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Land for sale in the Alps

So you have decided you’d like a chalet in the Alps. You have chosen the area you would like to be and have made a couple of visits looking for suitable properties. Unfortunately all the chalets you look at seem to be compromised in some way; either too old, badly built, overlooked by the neighbours etc.

So that leaves….looking for land to buy!

“Why don’t we build our own?” Good question, lots of people have. Individual chalets are being built around the Alps all the time. We “just” find a bit of land and the estate agent says she can put us in touch with a good builder. She’s shown us chalets that she has had built by the same firm in the past. So “why not?”

Land for sale near Morzine

Land for sale near Morzine, more information at the bottom of the page

Pro’s of building a chalet from new

  • You choose the location which suits you.
  • You specify everything to your requirements; from the design of the chalet to the quality of the fittings.
  • You can pay in stages. Ideally you have enough put by to pay for the land, the bank should lend the rest (in theory).

Con’s

  • You’ll have to wait (at least) 2 years for the finished property.
  • You think you will know how much it will cost before you commit, but in fact it is only an educated guess.
  • You think the builders will do a good job (because they have been recommended to you) but in fact it’s more “hope”.
  • If you change your mind and want to pull out half way though you’ll be left with an unfinished chalet. Worth only slightly more than the original piece of land. Full value will not be realised until it is finished.
  • You will be working in French, it’s not the end of the world if you don’t speak French but if you don’t the project will cost you more thanks to inefficient decision making and poor communication.

OK, so in my list there are more Con’s that Pro’s, this is deliberate, you know this is not for the faint-hearted don’t you?

Land for sale in Les Gets,

Land for sale in Les Gets, more info at the bottom of the page.

Choosing The Land.

What will the chalet be used for? A permanent residence / holiday home / rental investment? The answers to these questions are crucial in choosing the correct location. Alpine Property has 15 or so plots of land for sale. This includes examples of good locations for each use.

The key point is that there will need to be some compromises made when looking for the plot on which to build your “dream” if the price of the land is to remain reasonable.

A permanent residence doesn’t have to be close to the slopes and bars, it can be out of town. It would be good if it were reasonably large to allow you to build a decent sized home for your family.

An investment property doesn’t have to be on a large, sunny plot, it can be shady with a small garden, as long as it has good access to the skiing.

It is interesting to watch locals choosing land. They frequently prioritise sun exposure when making their decisions. This comes from generations of experience of the mountain winters.

The Locals Will Say:

South facing is good. Some south-facing slope is excellent, it means the land will act as a solar panel allowing the sun to warm the house and surrounds. I live on flat land, it’s great for the kids, 50m away the slope starts, all the houses there lose their frost and snow earlier than I do. There is only 50m in it!

Beware of frost hollows and the bottom of valleys, cold air sinks and when there is no wind it stays! For days sometimes. Frost hollows are easy to spot in the winter but harder to identify in the summer.

Look around you, where does the sun track through the sky? Carry a compass. Is the sun blocked by the alp on the other side of the valley? Is it blocked by trees on the neighbours land (you may be able to apply to have these cut down) or is it blocked by the neighbour?

Think about the access, although you cannot be held to ransom by neighbours trying to prevent access to your land you might have to go to court to secure access rights. Though saying this it would be rare to find a plot for sale with access issues. We certainly would not advertise a plot that had no access. How steep will the access road have to be? How wide will the planners demand that it should be?

So, you have visited the land and you like it. What do you do next?

Ask the estate agent some questions.:

  • Have you got a land plan (bornage)?
  • Can we walk the perimeter?
  • Please show me the access.
  • Where are these main drains that you have mentioned in the particulars?
  • What are the environmental hazards here?
  • What “zone” is the land in?
  • Do you know what sort of chalet I could build? The size? How high? What distance from the neighbours?

