Ever since Covid the state of the market in the Alps has felt like a high speed train. This last summer has been no different. As before it really has been a sellers’ market. It has become the norm to have agreed sales within days of a new property being listed. 20 or 30 people inquiring about the same thing in the hours after a property goes online. The same buying pressures have existed since we started to come out of Covid in the summer of 2020. This is the same for both French and UK based buyers. Our customers are looking for a place to escape to, they are looking to protect their savings from inflation, and for some they are moving their money from sterling into the Eurozone. These pressures come up against an historically low number of properties for sale. The recipe is always the same, an increase in prices.
Before I go on, I’d just like to make a point. Many people assume that a healthy property market is one in which prices increase, and this is something that will make an estate agent happy. That’s not necessarily the case. Ideally there would be an even balance between buyers and sellers, and a good range of properties available for sale. Price increases would track inflation, sellers could sell in a timely manner (in around 3 months) and buyers would not feel under pressure to make a decision. Unfortunately life is rarely that simple!
Currently we have a number of competing issues that are starting to slow the market down. But maybe not as much as we first feared.
The first is mortgages. Mortgages are obviously a key component of any property market. In France, there are regulations that govern mortgage lending. The government sets a maximum rate that the banks can charge for a mortgage (taux de l’usure), the banks need to be able to borrow money on the financial markets for less than this, otherwise they are left with no margin to make a profit. That is currently hard to do. The consequence of this is that French mortgages available for French residents are hard to get and for foreign residents they have pretty much disappeared. There was a crisis point in October (that coincided with the UK government’s kamikaze budget) that scuppered a number of sales. However, there were still sufficient buyers looking who didn’t need mortgages, so we were able to rescue most of these deals. Currently the mortgage situation is not improving very quickly. Most of the brokers we speak to say we will need to wait until the new year before we can expect this situation to ease..
Another issue that is causing uncertainty is Inflation. This has both positive and negative effects on the property market. Inflation does drive people to invest in property, it’s a safer bet than keeping money as cash or as stocks and shares. The negative is that it makes us all poorer which makes people more cautious with their money and their life decisions.
I don’t like to talk about the future of the market. My predictions are about as useful as the predictions for how much snow we’ll get for the upcoming season. If the papers predict a bumper season you’d do just as well betting against them as agreeing with them. At Alpine Property we like to look at the number of new customers getting in contact on a monthly basis. Historically that has been our best bellwether for our future. Currently our new enquiries are down on 2021 and 2020, but up on all years prior to that. The post Covid years have felt very weird, so maybe we are just settling back to a new normal?
If you own a property in the Alps and wondered what it is currently worth. Head over to our property valuation page, it’s free and accurate.
Tesla drivers probably don’t need to read on. They have had a good charging infrastructure for years now, so driving to and from the Alps is no issue at all.
Travel to and from the Alps has changed somewhat since COVID. Now people are looking for “greener”, cheaper and perhaps healthier ways to travel. I’ve had a small EV for 6 years. It was a great second car and worked well for us where we live in the French Alps. I’ve been surprised at how quickly electric cars have developed in that time and recently upgraded to a much bigger EV. Now our electric car is the main car in the household. We don’t drive to and from the UK very often. The last time was well over 10 years ago. However we recently could not avoid it so I thought I’d write about how it went.
Before I go on. I’d like to acknowledge the fact that no travel is “green”, there are only more or less eco ways to go. So in order of preference:
Take a bike or walk
Travel by Train or Bus
Drive an EV
Then a fossil fuel burning car
A long way down the list is to fly
We made 6 stops on the way to Middlesbrough from the Alps. 9 on the way back. We never had any major issues, the only minor issues we had were in the UK. On average the charging stops lasted 20 minutes. Overall our charging experience was better in France. We spoke to a British person charging their EV at one of the motorway fast chargers and he raised this before we did, he said his experience charging in France was better than the UK. As an aside, we were less tired than in the past, stopping every 1.5 to 2 hrs really helps from that point of view.
Was it cheaper than driving an ICE vehicle?
ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). And the answer is “no”. In general owning an EV is cheaper than owning an ICE. 95% of the time I charge at home and this is 20% of the cost of using diesel. In addition, my car only needs a cheap service every 2 years. These savings quickly add up. However, when making a long journey you will use fast chargers on the motorways and they are priced the same as conventional fuels, and sometimes more! You will save money by taking the “eco” routes, or by driving slower but these options are open to you whatever vehicle you drive.
The full story
We needed to transport a couple of bikes back from the UK and some personal possessions so driving was really the only viable option. My car is now a Skoda Enyaq, it was the largest, cheapest EV available when I bought it last year. It is only a “standard range” model, so a 60kW battery, any more would be overkill for my day to day use, it does provide enough range for a very long journey, but if you are a frequent long distance driver you will find a long range model much more practical.
EV’s come with different sized batteries, the smaller they are, the cheaper and lighter the car is. If you want to try and make the minimum impact on the planet you should go for as small and light as is practical.
40 kW or less is great for local journeys of less than 200km, for most people this would cover 90% of their driving
50-60-70 kW should do everything, but long journey’s will require quite a few stops.
80+kW is considered “long range” but can be very heavy and expensive.
We made our journey in November 2022, driving from the Alps to Middlesbrough (eventually Newcastle) and back again. We used the tunnel to cross the channel. The total distance we travelled was 3500 km. You might consider using a longer ferry crossing for that trip. Hull to Rotterdam is an option. I’m not sure how “eco” ferries are though.
As far as planning went we didn’t spend too much time on it. We used an app called “A Better Routeplanner” https://abetterrouteplanner.com/, which did most of what we needed from a planning point of view. It selects the places to charge automatically. It’s not the most stable app and is not as good as Google at dealing with road closures (we did get caught out by this), but if you use it alongside Google Maps for the navigation it is fine.
We decided to split the journey around Lille. It would make sense to find somewhere to stay that offers charging on site. That would save one charge. But as I said, we didn’t spend long on planning so didn’t have that option. We also had winter tires on the car which won’t have helped the efficiency.
Alps to the UK
1400 km and 6 stops altogether. We only stopped twice between Morzine and Lille. The weather was warm for this leg. 15-20C. 2 stops is quite hard to do and you’d need perfect conditions. We only had 2 in the car, no bikes, we didn’t need any air-conditioning and we drove quite slowly (110km/h). We cut the corner to cross the Jura too. The motorway route via Bourg en Bresse is an hour faster but will mean another charge stop and will cost more on the autoroute (22 €). Don’t discount this shortcut. The route is beautiful and there is a great spot to stop for cheese at the “Fruitière du Pays Grandvallier” close to Morbier.
We used a fast charger at a Lidl in Lille the next morning and then again at the check-in for the tunnel. In the UK we had to make two more stops before we got to our destination near Middlesbrough. In all, the mpg came out at about 17Wh/100km (3.6 mi/kWh) and the charging added a couple of hours to the journey.
Charging at our destination was done at a fast charger at McDonalds 5 min from where we were staying. We made various excursions in the area. Always using fast chargers.
UK back to the Alps
For the journey back the weather had cooled significantly. So we started out with a frost and maximum temperatures hovered around 10C. This makes a big difference to the energy consumption, because not only do you need to heat the cabin but for optimal performance the car will heat the battery too. We had more luggage and a couple of bikes on a tow bar rack (I had not realised before this trip, but at motorway speeds this reduces range by 10 to 15%). We also drove a bit quicker. More like 120km/h and up to 130 km/h (81mph), 120 km/h is the optimal speed in most EV’s when you take into account the charging times. It’s not the optimal speed for saving money, that’s probably about 30 km/h! So, if you really want to cut down on charging stops then drive with the lorries at 90 km/h. It’s pretty boring though!
The efficiency on the way home was 30% worse at 24 kWh/100km (2.6 mi/kWh). We stopped 9 times. We had to drop our 2 girls at Luton airport on the way, and of course Murphy’s law dictated that the biggest issue we were to have on the entire trip was the charge station just before Luton airport at the services in Rugby. It was a typical issue that thankfully is getting less frequent. The charging machines didn’t recognise any of my 3 membership cards or either of my two debit cards. After 15 minutes and 3 different machines I finally managed to make it work with a credit card. It was a busy spot with 10 charging points and about half the people there were having similar issues. It was stressful and not acceptable. I’ve experienced it many times in the last 7 years but am thankful that it now seems to be getting rarer.
