Winter is coming: Ski season starts early across Alps

Ski resorts across the Alps are opening their doors early this week, as impressive snowfall kicks off the season sooner than expected.

What has been heralded as the best snowfall in a November for 20 years has seen up to 75 centimetres of the white stuff arrive in the Alps, weeks earlier than expected. Indeed, in recent years, the ski industry has suffered from slower starts than usual, with mother nature taking a few extra weeks to give the slopes a good dusting for frustrated holidaymakers. This year, though, that does not look likely to be a problem, with resorts already beginning to welcome guests.

Alpe d’Huez in France has opened several runs three weeks sooner than planned, while The Telegraph reports that Val Thorens, Europe’s highest resort in the Trois Vallees area, is set to open this weekend, with 70 per cent of its lifts operating. Italy, Norway and Austria have also seen a number of resorts open.

“The 2016/17 season is starting well,” Frédéric Bonnevie, the director of Val Thorens’ snow patrol team, told the newspaper.

“To be able to open the ski area with good snow conditions from November 19 is very good news. We are benefiting from regular snowfalls and the cold temperature enables us to make artificial snow, which is essential for keeping a good snow base until May. We are preparing the ski area with 70cm of snow on the slopes and access to three summits at 3,000m.”

Courchevel’s new Keystone Lodge, which has recently completed, is also opening its doors this month. Buyers of the 12 luxury apartments from developer Alpine Lodges have begun to take ownership of their properties, located at the centre of Courchevel Moriond (1650), just as the first snowfall arrives in the Alps.

Alpine Lodges founder Patrick Remme comments: “We’re delighted to welcome both our new property owners and the first flakes of snow to Courchevel at the same time. It’s testament to the hard work and careful scheduling of our development team that we can deliver these new luxury residences ahead of the season’s official commencement on 10th December.”

The mood is upbeat for developer MGM French Properties too, which has just reported its best sumemr for five years.

The firm says it has seen a 20 per cent rise in French Alps property sales compared to last year. That growth includes record sales in August and September, with British buyers notably active, despite the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s Brexit vote. Indeed, Brits snapped up 60 per centof the developer’s apartments at Résidence Alexane, in Samoëns.

The strength of demand, particularly from Brits, is attributed to mortgage rates in France, which are still at historic lows, in addition to investment in resort infrastructure and more flexible leaseback rules.

Laurent Hallez, of MGM French Properties, comments: “Sales in summer 2016 were excellent, with a 20 per cent increase in the level of enquiries compared to last year. This underscores our belief that despite uncertainty UK buyers will continue to invest in high quality overseas property. Over the past few months, we have found savvy British investors eager to buy up French property as they look to take advantage of the historically low interest rates and attractive mortgage packages.”

“We are encouraged by the quality prospects ahead and look forward to a number of new leaseback and outright purchase developments in the Savoie region to be announced over the course of the season,” adds Hallez.