Ski out, ski in to your own Alpine home

The big resorts are pricey, but finding somewhere that is popular all year round can be a wise investment


The Alpine region accounts for the world’s largest ski market, attracting about 44 per cent of global ski visitors annually. The USA is the world’s largest single market, but the Alpine regions of France, Austria, Switzerland and Italy combined outstrip it by some distance. The Alps are home to 35 per cent of all the world’s ski resorts, containing 82 per cent of its largest resorts. With their relative proximity, the Alps are also the most attractive to Irish skiers and property buyers.

French Alpine properties, popular with Irish visitors, exhibit better value for money than their Swiss and Austrian counterparts (see panel). According to Francois Marchand of Erna Low properties, popular destinations include Portes du Soleil, the Chamonix Valley, the 3 Valleys, the Paradiski and the Espace Killy with more expensive options in Tignes and Val d’Isere.

He says that in the most popular areas you can expect to pay around €350,000 for a 55sq m two-bedroom apartment to €850,000 for a four-bedroom in excess of 100sq m. Price is very much a factor of the perceived quality of the resort. So-called “ultra-prime” resort asking prices average over €30,000 per sq m. These include Swiss resorts such as Gstaad, St Moritz, Zermatt and Verbier as well as Courchevel 1850 in France.

According to Jeremy Rollason of Savills Alpine Homes, Irish interest is in mid-range French resorts such as the Chamonix valley and Morzine, close to Geneva airport, with property available ranging from €5,000-€10,000 per sq m. The advantage of resorts like these is that they are busy in summer and winter, catering for Alpine hill climbers off season. It gives an extra option to those looking to rent out their properties for some payback on their investment. Other year-round resorts include Les Gets, Serre Chevalier and Deux Alpes. If you do intend to let your property, experts say it is a lot easier if it is close to an airport, ideally less than an hour away.

Daniel Elkan, who runs, says those looking for value in the French Alps can find lovely properties in lesser-known resorts. For families he says Peisey-Vallandry and La Plagne are ideal. He also rates Montgenevre and Val Cenis highly and cites La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand as two lesser-known, and better value, locations worth considering.

Where to buy: Switzerland, Austria or France?

Overseas interest in Swiss Alpine property has always been restricted and tends to revolve around the strength of the Swiss franc. In January 2015 the Swiss government suddenly unpegged the Swiss franc from the euro, sending it soaring by 30 per cent in one day. It put Europe’s share and bond markets into a tail-spin and bankrupted a number of currency trading firms. It has made Swiss property, which was never cheap, even more expensive. There is also the problem of the law concerning secondary residences (Lex Weber) that was introduced in 2012. This seeks to restrict the amount of second residences to a maximum of 20 per cent of any region’s housing stock. Its motive was to reduce the number of “cold beds” (regularly unoccupied properties) in tourist areas, bringing them into the rental market. It has all but halted new building in popular resorts such as Verbier, meaning that stock is becoming tight, and more expensive. While much of the eurozone was in economic meltdown, Austria witnessed a period of sustained gains. Property prices have increased by 41 per cent since 2008. This explains why most current interest in ski property is focused on the French Alps. The French residential market “double-dipped”, then staged a remarkable recovery up to 2011. Nationally, prices have been sliding since. Ski resorts haven’t seen the same price volatility, as many owners were in a position to ride out the recession. French ski apartment prices are still 20 per cent below 2008 levels according to Francois Marchand of Erna Low. Chalet prices have, however, held their value due to limited supply. In general, prices in established Alpine resorts remain relatively stable. Supply is always limited, which tends to keep the market steady. Savills has produced a useful ski property market overview: see

Beware of fickle snowfall: how to buy a base for skiing, not hiking 

The one warning anybody involved in ski property will give you is to “maintain altitude”. Alpine experts advise sticking with resorts above 1,500m with a ski area above 2,000m. Snowfall can be remarkably fickle and the higher you are the more likely it is that your resort will have sufficient cover to keep it viable. A long season is considered to be more than 150 days of skiing potential over the year. Buying at low altitude, while a lot cheaper, means you could be hiking for your holiday, rather than skiing. Globally rising temperatures are a particular problem for ski resorts. It is estimated that Austria’s snowline will rise a huge 300m by 2050. A temperature rise of 1.8 degrees will shorten France’s snow cover above 1,500m from 170 days to 135 while Switzerland’s annual season has been cut by 12 days in just 20 years. What’s on offer Savills is offering the spacious 300 sq m Chalet Savoy close to Morzine village centre just 80m from the Pleney Cable Car. This five-bed, four-bath traditionally constructed chalet is spread over four floors. It features a 50 sq m double-height livingroom with cathedral windows opening on to a wooden terrace with hot tub. The open kitchen has a breakfast bar leading into the livingroom. In the basement you’ll find a 12-seat cinema, ski room with boot dryers, gym with sauna and wine cellar. This property is priced at €2.75m. In Chamonix there is a recently built, 350 sq m family chalet at the foot of the Grands Montets ski lift. This ski-in, ski out property has five en-suite bedrooms, two reception rooms, Jacuzzi, sauna, massage room and double garage. The cost is €3.2m. In Morzine, Chalet Revoir is a 198 sq m, four-bed, two-bath property constructed in 1999 in a quiet location. It is in an excellent position, has an open south facing living room, terrace, balconies, landscaped garden, wood burning stove and underfloor heating. The asking price is €998,000; see For those looking at new-build property, Erna Low is promoting Les Fermes du Mont Blanc in Combloux, part of the Megeve ski area (Evasion-Mont-Blanc). The project faces Mont Blanc, close to the slopes. It offers apartments from €216,000 for a 39 sq m one-bed to €402,000 for a 68 sq m three-bed. Semi-detached chalets ranging in size from 117sq m up to 121 sq m are priced from €943,000.

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