If your idea of winter-time heaven involves heading for the pistes, then you may well be in the market for a luxurious Alpine eyrie. We scour Europe’s ritziest mountain resorts to find five prime properties.
The house-hunter battle cry of “location, location, location” is especially pertinent when selecting a luxury alpine ski property, and can be heard echoing off snow-dusted slopes from Kitzbühel to Cortina d’Ampezzo. A property’s price and potential rental return, as well as lifestyle factors (shopping, dining out) to be enjoyed while in residence, can vary greatly with country and resort.
According to the 2019 issue of the industry-respected International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism, the number of annual “ski visits” globally has been relatively stable for almost two decades, hovering at about 330 million. The figure has been on a gradual upward trajectory in recent years, in no small part driven by a growth in interest in skiing from China.
While the United States attracts more skiers than any other country (with close to 20 percent of the global total), the most favoured region is consistently the European Alps, with the “big four” nations of Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland together capturing an impressive 44 percent of all ski visits. That popularity makes the Alps an attractive destination for ski-property investment.
This is especially true in what real-estate giant Savills calls the “prime” market (defined as piste-side properties values at more than €750,000). The global firm’s winter 2019-2020 edition of The Ski Report states: “Many resorts in the Alps have seen prime property prices increase over the past 12 months, with the prime market generally seeing larger rises in value than the mainstream market.”
Savills describes the top 25 percent of prime properties as “ultra- prime”, and The Ski Report continues to explain in statistical detail that prices and potential returns on investment depending on location.
Savills says the American town of Aspen currently ranks as the global ski resort with the highest ultra-prime prices (equivalent to €44,500 per square metre), with Vail (€32,900; also in the state of Colorado) taking third position. Both Aspen and Vail are most popular with domestic buyers.
All other locations in the 2019-2020 ultra-prime top 10, however, are in the European Alps, with the French resort of Courchevel 1850 (in the reliably excellent Les Trois Vallées skiing region, and named for its altitude, which averages at 1,850 metres above sea level) currently placed second (€33,400).
Courchevel 1850’s most luxurious chalets are favoured by international buyers, notably from Switzerland and Russia. They come not only for perfect snow but also for the exceptional choice of Michelin-star restaurants, including acclaimed Le Chabichou by Stéphane Buron, Le Kintessence, Baumanière 1850, Le Montgomerie, Le 1947 and Sarkara; and designer shopping courtesy of Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Valentino, Loro Piana, Prada, Cartier, Fendi, Dior and the likes.
Val d’Isère (€29,300), also in France and similarly always in high demand due to its well-earned reputation for luxury, is placed fourth, swiftly followed by Switzerland’s St Moritz (a smidgeon under €29,300) and Verbier (€27,600), and then Courchevel (including the sister towns of Courchevel 1300, Courchevel 1550 and Courchevel 1650), Megève (France), Andermatt (Switzerland) and Méribel (France).
Most owners don’t live in their ski properties but use them as occasional winter boltholes, and so potential rental return is often a smart investment consideration.
In Courchevel 1850, for example, a top-tier luxury chalet (defined by Savills for this comparison as a detached, 4,000-square-foot, newly furnished property with six bedrooms, six bathrooms, valley or mountain views and spa access) might cost €12 million to buy. In the skiing high season, it could achieve a rental return of €100,000 a week.
In Austria’s Tyrol, a similar chalet costing half that might pull in just €10,000 for the same peak-season rental period. That said, the medieval Tyrol village of Kitzbühel has long been fashionable with the jet set. Potential buyers here benefit not only from a wide choice of stylish, sought-after chalets regularly coming to market, but also numerous gourmet restaurants, exclusive boutiques, alluring nightlife and other après ski diversions on the doorstep.
Finally, investors in ski properties are advised to consider “resort resilience”, using five ket metrics – snow quality, snow reliability, season length, altitude and temperature – to gauge the consistency of a resort’s skiing offering.
Over the past three years, the same six resorts have topped Savills’ Resilience Index. In order of their ranking for 2019-2020 they were Zermatt (Switzerland), Saas-Fee (Switzerland), Breuil-Cervinia (Italy), Vail, Aspen and Obertauern (Austria).
It’s also worth noting the speed at which Andermatt, in central Switzerland’s picturesque Ursern Valley, appears to be racing up the Resilience Index, from 45th place in 2017 to its current seventh position.
