GET SET TO SLOPE OFF
Ski regions don't come any bigger than the Portes du Soleil, a collection of 14 linked resorts straddling the French-Swiss border. Including modern ski centres and sleepy Alpine villages, the region covers 400 miles of gorges, snow parks, steep mogul runs such as the infamous Swiss Wall and plenty of wide, blue and red intermediate runs. The range of slopes is matched by a wide selection of property and prices for ski fiends keen to make the most of the snow.
Avoriaz, set high at 5,900ft, is bang in the middle of the Portes du Soleil yet only 70 minutes from Geneva airport. It's a purpose-built, car-free resort created in 1967 on top of a vertiginous granite cliff.
'We chose Avoriaz because it's a high, snow-sure resort. It also has an unusual beauty, which is best in summer'
The distinctive architecture has won awards, though skiers looking for traditional alpine chalets may be wary of the futuristic design. Angular apartment blocks made from local cedar wood and slate with steeply pitched roofs dominate the skyline. The resort is designed to get people on to the slopes, with most flats ski-in and ski-out.
LIFE'S A SUNNY, SNOWY BOWL
Mark and Nicola Calvert, in their early forties, bought a second home in Avoriaz three years ago. For £276,000 they got a three-bedroom flat at the top of the resort, where they holiday up to eight times a year.
"We chose Avoriaz because it's a high, snow-sure resort, beautifully situated in a sunny bowl where you never have a long trek to the lifts," says Mark, MD of an environmental services business. "I am very attached to the resort. It has an unusual beauty and is best, I think, in summer."
Their four children, Thomas, Georgia, Olivia and Charlotte, aged seven to 13, can sledge and walk around the pedestrianised village safely, while the family as a whole uses horse-drawn sleighs to get about.
"In summer the ice rink becomes a pool with sandy beach and local activities include mountain biking, volleyball and tennis," says Mark. "We use the zip wire in Châtel and have picnics by Lac de Montriond. In winter we all ski, and the joy of the area is the size and range of slopes. We have only been on about 30 per cent of all the pistes. Avoriaz represents good value, as property owners get excellent reductions on lift passes."
French developer Pierre et Vacances has been involved in Avoriaz since the 1960s and is investing £184 million in a regeneration plan for the resort, including an impressive water park. It is selling two new schemes, the first residential buildings in Avoriaz for 15 years, with 475 flats split between two developments.
In La Falaise, near the resort entrance,it offers MGM Residences, 204 four-star one- to four-bedroom apartments priced from £368,000 to £939,385. In Les Crozats, at the top of the resort, there will be four new residences with one- or two-bedroom flats priced from £182,230 to £451,000. Prices include all furnishings and exclude VAT. Completion is due in phases from next year.
These flats are compact, ranging from 377sq ft to 1,238sq ft, but they are well designed and will have good, south-west-facing views over Avoriaz golf course to the village of Morzine. Sold through the French leaseback scheme, owners can choose between different levels of personal use in exchange for a return of up to 3.5 per cent net. Of the 200 flats sold so far, most owners have chosen between two and three weeks' personal use, with Pierre et Vacances managing the properties for the rest of the year.
LES GETS, FRANCE
Les Gets is an old farming village on the western edge of the Portes du Soleil. With wooden Savoyard chalets, it's full of quiet alpine charm. And although it is low (3,838ft), it ties directly into the vast Portes du Soleil ski slopes and is within an hour of Geneva airport.
In October, Erna Low Property launched Les Fermes d'Emiguy, 74 apartments and eight chalets priced from £124,200 for a studio up to £368,000 for a three-bedroom chalet. The off-plan property, due for completion by next year, will be built in stone and wood and have indoor and outdoor pools and a sauna. Rental packages are available with up to a 4.5 per cent annual return on purchase price.
FACT FILE AND CONTACTS
* Prices in Avoriaz include all furniture and fittings.
* Notary fees on new-build property are three per cent.
* In France there is no Capital Gains Tax payable after 15 years.
* All prices exclude VAT.
* Pierre et Vacances www.pierre-vacances.co.uk (0800 001 5551 or 020 7471 4500).
* Erna Low Property www.ernalowproperty.co.uk (020 7590 1624).