We had another issue at a McDonalds on the side of the M25, we plugged in and went for a coffee, when we got back we discovered the charge had given up after a minute. So we had to wait another 20 min to get the charge we needed. It was a newbie mistake. Always check the car is charging on your app when drinking coffee. I was too relaxed and had left my phone in the car!
Charging your EV in the ski resort
If you are making the journey from the UK to the Alps, you’ll want to know what the charging is like when you arrive. Many of the chalets and hotels have started to fit charge points in the last few years, that will be your first port of call. Beyond that, almost every French town in the Haute Savoie has at least 2 reliable and fairly cheap 22 kW charge points (so not fast chargers). Beyond that many more are being added as I write this. The local paper recently mentioned 20 new points in Chamonix.
Personally I carry the following cards
Eborn – This is the “local” one in the French Alps – in fact it covers the whole Rhone Alps. Travellers to the region probably don’t need this, the following cards should cover it.
ChargeMap – I think this is the most popular in France, their interactive map has lots of good information and comments about individual chargers.
PowerPass – This came with the car, it’s connected to Ionity which is the biggest fast charge network in France.
Plugshare – This is one of the biggest pan european cards.
If you read my last report , written in December 21, you’ll remember that I used the words ‘frenzy’, ‘inflation busting prices’ and ‘busiest market in 20 years’. This trend continues; the local property market remains exceptionally busy right now.
The massive surge we experienced in August last year (2021) carried into the winter season, that’s certainly the case for our French buyers, however British buyers had a short wobble in December when travel restrictions between the UK and France were frustratingly reintroduced and it looked like the Winter 21/22 season might not begin for people coming from the UK. Saying that the British are 100% back in the market now and we have many sales ongoing, indeed the only potential to slow things down is a lack of new property coming online. On several occasions this winter and right now in springtime, we’re selling property before it even goes live on our website, generally to buyers who’ve registered their interest, waited patiently and who understand the pace of the market right now. Blink and you’ll miss it!
Has the war in Ukraine caused any panic in the property market? It did briefly, but that has settled down now, there’s some uncertainty when it comes to lending from the banks who are, of course, concerned that the situation will be protracted. Our March enquiries this year were lower than last, but April has recovered and the enquiries are ahead again, we’re meeting new buyers each day who are increasingly worried about rising inflation and they want to move their funds into property instead.
I’m always interested in how our buyers break down in terms of nationality. As a business, and prior to COVID-19, 40% of our clients were French, 40% British and 10% ‘other’ nationalities. Right now, that combination looks more like 50%/20%/30% so we can reasonably assume that COVID-19 combined with Brexit is having an impact on British buyers.
Aside from the pandemic, Brexit and the war, we’ve also seen some changes to mortgage availability too. Whilst fixed rate mortgages are still available at interest rates of 2.5%, such rates are becoming rare; we’re seeing them slowly increasing. Mortgages also appear to be harder to get in recent months, especially if you really need one. However they are very easy to source for those who have the actual cash required to buy a property outright!
Thanks to a shortage of property and the high demand from buyers, valuations are increasing too, probably between 4% and 20% year on year and depending on location. So, as I said previously, blink and you’ll miss it. These really are frenzied times in the Alpine property market!
If you own a property in the Alps and wondered what it is currently worth. Head over to our property valuation page, it’s free and accurate.
The first thing to understand is that all transport has an environmental cost. However some forms of transport have a higher cost to the environment than others.
There is a lot of mis-information going around on social media at the moment, trying to claim that electric cars are not a “green” form of transport. Remember what they are up against. Oil companies and the car lobby, both huge and neither play fair. The reason the oil companies hate EV’s is obvious. You might wonder why the car manufactures have an issue though, it’s because in the short-term they can’t make any money from them. They’ll change their tune in time when they have re-tooled for the job. It is starting, but has taken years. The lead has been taken by Tesla, Nissan/Renault and to a smaller extent BMW, that is it though. And between the last 3 they only really have 3 models available to buy!
