Country houses for sale

Rise and rise of ski property

Recent research on climate change by the University of Geneva suggests that, in the not-too-distant future, only ski resorts located at an altitude of 2,000m or more will be able to claim guaranteed snow. And although this year’s early snowfalls have helped to dispel the Alpine gloom caused by last season’s freak high temperatures, when it comes to buying a home in the snow, most purchasers now want high-altitude properties, says Jeremy Rollason of Savills International.

High-minded investors have plenty of options to choose from. Savills Alpine Homes (020?7016 3740) recently launched Larry Levene’s latest leaseback development, Le Centaure Residences & Spa, in ‘snow-sure’ Belle Plagne, which, at 2,050m, is France’s third-highest ski resort after Val Thorens and Tignes, at 2,300m and 2,100m respectively. Belle Plagne is part of the vast, state-of-the-art Paradiski ski area, created in 2003 with the opening of the Vanoise Express high-speed cable car which links the high-altitude resorts of Les Arcs and La Plagne. Le Centaure is a restructured 1990s building with a choice of 52 newly-refurbished ‘ski-in, ski-out’ apartments, from studios at £97,000 to three-bedroom apartments at £465,000, all fully furnished in typical Savoyard style.

At the other end of the price spectrum, the chic Alpine village of Méribel, at the heart of France’s Trois Vallées ski area, is a perennial favourite with rich British buyers. Here, Knight Frank (020?7629 8171) are asking ?8.5 million for the magnificent five-floor, eight-bedroom Chalet Genepi in the exclusive enclave of Belvédère, which sits high above Méribel, with spectacular views across the valley to the Mont Blanc and La Grande Motte above Val d’Isère, and access to ski slopes up to 3,000m in altitude.

Across the border in Switzerland, the 12-month moratorium imposed in January 2007 on sales of new properties to foreigners in the Valais communes of Bagnes, Grimentz, Heremence, Riddes, Val-d’Illiez and Veysonnaz has now been lifted, although severe restrictions still apply. The picturesque Valais resort of Nendaz, in the renowned Four Valleys ski area, offers residents the twin incentives of 300 days’ sunshine a year and zero inheritance tax. Savills Alpine Homes has launched the second phase of the successful Residence Pracondu leaseback development, where 40 fully furnished one- to five-bedroom ‘ski-in, ski-out’ apartments are for sale with a guaranteed rental income of 4% for 15 years; prices start at £100,000. Alternatively, Swiss residents or ‘B’ permit holders who prefer to ‘go it alone’, can buy one of six traditional five-bedroom chalets at Le Hameau des Pistes in the pretty mountain village of Veysonnaz for upwards of £595,000. Alpine Homes will happily guide non-permit holders through the authorisation process, and even pay their legal fees.

Meanwhile, London-based Erna Low Property (020?7590 1624) has teamed up with French bespoke builders Alpin Chalet to find a buyer for what promises to be the most luxurious chalet in Nendaz. The sumptuous six-bedroom chalet?currently nearing completion and similar in design and quality to the Alpin Chalet model pictured above ? stands on a breathtaking 3,200sq m site and has a large terrace, a swimming pool, a home cinema, a fitness centre and a steam room. The price of about £2.4m includes Swiss purchase tax.

Austria’s entry into the EU has opened the door to foreign buyers of Alpine property in many of the country’s most popular ski destinations, although restrictions still apply in the Tyrol. Having decided to launch a foray into the Austrian property market, Savills Alpine Homes settled on the beautiful mountain region of Salzburgerland, and the original Austrian ski resort of Rauris, founded in 1902 and the gateway to two of Austria’ s biggest glaciers plus a vast array of Nordic ski trails.

Their first Austrian leaseback operation is the Schönblick Mountain Resort and Spa at Rauris, a development by UK-based Austrian Chalets Ltd of 31 luxury chalet apartments, where prices range from £133,000 for a two-bedroom apartment to £268,000 for a four-bed penthouse, with a 5% net rental guaranteed for the first five years. Less than an hour’s drive away, the Salzburgerland resort of Obertauern is one of Austria’s highest, where most ski runs are located well above the tree line, and the ski season runs from mid-November to the end of May.

Obertauern is already 6ft deep in snow, which can only enhance the sales prospects of the resort’s newest freehold development, the 38-apartment Zehnerkar Mountain Resort in the centre of town, where Savills Alpine Homes quote prices ranging from ?199,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to ?550,000 for a luxury three-bed penthouse.

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