From the Aosta Valley to Zermatt, the Alps offer miles of pristine pistes and an unbeatable year-round lifestyle. With so many resorts to choose from, finding your perfect ski property can be a challenge. Here, Jeremy Rollason, Head of Savills Ski; Guy Murdoch, French Alps Manager, Savills Ski; and Rupert Longsdon, founder and CEO of Oxford Ski Company, discuss the factors to consider when buying a ski property and debate which resorts are best for scenery, adventure, glamour and more.
Portfolio by Savills: Your job is to find incredible Alpine properties for your clients. But if you could live in any type of property in any resort, what would it be and where?
Jeremy Rollason: I visited Champoluc in the Aosta Valley for the first time this summer. It’s a charming village with great restaurants, but it’s the fabulous skiing in Monte Rosa that people venture here for. Savills will be offering nine new build ski-in, ski-out chalets above the village that back onto the forest, with fabulous views down the Val d’Ayas.
Guy Murdoch: I love the Alps in the summer and my ideal chalet would probably be in a discreet part of the Chamonix valley so I can enjoy the incredible off-piste skiing and play golf in the summer.
Rupert Longsdon: I like many different resorts for many different reasons. It’s too tough a question to answer, so I won’t!
Portfolio: When advising someone on how to choose a ski property, what advice do you give them?
JR: We start from grass roots, asking clients where they have skied before, which resorts they prefer, how they will use the property on each visit, whether they wish to use it summer and winter, do they have family, will they be looking to rent it out, are there any taxation considerations. We are then able to build and hone a search that is tailor-made to the client’s needs and aspirations.
RL: I cater to the prime rental ski market, so from a rental perspective, we’re always trying to tick as many of our clients’ boxes as possible and get them the best value. It’s important to understand the reasons for their holiday when considering a resort: is it purely focused on skiing, or is it skiing plus lifestyle? Is it a group of friends, a family? What level are the skiers and do they all ski? Do they need childcare? Do they like smaller resorts or like to be in the hub of a bigger resort? The space and location of the chalet and the resort must match their needs.
Portfolio: Have you noticed a shift in what buyers are looking for since the pandemic began?
GM: We have a lot of buyers looking for slightly larger properties with a garden or swimming pool. This is because, increasingly, people are wanting to spend the summer months at the property, rather than just the winter.
JR: Yes, the real trend has definitely been towards dual season resorts and those that are in close proximity to towns or cities. For example, pre-pandemic, resorts such as Chamonix and Morzine in Les Portes du Soleil were already popular, owing to their proximity to Geneva, and the pandemic has only accentuated that.
Portfolio: What features are most in-demand now?
RL: For rentals, it’s about the luxury features – we get lots of requests for swimming pools and media rooms.
GM: The majority of my buyers are looking for traditional features, such as old and exposed woodwork, but with the most up-to-date specification. A Jacuzzi for the balcony is always high up on the list, as is good quality broadband.
Portfolio: What’s the most outrageous feature you’ve seen in a ski property?
JR: We’ve just sold a chalet that has a slide from the bar on the first floor down to the dining room, where the dining room table converts into a billiard table.
GM: I recently visited a chalet that had a proper indoor climbing wall. I have also seen a full private nightclub in a chalet basement, which was pretty fun.
RL: I’ve seen a casino, bowling alley, climbing wall, bucking bronco and an internal slide. We had a full-blown private Louis Vuitton fashion show in a chalet in 2018. Another time we had a life-size cake of a client for a 40th birthday. It was 3D printed – and still delicious.
Portfolio: Which resort is best for…
Glitz and glamour
RL: Courchevel 1850 has an unbelievable amount of 5-star hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants to complement its world-class shops. A place to see and be seen, both on and off the slopes.
JR: St Moritz does glamour in spades. Once you’ve nailed the high-altitude skiing and the Cresta Run, Via Serlas is awash with high end boutiques and chic après ski bars. My favourite shop is Läderach, just across the way from Badrutts Palace – the chocolates are to die for.
JR: Zermatt might take a whole day to get to and often involves several modes of transport to boot. However, once you arrive, you forget about the rest of world and revel in the splendour and majesty of the Matterhorn and the tranquillity of this car-free resort.
RL: For more private ‘glitz and glamour’, for those not wanting to be in the public spotlight, Gstaad is the one.
GM: The Aosta Valley is superb for a range of sports – great off-piste skiing in the winter and climbing, mountain biking and walking in the summer.
JR: Chamonix has to be up there for the thrill seeker, with seemingly no end to the high peaks and precipitous off-piste skiing. The resort is famous for its mountaineering and climbing, as well as hosting the annual Marathon du Mont Blanc.
RL: The quieter resorts linked to Les Trois Vallées, such as La Tania and St Martin de Belleville, are good starting points for beginner families.
GM: Morzine and Les Gets are fantastic for families. Expansive and accommodating ski areas, proper summer seasons and just over an hour from Geneva airport.
GM: I don’t think you can beat the resorts on either side of Mont Blanc – Chamonix and Megève. Both have different views but are equally beautiful.
JR: Having skinned up La Tovière in Val d’Isère in January 2020 while the lifts were closed, one was reminded by the extraordinary beauty of l’Espace Killy when not bombing down La Face at breakneck speed. I am now sold on ski touring and the reality is that if you get up early and explore the unbeaten tracks, virtually any resort will take on a new dimension of beauty.
RL: Ski resorts are really pushing themselves as all-year-round destinations, not only as places to holiday but also to live and work. Verbier has certainly achieved this status – it now has an international school, and we have more clients looking to rent for the winter. Morzine in Les Portes du Soleil has had a number of luxury chalets come on the rental market recently, and the planners have also allowed some more fun and contemporary designs.
JR: Val d’Isère has been the fastest appreciating ski resort anywhere in the Alps over the past few years. As consolidation sets into pricing, I would look to Morzine/Les Gets and Grimentz for growth potential in the coming years.