The health benefits of the mountains have long been known, but the clean air, crystal-clear springs and dramatic natural scenery draw an ever-increasing number of visitors and homeowners to the Alps. Europe’s leaders are among those escaping for respite and rejuvenation – German chancellor Angela Merkel regularly dons her hiking boots for a hike in the Bavarian Alps, and last summer UK Prime Minister Theresa May took a breather from Brexit talks to escape to Zermatt and the Bernese Oberland.
Austria offers some high-quality and affordable new developments with strong rental returns, but Switzerland remains a firm favourite as a blue-chip investment. Verbier is the most popular resort for our buyers, with its challenging ski terrain and lively party scene. "Verbier is constantly reinventing itself," explains Jeremy Rollason, managing director of Alpine Homes. "In recent years the fashionable W Verbier hotel arrived, and this season sees the opening of a brand-new bistro and restaurant as part of the Rosalp redevelopment in the centre."
For those who can’t afford Verbier, there are the satellite resorts of the same valley: Nendaz, Veysonnaz, Les Collons and La Tzoumaz. "We own a chalet in a small village near Verbier, but my favourite resort is Zermatt," says Rollason. "The ambience of cobbled streets and horse-drawn carriages adorned with animal furs, plus the smells of raclette and other mountain delicacies is impossible to resist. The skiing is almost ancillary."
France’s Les Trois Vallées have some of the best restaurants in the Alps, too – yet of course it is the winter sports of the world’s largest ski domain that draw millions of visitors each year. "The excellent skiing, along with the quality of the hotels and amenities, are unmatched by any of the other French ski areas," says Jérôme Lagoutte, head of Savills French Alps. "Courchevel 1850 is where people head for the kudos, and the fact that big names such as LVMH’s Bernard Arnault are investing there – with the Cheval Blanc and White 1921 hotels – is very reassuring to buyers."
However, many clients are also looking to buy in Méribel – where Savills has recently opened a new office – a quieter resort that is popular with families. As in the Verbier valley, there are the smaller, more affordable resorts nearby, too: Courchevel Le Praz (1300), 1550 and 1650, La Tania and St Martin de Belleville.