It is true that a new EV has a higher cost to the environment that a new IC vehicle (so a vehicle with an Internal Combustion engine). This remains the case if the vehicle is not used. But as each vehicle is used the environmental cost of the EV quickly catches up with the IC car. That’s because the IC is continually adding CO2 into the environment. The initial cost to the environment for an EV is mostly in the manufacturing of the battery.
The same goes for making the photovoltaic panels (PV’s), that has an environmental impact, however over their life they pay back the environment many times over. They are due to last 30 years, perhaps more. Then what happens to them? Well they are mostly glass, and like glass can be recycled. The same goes for the batteries. They can either be re purposed, so used in a house, or recycled. I’d be very keen to buy some old EV batteries to add to my house, if only I could get them at a good price.
Here is a great infographic that explains about recycling PV’s. It’s from these guys.
If everyone had an electric car the grid would not cope / we’d have to build 20 new nuclear power stations.
This is another one that I see a lot. It is mainly based on erroneous calculations. Generally assuming that everyone will use their EV to full capacity every day and then they’ll all plug in at the same time. If that did happen then there would indeed be a problem. However.
It will take a very long time for people to covert to EV’s, currently only 3% of new cars sold are pure EV’s.
On average we don’t drive very far each day, something like 30 km for each car each day. We don’t all plug in at the same time either.
The way we use electricity is changing fast, our biggest issue in the future is going to be storing the power we generate during the day from PV’s and wind. The EV battery could be the answer to this. It is early days but a combination of EV’s being used to store power and discharge it to others at peak times could be a real revolution.
This last argument is being put about by the big energy firms. However, they have a history of trying to kill new technology to protect their position. Salter’s duck is an example.
3 years ago I wrote about an Electric Car in the snow. I still have an electric car, it looks just like the last one, however it goes further and charges more quickly. I want to use the greenest form of transport I can, so the next logical step is to install photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. If you don’t think EV’s (electric vehicles) and PV’s are as green as some people make out, then check out my thoughts here.
Photovoltaic (PV) solar panels do not produce electricity when covered in snow!
I finally got around to working out if I could make photovoltaic (PV) solar panels pay their way. Although I like to try and be as green as I can, I’m only really that interested if being green can save money too. If you compare the payback of anything today to what you’d get from money saved in the bank. Any sort of payback wins!
But first, I can confirm that PV’s don’t produce electricity when covered in snow. This is a non issue for a number of reasons. In the depths of winter the PV’s don’t produce much electricity anyway. If you look at the table below, you will see that in December they only produce 20% of the power of June. Secondly, although I live at 840m altitude in the Alps, I don’t think they will be covered with snow for that may days. Because even when it does snow, once the sun comes out the snow will slide off the same day.
First of all I wanted to know how much power my EV needs in a year. I drive 12,000 km/year. That’s 33 km/day, the car has a real world efficiency of 12 kw/100km, so that means I need 4kw of power for an average day’s driving. This real world figure is available on my car’s dashboard, it’s like your IC (internal combustion) car’s fuel consumption figure. So it takes into account the hills, the type of driving you do, and a particular issue for EV’s, the cold temperatures.
Next, you have to work out how much power you can generate where you live. This is quite easy to do. Thanks to the EU there is a web-based calculator that takes everything into account. Your local weather, days of snow cover, even shading from the surrounding mountains. You will need to know which direction your panels will face, use a compass, (or your phone). This is dictated by where you are going to mount them, in my case that is my garage roof. The angle at which they will be mounted (inclination), use a protractor (or your phone). Then you will need to know how many panels your roof will take. You can use this excellent calculator for that easy-pv.co.uk/, in my case that was 11 panels.
Panels produce between 250-300 W each, the best value panels (not necessarily the prettiest) are currently 270 W, so 270 x 11= 2.97 kw
So the numbers I needed
Power of system 2.97 kw
PV type Crystaline Silicon
Orientation 230°, which seems to translate to 50° on this site
Location (use Google maps) 46.231, 6.647
This is the result I got, the new site has more pictures!