Bordering the protected Austrian nature reserve of Hohe Tauern – the largest reserve in the entire Alps – the exclusive resort community of Six Senses Kitzbühel Alps is billed as the first sustainable, zero-waste luxury hotel and residences development in the region, with chalets priced from around €5.1 million.
Projected to be completed this year, and already proving a hit with green-minded buyers, the village-style resort will include 13 private chalets, 45 condominiums and a 77-room hotel, all designed by celebrated Italian architect Alberto Priolo with interiors by Sweden’s Martin Brudnizki fusing regional authenticity and local stone and wood with contemporary flair.
The resort’s 13 four or five-bed chalets – ranging in size from 3,800 to 4,300 square feet – are heated via geothermal and solar energy, with water supplied directly from an onsite spring. And while luxuriating in the warm glow of the eco-virtuous, owners can enjoy a host of Six Senses perks, from a three-storey spa to pillow menus and private chefs and nannies on call.
What’s more, each chalet comes with a limited-edition Porsche Taycan, the car brand’s first zero-emission electric model, itself worth about €170,000. Only 18 have been produced, especially for Six Senses.
Smaller with three bedrooms but no less comfortable, Chalet Albert (for sale by Alpine Marketing at €3.6 million) nestles within walking distance of Kitzbühel’s buzzing, metropolitan centre and enjoys magnificent views of the nearby peaks of Hahnenkamm, Wilder Kaiser and Kitzbuehel Horn. Built in the typical Tyrolean style with a widely projecting roof to protect wooden balconies, the chalet also benefits from open kitchen, a double garage and a huge terrace with plentiful sunshine.
In the sought-after Quartier Nogentil of upmarket Courchevel 1850, Knight Frank is offering a rare package of two beautiful, neighbouring chalets at €15.6 million. Built in traditional Alpine style and sumptuously decorated with warm, extensively wood-panelled interiors, Chalet Alaska (living area 3,900 square feet) and Chalet Anchorage (3,000 square feet) each boast five bedrooms and five bathrooms, deliver exceptional views of the majestic Sommet de la Saulire and surrounding peaks, and are just a leisurely stroll from the much-favoured Pralong piste.
Alaska’s indoor spa with heated indoor swimming pool, sauna and hammam (Turkish bath) will help ease aching muscles after days of high-octane adventures on the slopes. Anchorage’s master suite has its own private jacuzzi. Guests can also recharge batteries courtesy of the chalet’s wellness area with its own chromotherapy jacuzzi and steam room. Both properties feature large dining and living areas with magnificent stone fireplaces, as well as spacious terraces for off-piste entertaining.
In the heart of the popular Swiss skiing destination of Villars-sur- Ollon (generally known simply as Villars), Savills is offering the chalet Fleur des Neiges at 8.95 million Swiss Francs (about HK$71.5 million). Set in 2,000 square metres of private landscaped grounds, this substantial (6,350-square-foot) residence overlooks the Rhône valley from an altitude of 1,258 metres.
With seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, the recently built chalet is ideal for entertaining, with spacious reception rooms, luxurious living areas, lavish bedroom suites, sun-filled balconies, large terraces and wooded gardens. The creative layout enables the property to be configured as a six-bedroom chalet and a studio apartment, or a five-bedroom chalet and a one-bedroom apartment. There’s also a garage for two cars, as well as magnificent views from all three levels of the nearby Dent du Midi mountains.
Popular with families, Villars offers a good range of skiing for all levels, two international boarding schools, an abundance of summer activities and Geneva airport just over an hour away.
Also on sale by Savills, at €9.35 million, Chalet Kiliminjaro in Val d’Isère is a convenient, quintessentially Alpine chalet in the resort’s popular La Legettaz area. It offers easy access to more than 300km of groomed pistes, plus a wealth of challenging off-piste runs.
Spread over four levels and totalling 4,198 square feet, the ski-in, ski-out chalet is traditional in design, incorporating locally quarried stone and harvested timber. It boasts five large bedrooms and five bathrooms (three en suite), meaning it can easily accommodate 10 guests. It also benefits from a sauna, a generous terrace with jacuzzi, and a semi-professional kitchen.
The open-plan dining-and-living space has cathedral ceilings, a fireplace, balcony and huge bay windows delivering breathtaking views of spectacular surrounding geography. The third-floor master bedroom also has a large balcony.