Want to invest in a summer holiday let in France? Consider a cheap ski resort

Gaube lake near the Pyrenean ski resort of Cauterets in summer 

Gaube lake near the Pyrenean ski resort of Cauterets, equally lovely in summer - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ski resorts with lower property prices and lower altitudes than the big Alpine names are among the best places in France to buy a summer holiday let, new data suggests.  

We all know that short-term rentals by the French seaside rake in high returns in the warmer months while glamorous ski resorts shine in the winter. But some of France's more low-key mountain destinations saw major growth over the summer.  

An analysis by rental intelligence platform AirDNA of more than half a million Airbnb and Vrbo listings in France shows that ski stations saw the biggest improvement in average revenue per available rental night when comparing June 2021 with June 2020.  

And although famously glamorous resorts such as Megève, Courchevel and Méribel make the top 10 on this metric, some of the biggest growth was found in lower altitude ski resorts, where property is cheaper – not only in the Alps but also the Pyrénées, Massif Central and Vosges mountains. Property experts expect this trend to continue beyond the pandemic as people seek less crowded and more natural destinations for their summer holidays.

Samoëns, a popular low-altitude ski resort in Haute-Savoie 

Samoëns, a popular low-altitude ski resort in Haute-Savoie - Credit: Aurelien Antoine - Getty Images/iStockphoto

Affordable resorts  

Valmorel, a Savoyard village at 1,100m altitude, for example, is overshadowed as a winter resort by its world-famous neighbours in the Three Valleys ski area, which partly explains why property prices there (€4,190/m2) are less than half what you’d have to pay in Courchevel (€8,760/m2), Méribel (€8,070/m2) or Val d’Isère (€10,390/m2).  

However, the average revenue per available rental night (RevPAR)made by holiday lets in Valmorel was a whopping 303% higher in June 2021 than in June 2020, putting it in top place nationally according to AirDNA’s data. 

Les Orres, a lakeside village in the Ecrins national park of the southern Alps, where the average property is €2,380/m2, doubled its year-on-year RevPAR in June. Other ski resorts to make the top 10 included Mont-de-Lans the lowest part of the Deux-Alpes ski area in Isère (€3,670/m2); and Samoëns, a charming and laid-back village in Haute-Savoie at just 700m altitude but with fast lifts to high-altitude slopes (€4,060/m2).  

It’s not just the Alps that are enjoying more lucrative summer rentals. In 12th place was the Auvergne ski resort of Super Besse, where the average property costs €2,360/m2, while the ski stations of Cauterets (€2,940/m2) and St-Lary-Soulan (€2,760/m2) in the Pyrénées came in at 20th and 25th place respectively. Gérardmer (€2,100/m2) and La Bresse (€1,920/m2) in the Vosges mountains of Grand Est were also in the top 50. House prices in these latter two resorts are below the national average, yet the low mountain range is less than six hours’ drive from Calais. 

The Ecrins national park in the southern Alps of France

The Ecrins national park in the southern Alps - Credit: Karen Tait

Alps market comment

Heather Byrne, Leggett Immobilier’s regional manager for the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes et Haute-Alpes, said the lower ski resorts of the Alps were particularly busy last summer due to the pandemic, as French families enjoyed ‘staycations’ that avoided packed beaches.  

“There was a real wish to be 'away from it all' and out in the fresh air and those who came were rewarded with a wonderful summer with all the activities available to them,” she said. 
Even outside the peak summer months, more visitors than normal opted for mountain life over the beach vibe, added Heather. “Those who were cautious consciously choose mountain holidays for the experience of being able to walk out of your door into the quiet and beautiful blue yonder. This was a wonderful result for all service suppliers, rentals companies and individuals, restaurants and so on, and we believe that this trend will continue as tourists realise that actually the Alps are equally captivating in the summer season as in the winter.” 

Buyers also made a beeline for the lower-altitude and more affordable ski resorts last summer, Heather continued. “The French have always enjoyed Samoëns and Valmorel, for example, and the international market is catching on fast,” she said. “Another mountain range less well known with the international market is the Bauges, where you find small, family-friendly and cheap ski resorts and incredibly active summers, especially as you are close to Lac d'Annecy with its many summer water sports on offer. 

“We certainly found that resorts such as St-Gervais-les-Bains, les Allues (Méribel), St-Martin-de Belleville (which includes Val Thorens), les Orres, Serre Chevalier and many more lower resorts and ski towns kept our agents very busy as people rushed to buy where all year-round availability was more apparent. None the less, the high resorts like les Menuires and la Plagne remain just as popular because it's hard to beat ski in / out for the addicted snow junkies.”

The lake at Gérardmer in the Vosges mountains

The lake at Gérardmer in the Vosges mountains - Credit: latortuezoum Getty Images/iStockphoto

Most Read

Super summers in Super Besse

British expat Tim Bell is a big fan of summers in Super Besse, a ski station in the dormant volcanic mountains of the Auvergne. 

“The resort, with its comparatively shorter ski season has been working hard to attract the nature and adrenaline seeker during the non-skiing months,” said Tim, who owns Chabanettes Hotel & Spa in Puy-de-Dôme. “Visitors can now enjoy a high-altitude zip-wire network, catapulting you nearly 300m high above waterfalls and stunning mountain scenery. A summer toboggan takes visitors on a twisting-turning slide 500m down the slopes. And at ground level, the Lac des Hermines enjoys a gentler rhythm of enjoyment with a landscaped beach and paddleboarding for those keen to keep moving at a much slower pace on the water.  

“The vast plethora of clearly marked hiking routes across the Sancy range draw keen ramblers from far and wide who are keen to experience themselves the unrivalled views across this volcanic landscape. And if hiking to nearly 1900m feels a little too strenuous, the ski lifts still operate during the warmer months allowing easy, affordable and regular access to the summits. The nearby Lac Pavin, a natural, perfectly round lake in volcanic crater is also a must-see for visitors to Sancy.”