Did you know that the biggest ski area in the world is in France? In fact, you’ll find three of the world’s top ski domains in the French Alps: Les Trois Vallées, Portes du Soleil and Paradiski.
Between them they offer over 1,600km of pistes, and 461 ski lifts, attracting skiers from all over the world. There are ski runs for everyone from beginners to experts, and skiers to boarders, with legendary après-ski too. In spring and summer the peaks and valleys are transformed into verdant vistas and mountain meadows. If anything, there are even more activities on offer, from hiking to mountain biking, and canyoning to parapenting. The French Alps are a veritable outdoor playground!
They’re also the perfect place to own a holiday home for year-round use, with fantastic potential for holiday rentals when you’re not using it yourself. And it’s a great place to move to full-time and set up a tourism business. Although top ski resorts like Courchevel have some of the priciest property in France, they keep their value and generally provide good capital appreciation and rental returns. For more affordable homes, look a little further away from the main ski lifts and amenities.
Here’s our guide to the top three ski areas in France, with 16 examples of the properties you could buy there, from studio apartments to barns for conversion and spacious chalets.
LES 3 VALLEES
Also known as the Three Valleys, here you’ll find over 600km of ski slopes and 136 lifts, all accessible with just one lift pass. Set within the Vanoise massif in the Savoie department, the main resorts are Val Thorens, Méribel, Courchevel, La Tania, Les Menuires, and St-Martin de Belleville. At 1,100m and 3,230m altitude, this vast ski area varies between challenging high-Alpine terrain and gentler meadows, with off-piste through forested slopes.
With 312km of easy blue runs, the Three Valleys is ideal for beginners, but more advanced skiers and snowboarders will be equally happy with 216km of intermediate (red) runs and 72km of difficult (black) runs. There’s also 50km of cross-country routes, children’s areas and snow parks.
Average square metre apartment/house prices (Meilleurs Agents) are €6,065/€8,848 in Val Thorens and Les Menuires, €8,671/10,925 in Meribel and €9,662/11,577 in Courchevel. Although chalets here can cost several millions – for example, on FrancePropertyShop.com a big budget could be blown on a luxury seven-bedroom chalet with staff accommodation for €16m – there are more affordable options too, as you’ll see below.
• €189,000: Meribel: Charming studio apartment with a large mezzanine bedroom, living area, kitchenette, shower room with WC, balcony with gorgeous mountain views, separate ski locker and on-site parking. A short walk to the chair lift and close to amenities including two restaurants, bar, shop, bus stop and ski rental shop.
• €195,000, St-Martin de Belleville: In the village of Villarbon, just 2km from St-Martin de Belleville and its amenities, this barn offers the chance to create your own mountain property in a peaceful village setting. Set over three floors, there is the option to create a house with four or more bedrooms.
• €279,900, Les Menuires: Contemporary ski in-ski out apartment of 42sqm in a 4* residence with a large double bedroom, bunkbed area, bathroom, open-plan living, kitchen and dining area, balcony, ski locker and private parking. This property is for sale with a rental contract obligation, with three weeks of owner usage, and so makes for a good rental investment.
• €310,000, Courchevel/Meribel: A renovated two-bedroom house with cellar in a village between Courchevel and Meribel. Open-plan living/dining/kitchen area, with a balcony offering views of the village and the old village bread oven. An open mezzanine creates a very high ceiling over the sitting area and provides a double bedroom with fantastic roof top and mountain views. Underfloor heating and woodburning stove.
• €420,000, Courchevel (St-Bon): In the heart of the original village of Courchevel, this spacious barn conversion is now a two ensuite bedroom house with separate storage area currently used as a studio. Original barn doors lead you to a large entrance hall and open-plan living space with a woodburning stove. The master bedroom has amazing mountain views. Lots of unique features, including old beams, high ceilings and wooden floors as well as a sweeping staircase. The property is being sold fully furnished and some of the pieces are very unique.
• €1.79m, Courchevel (La Perriere): Six-bedroom, one-studio chalet in great location in the heart of Courchevel Moriond (1650) near shops and lifts with a large sunny garden and panoramic views. On the ground floor, there’s an L-shaped living space with a sitting room, woodburner, dining room and kitchen, leading out to the large south-facing terrace and big garden with shed. On the lower ground floor is the independent studio apartment, as well as a large, dry cellar for storage or possible conversion to another apartment.
