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The Times - Family Friendly Alpine Ski Resorts

17 Feb, 2022 by Investors In Property

With more and more attention being shown to the mountains these days, Cathy Hawker of The Times has written a piece on some of the best family friendly resorts. As Saas Fee is the main focus, we were more than happy to lend our expertise, with our MD Simon featuring on numerous occasions. You can see the main points of the article below and a full link here (subsciption may be required). 

"It’s February half-term and Alpine slopes are alive once more. After a two-year hiatus and despite continuing regulations for vaccinations, masks and fit-to-fly tests, the return to the mountains is something to celebrate whether you’re an avid dawn-to-dusk skier or prefer panoramic views and lengthy cheese-filled lunches. The Best Ski Resort Report, an independent visitor satisfaction survey conducted in 55 leading Alpine resorts, put Zermatt as the overall winner between 2012-2020 — but local rules make owning property there all but impossible for non-Swiss buyers. So where else should you look?

Nendaz and Veysonnaz in the Four Valleys share the same slopes as top-dollar Verbier but have more affordable property prices.  Villars is great for its easy access to Geneva airport and many international schools, giving it true year-round life, and Crans Montana for its events, and activities for children, good skiing and lakes to enjoy in summer.

If you’re after a foothold in a high-altitude family-friendly resort that you can afford to buy in, here’s our snow-sure pick in the shadow of the Matterhorn.

Saas Fee, Switzerland
There’s a host of similarities between the Swiss resorts of Saas Fee and Zermatt. Both are within three hours of Geneva airport, both are charming, car-free villages and both carry an unwaveringly dependable snowfall reputation. However, while Zermatt is a superstar of the Alpine world, dominated by the Matterhorn, Saas Fee is rather more under the radar.

“We get a huge number of inquiries for Zermatt but foreigners are not permitted to buy property,” says Simon Malster, the managing director of Investors in Property. “Our advice is to check out Saas Fee. It’s a real village with a school and year-round life; wonderful scenery and something for all levels, from first-time skiers to serious mountaineers.”

Car free since 1951 and rapidly approaching carbon-neutral status, Saas Fee is totally powered by renewable hydroelectric energy. A new SwFr5 million [£4 million] pumping station guarantees the water for artificial snow on the lower slopes and an electric roller conveyor now links skiers with Metro Alpin, the world’s highest funicular railway. There are plans to build a gondola from Metro Alpin to Feekopf. Saas Fee’s 120km of piste include one of the highest vertical drops in the Alps — from 3,600m to 1,800m.

It is why Saas Fee is a regular top-five performer in the Ski Resilience Index, a measure of the quality and reliability of a resort’s conditions and resilience to climate change. “Saas Fee’s excellent snow record comes from its high altitude and a comparatively long season of 281 days, including glacier skiing in the summer.” Many national race teams use Saas Fee for off-season race training.”

An added attraction is the value for money with prices about half of those in Zermatt, but the combination of that value and snow-sure slopes have led to significant price rises. Malster reports that the price of resale homes has jumped 25 per cent in the past year and new flats by even more. “Two-bedroom apartments start around SwFr750,000 and three bedrooms from SwFr1.1 million, but you could easily spend over SwFr3 million on a penthouse near the slopes,” he says. “Chalets start from SwFr2 million.”

Especially in demand are smart new-builds in former hotels run by generations of the same family, some beautiful dark wood chalets more than 100 years old and others dating from the 1960s. Once renovated, interiors mix high-tech, contemporary styling with wonderful antique wood. Good examples include the Grand — formerly the Metropol — part of a 57-apartment development; the Astoria, due for completion in August, where the final four-bedder is for sale at SwFr1.4 million; and Saastal Village, where a two-bedroom bolt hole in the new-build Nordic development is SwFr720,000.

“It’s a traditional village with so much character,” says Jamie Mullner, 31, who arrived with his brother Jack, 29, a decade ago and has never left. “Locals turn up for festivals in national dress and there are street parties like the [Nostalgic] Culinary Mile food festival every September. In winter we play curling on the ice and in summer we play boules outside the Hotel La Gorge. Best of all is the setting. We film all over Switzerland but I always wonder at that amazing view when I walk back into the village.”