More Magenta – Snow Resort Chalet (41323)

My LEGO obsession and in particular my like for the Friends series has become a bit of a running gag in my family, so they’ll take every opportunity to take little well-meant jabs at it and get me sets. The Snow Resort Chalet (41323) was a Christmas present from the best of moms, which she got in one of those seasonal special sales in one of our grocery stores here. Similar to the Modular Winter Lodge (31080) this set is an end-of-life product, so by the time you read this, it may not be available everywhere anymore.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Box

Inevitably, as part of the Friends winter theme sets, this shares some of the quirks I already mentioned with the Hot Chocolate Van (41319), most notably the Magenta color that somehow just doesn’t cut it when used in the way it is being used here. It’s too much “in your face”, no matter how you spin it. It also doesn’t help that in this set it there is almost no genuinely “warm” colors like Orange or Yellow that would provide a counter-balance and make it more appealing.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Overview

The content of the set isn’t that bad for a price of around 27 Euros this was sold for. The original 40 Euros price would be a stretch, though, and feels unjustifiable to me. There are some nice elements in the box that can be used more universally like the Reddish Brown pieces or the white roof parts, but after all it’s not that most people would be desperately looking for some of the others such as the already mentioned Magenta stuff or the Medium Azure bits. At least the little Husky is something I hadn’t in my growing collection of the Friends critters, so there’s at least that.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Skidoo

Compared to some other skidoo variations out there the one in this set isn’t that attractive and doesn’t really contribute much to the overall value just like the cleaning station. They could have left out both items and thrown those few bricks into some more details on the building itself. Really nothing to see here.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Front View

The building itself is overall done pretty nicely, beginning with the fact that for once it’s actually built on a 16 x 16 plate, something which unfortunately cannot be taken for granted these days with so many building models just being shallow facades pieced together from many smaller plates. Having a single large plate immediately adds that level of stability and ease of construction. In addition, of course for a playable set the added depth also is beneficial for actually interacting with the surroundings and placing your figures in the scene.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Front Right View

The building itself is slightly inset, somewhat negating the advantage of the large plate, while at the same time making room for a rather large and wide porch. The problem here is, though, that there’s nothing to do on said porch and it seems like wasting space. There are no cots, no bench no ski stands and so on. I’m under the impression that this was more done to make it look like one of those old cabins like you find them in the Alps or the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) rather than being of any practical use. That would be okay for a collectible building, but for a play set it kind of misses the mark, I think. Then again of course there would be that thing with the Lime Green tiles on the beams instead of brown. It’s a bit of a mess…

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Rear View, Right Hand Side

Speaking of which – despite that little issue with the front porch, there are several playable/ accessible features in the back at least. the placement of the jacuzzi is a bit questionable, as typically you wouldn’t want to walk out of your door just to climb in. This likely should have been shifted more to the rear and be accessible directly from the living room. I also think a second row of arched bricks to make it look deeper wouldn’t have hurt and if it was all tiled over, there would not be a need for the fake “water” by ways of the Medium Azure plates.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Rear View, Left Hand Side

The second level with the sleeping area is simple, but does the trick. It’s built on a single 16 x 8 plate and could even be lifted off to access the first floor. I kinda like the chimney – it’s super simple, but exactly conveys that cosy feeling you would want. The large roof tiles are one of the highlights of this set as they’re not that widely used and thus expensive if you were to buy them separately. Since they are attached via large hinges they can be opened up, naturally. For playing with the set it will be rarely necessary, though, so it’s more a coincidental side-effect of the chosen construction method.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Chalet (41323), Rear View, Open Roof

Overall this is an okay model, but if I were to build it “for real” permanently and use it in a winter scene, I’d change quite a few things. It’s clear that the designers tried to cram in as many ideas as possible, but didn’t quite succeed. Most annoyingly there is no coherent internal logic in how things are placed and some things could have been enhanced easily like actually including a ladder to go up to the sleeping area. Of course little kids won’t be bothered by any of that too much, but for the more grown-ups it’s definitely something they will notice.