It’s quite possible that towards the end of the conversation your estate agent might not have the answers to hand. They are easily obtained, this can normally be done straight away. Ask your agent to accompany you to the local planning office, it will be situated in the local Mairie. They will be able to provide you with all the bits of paper you need, including the planning regulations that refer to this particular plot of land. It is quite possible the planning office could be very helpful and may raise issues the estate agent is not aware of.

To give you an example of the sort of issues you will encounter, consider the “zoning”. For instance a common zone is “UC”. To determine how large a chalet you can build, you must ask for the CES (coefficient emprise au sol) for the zone. As an example the CES is could be 0.2. It can be much higher in centre of town situations allowing for denser housing. You must multiply the size of the constructible land available by the relevant COS. So for land of 1000m2 multiply by 0.2 which means you can build a chalet with up to 200 m² of surface area, ample for 4/5 bedrooms. The regulations about this are in flux so be sure to check thoroughly what applies to you. An internet search will not cut it.

“Why isn’t all the land constructible?” You ask. The council worker chuckles and responds. “Some of the land is non constructible because it is in a risk zone, I’ll print off a map to show you the at risk areas”.

Risk zones

You are reminded of the fact that when it comes to environmental risks the mountains really know how to upset the apple-cart. It can be seen from this map that many plots are in a “safe” spot but still surrounded by risk from avalanches (from both sides of the valley), from flooding from the streams that run off the mountain and from rockfall and landslides too! You might decide to look at this map and run a mile. OR you can look at it and reassure yourself that your plot is in a small hamlet has been existence for over 200 years and that in those days you could trust the inhabitants of a valley to build with respect to the risks. Nowadays it is another matter. 30km away (as the crow flies) an event took place that illustrates the dangers well. The following link will take you to a long article on the subject. Well worth a read.

http://pistehors.com/backcountry/wiki/Articles/Montroc-Avalanche

After everything you have learnt you decide to make an offer for the land. This is accepted on the phone the same day. Things are moving along nicely.

The estate agent announces that she would like you to sign a binding contract (a Compromis de Vente) and that for the deal to be sealed you will need to deposit with the Notaire 10% of the asking price. This is easily done as you have the cash ready to be transferred for just this occasion.

Questions and Answers

(Q). We have the money to pay for the land, we have assumed we can ask the bank to lend us the money to build the chalet. Is this assumption correct?
(A). Your estate agent helpfully offers to put you in contact with a variety of possible lenders and mortgage brokers.

(Q). You need to apply for planning permission, you are fearful that if this is not granted you will end up with a piece of grass of interest only to the cows. What can you do?
(A). You need to ask the Notaire to add a clause to the Compromis which states that you do not have to complete the sale if planning permission for your proposed chalet is rejected. In this case your deposit will be returned. Demand that this ins and outs of this clause and subsequent consequences are made clear to you by the Notaire.

(Q). How will you apply for planning permission?
(A). The estate agent offers to put you in contact with a local architect well versed in the planning procedures for the region. Time is of the essence here.  Deadlines set in the Compromis must be met (you normally get 1 month for the “depot de demande”, 2 months for the “response”, 3 months for the “recours”, so 6 months total. You must try to meet them, particularly the first one, to keep your deposit safe.

Next stages

Now up until this point you have been fairly impressed with how things have gone, you have made some preparations but they have been fairly minimal, within a few hours of setting foot on the land you are within a few days of having a legally binding contract that will lead to full ownership and the construction of a chalet? So why the emergency appointment? We don’t need to rush do we?

You do. A bit. You will need to get the planning process rolling as soon as you can. In theory planning permission can be granted in 3 months but in practice 6 months is the minimum required. You cannot leave your “get-out clause” in the Compromis open ended, the seller will want to insist on a time limit. This may well be 6 months. A long time from their point of view, no time at all from yours!

To get you started, here is a link to all the plots of land we currently have for sale. It’s always up to date.

The land illustrated in this blog is:

Land Chez Richards, Essert Romand, near Morzine.
https://alpine-property.com/essert-romand/terrain-chez-les-richards-lot-a/3377
All the best land we have for sale in the Alps.

