The French Alps are easy to reach from London by air, car and high-speed rail and offer 200 exceptionally varied resorts ranging from small villages with a cluster of wooden chalets up to some of Europe's most illustrious destinations. That includes some large purpose-built resorts, not the prettiest places perhaps. But what they lack in historic charm is often compensated for by the convenience of ski-in-and out accommodation. "Location is most important for our buyers who look for a hassle-free holiday home providing an active mountain lifestyle," says Laurent Hallez of French developer MGM. "They want a home where they can ski from their front door, or one that is centrally located with a regular bus service to the ski lifts."
From £241,800: one- to four-bedroom flats at Le Cristal de Jade, MGM's five-star Chamonix residence (020 7494 0706)
CHAMONIX - THE SPORTY CHOICE
Chamonix is a true year-round resort, packed with climbers in summer and snow fiends in winter, all mesmerised by the allure of two towering peaks - Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi.
Le Cristal de Jade, a five-star residence with 51 one- to four-bedroom flats, two pools, a gym, sauna and reception, is being built at the foot of Aiguille du Midi, which is served by Europe's highest cable car. Prices with parking start from £241,800 excluding VAT.
"Chamonix is very popular with British buyers," says David Giraud, MGM president, who has lived in the town 15 years. "It has a newly pedestrianised centre with designer and outdoor sports shops, and skiing for all levels.
It's a proper town with a year-round population of 13,000, a good choice of restaurants and bars, and it's less than one hour from Geneva airport."
From £414,670: ski-in-and-out Cygnaski, Val d'Isère, newly refurbished flat swith one to five bedrooms. Call 020 7471 4500
VAL D'ISÈRE - THE ELITE CHOICE
Val d'Isère and the mighty Espace Killy ski area is almost three hours from Geneva but attracts more British skiers than anywhere else in the French Alps. Prices are high, both for hotels and homes, but the property on offer is aimed at some of the world's wealthiest buyers. Jean-Charles Covarel has been renovating and building beautiful chalets in the Alps since 1991, employing skilled local artisans and using old wood and local stone.
His latest project is Le Petit Alaska, eight chalets in the heart of the resort. The final two for sale are four-bedroom Silveretta 5 for £2,155,000, and Chalet Husky with seven bedrooms, an indoor pool and spa, archery lane and indoor climbing wall for £9,952,000.
THE HASSLE-FREE HOLIDAY HOME IS EASY TO LET
Skiing has been the main holiday for Nigel and Caroline Thomas, from Bath, since their children Lucy, Henry and Flossie, now aged 24, 22 and 17, were small.
The family always chose France so when they bought a home in the Alps in 2011 the location was an easy decision. Their three-bedroom leaseback flat in Briançon, bought through Erna Low, helped them to discover the joy of the Alps in the summer.
"We tried mountain biking and were so keen we took up road biking, entering the London Duathlon last year," says Nigel. "There are small family restaurants on the mountains and medieval festivals in summer." The family aims to visit summer and winter, with the flat rented out when they are not there. "We get a fixed quarterly rental from the management company," says Nigel. "It works out smoothly, with them taking care of all maintenance."
Erna Low: ernalowproperty.co.uk (020 7590 1624) latter, one of the largest in the Alps, generates an astonishing £248,750 rental for the winter season alone, says selling agent Athena Advisors.
The same agent is selling Cygnaski, 15 ski-in-and-out flats priced from £414,670 near the main lifts. The one- to five-bedroom, newly refurbished freehold homes have traditional wood interiors and vaulted ceilings, with views over Solaise and La Daille valley.
LES CARROZ — THE FAMILY CHOICE
Flaine, built in the Sixties and Seventies with too many grey concrete apartment blocks, can't claim any beauty prizes but offers exceptional skiing over 164 miles of slopes in a big, snowy bowl at the edge of Mont Blanc. Beginners, families and intermediates will love it, while off-piste fans can access some of France's finest back-country skiing.
Les Carroz, 10 minutes away, is the place to head for. A pretty village of wooden chalets with a good selection of restaurants and a family-friendly reputation, it links directly into Flaine's large ski area. Geneva airport is less than an hour away and a free bus service runs all day, every day. Property prices are at least 25 per cent below Chamonix and Val d'Isère. MGM is building Residence Léana, a four-star leaseback property with 55 one- to four-bedroom flats of 485sqft to 1,076sq ft priced from £190,700 fully furnished, including VAT. The wooden and stone Savoyarde chalet-style residence beside a nursery slope will have an indoor pool and reception.
Under MGM's leaseback rules owners do not pay VAT (saving 20 per cent) and can use their flats for up to 10 weeks a year, including Christmas and new year weeks. The homes will be let out for the remainder of the year with a guaranteed return of around 1.5 per cent.
Completion is expected in winter next year and since the launch last month, 10 apartments have sold to British, French and Swiss buyers.
MGM: mgmfrenchproperties.com (020 7494 0706)
Athena Advisors: athenaadvisors.co.uk (020 7471 4500)