The moral high ground

A property on the pistes and peace of mind into the bargain? Sounds like a winning combination, writes Vicky Leigh

MGM has a busy year ahead. The biggest property developer in the French Alps, it is rising to the challenge of keeping pace with the growing demand for accommodation here by embarking on an ambitious 11 new schemes. Not one to do things by halves, this year will see the company return to Tignes for the creation of a ground-breaking eco-village as well as venturing into pastures new in Valmorel. If you’re concerned about carbon footprints, CO2 emissions and energy efficiency then you’ll be able to purchase a property in these new developments with a clear conscience too.

Environmental awareness is still very much the sujet du jour and MGM certainly demonstrates its commitment to sustainability, having signed up to the principles of Haute Qualit� Environnementale (HQE), the international construction industry’s high environmental quality standard, which aims to integrate the principles of sustainable development defined at the 1992 Earth Summit. It is also a founder member of Sustain Worldwide, which was established last year to promote sustainable development in the international property industry. In fact, MGM has been rather ahead of the game. For more than 20 years it has been company policy to insulate external walls and the amount of insulation it installs exceeds the level required by French building standards. Rather than being discarded, waste materials are carefully sorted on site and sent for recycling. Local contractors are used wherever possible to reduce carbon emissions created by transporting workers and materials to its construction sites, and on-site accommodation is even provided in some cases. Similarly, local materials such as stone and timber are sourced from nearby quarries and forests. Richard Deans, sales consultant at MGM’s London office, says: “Wherever it is feasible to do so we will go further than the standards recommended if it results in greater benefits, not only to the environment but, importantly, to the comfort and well-being of the people who buy and stay in the properties we build.” Hardly surprising then that MGM was selected to construct an eco-village from among the 25 or so other companies who submitted a bid for the Tignes 1800 project.

The original village of Tignes was flooded in 1952 to create a large, hydro-electric dam that, once completed, supplied 15% of France’s total electricity. MGM first began building here in 1999 and, with a number of developments already under its belt in the area, it is returning once again, this time to play its part in the €150 million transformation of the traditional Alpine village of Tignes les Boisses into a modern eco-village. Re-named Tignes 1800, it will be the biggest new ski property development of its type to be built in the French Alps and has been described as a “state-of-the-art example of sustainable development”. Work will begin in the spring and, upon completion at the end of 2014, Tignes 1800 will be the new gateway to the wider Tignes ski resort, which is part of the Espace Killy ski area and is located just four kilometres from Val d’Is�re. Fully pedestrianised with vehicles kept out of sight in underground car parks, a convenient free shuttle bus service will provide transport when required, which will contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions.

With the old church as its focal point, the eco-village will incorporate a piece of local history into its thoroughly modern new design, symbolically bringing the past and the future together to stand side-by-side in the present. Four redundant industrial and commercial buildings are being demolished to make way for the new development and any building materials that can be salvaged will be saved and re-used where it is feasible to do so. Taking centre stage in family-friendly Tignes 1800 will be MGM’s Kalinda Village leaseback development comprising 250 apartments, plus a 28-bedroom hotel and children’s club. A tourist information centre, a ski school and 10 shops will complete the scene, the latter carefully chosen to ensure there is a variety of shopping options and that the village retains an authentic feel. Plans for the eco-village have been developing over a seven-year period and have included studies linked to the local natural environment, the regional economy, the area’s ski lift facilities and social needs.

Trend-setting Tignes

The intention is for Kalinda Village to achieve the top B�timent de Basse Consommation (BBC) classification, indicating that it is a low-energy consumption building. Boasting stunning views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains, the first phase will comprise a mixture of one- to five-bedroom, ski-in ski-out apartments that are due for completion at the end of 2012. Prices start at €205,000 for a one-bed apartment, rising to €882,000 for those with five bedrooms.