So from this you can see that the average daily yield is 7.76 kWh, I mentioned before my car would need 4 kWh, which means that for the space I had available I could almost power two cars (or drive twice as far).
You need permission off the grid, so in France that is Enedis. I had decided that I wanted to keep the process as simple and the best value as possible. I think the best way to do this is install the system yourself and not to sell any excess power back to the grid. In other words to set the system up so you can use all the power produced. To sell excess power back to the grid you have to use a professional installer, in which case the purchase costs double, which destroys the value of the whole proposition.
This is the site which explains about the permission https://www.enedis.fr/produire-de-lelectricite#etape-prealable, you’ll see that at the top it says you’ll need to ask for permission from the local mairie, that’s not planning permission. But a déclaration préalable de travaux (DP), which is easier than planning permission. You pick the forms up from the mairie. If you have got this far, then you’ll find they are not hard to fill out. Hand them back and wait for a decision from the council. It’ll depend how long it is to the next meeting. For me it was a month. Once you have the permission, you need to go back to the Enerdis site, create an account, upload your forms and a certificat de conformité for your equipment (available from your supplier). They will create a contract (Convention d’auto-consommation sans injection) for you to sign digitally. I had to wait a week for this.
Fitting the PV’s
Then it was time to get started! I started this process in June, it took until October to get to this stage. It would have made much more sense to start the process in January, however life doesn’t work like that does it?
I had chosen the garage, not because of its proximity to the car, but because it was more accessible to an amateur like myself. It’s closer to the ground for a start!
The first job was to trim back the obvious tree. PV’s really do not like shade.
Then I ordered the equipment. It all fitted onto one pallet.
A friend lent me some scaffolding. I had thought that I could just use a ladder. That was a dumb idea. You will need scaffolding, and for most of the fitting, you will need a second pair of hands!
Fitting the rails and panels took 2 people two afternoons. Here you can see one of the inverters (onduleur in French). With this system there is one inverter for 2 panels. These little devices convert the 20 V (ish) DC power the panels produce into 230 V AC power that the house (and car) use. As an aside, it’s a shame to do this, as the car then converts it back to DC power to charge its batteries. Oh well . All the wiring on the roof is “plug and play”, all waterproofed and no screwdrivers required.
Working on a roof in the mountains, during a sunny autumn is a joy.
Not much to do here. In this case we just plugged them into a socket! There is an isolator switch in this picture, though in this case you can isolate the panels by unplugging the socket. We were supplied with a meter too, it’s not strictly necessary, however it is nice to know how much power the panels are producing. I have checked the numbers against the calculations and they match very closely. You can go to town on the monitoring. I could be monitoring electricity produced compared to electricity consumed in real-time from my desk. However it is all extra cost.
One point of note. When the panels are unplugged from the mains, the inverters switch off. So you can’t be electrocuted. If this did not happen, and the power to your house went off, the panels would still be producing electricity and you, your electrician or even a grid worker could be in danger
The finished job, complete with electric car. The car is not plugged into the panels themselves. The car is plugged into the domestic electricity system. The panels are plugged into the same system. The car could be using the power produced, but then so could my fridge, computer, lights or whatever, and as I work from home there is always power being consumed during the day.
Further considerations for your solar installation
I have used polycrystalline panels. The panels have an electric blue colour to them. They don’t look too bad on the metal garage roof, they are not overlooked by anyone either. However if I was to do the same thing on the house roof I would consider a matt black panel. It’s possible that in a few years the panel to use will be “thin film”, especially with a large area to cover.
My house has a 3-phase electrical system. This makes using all the power these panels produce harder to sort out. There are various things that could be done, it’s not particularly complicated. It is worth thinking about in advance though.
This could be a very interesting addition to the system https://myenergi.uk/products/ however it might make more sense if I was selling power back to the grid.
Fully charged has spent 10 minutes reviewing it.
Thanks to Mark Chewter at http://www.pluginsolar.co.uk/ he supplied all the equipment. His advice on the type of fixings to use on my roof was invaluable too. 54 emails in the end. Thanks to Ady for the scaffolding and first days help with getting the panels up, also for his skills as measuring up to drill the holes. That’s the hard bit, drilling the holes is easy! Steve for the second afternoon of panel fixing and Richard for the finishing touches and all the final electrics.
