This year’s European ski season kicked off with the best snow conditions for the past 25 years. For the ski-property market, however, the picture is less rosy. ‘Given that a lot of Alpine properties are propped up by British buyers, the market is in major decline at the moment,’ warns Nigel Hindle of buying agents Property Vision (00 33 493 92 79 35). ‘This has been propelled by nervousness in the market, as well as the collapse in the value of the sterling.’
However, he allows that ‘there’s a huge shortage of building land in the Alps. Taking a 10–15-year view, values have only got one way to go’. On that note, and bearing in mind that not everyone is inclined to be first in the ski-lift queue and the last to leave the slopes in the evening, we find the resorts with characteristics to suit every buyer. Stars of the slopes Country Life International reveals the resorts that meet all your skiing needs.
Best for families
Good ski schools and childcare are a bonus for ski trips en famille, as are beginner slopes and peaceful evenings the last thing families need is to be kept awake until three or four in the morning by those enjoying the aprèsski. So where are the ideal places for families to go skiing?
Les Gets, France
Les Gets is only 90 minutes from Geneva, and has good access to beginners’ slopes, links with family tour operators such as Esprit Ski and Ski Famille, a big ice rink in the centre of town and a Petits Montagnards award for childcare. The town and slopes are also quieter in comparison with other Portes du Soleil resorts. Erna Low is selling a large chalet with four high-quality individual apartments, close to the centre of Les Gets and only 800ft from the Perrières Express lift. Prices start at £162,000 (020–7590 1624; www. ernalowproperty.co.uk). Alternatively, Alpine Angels have an apartment in La Turche, only 650ft from the ski lifts, with a ski-in facility to within 160ft of your front door. The apartment has three bedrooms and three bathrooms, and panoramic views of Les Gets. The guide price is €850,000 (01225 442128; www.alpineangels.net).
Nendaz has been awarded the Families Welcome badge of honour from the Swiss tourist board, and the children’s area at the top of the main lift is known as fun and safe by those with young families. It’s a great base for skiing the Four Valleys, and Verbier is only an hour away. Views of the Rhône Valley are impressive, and the resort is north-facing, so conditions tend to be good. Chesterton Humberts are selling onebedroom apartments in a small luxury development arranged over two buildings in the heart of Nendaz. The project will be located opposite the sports centre, with the ski lift, restaurants and bars on the doorstep. Prices range from £833,300 to £1,180,000, and completion is expected in December 2009.There are also one- to four-bedroom apartments available with terraces, private access and cellars in Résidence Elizabeth, a beautifully designed development near the ski lift. Prices range from £440,000 to £708,000 (020–3040 8210; www.chesterton.co.uk)
Vaujany is a quiet village with lots of easy slopes, but it’s connected to the more challenging
Alpe d’Huez ski area by a 160-person cable car. The resort has its own sports complex, with a swimming pool, a children’s play area, a gym and a spa. Vaujany holds the Famille Plus Montagne Label for its childcare facilities. Erna Low has launched Clos de la Fare, which consists of 18 apartments and a chalet. The properties range from one- to three-bedroom apartments, which all have balconies and will benefit from excellent communal services. Prices start at €200,000 for a onebedroom apartment, and for a €20,000 surcharge, you can add a mezzanine area. The chalet will cost about €1 million, which includes private land and a Jacuzzi, and it can be tailor-made for you (020–7590 1624; www.ernalowproperty.co.uk).
The original Austrian ski resort, founded in 1902, Rauris provides wonderful skiing all winter round, mostly above 5,400ft. The very pretty, and safe, resort has a new gondola system, and the runs cater for all levels of skier. Families love the free ski passes for under-12s, toboggan run and playground in the centre of town. Rauris isn’t just a ski destination, but is also renowned for its incredible gold-mining history (you can still try your luck today), and nature lovers will adore exploring the National Park in the summer. Savills only have two two-bedroom apartments left in their new development, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Rauris, and which has wonderful views up to the Sonnblick glacier.
The properties are less than 300ft from the ski lifts, and combine Austrian authenticity with contemporary- finished eco-friendly construction methods. All apartments are built in local
chalet style, and each has its own large private balcony. Residents will also have access to the spa and the health-and-leisure centre on site. Prices start at €199,000 (020–7016 3740; www.savills.co.uk)
Other family favourites
Wengen (Switzerland), Grandvalira (Andorra)
Best for weekends
Only an hour from Geneva by car, Chamonix is one of the grand old favourites for British skiers keen for a challenging weekend on the slopes. Located at the foot of Mont Blanc, the resort and its satellite villages provide some of the most varied and scenic skiing in the Alps, although it’s spread out, so some time travelling between mountains is involved. Nightlife is lively, with plenty of bars and discos to keep the young and the young-at heart dancing all night, and there’s a wide choice of restaurants.
