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. Gary Jones scours Europe’s ritziest mountain resorts and finds five prime properties.
While the United States attracts more skiers than any other country (with close to 20 per cent 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 per cent 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 valued at more than €750,000 or S$1.2 million). 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 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. 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 Michelin-starred restaurants, including acclaimed Le Chabichou by Stéphane Buron, Le Kintessence, Baumanière 1850, Le Montgomerie, Le 1947 and Le Sarkara; and designer shopping courtesy of Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Valentino, Loro Piana, Cartier and the like.
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 smidgen 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 permanently in their ski properties, 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 sq ft, 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. Owners 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.
Finally, investors in ski properties are advised to consider “resort resilience”, using five key 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 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 (kitzbuehelalps.com) 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.
The resort’s 13 four- or five-bed chalets – ranging in size from 3,800 to 4,300 sq ft – are heated via geothermal and solar energy, with water supplied directly from an on-site spring. Owners can enjoy a host of Six Senses perks, from a three-storey spa to pillow menus and private chefs and nannies on call. Each chalet also comes with a limited-edition Porsche Taycan, the car brand’s first zero-emission electric model, itself worth about €170,000.
Smaller with three bedrooms but no less comfortable, Chalet Albert (for sale by Alpine Marketing at €3.6 million; alpinemarketing.com) nestles within walking distance of Kitzbühel’s buzzing, metropolitan centre and enjoys magnificent views of the nearby peaks of Hahnenkamm, Wilder Kaiser and Kitzbüheler 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.
In the sought-after Quartier Nogentil of upmarket Courchevel 1850, Knight Frank (knightfrank.com) is offering a rare package oftwo beautiful, neighbouring chalets at €15.6 million. Built in traditional Alpine style and decorated with warm, extensively wood-panelled interiors, Chalet Alaska and Chalet Anchorage boast five bedrooms and five bathrooms each, deliver exceptional views of the majestic Sommet de la Saulire and are just a stroll from the much-favoured Pralong piste.
In the heart of the popular Swiss skiing destination of Villars-sur-Ollon (Villars in short), Savills (savills.com) is offering the Chalet Fleur des Neiges at 8.95 million Swiss francs (S$13 million). Set in 2,000 sq m of private landscaped grounds, this 6,350 sq ft residence offers seven bedrooms and six bathrooms, and is ideal for entertaining with spacious reception rooms, luxurious living areas and wooded gardens.
Also on sale by Savills, at €9.35 million, Chalet Kilimanjaro in Val d’Isère is conveniently located 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 sq ft, the ski-in, ski-out chalet is traditional in design, incorporating locally quarried stone and harvested timber. It boasts five large bedrooms, five bathrooms, a sauna, a generous terrace with jacuzzi, and a semi-professional kitchen.
(Main and featured image: The medieval town of Kitzbuhe/Shutterstock)