Ski homes in France: which resort for you?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ski homes in France: which resort for you?

As the fire roars cosily in the corner of the room, you stretch your weary legs and lie back in the sofa, a successful day's skiing complete. From the balcony of your chalet you can see the outlines of the snow-capped Alps. Do you enjoy a glass of wine and retire for the evening? Or venture out to the nearby restaurant?

Anyone who has been skiing has by default dreamed of owning their own chalet or apartment to which they can slope off to for several weeks or weekends a year - and maybe earn them some rental income to cover upkeep when they are not there.

With the 2013-14 winter season underway and more than 1.4 million Brits expected to head for French, Austrian and Swiss slopes this year, many potential buyers are keen to assess the Alpine market.

An overview inevitably reveals that some areas have been slower to pick up than others, but generally the market is much improved from 12 months ago.

Prices still down from the (market) peak

Around five years ago prices began to drop after the Lehman Brothers collapse, and even the biggest French resorts were not immune to global economics. Glitzy Courchevel 1850, for example, fell 20 per cent below peak 2008 values.

Nor were Mont Blanc mainstays safe from the crunch. As Jeremy Rollason of Savills/Alpine Homes points out, prices for properties in the big-name resorts of Megeve and Chamonix fell up to 30 per cent during the downturn.

The volumes of property hunters dropped too.

Home to many of the most popular ski resorts (including Courchevel), the Savoie region exemplified the dropping numbers of foreign buyers in France: during the peak of 2007-08 they accounted for a fifth of the market, but this figure shrunk to 13 per cent during 2011-12.

A glance at Knight Frank's Prime Ski Property Index contrasts the fortunes of the current market with more austere times.

With the second quarter of 2013 11.9 per cent above the second quarter of 2009, ski property market activity looks more positive.

Indeed it seems ski chalets are now back in fashion with agents' cautious optimism over the last 18 months being replaced with an ebullience not seen since pre 2008.

Julian Walker, director of (which has both leaseback and freehold new-build properties throughout the French Alps) emphasises:

"Tight supply and controlled development, combined with huge lifestyle appeal and a strong international market mean ski homes in quality resorts will always be good long-term investments."

Resorts like Val d'Isere and Megeve will always be popular and in these high-end locations, prices are beginning to rise while enquiries into both chalets and apartments are up.

To put into context, over in Austria, prices have never stopped rising - steadily. In contrast to the speculative peaks of French Alpine prices, Austria's market has remained steady throughout the crisis years, and the country has avoided recession.

Furthermore, whilst French prices are only now beginning to rise steadily in some resorts, their Austrian comparables have seen single digit capital appreciation every year.

Rental returns in the Alps can be very healthy with the summer season being as popular - sometimes more so - than the winter.

The buoyant levels of tourism in the country make it easy to see why 72 per cent of recent buyers have purchased for both lifestyle and investment reasons.

But there will always be a spectrum of different requirements when it comes to ski holidays and thus ski homes.

Given that the French Alpine market currently represents a key time for buyers and agents alike, what are the top picks by way of resorts and properties?

french ski resort property

The Three Valleys: Great all rounders

Heather Byrne of Leggett Immobilier suggests that demand for the world-famous resorts of the Three Valleys - (the giant ski region in the Tarentaise valley encompassing iconic resorts like Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens) - remains strong, driven by global interest.

"The Les Trois Vallées (3V) region is always popular as it offers great variety. At 2,300m altitude, Val Thorens represents the highest ski resort in Europe, while those who prefer ski-runs lower down the mountains can opt for Brit-favourite St. Martin de Belleville (1,400m)".

Indeed, the latter offers great value properties, including a one-bed ski apartment close to the ski lifts for just over £150k.

There are bargains to be had amongst the villages that surround popular resorts, adds Heather: "Les Allues and Meribel Village [a village-resort near the much-older town of Meribel] are great examples of places to look if you want a bargain that offers easy access to ski lifts while retaining the individual character of a ski village.

"Also worth researching are the villages dotted around the bus route to Courchevel, for example St Bon [the original village of the big resort] or Bozel [a lively little traditional Savoie village below Courchevel]."

Morzine: One for beginners

Those still finding their 'ski-legs' and looking for somewhere that offers more beginner slopes need seek no further than Morzine. It's also only an hour or so from Geneva. With half of its pistes classified as green or blue, there are plenty of opportunities to perfect that snow-plough! Busy all year round, with a great nightlife and many cafes and restaurants, there's also plenty of distractions for those in need of lazy days.

