In the lakeside resort of Zell am See, an hour from Salzburg airport, many residents from the Middle East are keen to swap the ferocious heat at home for fresh Alpine air. Their arrival is not without controversy — official leaflets advise visitors how to fit in with traditional Austrian ways.
“After five years of new construction, the council recently called a halt,” says Giles Gale of Mark Warner Property. So, with little for sale in Zell, Gale recommends the neighbouring villages of Kaprun and Saalbach.
Kaprun and Saalbach are only 15 minutes from Zell and significantly better value at about £360 a square foot for prime homes, against £540 in Zell.
In winter, one ski pass covers all three resorts. Saalbach can claim the largest ski area with 136 miles of slopes, while Kaprun has a glacier providing year-round skiing. Summer activities are even more extensive, from hiking to tennis, with Saalbach an especially popular mountain biking venue.
“International buyers want dual- season resorts and the Salzburg region is much more summer focused than the Tyrol,” says Gale.
“Hardcore skiers will always head to resorts such as Méribel in France or Verbier in Switzerland, but what Austria sacrifices in skiing miles it more than makes up in charm and friendliness.”
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Antonia Cooper first visited Zell am See in 2004 while studying for a year at the University of Graz.
“I joined some friends on a ski trip there and immediately fell in love with the town,” says Antonia, 31, a teacher from Teddington.
“It’s beautiful, like a fairytale come to life with a magical light from the lake and mountains.”
The following year, Antonia’s family decided to use a small inheritance from her father to buy a place to enjoy together, and she suggested Zell am See.
In 2006, together with her mother and two brothers, she bought a three-bedroom apartment and the family have holidayed there ever since. “We bought it as a ski home, but it is a year-round town and now I am torn about which season I enjoy the most,” says Antonia.
“It is hugely bonding, somewhere we can be together. At Christmas, 11 of us squish in. This year my brother’s three-year-old daughter, Amy, will be on skis for the first time.”
Antonia married Rob, left, in Zell am See last August. “He had been ski captain at Southampton University and he loves the town, too,” she adds. “We take every opportunity to visit.”