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Sold on a leaseback basis, buyers will receive a guaranteed rental income for the first 11 years of their ownership while also enjoying several weeks of personal use of their property each year. Each one will feature low-cost under-floor heating which will be supplied by the first plant in the French Alps to be run on a new bio-fuel produced from wood waste. The ultimate goal is for other properties in Tignes 1800 to be able to tap into this wood-fuelled energy source.

The higher fuel consumption necessitated by the high altitude and subsequent low temperatures, which often plummet to around minus 20 degrees in winter, makes what they are trying to achieve here all the more impressive. Balconies are insulated from the main building to reduce heat loss and all windows will be double-glazed. A heat exchanger in the double-flow ventilation system extracts the heat from the expelled air to help raise the temperature of the incoming fresh air. While aluminium window frames are recyclable in the longer term, the manufacturing process uses up to a thousand times more energy, hence MGM favours frames made from timber. MGM is obviously extremely committed to the cause, but will the development’s eco-credentials make it more appealing to buyers? “People are increasingly concerned about the environment and are likely to want their property to conform to stricter regulations,” says director David Giraud. “The fact that the development is in Tignes, one of the most popular skiing areas in Europe, is likely to be the biggest draw, but the environmental credentials it boasts will certainly be an added bonus for buyers, particularly as people are becoming more and more aware of the impact our actions can have on the environment.” While green projects often come at a higher price, the aim is for running costs at Kalinda Village to be at a similar level to those in standard developments, making it just as attractive a prospect for investors. The apartments will be available to purchase on a leaseback basis, and MGM’s hotel management company La Compagnie de Gestion H�teli�re (CGH) will run the village and handle lettings for owners.

On-site facilities will include a swimming pool, fitness suite and beauty centre, and the 300 kilometres of pistes on the doorstep offer runs for all levels of skier, from young children to experienced adults. The new ski-lift situated next to the r�sidence ascends to an altitude of 2,700 metres in just four minutes. For those keen to indulge a passion for activities other than skiing during the winter months there is ice-skating and dog-sledging, and for real adrenalin junkies there is exhilaration aplenty in the form of ice-diving.

Located in the Vanoise National Park this dynamic resort has just as much to offer once the temperatures begin to rise in the summer months too, from mountain biking and golf to climbing and walking trails. Two of France’s Grande Randonn�e walking routes traverse the Tignes area, encompassing some of the most spectacular countryside and views. If you’re still hankering to feel the wind in your hair though as you swish down the slopes it’s even possible to continue skiing thanks to the large Grande Motte glacier. Deep within the glacier the ice caves are a magical grotto of incredible sculptures created by expert ice sculptors and are accessible in both summer and winter.

Family-friendly Valmorel

From old friends to new ones, another of MGM’s developments scheduled to begin once the current ski season comes to a close is r�sidence de tourisme La Grange aux F�es. This project will be situated in the family-friendly, pedestrianised village of Valmorel, a new location for MGM, just two hours from Geneva airport. Reached via a number of hairpin bends on a road that climbs its way up through picturesque villages not only is it off the beaten track in terms of location but also in terms of popularity, as it is something of a hidden gem. However, that is all set to change as MGM puts this little-known resort firmly on the map with this modern, ski-in ski-out r�sidence. Although at an altitude of 1,400 metres it is much lower than Tignes 1800, Valmorel’s north-facing position makes it a snow-sure destination with runs to suit all ages and abilities. La Grange aux F�es will be built in the hamlet of Les Lanchettes, the sunniest part of Valmorel, and it is certainly time for it to have its moment in the spotlight as it steps out of the shadow of the better-known resorts. Resort director Antoine Belley says that he is “proud that MGM is coming here and investing”. Club Med has also selected Valmorel as the site for its new five-star development having been attracted by the family-friendly focus, so there is no shortage of investment in the area.

