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The Dunn Thing

Founder of Scott Dunn, Andrew Dunn, writes for our luxury travel magazine, Days Like This, on his thoughts of how skiing has changed since his first footsteps into the industry.

The world of skiing has changed beyond recognition. It’s extraordinary to think back to when we started Scott Dunn in 1986, when ski chalets were often appalling: untrained chalet staff cooked stodgy staples served with poor-quality wine, there was burnt porridge for breakfast, the blankets were itchy, the walls thin, the bathrooms shared. Owners had a boarding school mentality and would see how many beds they could cram in. And the worst thing was that no one minded because they didn’t know any better.

After helping my sister out in a Verbier chalet, just prior to setting up the company, I realised that everything could be vastly improved. So when we started, we offered tea in bed. We supplied duvets rather than blankets. And we gave guests decent wines and champagne. Presentation was also vital. Most brochures were garish and showed staff in shiny multi-colored anoraks on mountains, so we designed our first brochure with a plain black cover that bore the legend ‘nulli secundus’ – second to none. Most importantly, we offered the best service, given by knowledgeable people.

Problems remained, chief among them being the availability of great luxury chalets. It was so difficult to find good properties that I made a few bad decisions in the early years, but I was determined to transform the world of chalet vacations. With each property we halved the number of bedrooms, installed seriously smart bathrooms and offered the best service. Now, almost every room has its own bathroom and nearly half of our chalets have private pools.

A great example of our new generation of chalets is Chalet Artemis in the grand old resort of St Anton, Austria. The result of years of understanding what the perfect chalet should be, I had great fun helping with the design back in 2007. It’s hexagonal, to make the most of the site, and like a fine hotel it has a swimming pool, steam room, massage room and hot tub. The wellness area is very important – we’ve come a long way since we put foot spas in chalets! There’s a cinema: not just a glorified living room with a projector, but a proper movie theatre with 12 retro flipup red seats and staff delivering hamburgers and popcorn. We have a wine wall, and our experienced chefs contact guests before they arrive to check their likes and dislikes. We’re big on small portions, with lots of small courses, and it’s all very different to the booze and carbohydrates of old.

Some call St Anton the birthplace of modern skiing because the Arlberg technique of downhill skiing and tuition were conceived here. This is one of my favorite places – it’s beautiful, it’s a great center for off-piste skiing and it has a deserved reputation for fun. It’s a great place to go as a group, and we’re seeing a trend towards multi-generational and celebration vacations. You want a place where you can choose between going out for a big night or staying home and being pampered. In St Anton you’ll find the notorious MooserWirt and Krazy Kanguruh bars – scenes of many a legendary night – though these days I’d rather go back to the chalet and have a glass of wine by the fire.

And of course, the children are important. The kids’ market has really grown up in the past ten years and we’re known and trusted for our kids’ clubs. Many of our guests have grown up skiing with us, so now that they come back with their own children, we’re meeting them full circle. They know we look after them – we call our guests ‘guests’ for a reason – and they’ve become so much more discerning than those skiers who endured the old chalets in the 1980s. More than a quarter of a century on from when we started, we’re delighted about that.

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