Land La Pelouse, Les Gets
https://alpine-property.com/les-gets/terrain-la-pelouse/3343
All out land for sale in Les Gets

 

Supporting the Patrouille des Glaciers

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.

 

Arolla checkpoint

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!

 

 

Col du Corbier, montagne douce

The Col du Corbier is situated on the pass between the Morzine and Chatel valleys. If you are planning to drive between the two passing over the col is the quickest route, despite what many visitors think the col is kept open throughout the winter. Apart from the fact it is the quickest route between these two busy valleys it has to be kept open because there is loads of accommodation on the col itself, about 750 apartments/chalets with 4,000 beds. It is an old ski resort that used to go by the name of Drouzin le Mont, it has a rather tortuous history.

Probably the best place to get the background is from Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col_du_Corbier This English version is not bad

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Col_du_Corbier but the French version is better.

Montagne Douce.

Since the ski area ceased operation the local commune of Le Biot has made huge efforts to support the community and maintain a life on the col. They have overseen the dismantling of the ski lifts, something that is often overlooked. In addition they have constructed a large restaurant and bar that is the current focus of all the activities. I’ve been there a few times recently and can attest to its popularity! Unsurprisingly because of the history the property prices have fallen considerably which has increased the interest in the area, despite this there are still plenty of activities to do and the skiing is not far away.

# St Jean d’Aulps (Espace Roc d’Enfer)- 18min
# La Chapelle d’Abondance – 22min
# Morzine – 26 min
# Chatel – 30 min
# Avoriaz (Ardent) –  30 min

You don’t even need a car in the holidays. There is a bus that runs 4 times a day to and from the Espace Roc d’Enfer.

I had read about the various activities that are being promoted at the col so decided to go up to look. It was on a freezing cold grey day and I was amazed by what I saw. Plenty of people having a great time, all for free. A great opportunity in the holidays.

Activities

# Electric powered Fat biking, guided and with bikes provided.
# Snowshoeing, guided by the well known local guide Michel Robin.
# Ski-joering and pony riding organised by Samuel et Catherine Bailly from the Ranch in St Jean d’Aulps.
# AND…Archery, blow pipe target shooting! Sledging and some food.

These activities don’t run everyday so you’ll have to keep an eye on the “animations” page of the Vallée d’Aulps Tourist Office https://www.valleedaulps.com/animations.html or their Facebook page.

I rode as far as Drouzin on the pisted track

The commune is still grooming one of the tracks after each snowfall, it is not too steep and suitable for a fatbike trip or an easy ski randonnee that will give access to the old pistes. A great introduction to the sport. I’ve included a map here of the groomed track track. You should call the Mairie if you need to check if it is open (04 50 72 12 06)

The Mairie has mentioned developing the activities in the summer and possibly putting in an “espace loisirs” by the lake. Watch this space.

Our property that is gaining all the attention is Chalet Snowy, 3 bedrooms, 237,000€, click on the picture for more information.

 

 

Why borrow in France?

 Why borrow in France?

By Nathalie Hilton @ International Private Finance,
London based French mortgage broker

 

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.

To discuss the above in further details, contact Enquiries@internationalprivatefinance.com

 

Rainy day activities in the Alps

The weather in the French Alps is generally good. When compared to many other mountain ranges in the world you can expect less rain in the French Alps! It can be miserable though and when a rainy period hits your week’s holiday thinking of things to do can be a challenge. I’ve lived in the Portes du Soleil for 18 years, run a holiday business for 10 of them and brought up 3 children for 15 of them. So far this week the Haute Savoie has received a months worth of rain. And now there is snow falling at 2000m!

Here are my ideas for wet weather activities.

Canyoning

You are going to get soaked anyway, and whatever the weather you will need to wear a wet suit, if for no other reason than it offers a bit of protection from the knocks that you will inevitably get! Wearing a wet suit on a hot day can be a bit much so take advantage of the weather and go canyoning in the rain! It’s quite an expensive option (55€ for an adult) but well worth it.