The 4* Aiglon de Morzine apartments are an excellent example of what's available to buy in the resort for around €450,000.

"These leaseback sale three-bed apartments are fitted out to an exceptional standard ofcomfort, perfect for after a day of skiing!" reports Catherine Ryall of Alpine property specialists Sextant.

You have a guaranteed rental income and you have a place of your own to ski or take holidays."

Several agents (including Morzine Immobilier) are offering three-bed apartments around the €400,000 mark, with entry-level studios from €107,000 (

Meanwhile, St. Jean d'Aulps (a pretty village a bus-ride away) has small studio apartments for just €55,000! (

The apartments are close to the Super Morzine bubble lift - easy access to the wider Portes du Soleil ski region - with 650km of pistes including Les Gets, Avioraz and Chatel.

st martin de belleville, french ski resort

Valmorel: Great for families

"Valmorel has seen little development in the past 40 years but, despite that, it offers an attractive alternative to many of the better-known ski resorts with its stunning scenery, pretty village, great views and 150 kilometers of ski slopes," says Richard Deans of MGM French Properties.

Indeed, the village's 'snow-sure' altitude of 1,400m gives peace of mind to seasoned skiers, while the traffic-free centre, extensive nursery slopes and sledge train rides provide endless fun for the children in this family-friendly resort.

One to three bed apartments are available from £217,000: possibly a canny investment given the resort's increasing expansion.

Those who fancy two charming villages with resort amenities should look an hour's drive north to Cohennoz-Crest Voland, where MGM offer Le Chalet des Oursons.

Vallandry: One to watch

Situated in the vast Paradiski region (425km of pistes), with links to both Les Arcs and La Plagne, is the ever-growing resort of Vallandry, also known as Peisey-Vallandry.

Picked out by as one of the top five ski resorts in Europe (demands for property there have grown by 150 per cent in the last year), what this village lacks in nightlife, it makes up for with great ski runs and great off-piste.

It's also home to the pioneering Vanoise Express car, the 200-person double-decker cable car that links Les Arcs to La Plagne.

Amongst Vallandry's property offerings are 30 luxury chalets, Les Chalets de Bellecote, established in the 1990s by Dop Real Estate (

"Despite the economic conditions, these chalets continue to appeal. Vallandry remains a lovely location and there is still considerable interest in the chalets in both sales and rentals", says Benjamin Dop.

The properties currently change hands for around €450,000.

Dop also has a new development, Les Chalets de la Madeleine, less than two hours east in the charming little resort of St. Francois Longchamp 1650.

Located in the Savoyard province of Maurienne, the bulk of its 89 ski-runs are greens and blues.

"People come here for various mountain sports, the lovely weather and for the peace and comfort. The houses are built in the authentic chalet style to provide atmosphere," says Dop.

The 25 luxury chalets in this village begin at around €450,000, and apartments start at around €200,000.

Monchavin: another one to watch

Alternatively, the beautiful village of Montchavin is proving popular with British buyers. In the vast Paradiski ski domain (Les Arcs, La Plagne, Vallandry, above) it is also known as Monchavin/Les Coches, and offers 200km of pistes, including a big choice for beginners. A one-bed apartment here with use of pool is available for just £146,126 (through Leggett).

Les Gets: Great for weekends

Julian Walker of especially recommends Les Gets - in the Portes du Soleil region: that represents arguably the shortest transfer times from the UK for skiers.

"Owners of ski homes in Les Gets can realistically catch an early fight from the UK, drop off their bags at their property and be on the slopes for lunch," he suggests.

"And there are plenty of spots for lunch within the resort's own 120-kilometre ski area..."

Prices for new-build four-bed apartments begin from around E680,000, but you can buy a studio apartment from around €150k.

Châtel: Best for budget

Those looking for budget buys will be glad to hear that some of the least expensive apartments can be found in the most beautiful areas of the French Alps.

Located in Châtel (a picturesque village straddling the French-Swiss border), apartments in MGM's newly completed residence de tourisme Les Chalets d'Angèle can be found at under €187,000!

The resort offers year-round thrills. Not only does it comprise a part of the world's largest interlinked ski area (Portes du Soleil), a plethora of summer activities like hiking, biking and riding are all on its doorstep. also has several budget boltholes dotted throughout the resort. One, two and three bed-apartments are available for €179,000. They also offer ski-in, ski-out leaseback apartments for €171,000.

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