In the 1950s an alpine holiday in Flims, Switzerland, was equivalent to a spa retreat in the Seychelles. Couples would arrive laden with suitcases and settle into the Park Hotel Waldhaus for several weeks. In summer they would spend the day walking in the mountains or bathing in the lakes before dancing the evening away in the Park Hotel’s Belle Époque ballroom. Winters would be spent skiing, skating and sledging, drinking hot chocolate and tea dancing ? yes they actually ballroom danced at tea time.

Today Flims has lost none of its 1950s innocence ? although sadly tea dancing has gone out of fashion. The village is spaced out with a surprising number of old, undeveloped chalets. There are still tea rooms and sledge runs and the tap water has more minerals than Evian. The surrounding hillsides are devoid of development; in fact they even boast a few Heidi-style farms. Being accustomed to resorts such as Verbier and Val d’Isere I was fascinated by Flims ? for me holidays in the Alps have always been a frenetic cycle of ski-bar-bed whereas here, just 90 minutes from Zurich, is a dedicated alpine retreat.

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Flims in winter

That is not to say Flims is sleepy ? an intake of the fresh pine-scented air blows away the cobwebs and the array of après-ski bars ensures there is plenty of dancing in ski boots. I particularly enjoyed a gluhwein in the glass-sided igloo complete with a live mountain band in the village centre.

The ski area, known as Laax, includes the villages of Laax and Falera, and is extensive and varied. Boasting 140 miles of slopes from 1100 to 3018 metres it is the largest inter-linked ski area in east Switzerland. A high speed gondola whisks skiers from the centre of Flims up the mountain, from where they can access pistes for all abilities as well as extensive off piste trails and the Vorab glacier.

Snowboarders are well catered for in the largest snowboard park in Europe, and much to the relief to certain skiers, the jumps, half pipes and rails keep them so busy that they seldom venture onto the other pistes.

Switzerland’s first chairlift was installed in Flims in 1945 and the resort made history again 12 years ago when Europe’s first six-man chairlift was built. It is also good to know that here, perhaps due to its spa culture, comfort is a priority. In contrast to the rickety, leg thumping lifts found in other resorts, the chairlifts in Flims are fast and smooth. If it had been snowing I would have been able to pull down a plastic cover, sit back and watch the snow sifting onto the trees.

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Sadly it was not snowing. The 2007 ski season has been punishing for the Alps, with many places closing due to a lack of snow. Laax however does not fall into this category ? 70% of the ski area lies at over 2000 metres so there was plenty of snow on the pistes. ‘With the climate changing as it is there are going to be those ski resorts who win and those who lose ? Flims will always win,’ explained Jürg Müllhaupt of Alpine Residence Club. Thanks to one of Europe’s most comprehensive snow machine networks, even the lower slopes were snowy and it was possible to ski from 8:30am to 5pm, finishing with an attractive tree-lined run back to the resort.

I say ‘possible’ but I am not speaking for myself. By 12:30pm I was lunching at a classy Italian restaurant at Crap Sogn Gion, with views across the mountains. Flims prides itself on good restaurants – visitors will come across traditional Swiss kitchens were food is cooked to ordern in gourmet restaurants and a wigwam where bison steaks are flame grilled over a huge fire.

Flims in summer

Flims’ original holidaymakers came in summer, and the village has worked hard to preserve its reputation as a top summer mountain destination. Visitors in the 1870s were attracted by the crystal clear lakes and stunning scenery and over 100 years later these remain. ‘In summer you can walk into the countryside with a rucksack and own the whole mountain,’ explains Roland Baumann, a Flims local who runs the Alpine Residence Club. ‘It is warm enough to swim in the lakes and there are miles of walking trails.’ So-called Flims, because of its position on the flumina (river), it is possible to go river rafting and canoeing. There are at least 10 golf courses within striking distance of Flims ? Bad Ragaz, Switzerland’s number one five star golf resort is just 30 minutes drive from the village. Here you can play the 100-year-old PGA Championship par 70 course. A new 18 hole championships course will open in 2008 in Sagogn, five miles from Flims.

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Flims for property investment

Quite why Flims has remained the secret of the Zurich smart-set and well-heeled Europeans is a mystery. But saved from large scale British tour operators in the seventies and eighties, there is nothing kitsch about the village and it is ripe for investors who value quality and space ? and want to avoid Britain’s crippling taxes.

From 2008 there will be no inheritance tax in Flims and there is no gift tax for giving away a property. Investors can also make use of Switzerland’s favourable private health schemes.

Prada Biala is a development of luxury apartments in the heart of Flims with full access to the five star Park Hotel Waldhaus. Set in a 22 acre private park the hotel offers six restaurants ? including the 16 GaultMillau Point La Cena, a fondue cellar and a wellness centre with glazed indoor pool, Finnish sauna and steam bath.

The properties are 200 sq metres with four bedrooms all with plasma TVs, fireplaces, high panorama windows, underfloor heating, underground car parking and ski storage. Top interior designer Alex Kravetz will be creating the interiors using local materials, marble, glass, top range audio visual equipment and surround sound.
Properties are for sale freehold as part of a fractional ownership plan. By buying two 2-week periods in winter and two shares of the rental pool you own a 20% fraction of the residence. For 30 weeks in spring, summer and autumn the properties will be rented out and the income pooled.

For more information or to arrange a viewing contact Hartmann Singleton
0044 (0) 1 845 597 795 or e-mail info@hartmannsingleton.com