© Martin Bennett
The snow that cascaded down in January set the scene for a perfect season, a relief for an area often criticised for its snow-free resorts. It's a valid criticism, admits Gareth Jeffries of Winkworth associates Alpine Property, but one that misses the main attraction — the huge charm of Portes du Soleil's authentic mountain villages with year-round life.
ENJOYMENT ALL YEAR
Only the village resorts are low. Lifts soon take you up to skiing at more than 7,874ft and reaching the villages themselves by car is easy. Along with the village atmosphere, the Portes du Soleil's attractions include easy access to Geneva airport — 90 minutes against the three-hour trudge to Meribel or Val d'Isère — and property prices well below those resorts. Once in the mountains, skiers can opt for a French lunch or swoop into Switzerland for rosti.
The downsides are that the villages are spread out, providing few piste-side properties and the lift infrastructure on the edges of the region is not as slick as at the centre. But this has not deterred buyers, who have come in increasing numbers in the past year.
"British, French and Swiss make up most buyers," comments Jeffries. "They find value here compared with Swiss resorts. Most buy mortgage-free and view it as a long-term investment in a place to enjoy year-round."
Morzine: 75 minutes from Geneva, pretty Morzine is one of the world's top mountain biking destinations with water-rafting and picturesque liftassisted walking adding to its summer appeal. Many buyers choose Morzine for skiing and end up loving it even more in summer. The village is upgrading facilities, building an indoor pool and improving lifts. In a quiet location close to a ski bus stop, Alpine Property is selling a traditional 1780s Savoyard farmhouse with six bedrooms for £877,380. A four-bedroom wooden chalet one mile from the centre and five minutes by car from Prodains lift, giving swift access to Avoriaz, is £459,580. This well-priced home in a quiet valley rents well, earning a five per cent yield for its British owner.
Les Gets: British buyers love Les Gets, one of the rare villages in the Portes du Soleil where you can find ski-in properties on gentle, tree-lined pistes. Properties on Chavannes Road sell quickly for up to 20 per cent more than in Morzine — Alpine Property sold four chalets priced over £835,600 there last year. Chalet Louis, on at £568,200, requires renovation but has an excellent location and potential to turn into a 1,938sq ft home. Nearby Chalet Hastings is a renovated four-bedroom chalet with good views for £793,820.
Châtel: from 3,937ft, Châtel's cable car takes skiers and walkers up to 5,396ft, while the trout-filled streams and rivers of the Abondance Valley are a hit with anglers. Mountain biking was part of the charm for Robert Chappell, owner of bike shop On Your Bike in London Bridge, when he bought a seven-bedroom house in the hamlet of Richebourg. "Summer is lush, green and warm with a better climate than being by a beach," says Chappell. "In winter there is an abundance of places to ski." Work is calling the family back to London, and Chalet La Paloma is for sale for £476,300 through Alpine Property.
Annecy-based developer MGM is selling 73 leaseback apartments in Phase 1 of Les Chalets d'Angele, 875 yards from the Châtel cable car. The 377 to 914sq ft apartments will be ready this year, from £199,700 to £338,420.
CONTACTS AND FACTFILE
* Alpine Property through Winkworth France (www.winkworth.fr; 020 7870 7181)
* MGM (www.mgmfrenchproperties.com; 020 7494 0706)