Fifty years ago, the Valais village of Verbier was little more than cattle pasture. Today, that grazing land bears some of the Alps’ most expensive mountain properties in a fashionable resort renowned as much for its lively nightlife as its challenging ski terrain.

Even the most basic chalet commands £11,800 per square metre, but properties that are allowed to be sold to foreigners are so hard to come by that vendors can name their price. Those seeking a second home in the Four Valleys ski area shouldn’t despair, however; new flights from London’s Stansted to Sion airport have perked up interest in the surrounding villages-which offer a more accesible and affordable alternative to the region’s stellar resort.

The nearby resorts of Nendaz, Veysonnaz and Les Collons are all now within a 20-minute drive of Sion-instead of the two-hour journey from Geneva-and Verbier is nearly an hour away. A base in these resorts-or in smaller neighbours such as La Tzoumaz and Les Masses-offers access to the same 255 miles of ski trails and off-piste for which Verbier is famed, as well as the picturesque Rhône Valley. ‘Like ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, the prices of the satellite resorts have started to rise,’ says Simon Malster of Alpine specialist Investors in Property. ‘Prices in Nendaz have risen dramatically, and now Les Collons and Vey-sonnaz are on the up, too.’

The large, purpose-built resort of Nendaz, known as ‘Verbier’s little sister’, has been sprucing itself up in the past five years. Laidback rather than chic, a blend of 1970s apartment blocks and new-built-as-old, it occupies a sunny plateau at 4,400ft in the centre of the Four Valleys. It’s great for families as well as for hardcore sporty types, according to Andrew Hawkins of Chesterton Humberts, who’s selling apartments there from £473,000 to £1.94 million (www.chestertonhumberts.com).

 

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‘People who love challenging skiing, but can’t afford Verbier, buy in Nendaz,’ he says. ‘The nightlife’s low-key and less showy.’ Even sleepier Veysonnaz has a charming old village at 4,300ft and an expanding resort enclave at 4,500ft. Savills are selling four-bedroom chalets in the centre for £757,000, and are launching new properties there this year.

In Les Collons 1800-the highest resort-you can buy a three-bedroom detached chalet at the foot of the slope for £341,000 from Investors. ‘The main attraction of Les Collons [down to Les Masses] is that most of the land is zoned for detached chalets and still relatively cheap,’ says Mr Malster, who also has luxury four-bedroom Chalets du Rhone for £681,000. ‘You have better views than in Nendaz and Veysonnaz, as you face east towards the Matterhorn instead of north into the Rhône Valley.’

Other resorts also better accessed because of the Sion flights include Crans-Montana, Saas Fee and Zermatt, although the latter is off-limits for foreign second-home buyers.

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