Warmer weather and inconsistent seasons have prompted diversification in the elite ski region.
Warmer winds are blowing in the ski industry — which isn’t a good thing.
According to Laurent Vanat, author of an annual report on snow and mountain tourism, the number of ski days (visits to ski slopes for part of, or a whole day) in the main ski destinations of the world dropped from about 350 million in 2008-09 to about 320 million in 2015-16.
This has been compounded by ageing populations and warmer weather. According to a report published this year by real-estate agency Savills, the northern hemisphere has lost one million square miles of spring snowpack since 1970, an area three times the size of Texas.
Shorter, inconsistent seasons have changed the way people holiday in the Alps. Rather than booking ahead, many are waiting for snow reports and flying in at the last minute. And some visitors don’t even want to ski. According to estate agency Knight Frank, non-skiers make up around 25 percent of visitors to the Alps.
Top-tier resorts are rallying. Many are investing heavily in snowmaking (shares in Europe’s biggest snow-cannon maker TechnoAlpin have grown 90 percent since 2011). Courchevel 1850, the highest and most elite resort in the Three Valleys ski area, is at the forefront of this. Lift company Société des Trois-Vallées (S3V), is spending €118 million between 2012 and 2019, to provide the very best ski infrastructure. Upgrades include replacement chairlifts (ultra-fast, lined with soft-black leather), the largest community of piste bashers (for that crisp wedding-cake finish), and armies of snow cannons. Courchevel now has an app that offers real-time data to inform skiers of the state of its pistes on a particular day.
The resort has had to adapt quickly to changing conditions, says Jérôme Lagoutte, head of Savills French Alps. When the bottom fell out of the Russian market three years ago, as much as 40 percent of Courchevel 1850’s predominant clientele dried up overnight.
Now Courchevel has turned its sights on embracing families and non-skiers, says Lagoutte. Last year, a £50 million indoor waterpark called Aquamotion opened its doors, open all year round. “Of course, clients prefer being sure of a good snow,” says Lagoutte. “But Courchevel bookings were good last year without much snow because clients are confident in being able to ski thanks to the snow cannons, compared to other ski resorts at lower altitude. And there are many other leisure activities here,” says Lagoutte.
Off its perfectly groomed pistes, a stroll through Courchevel 1850’s quaint winding village shows another perspective. On the Rue du Rocher, Cinderella-style horse and carriages have had a Roberto Cavalli makeover — covered in leopard print and emblazoned with an ornate logo. All of fashion’s big names are here: from Cartier to Chanel, Dior to Bvlgari and everything in between. A peek into the Louis Vuitton store reveals a window designed by Jeff Koons, bursting with shiny metallic lettering and blow-up bunnies.
Lunching up the slopes is a delightfully protracted affair, where your prime beef rib at La Soucoupe will be cooked, Savoyard-style, in the fireplace, accompanied by chilled Ruinart Champagne. Après ski sundowners can be taken at the one-acre al fresco terrace at Hotel Courcheneige, with its famous Waikiki cocktail bar.
And with its collection of 11 Michelin-starred restaurants, 18 five-star hotels, and a ski area of nearly 1,800 hectares, (equivalent to the five biggest ski areas in the US put together), this seems to be a resort where the pistes are paved with gold, whether you ski or not. Indeed, real estate in Courchevel 1850 remains in higher demand than ever, as the second-most expensive ski resort in the world to buy property, priced at €31,400 per square metre, according to Savills. Part of the demand is down to lack of supply, says Jeremy Rollason, director of Savills Ski. “Planning consent for developments of all sizes is increasingly difficult to obtain across the Alps.”
But the market is opening up. A rare new entry to Courchevel 1850’s property market is Six Senses Residences, offering 53 Morpheus-designed penthouses and apartments for between €1.5 million for a one-bed, up to €8.8 million for a five-bedroom property with 2,820 square feet of living space. Other fillips include a generous wine cellar, panoramic mountain views and a stylish ‘hygge’ club lounge with a crackling log fire. The property also comes with a ski-in, ski-out service to the nearby lift at La Croisette.
And being rentable, says Lagoutte, these apartments negate the recently enforced French wealth tax. “You are not affected by the wealth tax if you decide to rent out your apartment through the concierge,” he adds. Renting it out also recoups VAT, he adds. Rental values for a four-bedroom chalet in high season at Six Senses Residences Courchevel reach approximately €29,000 per week. Eighty percent of the development have already sold, with nine remaining.
Mindful of non-skiers and uncertain weather, Six Senses Residences has created the most sensational spa in the region, with membership included as a resident. At a palatial 7,500 square feet-plus, the wellness area includes a manicure and pedicure station, juice bar, five treatment rooms (the arnica and ginger oil massage is perfect after a day on the slopes), and a beautifully sculpted indoor swimming pool. After a few lengths, if you are brave enough, skip through the snow to the outdoor Jacuzzi where you can soak in the heat like a Japanese macaque, surrounded by a blanket of white. For serious skiers and performance athletes there is the hydrotherapeutic Kneipp Foot Bath, and residents can book a session in innovative NormaTec boots, which use dynamic compression for flexibility, recovery, circulation and healing.
“With its unique spa, it’s a perfect residence if the weather is good or bad in future,” says Lagoutte.
This article originally appeared in Billionaire's Giving Issue, December 2018. To subscribe contact
This article was featured in:
The Giving Issue