As this is phasing out, anyway, it’s probably not much of a concern, but it’s not an essential buy nor was it ever like so many Friends sets. Now that I have seen some examples of it, I perfectly understand why the winter series never gained much traction and those models have been sitting on the shelves – the seasonal context and dependency notwithstanding, of course.

Ramp or House? – Modular Winter Lodge (31080)

As written in the previous article already, the run-up towards Christmas offers some good opportunities to stock up on LEGO sets on a budget and in particular to get some sets that you wouldn’t consider otherwise. That can be stuff that doesn’t cover a subject you’re usually interested in, sets with oddities and quirks that you think won’t be enjoyable, ones that are simply too far down your wishlist to ever make you actually buy them or models that haven’t sold that well all year. The Modular Winter Lodge (31080) could be considered one such item, mainly because of its seasonal theme.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Box

I never seriously noticed it before it popped up in that grocery store flyer, which I mostly blame on the fact that there are barely any snowy winters in the area where I live, I don’t do any winter sports and therefore my attention span for these kinds of sets probably only ever lasting a few days in January when there’s actually occasionally snowflakes falling in these parts. If you live elsewhere, that might be totally different, of course.

At an original price of around 30 Euros the set wouldn’t have been unaffordable to begin with, but of course cheaper is always better, so I gladly took advantage of it only costing me 22 Euros when I took the plunge. The set is being retired, but you might still be able to find it in sufficient quantity. Those bad sales figures may have decided its fate, but a side effect of this usually is that retailers still are sitting on lots of surplus leftovers and you will be able to get it for a similarly good price even now.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Overview

The model itself in fact isn’t that bad at all. It’s modeled after one of those hillside lodges that follow the contours of whatever mountain they are built on and some of which indeed can be used as ramps. That naturally dictates the overall shape, but in relation to the size and the number of parts this isn’t that bad. Compared to other sets this feels reasonably large and accessible due to the asymmetry kind of enforcing the need to have larger, open rooms. This certainly is beneficial to the overall play value.

Speaking of which – the minifigures and extra bits are okay, but really nothing to write home about. I for instance totally don’t understand why those snowboards/ surfboards/ skateboards always have to be Lime Green. If they at least varied the color every now and then it might be more compelling. The same could be said for the skis. Would including a second pair i na different color really have been that much to ask? i feel that this would hugely help to sell those sets, both literally and figuratively speaking.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Front

One of the more important aspects that ultimately made me commit to this set is the selection of parts and in which colors they come. In that regard the set is superb. First there’s a decent helping of white slopes and even a white 8×8 plate, which brings me closer to actually building some nice iceberg/ ice cave if I ever should intend to do so. Similarly, the brown parts sure will be handy for that project that one specific still rattles around in my skull and that hopefully I might finally get started this year (New Year’s resolutions, you know! 😉 )

The tan windows, the grey bricks and the Dark Bluish Grey plates are also universally usable, so there’s lots to love. You even get a total of five antenna poles – one in black, the rest in grey – plus some flags, which makes this a very good set to source parts for your own projects. Did I mention that the ski poles for the figures are in gold? Now imagine how nice the will look on a church or castle roof…

The only items that stand out like an eyesore are the Dark Purple plates and perhaps the Medium Azure door. It might have been better to use Medium Flesh or something like that for both situations. Finally there’s a hidden little gem by ways of 2×1 Dark Brown plates being used on the undersides of the little outside table. Those are quite rare and expensive to buy on Bricklink, so I’ll gladly take each and everyone I can get my hands own “for free”.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Back

Building the set should not pose any difficulty, though the lower “box” will be very unstable for quite a while until you add the long beams on top. This is because you are basically just building separate columns to leave room for the modular inserts. Therefore there’s no contiguous layer of bricks anywhere nor can you rely on the window frames contributing to the stability of your walls. That’s why I’m not friends with this technique as I already explained way back then with the LEGO Store (40305). On a geek level it’s a nice engineering feat, but it’s simply impractical when you handle the models or want to play with them.

