Buy in the Alps for a year-round playground

It's not just for skiing - the Alpine region provides a winning combination of relaxation and fun throughout the year
The lake at Annecy in the French Alps
From £354,740: two- and three-bedroom off-plan apartments beside the lake at Annecy in the French Alps (020 7494 0706)

The best holiday homes attract users all year round, and the Alps is a prime example of an area in which they do just that. Choose the location with care and a home in the mountains will provide an action-packed base that appeals to all generations for activity holidays in winter snow and summer sunshine.

It's a winning combination, says Roddy Aris of Winkworth International, who adds: "Excellent flight connections from the UK and two good rental seasons mean the Alps are surging in popularity."

Avoiding Swiss limits

Possible legal changes to restrict the supply of second homes next year in the Swiss Alps mean buyers have been out in force, says Simon Malster of Investors in Property.

"Though the wording of the new legislation next year is still not clear, there is no doubt the regulations will lead to increased prices as the supply of second home-status properties dries up," comments Malster. "The fact that Switzerland is outside the eurozone has also fuelled demand, with buyers attracted to the security it provides."

Good year-round options include Engelberg, 30 minutes from Lake Lucerne, where Malster is selling studios to three-bedroom apartments at Titlis Resort, priced from £194,930 for 452sq ft. Engelberg has one of Europe's longest ski seasons, helped by glacier skiing at 9,850ft, and a beautiful golf course for the summer.

Ski chalets in Grimentz
£356,820: ski chalets in Grimentz, in the Swiss Alps (020 7692 0786)
Traditional Swiss villages are rarely prettier than Grimentz in the Val d'Annivers, two hours from Geneva. Skiing is limited to 40 miles of slopes, although there are plans to expand this, and Verbier and Crans Montana are nearby.

In summer, the dark wood 15th-century village is festooned with colourful geraniums welcoming hikers and bikers. Mark Warner Property has ski-in apartments and chalets in Grimentz from £356,820 for two bedrooms with a spa.

Three-bedroom chalets in Mission, five minutes away, start from £289,400 through Investors in Property.

Ski on down in France

Steep prices in Switzerland mean many Lake Geneva residents look across the French border to the villages of the Portes du Soleil. With 400 miles of linked ski trails up to 7,875ft traversing the border, this is a large ski domain.

Villages include Morzine, Les Gets and Chatel: mostly low-lying but with a year-round community that makes them an attractive summer destination.

In Les Gets, one hour from Geneva, Alpine Homes has 12 two- and three-bedroom furnished apartments with garages priced from £250,000 for 615sq ft.

In Morzine, a top biking destination, a four-bedroom chalet well-positioned for skiing and summer walks is £416,640, and one with six bedrooms on the ski bus route with a good rental record is £472,200, both through Winkworth International.

Twenty minutes from Geneva, beautiful Lake Annecy provides year-round appeal. Skiing is 30 minutes away at La Clusaz while the lake offers Europe's cleanest water for sailing, watersports and fishing. French developer MGM has the final four of 20 two- and three-bedroom apartments in Annecy from £354,740, a short walk from the streets of the medieval Old Town.

Three-bedroom apartments close to Zell am See
£402,220: three-bedroom apartments close to Zell am See in the Austrian Alps

Austrian Alpine charm

A reputation for value coupled with sophisticated facilities and an Alpine vibe has made Austria increasingly popular for second homes.

Zell am See started out as a summer destination for wealthy residents of Salzburg before becoming a ski resort in 1960. Giles Gale, of Mark Warner, says: "The Kaprun glacier makes this one of the few places in Europe where in summer you can ski in the morning, play golf in the afternoon and then mess about on the lake."

Thirty-five minutes from Zell and upmarket Kitzbuhel, the Smaragd Resort in Bramberg brings high design to Austria. Eleven three-to five-bedroom apartments and 10 chalets finished with wood, stone and expansive glass start from £402,220 for 1,195sq ft, all with private spa and underground parking, through Mark Warner.

The location is perfect for year-round holidays: at the foot of the slopes close to a gondola and in the centre of Europe's largest nature reserve, with golf courses at Mittersall, Zell and Kitzbuhel.


* Winkworth International: 020 7870 7181;
* Mark Warner Property: 020 7692 0786;
* Investors in Property: 020 8905 5511;
* Alpine Homes: 020 7016 3740;
* MGM: 020 7494 0706;

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