Family-friendly Les Gets, Haute-Savoie

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- Credit: Archant

With year-round activities for all ages to enjoy and opportunities aplenty to buy a pied-à-terre on the piste, Les Gets is the place to be, as Ben Palfreyman discovers

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- Credit: Archant

Armed with borrowed boards, two lessons at the Hemel Hempstead Snow Centre and a healthy dose of unsubstantiated optimism, I collect my ski passes and take my first ever gondola to the top of the Mont Chéry slopes above the picturesque village of Les Gets.

The conditions are perfect. A fresh blanket of snow has fallen overnight and lies, softly glistening, in the uproarious morning sunshine. Stomping through the village in our hired snow boots, we could see the pistes beckoning, peppered with the brightly coloured jackets of skiers and boarders who had heard the mountain’s call even earlier than we did.

As the téléski makes its way through the tops of the pine trees, I look back to take in the entirety of the small village that is to be our home for the next week.

Nestled in the valley, and surrounded by huge swathes of pine forests, Les Gets is a traditional village, a classic example of the Alpine settlements that grace many a magazine or travel brochure come the winter. Rather than being a purpose-built ski resort, such as nearby Avoriaz (which, by the way, is well worth a visit for its impressive modernistic architecture, and as a Mecca for snowboarders), Les Gets is a living village with traditional buildings, local family businesses and a homely feel. With an aim to preserve the look of the village, the chalets are all built in the Alpine vernacular, with wide overhanging roofs, decorative balconies and locally sourced wooden façades.

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- Credit: Archant

The surrounding mountains are just as stunning, with gentle slopes leading up from the village to the skyline, which is dominated by rugged white peaks, including the monarch of the Alps, Mont Blanc.

Lost in the beauty of the landscape, I forget to concentrate on our passage up the mountain, and am brought back to the moment by my fellow boarder shouting at me to get my snowboard off the foot rest. As we rattle towards the ground, I get in position, push myself off the lift and take an inevitable, uncontrollable sliding tumble down the other side of the mountain.

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FAMILY FOCUS

After four hours of such tumbles I was ready to explore the rest of the village, to see why my friends rave about the place and come back here each year.

One thing that is immediately apparent is the attention given to creating an inclusive family atmosphere. One highlight, situated on the main Chevannes slopes, is the Grand Cry Territory, which is an Indian village with plenty to keep the younger members of the family entertained. As well as gentle ski runs – with music blaring to create a party atmosphere – there are treasure hunts, themed pistes, face painters, art competitions and games.

On the same side of the village, there is also a Milka piste, which focuses on educating youngsters on the surrounding environment, as well as ski games and a snack area. Plus, if you come in the French school holidays, you will be able to meet the purple Milka cow with more fun games and free chocolates.

If your skills on the snow are a bit more advanced, the freestyle snow park and border cross areas are fantastic. Whether you want to simply try out the raised corners at the Mini Boarder, or hone your skills on the rails, jumps and walls, there is something for all abilities.

Of course, Les Gets isn’t just for the winter. The lake is a popular spot during the summer months, or you could hop on a bike and explore the surroundings. Back in the village you will find lots to entertain the family, such as an ice rink, cinema, sledge runs, art classes, ski joëring (a mix of skiing and equestrianism) and even a fascinating mechanical music museum, which holds an organ with 1,000 voices and is classed as a historic monument.

VILLAGE LIFE

Being a living, working village, there are lots of artisans in the area, many of whom come to the market to display and sell their produce. The pottery at the Ferme de la Serre, on the slopes of Mont Chéry, is situated in a working sheepfold and offers a unique experience where you can watch and learn some skills among the lambs.

Foodies are spoilt for choice, with cheese-making courses at La Ferme de Caroline (other farm produce for sale at the farm) and at the infamous Fruitière des Perrières – and there is even a microbrewery at the Irish pub that offers tours and tastings.

Feel at home

It is no surprise, then, that Les Gets is a popular place for expats, especially Brits, noticeably so in the last decade. Nearby Morzine is slightly larger and has a big British population, so Les Gets works nicely for people who are keen to live somewhere with a genuine French feel, but also near to an active British network.

“The local market in Les Gets has been booming since last winter with prices rising, in particular for well-located apartments that provide a good rental investment,” says Carrie Smith from estate agency Pastures Greener. “A number of high-spec developments have sold well off-plan in excellent locations close to the ski slopes. The trend continues towards luxury new-builds and clients lean towards the off-plan option, which provides the opportunity to have input into the layout and finish of their home. Space is a prime concern, and apartments of 150m2 or more are becoming very sought after.”

The popularity of the village – as well as the fact that land rarely becomes available due to the ethos of protecting the area – means that most properties that come onto the market are off-plan. Samantha Gates of Alpine Lodges tells me that they have a large range of finishes, kitchens and specifications that clients can choose from.

“Using a mix of natural materials and a range of luxury finishes has helped keep demand high in Les Gets,” she says. “In the economic slump, house prices tended to stagnate, rather than drop like they did across most of France. Our beautiful, charming village attracts many people from many nations.”

This popularity naturally results in a higher than average price of property. The Haute-Savoie department has an average house price of €345,500, according to Notaires de France figures, which is more than double the national average of €160,000. New apartments achieve an average of €4,140/m2, compared to the national average of €3,500/m2.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that prices in the village can still be lower than some of the more famously fashionable towns in the Alps, so it is well worth a look. And with a genuine local French feel, spectacular vistas and plenty to do throughout the year, I know I will be back next year for more.

FEEL AT HOME

It is no surprise, then, that Les Gets is a popular place for expats, especially for Brits, noticeably so in the last decade. Nearby Morzine is slightly larger and is well known for having a huge British population, so Les Gets works nicely for people who are keen to live somewhere with a genuine French feel, but also near to an active British network.

“The local market in Les Gets has been booming since last winter with prices rising, in particular, for well-located apartments that provide a good rental investment,” says Carrie Smith from estate agency Pastures Greener. “A number of high-spec developments have sold well off-plan in excellent locations close to the ski slopes.

“The trend continues towards luxury new-builds and clients continue to lean towards the off-plan option, which provides the opportunity to have input into the layout and finish of their home. Space is a prime concern, and apartments of 150m2 or more are becoming very sought after.”

The popularity of the village – as well as the fact that land rarely becomes available due to the ethos of protecting the area – means that most properties that come onto the market are off-plan. Samantha Gates of Alpine Lodges tells me that they have a large range of finishes, kitchens and specifications that clients can choose from.

“Using a mix of natural materials and range of luxury finishes has helped keep demand high in Les Gets,” she says. “In the economic slump, house prices tended to stagnate, rather than drop like they did across most of France. Our beautiful, charming village attracts many people from many nations.”

This popularity naturally results in a higher than average price of property. The Haute-Savoie department has an average house price of €345,500, according to Notaires de France figures, which is more than double the national average of €160,000. New apartments achieve an average of €4,140/m2, compared to the national average of €3,500/m2.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that prices in the village can still be lower than some of the more famously fashionable towns in the Alps, so it is well worth a look. And with a genuine local French feel, spectacular vistas and plenty to do throughout the year, I know I will be back next year for more.

www.pasturesgreener.net

www.alpine-lodges.fr