Given the structure of the building it also doesn’t really contribute much. If you truly wanted to change the arrangement, you’d also have to touch other parts and shuffle them around, so there seems no point. It feels like the designers were just showing off when they could have used conventional building techniques. This impression is furthered by the fact that the secondary models also would require major reworking and don’t benefit from this modular approach. If you get my drift: It would make sense if you just would swap out the inserts, but not if you basically need to rebuild the whole thing, anyway. Whether you ever bother to do so is another question.

The alternate models are okay, but only use a fraction of the parts and don’t look particularly exciting, either. In my thinking they also only make sense in terms of storytelling if you buy two or three sets. Somehow you always need a bigger building as the homebase, not just the small ice track gate house or the alpine emergency hut. Having a second set at hand would also help to make the bob sleigh in the second model a bit more attractive and consistent by swapping out some parts. Had they included a separate set of slopes in a different color (and ultimately a few extra parts to flesh it out) this could have been a highlight of the set.

LEGO Creator 3in1, Modular Winter Lodge (31080), Modules

In summary this is a lovely set, but you need to have a certain mindset. The subject is simply too specific. In essence it really only works now during winter season and I’m pretty sure most people would just ignore it the rest of the year. There are also some unnecessary shortcomings/ design flaws where LEGO didn’t go the full mile and the potential has been squandered. Now that I think about it, how about a second bob sled for a little competition? You see, it’s those small things. Still, I absolutely feel I got my money’s worth due to the excellent selection of parts and that’s good enough for me. Your mileage may vary, though.

Waiting for the Winter Train – Winter Village Station (10259)

I owe many of my talents to my mom such as my artsy inclination because she introduced us to painting and crafting from the toddler age on, but her penchant for seasonal home decoration isn’t a trait I inherited. That’s part of the reason why my interest in LEGO‘s Christmas-y sets is limited and they tend to never float to the top of my lists, but somehow I couldn’t resist the Winter Village Station (10259).

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Box

I wasn’t exactly planning to get this set, which was last year’s special edition, yet somewhere along the lines I fell in love with it. It brought back memories when we would put up my grandpa’s and then my father’s model train stuff for the end-of-year-season and play with it.  If I wasn’t living in such a small flat I would almost consider continuing that route and build myself a small LEGO train track.

That and of course if I had the money, which is always a concern. In case of this train station that decision was made easier by the good price I got it for. I was able to order it for just under 50 Euros one day on Amazon, bringing it in just shy of that magical limit that usually makes or breaks my purchase decisions.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Overview

For what I paid I feel I got quite a lot of stuff and even better yet, good stuff. As you well know I tend to be quite critical of sets that contain too many “useless” parts, i.e. small, very specific parts in colors that are hard to combine with other colors, but here there is little to complain. One can never have too many parts in Sand Green or Medium Dark Flesh, there is a load of Dark Tan plates, including some larger ones, and there are some items unique/ exclusive to this set like the yellow arches for the aft wheel wells on the bus or the printed clock faces. Some yummy stuff that alone makes it worthwhile.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Front

The overall appearance of the train station nicely captures the typical look and feel of many small town/ village train stations built in the 19th and early 20th century you can find here in Europe, be that a more robust stone building like in the Swiss Alps and Germany or the more wood-based construction of the Northern regions and some eastern countries. The designers can be congratulated for evoking this familiarity without being too specific in the details.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Right

All that being true, there is a small criticism here, though. For all intents and purposes this should be a two-storied building, as back then those buildings were built to have the actual railroad operations stuff like the ticket booth or the station chief’s office on the ground floor, while above there were free living quarters for some of the personnel as part of their employee package. On the set specifically it would have helped to make the main building a bit more distinct from the platform and possibly also would have allowed to integrate the clock into a bay rather than making it a separate tower (which they rarely ever were).

Another minor shortcoming of the exterior is the lack of more snow elements. I’ve already tried to add a bit more variation using the spares that come with the set, but I would have loved if there were more white tiles and “tooth” elements to give the impression of thick snow areas and icicles. Granted, it wouldn’t be much trouble to source some extra bits from my collection, limited as it might be, but one shouldn’t have to. It feels a bit like LEGO have been miserly about ten or so elements that could have made a noticeable difference.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Back

The backside reveals a good part of the construction, which would have to be my second real gripe with this set. As you can see, it is built very loosely with separate walls and framework that isn’t always interconnected. This doesn’t make for the most stable construction and it is far too easy for my taste to inadvertently break off parts.

