“The Alps are really coming into their own as a place to go in the summer,” says Kate Everett-Allen. “Culinary and cultural festivals – which have long been a feature in places like Aspen in the US – are increasingly common over here. Trail running, mountain biking and hiking are also a big draw. Basically, there are many more people now going for other purposes than winter sports.”
Would-be purchasers of alpine homes are reassessing their priorities too. Traditionally, owners of mountain properties might only spend two or three weeks of the year in residence. Especially since COVID, though, more and more are opting for extended stays. According to Knight Frank analysis, as many as one in four buyers are now seeking either a second home or co-primary property entirely for their own personal use, with no plans to rent out their property.
“I think there’s an acceptance that hybrid working is here to stay,” says Kate Everett-Allen. “A growing number of people are working some of the time from the Alps. This kind of buyer is attracted to places like Chamonix, where there’s a vibrant atmosphere all year-round, a permanent community, schools and so on. It has the infrastructure that would-be residents want.”
The highs and lows
For those who still crave winter sports above all else, the highest resorts may offer the best long-term potential for indulging their passion. However, “buying high” may also involve trade-offs. Because they are located above the treeline, they tend to be much less scenic than their lower-lying counterparts. And they are less likely to host thriving year-round communities and facilities, which can leave them feeling somewhat lifeless for seven months of the year.
“Having wonderful scenery as well as shops and restaurants that are open all year round are important,” says Roddy Aris. “The higher places are often very rocky, and therefore not as attractive or good for taking scenic walks. Contrast that to the green, fresh mid-altitude resorts of the Portes du Soleil, Megève, and Chamonix, where you’re below the treeline, and can walk through flower meadows.”
As global warming continues, it may also detract from the appeal of traditional summer destinations. Warnings abound that 50C (122F) maximum temperatures could become a regular occurrence across parts of Spain and France, for example. Such conditions could encourage more people to seek out the relative freshness of the mountains in July and August.
This is not the first time that the Alps have reinvented their raison d’être. Skiing only went mainstream in the post-World War II decades. In the 19th century, wealthy foreigners – especially Britons – made pilgrimages for health and wellbeing. The more adventurous went to scale the peaks. While winter sports are far from becoming history, the era before skiing may provide a template for the future. This could bode well for alpine real estate over the long term.