Only a few short years ago, buyers of ski properties in Aspen were on the hunt for temperature-controlled wine rooms, geothermal heating systems, and security, lighting, and temperature features they could control from their smartphones. “Those are just a basic expectation among buyers now,” not extravagant amenities, says Joshua Saslove, an Elliman agent who represents some of the area’s most exclusive homes. “We’re talking about 2020 now: Everybody expects a smart-controlled house. My car comes out of the garage by itself.” High-tech security systems and cameras are de rigueur, too, in luxury mountain homes. “But we’re really only checking those cameras to see if a bear is outside,” he says with a laugh. The next generation of ski house amenities is all about convenience, he says. “Things you might not know you needed, like in-wall USB ports.”
More sophisticated humidity controls are key for owners with important art collections, Saslove says. “They require a lot of approvals, and you’ll pay a high premium for humidity control,” he says, “but for the several very important art collections here, they’re a requirement.” And while geothermal heating and windows that trap heat are in demand, outdoor heating—in the form of snow melt systems—is nearly as desirable. “Those are hard to permit and rare to find.” So are properties equipped with them, like 220 Buttermilk Lane, a 14,000-square-foot home whose heated driveway means owners never have to worry about shoveling the snow.
This Exhibition Lane home is one of only three homes on Aspen Mountain that is a true ski-in, ski-out property (residents can watch skiers on the chairlift go by as they have their morning coffee, without being seen themselves). And 220 Buttermilk Lane sits right at the top of the X Games halfpipe. Because no one can install a ski experience quite like Mother Nature herself.
EUROPE REPORT: AT HOME IN THE ALPS
For many avid skiers, owning a home in the French or Swiss Alps is the dream of a lifetime. If you’re considering making that dream a reality, you’ll need to determine your priorities. For example, if you’re an advanced skier, altitude might top your list. (The higher the altitude, the more likely you are to enjoy a long ski season.) If you’ve got a family that includes beginner skiers, you might prefer a dual season resort with a broader range of facilities. It’s also wise to understand current market trends, such as exchange rates. Knight Frank’s annual Ski Property Report provides a snapshot to help you weigh trends that may affect your purchase. Here are five factors likely to impact ski markets—and the value of properties in them—identified in the newest report. (Access the full report, free of charge, at knightfrank.co.uk.)
Méribel, France | Property Ref: RSI190056 | €3,980,000
An estimated 40% of ski homes purchased in the Alps involve a foreign stakeholder, which means exchange rates have an important bearing on the transaction. While a ski home can be a smart investment to offset risk by decreasing your exposure to dollar- or Euro-denominated assets, when contemplating which price bracket to target, it pays to monitor the exchange rate.
A HOME FOR ALL SEASONS
The days of buying a ski home for use exclusively in the winter months are gone now that the Alps have capitalized on the global push to improve health and fitness, and enjoy the great outdoors all year round. Summer tourist numbers now rival those in winter months, thanks to a broad range of activities available, including mountain biking, hiking, paragliding, abseiling, and glacier skiing. Social, cultural, and sporting events throughout the year—from polo championships to jazz and food festivals—also boost tourists and rental numbers.
Villars, Switzerland | Property Ref: RSI161021 | CHF 8,950,000
Unlike beach holidays, where teenagers often head off independently with friends, skiing in the Alps provides the opportunity for a full day of shared activities on the slopes, including lunches and evening meals. What’s more, Swiss resorts host some of the world’s top private schools, which appeals to international buyers who have children enrolled and want a nearby base for visits.
With climate change on many people’s minds, it’s likely that more buyers will target high-altitude resorts, where they can maximize the length of the ski season in coming years. However, new energy-efficient snow guns and cannons are helping to prolong the ski season at lower-altitude resorts, and specialized machines can relocate snow to the busiest pistes.
Chamonix, France | Property Ref: MBA180040 | €3,350,000
EAST MEETS WEST
Several factors suggest that we’re likely to see more Chinese tourists and buyers in the Alps in the future, which could affect the price of ski properties and their value as investments. Driving this trend are Asia’s strong rate of wealth creation, cheaper flights to Europe, and growing enthusiasm for travel and winter sports in Asian countries. With most owners of ski homes eager for a rental return to cover their costs, inexpensive flights from more locations will likely help maximize potential rental demand and income.
—by Andrea Bennett