In particular I also found the foundation frame downright annoying. It tends to fall apart over and over at certain locations until you cover it with the plates for the boardwalk. I appreciate the desire on the designers’ part to be efficient and keep the model light, but regardless I feel that a simpler, more straightforward conventional construction with some large plates as the base for the brick frame would have worked better and spared some frustrations.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Station Detail

The detailing on the inside/ backside is not particularly elaborate, but sufficient. It’s basically the kind of limited dressing you get with most Friends sets – a coffee machine and some other contraption represented with a bunch of rudimentary bricks, in this case the ticket booth. It does the trick, but wouldn’t it have been fantastic if the floor extended a bit more and the booth could be facing opposite the door? This would also have allowed to extend at least one wall and add another seating area for customers to wait in a heated hall. Seems useful during winter time, don’t you think? 😉

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Figures

I’m still not big on minifigures and my use for them is certainly limited, but I guess the ones that come with this set are okay, even if they are as generic as it gets and variations of them have appeared in other sets already more than once. Given how small the set is, putting them all into their positions almost makes the model look overcrowded, so there’s definitely no need for more. It just would have been nice if they actually looked more wintery with real parkas, gloves, printed on thermal boots and the like. Them being dressed so lightly only reinforces the perception that the train station is more on the verge of spring, with good chunks of the snow already having melted away, instead of being in a deep freeze winter.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Railroad Crossing

Since this is a train-centric set, after all, it comes with four straight rail segments and on one of them you are supposed to build this little railroad crossing. Nothing out of the ordinary and a nice side build, though for me the two large slope parts are actually going to be more useful one day as a roof on some MOC as will be the rest of the parts then. The model is too fragile, anyway, and breaks apart easily so there seems little point in keeping it around unless you integrate it in a fixed position in your tracks. This is really only meant to be assembled once and glued into a fixed position, in a manner of speaking.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Left

As already hinted when mentioning the exclusive parts of this set, the second large build is an old-timey looking bus and it simply looks gorgeous. LEGO could sell this as a separate 15 Euro set and I’d totally buy it, even more than once. Funny enough it looks more appealing than many comparable sets from the City or Creator series. that’s just how good it really is.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Aft

The construction is pretty much a “no frills” affair and I guess that’s why it’s so appealing. It doesn’t try to be too clever by using specific parts like a custom windshield element and except for the roof Wedge elements could almost be built completely from stock basic parts you may have in your own repository, give or take the lack of a specific piece in a given color that may break the appearance. If you have a bunch of windows and arches from an architectural model floating around you could totally try to create your own flavor of the bus.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Right LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Front

Since it uses standard one unit wide bricks and window frames instead of the sleeker panels, the interior space is a bit limited and everything feels kinda crammed. That doesn’t take away from its quality, you just can’t squeeze in a ton of figures. I also tend to think that they could have placed the seats directly at the window and thus gotten a two studs wide walkway. It would have been more credible and in fact it could be reminiscent then of some really, really old busses, trams and trains that actually had their seats only arranged on one side and were completely made from wood. Could have been cool and cutified the set further.

A small caveat is the way the removable roof is affixed. The two 1 x 1 plates near the front portion tend to come off with the roof instead of staying put. it makes you wonder why they didn’t use the 1 x 4 tiles with the two studs at the opposing ends like they have been tried and tested on pretty much every Modular Building or other sets that feature removable floors and such. If you have some of those in your parts collection, you might want to rework the upper frame a bit.

LEGO Creator Expert, Winter Village Station (10259), Bus Interior

All in all I’m quite satisfied, though. This feels to me like what all LEGO sets should be like – reasonably enjoyable to build, interesting building techniques, nice colors, fun to have a play with and amazing to look at again and again. If only every set was that nice! I fully recommend this set not just because it’s Christmas season. Given the subject matter, you could derive some joy from it even in summer (and perhaps adapt its look to reflect the season). If I had the funds I could see myself buying at least one or two more sets to extend the platform and beef up the building. It seems one can’t really go wrong here, so get it while the set is still available!

