Chamonix leapfrogs Val d’Isère & Gstaad in alpine property league

French resorts flying high while currency and clampdowns combine to put Swiss neighbours on a slippery slope

The French resort of Chamonix has whistled past its alpine competitors, posting property price growth of nearly 5% for the second year on the bounce.

Knight Frank’s ninth annual Alpine Property Index – which tracks performance across 16 resorts in the French and Swiss Alps – puts Val d’Isère and Gstaad in second and third position this year, with annual price growth of 2.5% and 1.8% respectively, some way behind Chamonix’s 4.8%.

Many of the big resorts have been investing heavily on making themselves into year-round destinations, notes the firm, which is clearly the way forward given that non-skiers now make up an estimated 25% of alpine visitors. Activity-rich Chamonix is generally seen as the best-equipped for this shift, whilst Val d’Isère has reliable snow cover and one of the longest seasons thanks to its altitude of 1,850 metres. Supply in Gstaad is famously thin on the ground, so prices tend to remain sky-high whatever the conditions.

At the other end of the scale, Swiss resorts have struggled with the strength of the Swiss Franc and restrictions on foreign buyers (crucially the 20% second home cap), which have combined to put the brakes on buying activity. Vendors are also hesitant, and the luxury market has slowed considerably; Crans Montana posted the biggest fall of all the resorts surveyed, down -15% over the year.

Overall, the index fell by -1.8% on an annual basis, but the French/Swiss split is perhaps more indicative of the current situ. While French resorts saw prices rise by an average of 1%, their Swiss neighbours saw an average drop-off of -5%.

Roddy Aris, Knight Frank, France: “It is a very exciting time to be investing in the Alps. There are of course challenges ahead such as the long-term implications of Brexit and the erratic winter seasons but the draw of the mountains has never been stronger. Resorts are having to evolve and adapt to meet the demands of today’s buyers. Huge investments have been pledged across the Alps from artificial snow-making facilities to adapting and evolving activities for the summer and family market.”

Alex Koch de Gooreynd, Knight Frank, Switzerland: “When we first started working in the Swiss market eight years ago, most of my enquiries were from clients wishing to take advantage of the preferential tax arrangements on offer. This has changed dramatically in recent years with Switzerland proving to be one of the more stable economies for investment. Today my clients are drawn to the region by the stable economy, excellent personal safety and world-class education. The property market has also gone through changes but performance differs hugely from canton to canton. In the city centres, a lack of quality stock has maintained price levels while those regions with an abundance of stock have undergone a price correction.”