PORTES DU SOLEIL
On the French-Swiss border, between Mont Blanc and Lake Geneva, the second-largest ski area in the world offers 580km of slopes and 165 lifts, with 13 resorts including Morzine, Avoriaz, Les Gets and Châtel. Within the Illiez valley in the Haute-Savoie department, much of the Portes du Soleil is within an hour’s drive of Geneva airport. Don’t forget to take your passport with you if you’re likely to be skiing over the border with Switzerland!
There are 310km of easy (blue) runs, 210km of intermediate (red) runs and 60km of difficult (black) runs, as well as over a dozen snowparks and boarder-cross trails. Morzine is a particularly popular spot for British buyers, with traditional architecture and a proper town feel, and it and Les Gets are also popular for summer downhill mountain-biking.
Average square metre apartment/house prices are €6,164/€8,105 in Morzine and Avoriaz, €7,099/€8,274 in Les Gets, and €4,698/€6,198 in Châtel.
• €145,000, Châtel: First-floor one-bedroom apartment with a balcony, parking and ski locker. It’s situated within Le Grand Lodge residence, which has swimming pools and a sauna, and is just 500m from ski lifts. This property is a managed rental investment, providing an annual rent of €7,104.
• €325,000, Morzine: Two-bedroom apartment in the heart of the town, just a short walk to all the shops, bars and restaurants, as well as the Super Morzine bubble lift, ice rink and swimming pool. Excellent rentability.
• €259,000, Les Gets: Top-floor, three-bed apartment sleeping six-eight people, with a south-facing balcony and unobstructed mountain views. The property is close to the foot of the slopes, ski lifts and bus stop as well as all shops and activities. Good rental returns possible.
• €275,000, St-Jean d’Aulps: Semi-detached chalet property with massive renovation potential on the Route des Grandes Alps close to Morzine. With land in excess of 1,300m2, this house could be converted into a large house or two apartments.
• €695,000, Morzine/Avoriaz: Beautifully presented semi-detached chalet built in 2007 offering four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large garage and terrace. Located only 500m from the Prodains cable car which leads directly to Avoriaz. The traditional wooden chalet is one of two for sale.
France’s third largest ski area is arguably the third largest in the world too, depending on the data you use. Situated within the Tarentaise valley, it offers some 425km of pistes and 160 lifts, including the Vanoise Express double-decker cable car (the only one of its type ever made), installed in 2003/4 and linking the resorts of Les Arcs, Peisey-Vallandry and La Plagne. Les Arcs is made up of four modern, purpose-built resorts: Arc 1600, Arc 1800, Arc 1950 and Arc 2000.
Some 70% of Paradiski’s ski slopes sit above 2,000m altitude, providing reliable snow cover all winter long. There are fantastic views of Mont Blanc, especially from the top of the Aiguille Rouge lift (3,226m), which is also the place for off-piste adventures, and there’s skiing on two glaciers, Varet and Chiaupe. Paradiski is also known for its Nordic or cross-country skiing with 150km of trails.
Property is generally more affordable here than Les 3 Vallées and Portes du Soleil, with average square metre apartment/house prices of €4,018/€4,349 in Les Arcs and €3,724/€4,015 in La Plagne.
• €215,000 La Plagne: Two-bedroom, non-leaseback apartment with balcony and forest views in the Chalet de Wengen residence in Les Coches, with reception facilities, swimming pool, sauna and hammam. The apartment is available fully furnished and comes with a cellar space and a ski locker. The property is in the village of Les Coches with shops, bars, restaurants and local tree-lined runs, and fast links into high-altitude La Plagne.
• €295,000, Peisey-Vallandry: Four-bedroom apartment in a mansion house in Peisey-Nancroix close to ski pistes and the Vanoise National Park. The apartment benefits from a very large garden that is shared by the five apartments in the building.
• €339,000, Les Arcs: Lovely house with old beams walking distance from the centre of Les Arcs, with unobstructed views in a quiet area. There’s a beautiful living room with fireplace, dining room and kitchen opening onto a very large partly covered terrace, three large ensuite bedrooms. Some modernising required.
• €694,999, Peissey-Vallandry: One of two apartments within a beautifully renovated 18th-century farmhouse, this fully furnished six/seven-bedroom apartment in Peisey-Nancroix has a modern open-plan kitchen, dining, lounge area with a large south facing balcony and spectacular mountain views. Although an apartment, it feels like a complete chalet, and has been successfully rented out for over 10 years as a catered chalet.
• €790,000, La Plagne: Semi-detached chalet in a great location opposite the Plagne 1800 chairlift, with all amenities and the free shuttle bus stop on the doorstep. Four bedrooms, four bathrooms, spacious lounge, diner, kitchen with access to a large terrace, plus two garages and parking space for two cars.