With prices in some resorts shrinking by more than 30%, seasoned hands in Alpine property agree there has been no better time in the past 30 years to buy a ski home. However, don’t assume you can suddenly bag your dream chalet in a blue-chip resort at a bargain price ski-in, ski-out properties on the best mountains are as highly prized as pied dans l’eau homes on prime Riviera waterfront,
recession or no recession.

Many resorts have defied the global downturn, according to Savills. ‘The Alps encourage buyers who are end users rather than pure investors, so the lack of speculation and emphasis on long-term, lifestyle purchases has helped maintain values in top resorts,’ says Jeremy Rollason. ‘Volumes of sales are down, yes, but generally developers in the Alps are saying they are going to put up their prices due to the shortage of land.’

That said, the fate of French resorts is decidedly mixed, with many more susceptible to price depreciation than their Swiss or Austrian counterparts, due to wider availability of land and lack of restriction on foreign purchasing. In the glamorous resort of Megève, the €2.5 million – €5 million sector has been unaffected by the downturn, unlike the mainstream market (€250,000-€500,000). ‘There’s a shortage of planning consent for new-builds, and many people don’t need to sell so just hang on until the market improves,’ comments Mr Rollason.

Chamonix is the top French performer for Isobel Rostron, a property-finder in France and western Switzerland (www.aspectintl.com). ‘Chamomix, like Villars [in Switzerland] the other place that stands out for me is more than just a ski resort; it’s also a working town with an international flavour. The €500,000-€1 million sector of resales apartments is the healthiest part of the market, and there just aren’t any bargains.

‘However, with pure ‘holiday-home’ resorts such as Méribel and Val D’Isère, there are opportunities to buy from people who need to sell. Negotiate up to 25%. The same goes for Courchevel, where you wouldn’t have been able to get your foot in the door for less than €10 million two years ago, but where there are now the biggest reductions.’

Meanwhile, Joanna Yellowlees-Bound of Erna Low (020-7590 1624; www.ernalowproperty.co.uk) says the purpose-built French resort of Arc 1950 is the real success story. ‘In the current climate, people are nervous and want something up and running, with sound management and ski-in, ski-out, that they can sell quickly if their fortunes change. This security is offered by Arc 1950, which is an established, iconic resort with excellent occupancy.

‘Inevitably, some people do need to sell, however, and there are savings of up to 33% on the original sale price of apartments for example, a one-bedroom worth €285,000 in 2007 is now on the market for €189,000.’

In Switzerland, Aylesford’s Geneva office says that ‘recession-proof’ resorts are those that represent both tradition and luxury. These are Gstaad, where the number of sales is tiny and totally discreet; St Moritz, where the rich and famous seek privacy; and Klosters, easily accessible from Zurich. Villars is a star performer for its accessibility to Geneva, its classy international clientele and availability to non-Swiss residents and Verbier is still holding up well, despite the disappearance of its famous hedge-fund clientele. ‘Land shortage is so acute, you’ll only get 20% off with forced sales,’ adds Mr Rollason.

These sentiments are echoed by Investors in Property, which sells in Switzerland and Austria (www.investorsinproperty.com). ‘Both have fared excellently through the downturn, their markets never fuelled by over-lending and speculation,’ says Simon Malster. ‘There are no discounts being offered in our projects in Austria’s Tyrol and Bad Gastein areas, and nothing has changed in the Kitzbühel market, or Switzerland’s Villars and the Matterhorn village of Les Collons. ‘Plus, property in the quietly fashionable resort of Lenzerheide [90 minutes from Zurich] where Roger Federer has bought a chalet is selling quicker than it is in the better-known Zermatt.’

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How to profit from your ski pad    

Ski properties in snow-sure resorts can bring some of the highest returns on a week-by-week basis, but it’s a competitive market out there, with bookings down in many locations. So, how do you make your ski property irresistible?

* Firstly, buy in the best resort you can afford, as near the slopes as possible. Once you’ve got your property, identify or create selling points: has it got a breathtaking view, an outdoor hot tub or a log fire? Why not put in a ‘wow factor’ bathtub or wooden sauna room?

* Know your audience, says www.holiday-rentals.co.uk: are you trying to target families or couples? Ensure repeat bookings by surpassing expectations, with soft towels and heated towel rails in bathrooms, extra blankets in the bedrooms and inviting sofas

* Embrace the growing trend towards gastro-tourism by offering cordon bleu catering services or a chef. If you can’t manage that, compile a guide to the local restaurants (which ones are child-friendly?) and delivery companies. You can also appeal to foodies by providing a welcome hamper packed full of freshly baked cakes or bread and locally produced jams and honeys

* Or why not leave sun-sticks and sample-size goodies from the local spa? Equally, packs of piste maps and information on buying lift passes are useful, but you should also provide entertainment for evenings (DVDs, books, games) as well as activities for non-skiers

* Finally, if you have good contacts in the resort, think about negotiating deals on ski lessons or equipment hire-little things go a long way 

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