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The Story of Chardons

Today, Chardons Ltd is one of the longest running independent holiday companies in the Espace Killy region with a portfolio of 13 chalets. But where did the story begin?

Our story starts in 1992 with the arrival of Chardons Ltd founder Mark Hayman in Tignes. Despite humble beginnings washing dishes, Mark would go on to buy and expand the business, growing his vision into the diverse offering that exists today.

Let’s rewind to the beginning…

About Mark Hayman

Having fallen in love with the social lifestyle and sporting opportunities offered by the French Alps, Mark settled in Val d’Isère in the early 90s. Working as a handyman for Bladon Lines, he took the opportunity to observe the different elements of the business and nurtured an ambition to one day start up on his own.

An accomplished sportsman, Mark attended the British Snowboard Championships in Andorra in 1992, coming away with top five performances in Slalom and Giant Slalom and a bronze medal in the Super-G. He secured sponsorship from a host of high-profile companies for an attack on the World Cup circuit in 1993, financing the many hours of training required working in a ski rental shop in Tignes les Brévières.

The roots of Chardons

The original Chardons ski lodge in Tignes les Brévières, next door to the ski rental shop in which Mark worked, opened its doors back in 1986. It was operated by Kings Ski Club, a travel company owned by Chris Franklin catering to the booming student skiing market.

Following a boozy Christmas Eve with the Chardons team, Mark was duly fired from the ski shop for being late, scruffy and probably still drunk! As luck would have it, the Chardons kitchen porter had also been let go that very morning and thus Mark joined the team and began washing up Christmas dinner for over 100 people.

Over the next few years Mark continued working for Chalet Chardons who, in turn, allowed him time off to continue competing with success on both the international and domestic racing scenes.

A new chapter

Towards the end of 1997 the Chardons building came up for sale. Mark decided it was time to set up on his own, but there was just one problem – money.

With more confidence than was probably warranted, Mark put together a ‘no money’ deal to buy the business, promising to pay the owner over ten years from future earnings. Much to his surprise, the offer was accepted.

Growing the vision

Together with former business partner Nikky Watts, Mark overcame initial financial struggles and began to build the business. The unique Chardons concept was born – direct sales, assistance with holiday extras and flexible transport options. With the support of  an IT whizz, he harnessed the growing power of the internet and brought the company into the 21st century with a new website.

As the business grew some aspiring future stars joined the company, including future Olympic Bronze Medal winner Jenny Jones. With encouragement from Mark, Jenny took time off from her job as a chalet girl to win her first ever British Championships.

By 2009 the company had grown significantly, and Mark sought a new partner to elevate it to the next level of its development. After a lucky exchange with ex property lawyer Clare Knowlson, she joined the business as co-owner and Managing Director, transforming its direction with fresh vision. Clare set about creating Chardons Ltd in the UK, with a focus on our mainly British clientele.

Looking to the future

Under Clare’s reforming leadership, the past few years have seen our chalet portfolio grow rapidly across Tignes les Brévières, Val d’Isère and Le Fornet.

As part of an investment in the future security of the business, the team set about buying several chalets in its existing portfolio, as well as acquiring new leases. We now proudly own four of our 12 chalets – Boubou, Belvedere, Val Monte, Coeur des Brévières. Utilising this added control, we have invested heavily in our properties and continue to complete high-quality renovations to provide our valued guests with well-appointed, luxury accommodation.

Clare continues to keep everything under control and provide new ideas that keep us constantly growing. Meanwhile, the addition of a year-round senior management team has resulted in some fantastic developments that have elevated the quality of our offering such as online booking, an improved dining experience and modernised staff training practices.

2019 marks the end of an era as, the famous Top Bar aside, Chalet Chardons closes its doors to short stay guests, remaining open to loyal long stays alongside seasonal staff. But we’re still committed to bringing our guests the best value, sociable holidays they’ve come to know and love with a host of alternative options for budget-conscious travellers.

We’ve been here for 25 years and hope to be here for another 25, innovating and leading the way in friendly, relaxed, proudly independent and affordable ski and snowboard holidays. Whatever else we are, we are most certainly a company with plenty of personality – something that will not be changing any time soon.

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