappear back to the kitchen, making it impossible to obtain drink refills, condiments, extra cutlery or anything else one might expect from reasonably attentive service professionals.
The rooms are decently appointed, and the ensuit bathrooms are modern and spacious, especially by European standards. As has been mentioned, the top floor rooms have sloped ceilings - a quirky feature that gives some character to an otherwise bland interior. It wasn't a problem. The rooms in the front have balconies.
The common area has the aesthetic appeal of a hospital waiting room. The decor is cheap, with thin, worn carpeting, commercial-grade lighting, and plain Ikea-style furniture. It is not welcoming, "home from home," tasteful, spacious for 16 people, or comfortable. The dining room and sitting area are the same room (it's an L-shaped room). There is no television in the common area (I only note this because it was listed as an amenity by the management, and this turned out to be one of the more obvious misrepresentations, if not a particularly significant one).
What do they have in terms of amenities? A sauna, which guests are only allowed to use from 5-7 pm each day. And a ski equipment room with a boot rack.
What don't they have that even a minimally equipped "chalet" should offer its guests? The kitchen is totally off limits to guests, and the chalet does not provide a refrigerator for guests' use, which means you you won't be able to keep any drinks or snacks of your own that require refrigeration. I thought the kitchen prohibition odd until I peeked in there between meals one day - the floor was covered in a viscous layer of grease and grime, trash was stuffed under every counter-top and overflowing onto the floor, and the meat for our next meal was sitting out on the counter. I suppose I wouldn't want guests to see that either. Unfortunately, there is not even a wetbar or kitchen sink anywhere on the first floor available to the guests, which makes simple things like filling up the coffee maker or getting a glass of water much more difficult than they should be. There is no clothes washer or dryer, an odd omission for a chalet that books by the week. Bring lots of underwear!
The Wifi access requires you to sign in anew every time your iPad or computer goes to sleep, or sometimes for no apparent reason at all. It did not seem capable of handling more than 3-4 devices connected at once.
Chalet Helvetia bills itself as a non-smoking chalet. However, the owners, who live downstairs, do smoke, and as a result, the chalet always smells like smoke. (Un)fortunately, the mud room where your jacket, sweaters, scarves, and hats are stored is right next to the owners' door, so those items of clothing will absorb at least some of the smoke before it reaches the rest of the chalet.
For the right price (maybe in the range of 50 pounds per night per person), Helvetia is an option if your focus is St. Anton's skiing. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the chalet, or if you want the food and wine to be a highlight of your trip, I recommend finding another option.
- Also Known As:
- Chalet Helvetia Hotel St. Anton Am Arlberg
- Chalet Helvetia Austria/St. Anton Am Arlberg