The Haute Savoie is known for its lakes and mountains, though rarely for it’s golfing opportunities. Despite this there are a number of excellent golf courses available in the area. We have reviewed them here.
Chamonix : an interesting and very playable golf course set in stunning scenery. A short season, open from the end of June until mid September. Not that posh in comparison to some of the others. Really nice restaurant and friendly staff. 56€ to 91€
Megève : definitely posh but less interesting as a golf course, thanks to its altitude (1320m) the greens are often in poor condition. 40€ to 75€
Annecy : two courses around the lake : Talloires : expensive in high season, a short but hilly mountain-type course kept in excellent condition, especially the greens (which are notoriously small). Giez : longer and more playable “parkland” course, worth a visit, friendly atmosphere and decent pro-shop (a rarity). €59 to €75
Evian Masters : open February to November, a splendid championship course with fantastic practice facilities. Best time to play is just after they’ve had the Ladies Masters in September. €55 to €105
Esery (near Bonneville along the M40 motorway) : really nice and fairly challenging parkland course, super fast and very big greens, superb club house, shop and restaurant. Absolutely worth a try.
Divonne : (just about in France, and technically not in the Haute Savoie either! 30min north of Geneva), open all year, rumour suggests it might be better than Evian. 50€ to 100€
Bossey :(at the foot of the Saleve, near the cablecar), mostly open all year very challenging course, Jean Van de Velde is a regular! Only available to non members during the week.
Aix Les Bains: (in the Savoie, 30 minutes from Annecy), old parkland course with character and in good condition. Playable throughout the year.
The following are not really comparable to the others, but then they don’t pretend to be, they are often half the price. Thanks to their altitude they have short seasons (sometime in June until sometime in September)
The Patrouille des Glaciers is a gruelling ski mountaineering race between Zermatt and Verbier. Teams of 3 compete to traverse 53km and climb 4000m, it’s a tough race that some claim to be the hardest team event in the world. It’s huge in Switzerland and gets a lot of coverage. The fastest time is just under 6hrs, but this is superhuman, most teams are happy to finish within the 16hrs cut off. The event I supported saw half the teams fail. Due to its popularity the PDG is now held twice in the same week. Nowadays there are always a few British teams that compete, the most famous of which included Pippa Middelton in 2016. This meant the race was featured in all the major newspapers in the UK. The best article was written by one of the team for the Telegraph, though if you want to see Pippa from every angle the Daily Mail is the place to go. But for a less showbiz write-up and probably the best pictures then have a look at Ben Tibbetts blog.
Supporting the Patrouille des Glaciers
This article is not about the race itself. I’ve written it to help anyone that wants to offer support for a team at the halfway point in Arolla. The organisers do provide water, Coke, tea and chocolate apparently there are some oranges towards the end so support is not strictly necessary. But many people appreciate something a bit more personal and also the possibility to sort out any equipment issues (forgotten suncream?). I had received conflicting reports about how easy it was to access Arolla on the night of the race. The local tourist office had said I could not. However others thought that I could, so I set the satnav and aimed to arrive at 1am. This would mean I could grab a few hours kip in the car and be ready by the piste at 5am.
Driving up from Sion on ever narrowing roads that night I immediately felt the presence of the race. I had managed to get myself sandwiched in a convoy of Swiss Military logistics trucks! After you pass Evolene the road is very rough, narrow and precipitous, there are even some sections of single-track tunnels. Thankfully these were rendered safer by military personnel stationed at either end. If the weather is good there will be little to worry about. Otherwise don’t forget that Arolla is at 2000m altitude. If any snow is forecast make sure you and your vehicle are properly equipped! On arriving at Arolla much of the town will be occupied by military vehicles and logistics equipment. The Swiss military must treat this event as one of their major logistical exercises. Thousands of them are involved. Near Arolla they had set up a helipad, refuelling facilities and even a field hospital.
Despite this civilian supporters are welcomed. They had provided parking, toilets and had plenty of people on hand to advise. Once the parking is full then the sides of the road are used. I parked about 15min walk from the checkpoint, and walked the full distance a couple of times but also used the military transport vehicles that were shuttling up and down the road.
