Setting up a new business takes a lot of research time, investigation and planning, often years before the first guests walk through the door.
With a growing portfolio of luxury chalets, villas and a whole tropical island in his portfolio, Andy Turner is a busy man. Luckily we've managed to snatch a moment of his time to find out about how he started the Verbier side of his business and to share some of his top tips with you if you're thinking of heading to Switzerland on your next ski holiday.
What inspired you to develop a chalet business?
I have always been passionate about the mountains and the sea. I first dreamt of the concept for Chalet Spa Verbier in the millennium year. I was looking for an opportunity to create a business connected to lifestyle. Having spent 5 to 10 years looking at different mountain resorts, I really liked Verbier, but it was only when I found the location that I became really excited. My research suggested Verbier would receive significant investment over the coming period, and the land I found was the last plot in one of the most exclusive enclaves of Verbier. The views were undisturbed, with sunshine from sunup to sundown and it was very quiet, yet within 100 metres of a lift station and a few minutes from the centre nightlife. All in all a perfect location.
What was your vision for the business?
To develop Chalet Spa Verbier into one of the most exclusive luxury chalets in Verbier, simultaneously to design and develop an exclusive luxury brand, adopting ‘Chalet Spa’ with the distinctive ‘S’ shape. I have obtained registered trademarks in Switzerland, the EU, the USA and Canada for both logos for a range of services and products, which could in the future be applied in other ways to utilise the goodwill we have developed.
Is it more of a labour of love or a serious money-making exercise?
This is a serious project at the top end of the luxury market.
How do you market the project?
Our primary source of clients derives from my network of contacts globally. These include a range of personal contacts from finance and other business interests, personal friends, travel & tour agencies, consultants, concierge and a broad network of contacts involved with Tourism. Over the last few years, we have selectively promoted the business with advertising in the press and social media, but nothing positions and promotes us more effectively than personal relationships, combined with a high quality 5* experience for clients. Our marketing focus is on a range of locations across the world. More than 60% of our clients originate from Eastern Europe. For this market, the location of our flagship property in Verbier, and the way we have designed our five star service works well. Verbier is a safe and discreet location for our clients to visit, given the various crises around the world and the way these are now encroaching on other countries.
How does the company stay fresh and its chalets remain in the ‘must-stay-in’ category?
In Verbier, there are constraints on who can purchase land and on the type and design of development – as a result, Verbier has retained its charm and character. Verbier has become one of the most popular luxury mountain resorts in the world with fantastic on-piste and off-piste skiing and snowboarding and great nightlife. Our clients often combine business in Geneva with a holiday at Chalet Spa Verbier. They are able to fly in by their own private jet to Sion, just 45 minutes away. From there, they can take a helicopter transfer to Le Chable or be driven to Chalet Spa Verbier. It goes without saying that the interior design, art, sculptures and lighting incorporated in the chalet have been carefully selected from amongst some of the world’s leading interior designers, to a level not normally associated with mountain chalets made available for rental to the public. Our technology and control systems cover audio/visual, heating and air quality management. In the Spa, the indoor infinity pool benefits from a specialist Siemens system that regulates the water temperature, pool floor, air humidity, and ambient air temperature to achieve a comfortable balance at high altitude, where incumbent air pressures have an impact.
How would you sell the joys of Verbier to someone who typically holidays on the beach?
At Chalet Spa Verbier, we have created a relaxing environment with a great view. The Spa area benefits from a beautiful indoor pool with an amazing view like no other in Verbier, a gym that takes the same view, two hot tubs in different locations including a handmade Canadian cedar wood hot tub, therapy room, sauna, Hammam, cinema, and billiard room, so that guests who do not wish to ski, can simply find another activity on site. The mountain air is invigorating, and for those who wish to be active, there is a range of activities in the chalet and around Verbier. These include skiing, snowboarding, sledging, paragliding and a range of other pursuits, such as walking, horse riding, tennis and mountain biking. The Verbier lift system is now open most of the year, and from June to October, the lifts have racks for lifting bikes up the mountain while you relax on the way to the top. For kids, outdoor activities in the mountains are varied at all times of year; with skiing in the winter and the opportunity to attend International summer camps in July and August, mixing with children from all over the world. The beauty of being close to central Verbier is the proximity to the high mountains and activities, yet also being close to shopping, cafés, restaurants and nightlife – once the lift system stops in the evening, the centre of Verbier becomes inaccessible from other parts of the four valleys and easy access by foot or car to Verbier’s evening entertainment from Chalet Spa Verbier comes into its own. I see Verbier as an all year round resort, covering short breaks, holidays of 1-3 weeks and longer breaks. For this reason, I keep Chalet Spa Verbier open all year round and promote the virtues of its proximity to Geneva for business as well as pleasure.