Knight Frank is selling a beautiful chalet tucked away in the La Joux village, close to Argentière. Set out over three floors, the property consists of three studios on the ground floor with two bedrooms on the first floor. It has extremely spacious family accommodation and provides an excellent retreat in a real mountain hideaway in a sought-after Alpine hamlet. The guide price is €1.45 million (020–7629 8171; www. knightfrank.co.uk/international). Alpine Angels are selling a two-bedroom apartment with a balcony in a good location, only minutes from the centre of Chamonix, for €549,000. They also have a refurbished chalet for sale (above) in the desirable Les Bois area, which has six bedrooms, an office, a playroom, a large kitchen/breakfast room, a terrace, a balcony, a hammam and a sauna, close to the main ski lift. The asking price is €4.25 million (01225 442128; www.alpineangels.net)
Zell Am See, Austria
Zell was established by a monastic order in the 8th century, and is one of the most important all-round resorts in Austria. It’s a charming and historic town peppered with medieval buildings plus a preserved Roman castle, only an hour’s drive from Salzburg. Zell’s gorgeous landscape perfectly set off by its wonderful lake provides an ideal setting for great skiing, as well as summer breaks. The resort has some excellent skiing facilities, particularly for beginners and intermediates, and the nightlife is fun and varied. The restaurants are good and the spa facilities are top of the range. Two- to four-bedroom luxury apartments are currently under construction with views of the lake, and will be built in a timeless architectural style featuring large balconies, spacious accommodation and lots of natural light, only two minutes from the ski bus stop. Prices range from €186,834 to €605,338 (020–7016 3740; www.savills. co.uk/abroad).
Grindelwald is a very pretty, and relatively unknown, town just 1 hour 30 minutes from Basel airport, which is served by British Airways. It sits at the foot of the breathtaking Eiger, and has real Swiss charm, with lively bars and restaurants and a romantic feel. Beautiful new penthouses and chalets have been completed in the centre of Grindelwald as part of the well-loved highclass Romantik Hotel Schweizerhof. The superb service at the hotel is now extended to chalet owners and guests, who benefit from a VIP Club, wellness facilities, a restaurant and a bar, a business centre and all the hotel services one would expect. There are three penthouses and a four-bedroom chalet left for sale, priced at SFr 1.918 million (£1.19 million) and SFr 2.75 million (£1.7 million) respectively (01845 597 795; www.hartmannsingleton.com).
Other weekend wonders
Sauze d’Oulx (Italy) Turin, 10 miles, Morzine (France) Geneva, 47 miles HK
Best for gourmands
The guilt-free consumption of mountain staples, such as an oozing slab of raclette, is one of the joys of skiing, yet resorts can be a fine-dining lottery. So where do foodies fare best?
The atmospheric town of Megève, with its medieval centre and 80 eateries, is one of the French Alps’ finest. Baron Rothschild, who created it in the 1950s, owns the famous Chalet du Mont d’Arbois, and gourmets drive from miles around for a table at the Michelin-starred Flocons de Sel, now run by Emmanuel Renaut, who has just revamped it. Meanwhile, if you’re on the mountain, the signature roasts of old style L’Alpette are a must-try. Easily accessed from Geneva, Megève’s property is always in demand, according to ski specialists Erna Low, who are selling apartments from €355,027 in Residence L’Arboisie. With south-facing views, they’re designed to provide high-end comfort within traditional Savoyard-style chalets (020–7590 1624; www.ernalowproperty.co.uk). Alternatively, Savills are selling four- and five-bedroom retreats from £2.1 million at Les Chalets de Belvoir (above) in the Combloux area (020–7016 3740; www.savills.co.uk). Or, for a real showstopper, Aylesford have a mini-estate for €7m, which has three bedrooms in the main house, plus a two-bedroom granary (020–7349 5100; www.aylesford.com).
Any gourmet wish-list must include an Italian resort, and Courmayeur scores highly with ski-property specialist Isobel Rostron (01242 231395; www.aspectintl.com). ‘It’s laid back and full of the best boutiques and food shops in the Val d’Aosta,’ she says, ‘but properties are hard to come by, and you must visit an agent in person.’ Properties are mostly rustic stone resale apartments, priced at €835 per square foot.
With not one but two Michelin-starred restaurants, Chabichou and Le Bateau Ivre, the chic resort of Courchevel is a gourmet nirvana. Although the resort’s many Russians love the magnums of Château d’Yquem at Le Cap Horn, locals flock to Le Bistrot du Praz for 12 different varieties of foie gras. A huge demand from Russians has pushed up property prices,’ says Savills’ Harry Lewis, who is selling three new über-deluxe ‘Stradivarus’ chalets from €29 million (020–7016 3740; www.savills.co.uk). Knight Frank have a selection of properties from €3 million, including an impressive on-slope five-bedroom chalet, the Bellecote, for €18.5 million (020–7861 1737; www. knightfrank.co.uk/international)
Other tasty morsels
Zermatt (Switzerland), Val D’Isère (France), Cortina (Italy), Aspen (US) LR
Best for non-skiers
For all of us who prefer a well-rounded ski holiday or somewhere that offers plenty to do if the white stuff is thin on the ground where is best?