Rafting

Ditto the comments on Canyoning. A less expensive option at 38€ for an adult. Once you have tried rafting your can always go back for Hydrospeed.

Ice-Skating

Chamonix, Morzine and Megève all have Olympic sized covered ice-rinks (Patinoire in French), the children will love it, for you it might bring back some bad memories!

Swimming pool

There are plenty of open air pools across the Alps. On a rainy day they are still open but will be deserted. If you want to swim some lengths a rainy day is the perfect time to do this. If this sounds a bit too hardy then almost all of the alpine resorts now have covered swimming pools too.

Cinema

Most of the main alpine towns have cinemas. Cinéma Vox in Chamonix, Cinéma Rex in Morzine, Cinéma Le Criou in Samoens, Rochebrune in Megève, Ciné Mont-Blanc in Sallanches, Le Danay in La Clusaz and Le Choucas in Les Carroz, to name most but not all of them. Allocine is the website that tell you what is on and when. I know that the cinema in Morzine puts on an extra matinée show when it’s raining.

The Mechanical Music Museum in Les Gets

It’s a bit of a standing joke in our family, and admittedly we have only been once. Despite this it should not be missed! The Musée de la Musique Mécanique is open in the afternoon almost all the year. It has 4.5 stars on Trip Advisor 2/16 for things to do in Les Gets (the first is skiing).

Gorges du Pont du Diable, Vallée d’Aulps

One of the most popular tourist attractions in the Haute Savoie. A guided walk in a deep, narrow limestone gorge. Long opening hours, and a long season. The Gorges du Pont du Diable doesn’t cost the earth either (22€ for a family of 4), it is accessible from Morzine, Les Gets and St Jean d’Aulps via the Balad’aulps bus. It’s dark and damp in the gorge so a bit of rain makes no difference. There is a café and a geology visit by the parking too.

The following activities will require a car.

Olympic Museum in Lausanne

You can either drive around Lac Léman or take a ferry (good fun but not cheap), to visit this suburb museum, don’t take my word for it, it is #1/87 things to do in Lausanne on Trip Advisor. It’s also quite good value which is hard to find in Switzerland at the moment. Just 40CHF for a family ticket. More information is on this link.

Chillon Castle

Again, this gets a top rating on Trip Advisor. At the eastern end of Lac Léman, the Château de Chillon is a really hands on exploration of a fairy tail castle. Perfectly preserved thanks to the fact it has never been attacked! They do a great value family ticket for 29 CHF.

 

Salt Mines at Bex

This is only open in the height of the summer, it’s an underground visit so the weather conditions are not important! Not too expensive either. There is more information on their website. Sel des Alpes.

Thermal Spas

The French Alps are full of thermal springs that have been turned into thermal spas and swimming areas. They all have inside and outside pools but considering these pools are often at the temperature of your bath it does not matter what the weather is like.  I’ve been to Les Bains de Val-d’Illiez  and Lavey les Bains‘ as they have big pool complexes with them. I’ve never been to the spars in Evian-les-Bains, Thonon Les Bains or St Gervais-les-Bains, but the clue is in their names.

Go for a walk or bike ride

It’s always hard heading out into the rain but you know you’ll enjoy it afterwards. Stay low though, heading up the lifts or onto the mountain tops doesn’t make much sense. Keep it short too.  Use some tactics. It rarely rains all day. Use the alpine weather forecast and rain radar to pick the best time of day to go outside. When I worked as a walking and biking guide we had a plan on a rainy day. We would only ever manage half a day in the rain. So if it is raining in the morning, chill out until later in the day, then go for a ride in the rain, or if you are lucky it will have stopped which will be a bonus! There is nothing worse than going out in the morning, giving up at lunch and then watching the sun come out in the afternoon! If you want an objective then search out a waterfall to look at, they look their best in the rain, there are plenty and they are generally marked on the maps.

Board games

You never have an afternoon spare to play board games with your family at home, so revel in the opportunity whilst sheltering in your cabin on holiday. Reach for the Monopoly or Scrabble and make the most of the “down time” forced upon you. Nice and cheap too!

