The rise of Courchevel 1850

Courchevel 1850 today tops the tables of the most expensive resorts for buying property in the Alps. Arabella Youens explores this season’s new opportunities.

Due to be completed in December 2016, the Carré Blanc development will transform the fortunes of Courchevel 1550. Prices start at €360,000 through Knight Frank (020– 7629 8171).

Both Knight Frank’s Prime Ski Property Index and Savills’ Alpine Property Market, published last month, crown France’s resort of Courchevel 1850 as the most expensive resort for luxury property in all the Alps. Although it won’t win any competitions for prettiness, it’s not hard to understand its appeal for fanatical skiers. Uniquely, it owns its own water and is armed with a multitude of snow cannons so the resort will always have snow regardless of the weather, it’s consistently improving its infrastructure with state-of-the art ski lifts and, not only does it have 93 miles of its own pistes, but it also offers access to the vast domain of Les Trois Vallées—which claims to be larger than the five largest American ski resorts combined.

Luxury properties for sale in France

Although it reigned in popularity among British skiers in the 1980s and 1990s, it was when the resort registered on the buying radar of the high-net-worth individuals coming out of Russia—who can afford to fly in to its Altiport in small planes or helicopters—that Michelin restaurants arrived and prices began to soar.

In Savills’ newly released ‘Kakao Index’, which compares the cost of buying a hot chocolate on the mountain throughout the Alps, Courchevel comes in third place after Gstaad and Megève, but it’s the property prices that are really chart-topping. The typical cost of an ultra-prime property in 1850 is now €34,000 per sq m and even a simple prime chalet or apartment will achieve €12,000 per sq m, meaning that the best chalets positioned off the most desirable pistes cost many millions of Euros. ‘That prices most mortals out of the 1850 market,’ says Roddy Aris of Knight Frank. ‘However, if you’re willing to drop a few metres in altitude, you can have the best of both worlds.’

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Knight Frank are launching Carré Blanc, a new development in Courchevel 1550, or Courchevel Village under its new name, this winter. This lower- altitude area hasn’t been on the radar of the most discerning of ski-property buyers until now for the simple reason that it’s been dominated by small apartments built in a hurry during the expansion of Courchevel in the 1970s.

‘In France, it’s considered very important to go and spend time in the mountains for les globules rouges— to reinvigorate and re-energise,’ explains Mr Aris. ‘And so, 1550 was initially developed for families with limited means to be able to have their share of Alpine air.’ This meant that, for many years, utilitarian flats of just 15sq m proliferated—now, however, developers are moving in and the make-up of the village is changing.

When it’s completed in December 2016, the 38 fully serviced apartments in Carré Blanc will set a new standard for this previously overlooked resort. ‘We’re already selling apartments off-plan to London-based buyers who want to be able to access the amazing ski domain and yet are more family-orientated and don’t necessarily want to be among all the mink and Prada of 1850—or pay the property prices to match,’ says Mr Aris.

‘This development is located at the heart of Courchevel Village and is virtually ski-in, ski-out. It’s next to the ESF [French ski school] and just moments from the telécabins that run up to 1850 and back until 1am–so if you want to experience the glitz of 1850 for an evening, you can.’ Although prices start at a more reasonable-sounding €360,000, another aspect attracting early birds is the 20% tax discount applied for buying off-plan and agreeing to put the apartment into the Carré Blanc rental pool. ‘We’ve been doing a little number-crunching. If you rent it for 10 weeks annually, including two prime weeks, and take into account the management fee, service charge, local taxes and all the overheads, you’ll still achieve a return of more than 3% net, which really makes this stack up as an investment,’ adds Mr Aris.

However, for those who insist on being in the centre of the 1850 action, another prospect is launching this December. One Courchevel is the resort’s first spa development, which will have six treatment rooms, a yoga studio, indoor and outdoor hot tubs and a thalassotherapy pool. There are 44 apartments—being sold freehold —with 1–6 bedrooms, including 10 duplexes with fabulous mountain views. Prices start at €1.5 million through Savills (020–7016 3740).

Need to know:  Courchevel 1850
Prime price range:
€12,000+ per sq m
Ultra-prime price:
€34,200 per sq m
93 miles
Six-day lift pass:
Cost of a hot chocolate:
Source: Savills Research