Can you combine the cultural buzz and convenience of city living with easy access to the outdoor thrills of a snow-sure ski resort? Finding a vibrant urban location that offers a swift escape to the pistes might seem unlikely, but some of Europe’s most exciting cities – including Nice, Geneva and Marbella – offer exactly that.
“For many people buying property in Nice, having the mountains 90 minutes away has winning appeal, while adding a longer calendar to their investment,” says Alex Balkin, executive director of Savills French Riviera. “The nearest resorts have good infrastructure and are easy to reach.”
The highest of these resorts is Isola 2000, a modern village with good snow-making facilities that has 120km of ski pistes, a snow park and established trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Family-friendly Valberg is an appealing alternative, as is Auron, which offers skiing up to 2,450 metres on 135km of pistes. Further afield, there is the option of Italian slopes – and food – in Limone Piemonte, just across the border.
“Nice has a wonderful Italian flavour and is about 30 minutes from the Italian Riviera,” says Balkin. “It’s alive year-round, with theatre, jazz and music festivals, has a beautiful old town and a green centre – and, of course, is directly on the Mediterranean. It’s an ideal location for exploring the region, linked by train to Antibes, Cannes, Menton, Monaco or Sanremo in Italy.”
Property choices in the city focus on the Promenade des Anglais, where a large two-bedroom apartment on the seafront, with a balcony, will cost about €1m, and Mont Boron, where villas with gardens, pools and sea views start at just under €3m.
In Geneva, at Switzerland’s western edge, sweeping views of the Alps and the Jura Mountains are a daily reminder of the sporting pleasures nearby. “Geneva is the main city in French-speaking Switzerland,” says David Colle, director of Savills associates Luxury Places. “It’s dynamic and well developed, with direct access to the Swiss Alps – Verbier, Crans-Montana, Gstaad and Villars are all within easy reach. And Megève, Chamonix and La Clusaz, in the French Alps, are about an hour away.”
According to Colle, the prime city location is Cologny, on the left bank of Lake Geneva, near the golf course and several good schools. “On the lake’s right bank, Chambésy is popular,” he adds, “although some areas close to the airport are affected by aircraft noise.
“There’s also strong interest in Canton de Vaud villages such as Mies, Coppet, Founex and Nyon, where you’re still close to Geneva. Houses facing the lake there look south to the Alps – a more attractive view than north to the Jura – and prices are lower. For a 250-square-metre home with gardens in Cologny, you would pay upwards of CHF7m, while a similar property in the Canton de Vaud would be about CHF4.5m.”
The Andalucían city of Marbella, at the far south of mainland Europe, has a wonderful microclimate, but might seem an outlier for a quick ski getaway. You’ll certainly have to travel further to find snow than you would in Nice or Geneva, but the Sierra Nevada, three hours away, has 21 ski lifts reaching a maximum altitude of 3,282 metres – and enough snow cannons to ensure full coverage in Europe’s sunniest ski resort. For a heady mix of paella in town and raclette on the slopes, it’s an enticing option.
“Nueva Andalucía and the Golden Mile remain Marbella’s most in-demand locations for holiday homes,” says Arjen Spittael of Savills associates Lucas Fox. “Renovated two-bedroom apartments there start at €450,000, with better-quality and better-located homes for between €500,000 and €1.5m. On average, a good five-bedroom villa in Nueva Andalucía costs about €3.5m, but villas on the Golden Mile can reach €50m.” For a top-end combination of sunshine and skiing, you can’t do much better.
Pictures from top: sunset in Geneva (unsplash); the Promenade des Anglais in Nice (unsplash); Switzerland in the snow (unsplash); a view of the Alhambra, with the Sierra Nevada behind (Alamy)