It’s been a banner year for skiers. In the United States, El Niño has brought buckets of white fluffy snow to the Rocky Mountains. In the Alps, the knock-on effect of recent winter storms streaming across the Atlantic has also brought fresh snow to resorts in France and Switzerland. And a good season for skiers means strong property sales. “When it snows, everybody’s happy,” says Tye Stockton, broker and owner at The Stockton Group in Vail, Colorado, who recently sold a penthouse for $3,000 per square foot.
Demand is also up at European resorts, particularly in France and Austria where a weaker Euro has opened up investment opportunities for U.K. buyers, and stock market-wary investors are turning to property gold. “There is a move towards property assets by High Net Worth Individuals, frustrated with low bank deposit returns and nervous equity markets,” says Jeremy Rollason, managing director of Alpine Homes and exclusive associate of Savills for the Swiss, Italian, and Austrian Alps.
Skiers have long debated the merits of North America’s champagne powder versus the Alpine après ski, but when it comes to prime properties, how do the options compare?
Generally, Europe offers a larger number of resorts and higher property prices. The Alps are host to 82 percent of the world’s largest ski resorts and attract 44 percent of global ski visitors annually, according to the Savills annual ski property index. Courchevel 1850 is the region’s most expensive, with prices averaging $3,278 per square foot, followed closely by Gstaad and St Moritz.
Part of the world’s largest ski area, the 600-kilometer “Les Trois Vallees,” Courchevel 1850 caters to Russian oligarchs and wealthy Parisians with its plush hotels, Michelin star restaurants, and private jet access. Convenience and amenities are essential to luxury properties here, and developers continue to raise the bar. At the new Six Senses Residences, Courchevel owners have access to a Six Senses Spa, a gym, and an indoor pool and private ski-in-ski-out concierge service.
The project, which is billing itself as the “first fully-serviced residential development in Courchevel 1850,” is priced from $2.1 million to $13.8 million and includes one- to three-bedroom apartments and a selection of duplex penthouses. These range up to 3,200 square feet in size with five bedrooms, a private wine cellar, and triple aspect balconies overlooking the slopes. The residence interiors are designed by Alain Foeillet and feature custom furnishings and materials that blend contemporary design with a traditional alpine aesthetic.
On this side of the pond, land is more readily available than in tightly packed European resorts; but for a country of its size, the US has relatively few resorts of international renown. Vail stands apart as an ultra-prime resort on par with the top European competition at $2,636 per square foot. (Aspen is number two in America, but its sprawling mountain estates don’t pass the $1,377-per-square-foot mark.)
Vail’s mountain village benefits both from demand among a large domestic high net worth community and a compact, walkable resort design inspired by European ski villages. “We have a narrow valley and everyone’s competing for properties in a small window, which creates scarcity,” Stockton says. Current prices remain below their 2007 high, but recovery has been driven by the top end of the market, and in core areas, prices have in some cases exceeded their pre-recession levels.
As in Courchevel, the most coveted properties in Vail have easy access to the slopes and a full roster of amenities. Stockton is currently listing a two-level penthouse at the new Ritz Carlton Residences Vail for $7.79 million. The property features 4,611 square feet with four bedrooms, five bathrooms, three balconies, and sweeping valley views. Worth Interiors furnished the residence using warm grey, taupe tones, and accents of Colorado sky blue for a mountain modern look.
The penthouse also includes a den and game room as well as a secondary living area on the upper floor with its own junior master suite. Residents enjoy access to a fitness center, pool, hot tub, and the Ritz-Carlton shuttle service to Vail Village.
Though January sales have been slow, Stockton remains bullish about the market moving forward. “I believe the market will show continuous strength for the next 18 to 24 months. Our supply has decreased, and the desire to own in Vail and Beaver Creek continues to show no signs of letting up.”
Savills’ Jeremy Rollason believes market dynamics in the European Alps will depend to an extent on currencies and other macro economic factors, such as interest rates and growth rates. But, “ceteris paribus” he says, “we envisage two to three percent per annum capital appreciation on average over the next two years, with some resorts perhaps surpassing this.”
Images courtesy of The Stockton Group and Savills