10 QUESTION INTERVIEW WITH ANDY & FRAN CASTLE, THE OWNERS OF SKI IN LUXURY
1.) What prompted you to create your own business in luxury ski chalets and how has it evolved?
Neither of us had skied before we found ourselves in the industry. Both of us were students at Bournemouth University, although I was 2 years ahead of Fran. We both had a very similar story…..moved to Bournemouth, had a work placement year as a part of our course but loved Bournemouth so much that we didn’t want to relocate anywhere else, and then we secured a local placement working at a ski holiday agency.
When Fran joined on her placement I returned to the company shortly after and was made Sales Manager. This is how we met and our relationship went from there.
In 2005, I spotted the opportunity for something more niche to be developed in the company, moving from over 4,000 properties listed on their website in all budgets, to focusing purely on the luxury end of the market. I took the idea to the MD and asked for 50% of the new business but I was turned down. Anticipating his answer, I handed in my pre-prepared notice and advised him of my intention to roll with my idea anyway. No turning back from there…
2.) Describe the experience guests receive from a stay in a luxury chalet from your collection?
Where do I start?! The whole concept of the luxury catered chalet experience is to barely lift a finger, other than to perhaps put your ski boots on each morning…..although they will already be heated and laid out for you to slip into!
Our job is to find you the perfect luxury ski chalet for your group or family needs. We use our experience and knowledge built up over the years to make personal recommendations. We are not in it to make the most money from every deal……we want our clients to return year on year because they have had an excellent experience and got true value for luxury. The best their money can buy.
We work closely with all of our chalet operators and they will take on the concierge side of the booking, ensuring that only the best providers are used, ones that they have built strong relationships with over many seasons, again not just for who will pay a bigger commission for business.
The staff in place at the chalets are incredibly well trained, normally having enjoyed numerous seasons in the snow or time on super yachts through the summer months. Personable yet discreet and professional, these are the people who will make or break your holiday. Expect the unexpected. From private fireworks displays, your own band or DJ playing your favourite songs, to in-chalet theatrical plays, anything can be organised and quite often is thrown into the mix as a special “wow” experience. Couple these amazing experiences with incredible chefs knocking up tantalising dishes throughout your stay and you quite simply won’t want to go home!
3.) Many couples complain that running a marriage is a hard-enough job, let alone a business, what have been the greatest challenges in being business partners as well as husband and wife?
As Fran and I have always worked together, we haven’t ever known any different. However, as the business has evolved over the years it does present us with many challenges and sometimes it is hard to see eye to eye on everything. You take your work home, you take it on holiday, you take it on romantic breaks for anniversaries…there is no way of getting away from it and that is quite probably the hardest part of running the business together.
4.) Ladies will agree that, in most marriages, we get the last word but how would you settle a work disagreement that you feel equally as strong about?
Luckily we work incredibly well together as a team. Often there are differing opinions but we understand that we need to take into account one another’s opinion, listen to each other and make a decision between us that we deem best for the needs of the business. Sometimes there are mistakes made, but you pick yourself up and learn from them and move onwards and upwards. I am the impulsive one and Fran is my rational one. A combination of these two mindsets seems to work well…in most cases anyway!
5.) I can imagine running a luxury ski company has its perks, what have been the most spectacular chalets you have got to stay in?
We have been incredibly lucky over the years to have been able to stay in some absolutely amazing luxury chalets across the Alps. There are too many to name and many that I wouldn’t want to seemingly disregard by not including them in a mention!
A selection of the chalets would have to include the incredible, vast 3,000m2 Chalet Edelweiss in Courchevel, quite possibly the most extravagant chalet in the Alps.
One of my favourite chalets in terms of style is the Chalet My World in Combloux, just outside of Megeve. If I was designing and building my own chalet then it would closely resemble that of My World…..and the view of Mont Blanc is beautiful!
And then there is Chalet Uberhaus in Lech (see below)! A chalet that we spent a great few days in with great company. It’s got a fabulous cinema room and a hot tub that overlooks the slopes with views to die for!
6.) When you are not immersed in the business-side of luxury chalets, do you have a favourite ski resort to stay in?
I’ve got two favourite resorts…Val d’Isere and Zermatt for me are the two perfect locations to ski, offering a huge variety of pistes, stunning vistas, fantastic restaurants, and excellent apres ski too! Oh, and they’ve also both got some very tasty chalets!
7.) When hitting the slopes, what are the ski essentials you would absolutely not leave home without?
I love my phone bunjee as it means that I can pull my phone out on a chairlift to take a photo or to check in at work without worrying about it plunging into the depths of the snow beneath! Other than this it would have to be to remember to take Fran’s heated ski gloves with us…without these to be able to switch on, Fran really suffers with Reynaud’s which means that she won’t be able to feel her fingers and she will be in agony. Without these, skiing wouldn’t be quite as much fun….quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever got for her!
8.) What is the greatest reward from being successful business owners and happily married?
Being able to enjoy it together. Being incredibly proud of each other and what we have achieved together. When we overcome challenges and hard times together it only makes us stronger and appreciate each other even more!
9.) What advice would you give to other couples looking to venture into starting a business together?
If you think that you will be able to live in each other’s pockets 24/7 and rise to all challenges together then go for it! If you are two very different personalities and you have any doubts as to how it would work, don’t risk it! It’s a massive commitment to put so much trust in one another and it does undoubtedly put a big amount of stress on you as a couple……but at the same time, if you can make it succeed together and build a great life from it, there is no better feeling.
10.) What's next for the brand?
Our most recent development was to create a website focused on the ever growing demand for summer holidays in the Alps. We created Alps In Luxury in order to encourage our clients to try the mountains in the summer rather than just for their ski holidays. There is so much to do in the Alps in the summer months and so much fun to be had with the family or groups of friends. These stunning chalets in our portfolio can often be booked at a fraction of the price in the summer so it’s a great opportunity for people to stay in sumptuous luxury with amazing scenery and fresh mountain air relaxing you to the core! Try it, you will love it!
We will continue to grow. We will continue to strive to remain to be the best in what we do. We will make some big developments to our existing websites in terms of functionality, usability and visual impact. We also have a number of other domain names that are focused around other areas of travel that we could look to launch into. The world of luxury travel is our oyster!
Discover more about Ski in Luxury online here!