The most expensive resort in Austria, Kitzbühel is perfect for those who like to alternate shopping in boutiques, such as Chloé, Prada and Ralph Lauren, with sipping something in one of its stylish cafes or bars in the attractive medieval old town. Festivities surrounding the annual downhill Hahnenkamm race attract VIPs such as Bernie Ecclestone and Prince Albert of Monaco. It’s possible to circumvent Tyrolean rules governing foreign ownership, according to Amir Suljic of Private Residences, who sells chalets (right) from €4 million (00 43 5356 635900; www.private-residences.net). Alternatively, Knight Frank are selling ‘Panorama’ apartments, 15 minutes outside the town, for £227,152 (020–7861 1737; www.knightfrank.co.uk/international). St Moritz, Switzerland The elegant St Moritz is another great allrounder, if you don’t mind the four-hour train ride. There’s cross-country skiing, the Polo World Cup on the lake, world-class shopping and more than 20 beauty salons and spas. Florian Steiger of Geneva-based Terra Cognita (00 41 79634 5717; www.tcogni.com) arranges ‘discreet private sales of beautiful bespoke chalets’ from about £13 million.
The year-round town of Château-d’Oex boasts a variety of stylish coffee salons and patisseries. Famed for its hot-air ballooning festival every January, the town was also the home of the late David Niven. Apartments being sold in the Beau Sejour in the centre of town come with a cigar humidor and fondue room or carnotzet, and they start at £527,537 (020–7349 5100; www.aylesford.com).
Italian ski resorts typically feature highcalibre restaurants and boutiques, and the Kempinski brand is drawing buyers to Pragelato, a ski village 90 minutes from Turin, on the Via Lattea ski circuit. ‘Having cute chalets for private sale within the grounds of a five-star hotel is a unique idea,’ says Simon Malster of Investors in Property, who are selling two-bedroom duplexes from €530,000 (020–8905 5511; www.investorsinproperty.com). Kempinski has added a Finnish spa to its wellness centre, plus there’s a gym and a cinema.
Other glamorous getaways
Gstaad (Switzerland), Whistler (Canada), Aspen (US) LR
Best for off the beaten piste
To anyone brought up on a diet of Méribel and Verbier, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that there are hundreds of other resorts where you won’t find fellow countrymen gathering. In Méribel, it’s rumoured that 70% of privately owned properties are in British hands. Although, in some cases, the skiing isn’t as extensive as the bright-lights resorts, the fact that international demand is weak means that properties are easier on the pocket.
Le Grand Bornand
Le Grand Bornand is considered to be one of the best preserved and most beautiful of all Savoyard villages. It’s the largest producer of Reblochon cheese (a vital ingredient to tartiflette, the skiers’ favourite lunchtime indulgence) but little known to the British. In order to preserve the authenticity of the village, the skiing takes place only five minutes up the mountain in Le Chinaillon, which sits at an altitude of 4,300ft. A family-friendly resort, there are 56 miles of skiing (impressive when you consider that better-known Villars has 62 miles), and talks are under way to link to nearby La Clusaz and Saint Jean de Sixt, which would add a further 81 miles. Le Village de Lessy is a brand-new development of chalet apartments, which are available on a leaseback system, or what the French term résidences de tourisme. Marketed by local developer MGM the largest in the French Alps and one that sells predominantly to the French market only 18 of the 139 apartments remain for sale. ‘A great attraction has been the proximity to Annecy 30 minutes along a new stretch of motorway that opened just before Christmas and it’s 50 minutes to Geneva airport,’ says David Giraud.
The apartments are some way from the classic Alpine set-up of walls painted using a spray
gun, yards of orange pine, and with little or no sound insulation from the bathroom in the next-door apartment. A two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment (which will sleep a cosy six) is at least 484sq ft, with prices starting at €166,000. And all owners can use the large indoor pool (with views of the slopes), Jacuzzi, saunas and spa rooms (020– 7494 0706; www.mgm-constructeur.com).
The Italian spa town of Merano, in the Dolomites, is probably best known to the British as the location of the 1981 World Chess Championships. What few will have appreciated is the wonderful skiingat Merano 2000, a 15-minute drive from the centre of the spa town and a resort that forms part of the Ortler Skiarena, where a single lift pass covers 186 miles of piste and rises up to 10,500ft. Savills Alpine Homes (020–7016 3740; www.alpinehomesintl.com) have ski-in, ski-out studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, which are situated next to the main gondola. Priced from £196,000, each apartment comes furnished and with its own parking space, as well as giving access to a swimming pool, gym and steam room.
Others off the beaten piste
Montgenèvre Hautes-Alpes, Les Saisies, Cohennoz and Bisanne 1500 all form the
Espace-Diamant, Champagny en Vanoise links with Paradiski (all France)
Best all-rounder: Villars, Switzerland
If you’re seeking a ski resort that ticks all the boxes, then Villars is hard to beat. Chamonix might come a close second as a vibrant all-year round ski town, but Villars has become both a fashionable and classy place to have a second home, after under-going something ofa renaissance in the past five years. ‘It’s a resort that doesn’t get 10/10 for anything, but eight or nine for almost everything,’ says Simon Malster of skiproperty specialist Investors in Property Indeed, it’s within 90 minutes of Geneva, so it’s great for weekends, is both dual-seasonal and family-friendly, and also offers good skiing. As a result, Villars is very popular with British parttime residents and high demand has held up property prices. LR