What makes this resort a special place to be for someone in your profession?
Verbier has a great cross section of inhabitants who are innovative, hard working and appreciative of the environment. Verbier has excellent on piste and off piste skiing. It suits everyone from families to extreme skiers. It is close to Geneva and the infrastructure of the resort continues to improve year on year as Verbier benefits from substantial investment.
What do you enjoy most?
The ability to combine lifestyle with oversight of my investments.
And the worst bits?
There are always unforeseen challenges but I can’t think of a better place and environment in which to deal with them!
What's your favourite piste or off-piste area & top tip to go skiing?
My favourite mountain in resort is Savoleyres. I love the north side of Savoleyres through the trees. On a good day in resort, I love to start on Savoleyres, ski over to Carefour, up to Tortin, to Siviez, and over to Thyon. Depending on conditions and time, the run back can finish in Vallon D’arbe and back up and over from Tzoumaz. However, I am also a big fan of skinning up to Cabin Brunet (or Mont Rogneaux) with my golden retriever Coco with an off piste or trail run back to Lourtier.
Where would you send someone who was after that 'something special' in resort, to stay, eat or drink?
Your personal favourite place for lunch or dinner?
Lunch on the mountain is always great at Le Dahu. I also love the burgers at Chalet Novelly over near Siviez. La Marmotte or Marlenaz is great for a traditional Swiss meal combined with sledging back down to town afterwards with a head torch.
Where will we find the best coffee or hot chocolate?
The best hot chocolate at the moment is in the Chocolatiere de Verbier and for the best cappuccino or espresso macchiato I would say La Cucina inside Alp Food.
Do you remember your first trip to this resort?
Absolutely. I first came to Verbier with an old work colleague whilst we were on business in Switzerland. There had been a lot of snow and we were able to ski into town! We stayed at the Hotel Rosalp, which is no longer there.
What's your favourite thing to do in resort when not skiing or snowboarding?
What do you do in the summer?
Verbier is beautiful in the Summer and there are lots of interesting events to attend, including the Verbier Music Festival and the Verbier Hippique Concours. Even if I’m busy working, I always take time to walk on the mountain with my dog. Over the last couple of years, Verbier has invested in creating some world class mountain biking trails, and I like to get together with some friends and explore the area on 2 wheels as well.
Which is your favourite shop in resort?
Verbier has a good selection of shops and you can get some great expert advice on winter & summer sport equipment. There are shops for wines, cheeses, and a few good local delis as well. There’s a choice of butchers, bakers, florists, and it really would be difficult to name a favourite (although the chocolate shop is popular with my wife!
Where are we most likely to find you for après-ski?!
In the Chalet Spa hot tub with a beer and a few friends!
Skiing or snowboarding? What's your preference & why?
I’m a skier. I prefer to ski or to go skinning. In April 2016, I will participate in the Patrouille de Glacier with 2 friends.
If someone was coming here for the first time, what would you suggest they absolutely must do or see in resort?
They should head up the mountain and take in the views! This is a great way to clear the head and the scenery is spectacular at any time of year. Even for non skiers, this is a must!
More Verbier Insights...
- Verbier Dump Alert - 6th December 2020
- Verbier opens early for the 2020/21 ski season
- Roger Federer holidaying in Verbier this summer
- Flights to Geneva restart in June 2020
- A farewell to the 2019/20 ski season in Verbier
- Swiss ski areas close early in 2020 due to COVID-19