While there won’t be the same environmental emphasis at La Grange aux F�es as at Kalinda Village, MGM will still be continuing its commitment to sustainable development by aiming for a Tr�s Haute Performance �nerg�tique (THPE) certification. The access road will also lead straight into an underground parking area where cars can remain for the duration of a stay, as residents should have no further need for them. The development is just a stone’s throw from the centre of the village and the ski lift to the 150 kilometres of pistes runs alongside it. La Grange aux F�es comprises 123 leaseback apartments in total, 86 of which are to be released in the first phase, and range from one-bed apartments (€213,000) to four-bed duplexes (€288,000).

Together a guaranteed rental income, generous personal usage options and a designated management company make this an attractive way to get a foot on the French property ladder. Parking and cellar storage are included in the price, and four-star facilities within the r�sidence are to include an indoor swimming pool, fitness suite and beauty centre in response to the growing popularity of activities other than skiing. The apartments are scheduled to be ready for occupation in December next year.

The views here are quite literally breathtaking and one of the best places to enjoy them is from the strategically positioned terrace on the side that catches the first dazzling rays of sunlight. Also a dual-season resort, it can more than keep up with the others, offering myriad entertainment options for both the winter and summer months.

With a long history of working in an Alpine region, MGM clearly understands the particularities of such an environment and how to work with them to create developments that are completely at home in their surroundings. Combining the traditional with the modern to meet the demands of modern-day living while remaining uncompromising on its environmental values, Kalinda Village at Tignes 1800 and La Grange aux F�es at Valmorel are sure to build even further on these foundations.

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www.valmorel.com

VALMOREL

At the heart of the Tarentaise mountain range, the resort of Valmorel was purpose-built in 1976. Part of Le Grand Domaine ski area with access to 139 individual pistes the ski area is linked to that of St Fran�ois-Longchamp, boasting over 150 kilometres of runs stretching across the Maurienne and Tarentaise valley. There are five black runs for those keen to live life on the edge, 11 are red, 25 are blue and 14 are green. The 38 ski lifts in Valmorel are able to carry 51,000 skiers per hour to a maximum altitude of 2,550 metres, and the pistes descend right into the village itself. All abilities are all well catered for, with a separate purpose-designed area to allow beginners to build up their confidence away from the more proficient skiers. With a snow zone for free-riders on skis or boards, it is also an ideal place to enjoy snowboarding. Weekend breaks and short holidays are a realistic prospect due to the proximity of several airports, all of which are served by airlines including easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and Flybe from the UK. Chamb�ry airport is an hour away while Grenoble can be reached in 90 minutes. Both Geneva and Lyon are a two-hour journey away.

TIGNES

The ski resort of Tignes is actually made up of five mountain villages – Tignes Val Claret, Tignes le Lac, Tignes le Lavachet, Tignes les Br�vi�res and Tignes les Boisses, which is to be re-named Tignes 1800. The Espace Killy ski area, of which Tignes is a part, is named after French skiing champion Jean-Claude Killy who won three gold medals at the Grenoble Winter Olympics in 1968. The Espace Killy Tignes-Val d’Is�re ski area boasts 300 kilometres of slopes comprising 159 pistes made up of 23 green runs, 67 blue, 40 red and 29 black. The 97 ski lifts, five gondolas, four cable cars and two funiculars mean it is very well connected. Tignes was voted sportiest town’ in 2008 and regularly attracts top sportsmen and women from far and wide who come to take advantage of the first-class skiing conditions. In March 2011 it hosted the European Winter X Games and has provided the setting for numerous international sporting events over the years. In 1992 it was the freestyle skiing venue for the Winter Olympics and co-host of the Winter Paralympics. Tignes has a year-round population of 2,000, which is boosted by 5,000 seasonal workers in winter and 2,500 seasonal workers in summer. Easily accessible, Chamb�ry airport is two hours away by car while the airports at Geneva and Lyon can be reached in two and a half hours. Lyon is also just two hours from Paris by TGV, and Eurostar runs a weekly direct ski train service in the winter from St Pancras International and Ashford International.