Find yourself the perfect snowy bolthole

AFTER reports this week that the UK economy has sharply bounced back from recession, confidence has returned to the second home market and those with a penchant for skiing can’t help but turn their attention Alps-ward – especially as the first snowfall of the season came two days ago.

“We’ve seen an increase in demand in the French Alps,” says Alice Weston-Baker, sales manager at Erna Low, a French Alps property specialist. “With the good news about the economy this week, we’ve seen a surge of confidence and therefore interest. Ahead of the ski season is the perfect time to look.”


If you’re thinking of joining the ranks of happy chalet owners gearing up for what is predicted to be another season of great snow, here are some points to bear in mind.

1 Decide on your priorities. Jeremy Rollason, of Savills Alpine Homes, says: “People want everything. So pick and choose – unless, of course, budget is no consideration.” For example, many people want proximity to the airport. Within one hour of Geneva you do have some choice: Chamonix, Morzine, Megeve in France and Flims in Switzerland. Within two hours “you have a lot more choice,” he says. But what you pay a real premium for – 15-20 per cent – is ski in/ski out. If you’re willing to let that one slide, you will save money and not necessarily lose out on convenience.

2If you want familiarity and regulation, then Brits will find buying in France a good choice. “The regulations change a lot in Switzerland,” points out Weston-Baker, “and in Italy mortgages can be hard to secure. In France there are very steady systems in place for foreign buyers.” The famous resorts in ?France (and Switzerland) are unlikely to let your investment down in the long run, either.

3 Consider satellite resorts. You’ll pay a fraction of the price for a property that’s connected, but not directly in, one of the sought-after areas. “Properties that link to larger areas are a good move,” says Weston-Baker. Brides les Bains is an example: you take a chairlift to the higher altitude at Trois Vallees. (See right for a studio there).

4 Families should consider a leaseback option, whereby a deposit is paid for limited yearly usage and rental income is received since they’re less likely to be able to take advantage of a property year-round. The end result can be cheaper than paying for the whole family to stay in a hotel every time you go away. Resorts that are family friendly include Flims, Les Carroz Avoriaz and Morzine in France.

5 Don’t forget Austria. “People think Austria is lower than the rest of the Alps,” says Rollason. “And they’re right. But they forget that it’s further east and further north too, so snow arrives earlier and the temperatures are lower – 2,000 metres in Austria is the equivalent of 2,500 metres in France and Switzerland. Austria still represents some exceptional value.”

FLIMS, SWITZERLAND
Price: From CHF698,000 for a one
bedroom apartment
The exclusive apartments in The Mountain Suites are located near the centre of the village of Flims and the multifaceted grounds of the 5 star luxury, Waldhaus Flims Mountain Resort & Spa are just a few steps away. Owners of the apartments are able to use the superb facilities of this world class hotel and spa. Contact: Savills Alpine Homes on 020 7016 3740.

CHAMONIX, FRANCE
Price: €925,000
This rustic seven bedroom chalet is made from snow-weathered timbers, red Australian hardwood, ancient alpine and Polish wood resulting in a unique charm. The chalet is built over three floors with the majority of the bedroom space on the ground floor. Easy access to the valleys.
Contact: Knight Frank on 020 7629 8171.

BRIDES LES BAINS, FRANCE
Price: From €83,000 for a 27 sq m studio
Résidence Cybele is just moments from the centre of historic Brides les Bains. All the apartments come with fully-fitted kitchen, shower room, twin beds, bunks, outside balcony and covered parking space. There is a heated swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and restaurant on the ground floor of the residence.
Contact: www.ernalowproperty.co.uk,
tel: 020 7590 1624.

SAAS FEE, CANTON OF VALAIS, SWITZERLAND
Price: CHF1.43m
A three-bedroom chalet in the car-free resort of Saas Fee, in the heart of the mountain village. Saas Fee offers an array of different activities throughout the year and also boasts a 10-month ski season. Wonderful views and plenty of space for a year-round retreat.
Contact: Savills Alpine Homes on
020 7016 3740, www.savills.com