The Arolla checkpoint is 28km into the course, the competitors will have climbed 2000m. In theory it is almost halfway, in practice the second half of the race will be harder thanks to the effect of the sun and fatigue. There is mandatory time cut off at 06h30 here and as you can imagine there will be no negotiating with the organisers! The competitors choose when to start the race the night before, so anytime from 22h to 02h in the morning. You should be able to do a basic calculation to estimate what time your team(s) will arrive. There is also the PDG App available on Google and Itunes, this will give you real time data for the location of each team. There is a good phone signal at Arolla too. However the App seems to struggle from time to time so it can’t be relied on.
Finding your team
This will be much easier if it has been discussed beforehand. It’s not easy though, there will be 1,200 competitors that squeeze past in a 3 hr period, more than half of them will have people offering support. Add darkness into the mix and the fact supporters are not allowed onto the course and some thought is required. The support was fairly tightly packed along the fence. Take a look at what I have marked on the enclosed plan. To help my teams find me I had elected to bring along a multicoloured flashing led strip. I was the only one to have done that, everyone else had flashing bike lights and orange warning lights. There were also flags, banners, balloons, tables and even a BBQ. You can imagine what the competitors are faced with!
Most of the teams that stop for help spend at least 15min sorting themselves out. Then they are off up an icy piste. Every half hour they end up mixed in with 500 or so setting off in waves on the “A” race start; something which is probably worth avoiding. Once 6h30 is reached everything calms down significantly. I caught a lift back up to my car in one of the military transporters and set off home. Again no grief on the road at all. If you want to drive around to the finish in Verbier, you will have plenty of time. It’s a 2 hr drive and for most teams you will have at least 6 hrs in hand!
The Grand Cerf team has unearthed the best gourmet addresses that Les Carroz has to offer. From the laid-back setting of a pub to a gourmet or stylish restaurant, there is something for every taste!
Time for an aperitif? Come to Le Grizzly, a charming brasserie in the style of a typical English pub located at the heart of Les Carroz. With the added bonus of a cosy lounge area and a south-facing terrace! Check out: a wall of whiskies and a whole range of high-quality draft beers from all over the world!
1, place de l’ambiance , 74300 Les Carroz d’Arâches, Tél. 04 50 90 02 77
Once you have taken off your skis, how about a nice drink at the foot of the slops on the south-facing terrace of the Milk Hotel. At midday, you can enjoy an organic lunch based on original and generous bistro-style cuisine..
459 Route des Servages, 74300 Les Carroz-d’Araches
L’Igloo is an authentic Savoyard cabin located at an altitude of 1,598 m, at the arrival point of the Bergin (Morillon) chair lift. Open every day with continuous service, you can enjoy specialities from the Savoy region, daily suggestions and home-made desserts in the comfort of a flower-decked and sun-kissed terrace in the midst of the alpine pasture. Fondue, potato fritters, péla, etc. Cédric slow-cooks a range of traditional and top-notch specialities!
433, Route de Flaine 74300 Les Carroz d’Arâches Tél. 04 50 90 14 31 & 06 87 81 17 05
Renowned gastronomic restaurant, Les Servages d’Armelle welcomes its guests to a very cosy space which affords a unique view of the mountains, whether you are seated inside, on the south-facing terrace or on the veranda which is a continuation of the terrace.
The talented and passionate chef, Pascal Flécheau, expertly produces dishes of modern cuisine which are meticulous, generous, inventive and refined all at the same time.
Special mention goes to the St Pierre fillets and grilled squid, not to mention…traditional fondue served with boletus mushrooms, an original variation that beautifully combines three jewels of Savoyard gastronomy: cheese, wine and mushrooms.
At Café de Balme, there is no menu but a slate which changes on a daily basis according to season and availability! Philosophy: promote fresh products produced locally. Here, everything is home-made and the dishes simmer for hours on end on the ancient range cookers Aga and La Cornue…
The secret to the flavours of days gone by and authentic family cuisine is time!