Magenta Chocolate – Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319)

Unfortunately due to my limited finances I’m in constant catch-up mode when it comes to LEGO stuff, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I have to reshuffle my plans because a product is soon to be end-of-line’d. The Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319) from the LEGO Friends series is one such example. I only got it in October and since the pictures had been sitting on my harddrive. On the chance that some of you might consider a last-minute purchase therefore here’s my take on it in the hopes it will help you make up your mind.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Box

Interestingly, those van style cars tend to be pretty decent in the Friends world in that they offer a good play value and, what is of course is even more important to me, a good selection of parts that you won’t necessarily find elsewhere like the various round bricks and tiles in those funky colors. This set is no exception with its heavy reliance on Medium Azure and Magenta.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Overview

Since it is rooted in the winter-themed series (which will be withdrawn entirely as it appears), of course it has to have some bearing on the subject and that’s reflected by the inclusion of two sleds that to a degree almost look like professional luge/ skeleton/ bobsleigh examples in their design or at least those more contemporary aerodynamically streamlined plastic slide thingies.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Slide

Unfortunately not a second thought was spared on how this would actually be used practically, so we only get a lumped together tiny “hill” with the usual standard (water-)slide half-pipes. This is basically completely useless, as the sleds are almost as long as one such segment and unless you have more segments from other sets to extend the length, you can’t really get the illusion of sliding. As far as that’s concerned, including a long plain plate that can be mounted at an angle and covered with tiles would probably have done more.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Left View closed

The actual van pretty much follows the same pattern as Emma’s Art Stand and only varies some construction details. Most notably on the wheels it uses the traditional mudguards instead of arched bricks and the wheels are further apart. This in fact almost makes the whole car almost look like some of those self-steering electrically driving mini-busses that are being tested in some cities all around the world. That in itself might be an idea for a little MOC based on the design and/or parts of this set.

The interior can be accessed once again by opening a large sidewall piece, giving good access, though it will still be very fiddly to fit a figure inside and it will look too large. Thank goodness the roof can be removed entirely, mitigating this dilemma somewhat. Overall the available room will still be quite restricted, though.

On that note I would have preferred if the roof was entirely white or re-used the Medium Azure or Dark Blue colors found on the lower half of the van. I’m fine with Magenta for the decorative strip, but since it’s such a strong color, it really tends to look less and less attractive the more you look at it. It really stings in your eyes.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Left View open

The “hot chocolate” or “(hot) cocoa” theme, as it’s called in some countries, is not particularly visible and mostly feels like an afterthought. If it wasn’t for the very prominent cup signage on the roof, you’d not think much of the car in that direction. It could have been  just as well yet another hot dog stand <insert your favorite joke reference here>. The cup with the steam/ cream top is nicely done, regardless, but remove it and you really can’t guess what the vehicle is supposed to be.

The chosen color them certainly doesn’t help to make that connection, but that’s basically an inherent weakness of most Friends sets, anyway. LEGO always lock themselves into a specific color palette and then have no room to maneuver and interpret things dynamically and liberally as needed. In this case the hold-up seems to be that in the other sets of this series the brown colors are reserved for the log cabin, so they can’t be used more extensively elsewhere. A real chocolate-y car in those colors would have been cool, though.

LEGO Friends, Snow Resort Hot Chocolate Van (41319), Right Views

A neat little touch and technique that you don’t see used that often is the sliding service window as opposed to using window blinds in Bright Pink or whatever other insane color LEGO have on their mind like on many other such models.

This model is by no means essential by any stretch of the imagination even in the Friends world, but now that it’s phasing out, snatching it up during a clearance sale with a heavy discount might still be worth it. The interesting observation for me is that by replacing a few parts with differently colored pendants this would fit nicely into a small City scenario and I think I might try just that.

It’s a good basis, but certainly would have benefited from being done a bit differently. It’s okay, but not great and of course the whole “winter” part is a joke and the parts only unnecessarily bulk up the set without adding anything. They could have sold it for 5 Euros less MSRP without those useless extras and the model would have been better for it and likely more successful.