The Alpine towns of Courchevel and Val d’Isere, are as well known for their nightlife as their pistes, but if you’re more interested in skiing than apré-ski it’s worth checking out the quieter French resorts.
Le Roc des Tours, France, from €195,833
One hidden gem is Le Grand-Bornand, a picture-postcard area in the Haute-Savoie region, overlooked by the stunning peaks of the Massif des Aravis. Despite being only around 80 minutes from Geneva airport and offering quality skiing, Le Grand-Bornand is still off the radar of many international visitors.
The resort is split between two villages, Le Grand-Bornand and Le Chinaillon. Entertainment here is local and low-key, with a smattering of high-quality restaurants and bars. The main ski lift was upgraded this year, and though the resort has only 88km of pistes, they reach a snow-sure 2,100m. Skiers can also access a further 132km at nearby La Clusaz.
Regulations on development have allowed the valley to retain its rustic charm. No high-rises or modern structures are allowed and all new buildings must be in the style of traditional Alpine chalets.
Prices are lower than the popular neighbouring towns of Chamonix and Annecy, both around an hour away. It’s possible to find five-bedroom chalets here from around €1.5m and apartments from around €199,000. In comparison, prices for similar properties in Chamonix can be around 30 per cent higher.
“Le Grand-Bornand is well known in France, but not internationally recognised,” says Richard Deans, sales manager for French developer MGM. “It’s not overdeveloped and has strict planning laws, which help to retain the authentic architecture. It’s very much an untapped market.”
There is limited property available for purchase in Le Grand-Bornand, though MGM is in the process of changing that. Its 44-unit project, Le Roc des Tours, is the first of several schemes intended for the town and has an ideal location at the foot of the ski slope in Le Chinaillon. Launched two years ago, only 10 apartments remain unsold, from a one-bed of 42 square metres, priced at €195,833 to a three-bed duplex at €525,000. All properties come fully furnished.
There are spectacular views of the slopes and the building is fully equipped for skiers with a boot room, gym, pool and spa facilities, plus a small, cosy bar in the lobby.
The units are being sold under the French leaseback system, which allows buyers to purchase freehold without paying the standard 20 per cent VAT, providing they lease the property back to the management company for rental use for 20 years, usually split into two contracted periods of nine and 11 years.
Leaseback also offers a guaranteed rental income, which varies depending on the project and how much use the owner has, but is typically two to five per cent. MGM offers buyers at Le Roc des Tours two, four or six weeks’ personal use annually and says owners of a one-bed could expect to earn €3,500pa with six weeks’ personal use.
MGM is building a further 29 one- to four-bed units next to Le Roc Des Tours, intended for completion in 2019, though sales are launching this summer. Another plot close to the Le Rosay gondola is earmarked for construction, and the firm recently completed a luxury rental chalet, La Ferme de Juliette, on the edge of town, priced from €3,000pw in low season.
Despite the growing interest in the resort, Deans doesn’t think Le Grand-Bornand will lose its charm or become overdeveloped and crowded. “It will never be another Chamonix,” he says, “that’s part of its appeal.”