309, route des grottes de Balme 74300 Magland Tél. 04 50 91 26 31
THE ESSENTIAL RECIPE: TARTIFLETTE
This dish, made with potatoes, lardons and onions and completely covered in reblochon cheese, is the star winter attraction par excellence. Where is it served in Les Carroz? Authentic tartiflette is served at Alpage de l’Airon, a 15-minute walk from the Airon bend or from the top of the cable car.
Ingredients for 4 people:
1.2 kg of firm potatoes
200 g of lardons
1 reblochon farm cheese
2 tablespoons of crème fraîche
1 bottle of Apremont
# Tartiflette has not been around that long. See Wikipedia for more information!
In theory we have passed into Spring now. It doesn’t feel like it, and we have more snow down to the lower valleys forecast for the weekend. I have heard people complaining about the amount of sunny days we have had. It seems they are right. This has been the second “darkest” winter since WWII.
Meteonews has written up a summary of the numbers for this winter. The bottom line is that it has been extreme, we’ve had everything (except sun) high temperatures, low temperatures, precipitation. Many weather records have been broken.
Overall the temperature has been pretty much average compared to the records. However that masks the fact that January was one of the warmest on record, followed by a cold February. It just shows that an “average” figure can hide the reality quite effectively.
December and January had exceptional amounts of rain (and snow), only beaten 7 times in the last 70 years. I’ve tried to find historical comparisons but we might have to wait until they are published. Meteonews mentions record amounts of snow with up to 7m that has fallen in some spots.
The bad weather has restricted the number of days suitable for venturing far from the pistes, this has meant that the accidents have come all at the same time on the few sunny days. So far there have been 25 people who have died in avalanches in France, with 3 missing (presumed dead), this is about average compared to previous years. An example of how they have all come at once happened over the weekend of the 3/4 of March. See this article on Piste Hors. Full details of all the incidents are on the Anena website.
Mitigate the volatile exchange rate and reduce sterling cost
The Sterling cost of purchasing a property in France is only fixed when you actually transfer your GBPs into Euros.
Part financing your purchase with Euros will allow you to delay this transfer until the exchange rate has recovered in your favour.
This has proven a popular strategy with cash rich buyers since Brexit, the subsequent fall of the Sterling and the very volatile evolution of the exchange rate.
You basically match the currency exposure of the asset you are buying (the French property) and the funds you are using to finance the purchase (Euros borrowed from the bank rather than Sterling savings you have).
Once the exchange rate moves in your favour, you are in a position to repay all or part of the French mortgage thereby not only reducing the debt against the property, but also the sterling cost of purchasing your second home in France.
A large majority of mortgages in France feature no or very low early redemption penalties, so it is important you select the most adequate product from the outset through an experienced broker.
Secure finance on the French property rather than your main residence
A large majority of second home buyers feel more comfortable to raise finance on the new French property as opposed to taking new or additional liability on their main residence at home.
When you borrow in France, the lenders will always take a first rank charge of the French property; this will be registered against the asset by the notaire who looks after the conveyancing process.
Borrowing in France means access to high Loan to Values and longer fixed terms
French mortgage rates are very close to historic lows, and long term fixed rate mortgages are very popular in the domestic French market.
At the time of writing, you can typically borrow for 20 years at rates as little as 1.40% (with a 20% side investment) or 2.15% (with no side investment), and you have the reassurance that your monthly repayments will never increase.
Loan to values (LTVs) for non-resident buyers are also very high in France and depending on your circumstances, you can typically borrow up to 85-90% of the purchase price net of agents or notaires’ fees. This is however only available on a repayment basis.
Some of the banks will also offer interest only options or “in-fine” as it is called in France, though they have much stricter criteria and it is more difficult to qualify for this type of loans. The best LTVs available on interest only tend to be around 70-75% of the net purchase price.
Create a debt on the French property, as mortgage interest can currently be offset against some of the French taxes
In a number of cases, it is possible to offset the interest of your French mortgage against tax on the rental income that you may generate with the French property.
For purchases of €1,300,000 and over, the French Wealth tax becomes applicable on the net value of the property, as per the rates below.
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This is one of the reasons why many investors choose to take out a mortgage on those more expensive properties.
We always recommend that you take independent advice from an accountant about tax implications for any property purchase in France.