Hidden gems: where to buy your own ski home

Avoriaz chalets and apartments at night

The ski season is now well underway, and, if you’re preparing for another trip out to a rental property, you certainly wouldn’t be alone in dreaming of your own pied à terre on the slopes. And – if you know where to look – that home doesn’t need to be as pricey as you might think, as Christopher Nye, Senior Editor at experts in buying abroad, Property Guides, tells us.

Buying your own ski property

For any avid skier, owning your own ski property is almost a no-brainer – no more hotel or private rental fees, the possibility to pop out whenever you want and, of course, to invite family and friends.

ski chalets in the resort of combloux

It’s becoming increasingly popular for ski home owners to also take advantage of the strong investment potential wrapped up in their property. Firstly, by renting out your home when you’re not using it, you could find that you cover your costs at the very least. A four-bedroom chalet in Combloux, for example, can rent for €3,000 per week. With the rise in dual seasonality, as resorts push themselves as summer destinations for hikers, bikers and climbers, you could see an extended rentability with the potential to make money year-round.

All this doesn’t necessarily need to come at a prohibitive cost, either – and many more affordable resorts can actually deliver higher percentage returns for investors. Here are some of our top picks to buy a ski chalet or apartment, beyond the pricey big names.


St-Martin-de-Belleville has Alpine charm in spades for a much lower price tag. The village itself is quiet and unspoilt, with a high proportion of permanent residents. However, since the 1980s, it has opened up to the ski market with the construction of lifts linking it to the fantastic Trois-Vallées ski area, with its 600km of slopes spread across the Belleville, Les Allues and Saint-Bon valleys. A small, one-bedroom resale apartment here can go for as little as €130,000, and a chalet directly in the village itself for €400,000. Head into one of the neighbouring villages, like Villarenger, and you can purchase a home from €280,000.

Les Angles

Down to the Pyrenees, and you can find some fantastic bargains here. The resort has a good snow record, supplemented by artificial snow cannons across over two thirds of the slopes. It has a good variety of runs, with 10km of advanced slopes, 23km intermediate and 22km for beginners.

Property here is much more affordable than in the Alps, and you can purchase a three-bedroom duplex for between €120,000 and €200,000.

Alta Badia

Alta Badia offers fantastic skiing against the backdrop of the dramatic Dolomites, easy transfers from the UK and lower property prices than many of its Alpine neighbours – what’s not to love? The resort’s a regular on the Ski World Cup, especially the classic Gran Risa, but it’s also ideal for families, with 70km of beginner slopes.

A high-quality apartment will sell from €300,000 up.

Zell am See

Gondola over the slopes and lake of Zell am See

Zell am See is one of Austria’s most popular skiing resorts and has undergone a big transformation, with new facilities including the zellamseeXpress gondola to the expanded Viehofen ski slope. Although sometimes the snowfall can be affected by the lower altitude, it’s not an issue as 100% of the resort is covered by its 483 snow cannons. For a one- to two-bedroom apartment, you can expect to pay from the mid-€300,000s upwards.


Switzerland certainly has a deserved reputation for its prime property market, but you can still find more affordable spots. In Champéry, for instance, you can buy a two-bedroom apartment for around €300,000, although prices can go up into the millions.

Champéry gives you access to the entire Portes du Soleil area, with as much as 650km of marked pistes, and, like St-Martin-de-Belleville, has an authentic feel as a historic, non-purpose-built village. There’s plenty more to do in the surrounding area in the summer, including forest circuits, hiking and more.

Avoiding hidden costs

We are in a volatile time, politically and economically. If you’re looking to buy from abroad, this can have a big effect on your budget – unless you plan ahead. If you offer on a property, the price you offer on is in the seller’s currency, and that is fixed. However, what that price equals in your currency is constantly changing. Between having the offer accepted and paying your deposit, you could see the price move by thousands. For many buyers, using a specialist option like a forward contract – which secures the same exchange rate for a fixed period of time – helps them to budget realistically, knowing that the price won’t change, even when the live markets do.

Fees and taxes

Depending on where you’re buying, you will also naturally need to budget for different fees and taxes. All major European skiing locations are in countries that use a notarial system, meaning that you will have a certain level of notary’s fees to pay. These vary from region to region.

In Switzerland, depending on the canton, you’re usually looking at 2.5-3% of the property’s value, or, in Austria, 2% plus VAT. In Italy and Spain, the calculation is made on a slightly more complicated process, but usually you can expect to pay around €1,000-€3,000 in the former and €600-850 in the latter. In France, it’s based on a sliding scale, with percentages varying from 3.94% to 0.814% for anything over €60,000.

Likewise, you need to take into account local taxes. For example, in France, as a property owner, you’ll pay the taxe foncière, based on your house’s cadastral value, and the taxe d’habitation (soon to be phased out) if it’s you who’s occupying it. In Switzerland, property taxes are around 0.3-0.5%, depending on the canton. In Austria, the property transfer tax, or Grunderwerbsteuer, comes to 3.5% and the land registry tax, or Grundbuchseintragungsgebühr, comes to 1.1%.

A ski home of your own

There are so many compelling reasons to buy a ski property, whether from an investment or pure enjoyment point of view, and, with the ski season underway, this could be the ideal time to combine your holiday with a viewing trip to find your perfect property. Will you find your dream home in 2020?


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