Adding the personal touch - an interview with Jamie Rennie
When Jamie's father had the foresight to buy a plot of land in Val d'Isere some 40 years ago, he might never have imagined what a ‘personal' journey he was embarking on.
While the years ticked by and one chalet became two, two became four and four became five, what the Rennie family were actually building was so much more than the sum of its reclaimed oak beams and locally sourced slate.
For Jamie, who has been coming to Val d'Isere for the better part of 25 years, Chardon has always been the home from home ski chalet experience. “How family ski holidays should be. Amazing service but in a relaxed, friendly, convivial way.”
So while Chardon's exclusive collection of chalets have each been lovingly designed, built and cared for from the ground up, it's the attention that has gone into the service around it devised by a family with an infectious passion for the mountain that really counts. As Jamie points out “the luxury market didn't exist. Luxury was just having someone to cook for you and a bit of cleaning. We tried to turn it into a real concept.”
It's this continual cherishing, the careful nurturing of an attitude to life that sets Chardon apart from other ‘luxury' operators who often simply rent chalets and add a bit of polish. Pretention stripped away.
Jamie is emphatic when he says, “we don't think of them as our chalets, they're the guests' chalets. Without them, we wouldn't have a business.”
His mission is clear: “take the stress and hassle out of the ‘ski holiday' and replace it with exceptional comfort – every need having been taken care of.”
The measure – “having breakfast in your PJs. Champagne in your dressing gown. No standing on ceremony – that's for sure.”
He acknowledges that family ski holidays can be really hard work – travelling, organising ski lessons, thinking about food, ensuring the kids have all the right equipment and so on. There's a lot to think about. “So it's essential we have the right team and infrastructure in place to remove all that stress.”
The Rennie Family draw inspiration from Paul Gow to help them achieve this. Paul, who is heavily involved in the recruitment of candidates and delivery of Le Chardon's training programme, holds much store around “putting the right people into the right roles: chefs, managers, hosts, chauffeurs, spa stars – expert communicators who are people friendly, confident, decision makers and who bring a sense of fun too.”
“We have a rigorous recruitment process there to identify candidates who have an innate passion to please others and draw satisfaction from the enjoyment of others. Naturally – the training is there to reinforce it – attention to detail, going the extra mile, generosity of spirit as a benchmark,” he continues.
But what is abundantly clear is the pure simplicity of the concept that unites everything: it's all about the personal touch…
A few of Jamie's favourite things:
Skiing – Skiing off piste. Randonee. Extreme. Different skiing for different moods.
Food – Lamb shank. Cepe mushrooms. A gooey tartiflette.
Music – Francis Cabrel of course.
Character – West Coast of Scotland. Think rugged, welcoming, a little wild… Where else?