Temperature of Lake Geneva

The temperature of Lake Geneva (in French “le lac Léman”) reaches it peak during a heatwave like the one we are experiencing at the moment. In the right spot it will be 24C at “swimming depth”, if you tread water or dive down a metre or 2 then you’ll find the temperature of the water dips considerably. In fact if you dive down below 40m the temperature hovers around 5C for the entire year!

I’m quite keen on following the temperature from afar, it means I can plan my lake swims to coincide with the best conditions. I’ve written about my last swim across lac leman on this blog in 2015.

The Lausanne University website has recently been updated and it shows some very interesting effects. I had no idea how much the temperature varies across the lake surface, especially towards the outflow in Geneva. There are even currents and eddies created by the shape of the lake and the flow from West to East.

The daily variations in temperature are most easily seen at the Buchillon measuring station.

The Meteolakes website also has the following cross-sections.

Lake Geneva facts

#Lake Geneva is one of the largest lakes in Western Europe, 3rd after some massive lakes in the Netherlands (IJsselmeer, Markermeer).
#Surface area: 580.03 km2
#Max depth 310m
#Time from a drop of water entering upstream to leaving downstream in this lake: 11 years!
#60% Swiss, 40% French
#14km at it’s widest point and 73km at the longest.
#Apparently in the 70’s is suffered from pollution. That problem is now solved. It is clean and safe to swim in throughout now.  Which considering the fact it is surrounded by large cities is incredible. More info on the water quality down the Swiss end here. And a newspaper article on the fact that all the beaches are safe to swim from, 86% are rated “excellent or very good” for water quality.

There are other resources for the surrounding lakes, this one for the temperature of Lake Annecy and the temperatures of various lakes along the Alpine chain.

New Ski Lift News in Morzine and the Portes du Soleil

Back in April 2009 I first wrote about the proposed lift linking Morzine to Prodains (and then Avoriaz)…AKA “l’Express Morzine-Avoriaz”. It was part of a clutch of integrated projects the Mairie was proposing. The Department’s application for the Winter Olympics failed and it was suggested the l’Express Morzine-Avoriaz would fall by the wayside with that.

In that earlier blog I listed the projects.

1. The current Prodains lift is due to be replaced, it is old, inefficient and some say it is condemned thanks to the fact it sits (just) within a rockfall zone. NOW DONE.

2. The whole of the Prodains area need redeveloping, it was too busy for the current infrastructure. SOME OF THIS WAS DONE AS PART OF #1.

3. The county (Haute Savoie) has just won the opportunity to bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. WE LOST OUT TO PYEONGCHANG..it’s next year!

4. Avoriaz is just starting a fairly major expansion and remodelling. We have some of the new apartments for sale. NOW DONE.

However despite this the Morzine to Prodains project continued to chug along. In 2013 they produced a video presentation.

 

There have been various local objections but the Mairie and most everyone else I speak to is still behind it, last month a question and answer article appeared in one of the local papers.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/a-morzine-la-creation-d-un-telepherique

In short the article says.

1 . The Express Morzine-Avoriaz will form part of a massive redevelopment on the parking area between the Post Office and the Rue du Bourg. This will include a new bus station, parking and social housing.

2 . The link will cut down on the 320 bus movements and speed up getting from Morzine to Avoriaz. It’s planned for 2020/21 and is projected to cost €50 million.

3 . The operating company for Avoriaz will pay for it.

4 . There are plans to extend Avoriaz beyond what was done in 2010, another 2,000 beds, thanks to Club Med and Pierre et Vacances.

So it is obviously still on the cards. Locally the Mairie is pushing the environmental and the business case. Both these arguments hold a lot of water with the local Regional government. In addition the Mayor is making the point that Morzine is in fact a business. Last year’s poor snow season is helping further this argument. For a skier staying in Morzine the quicker they can get to Avoriaz the better!

In other news.

The Swiss side of the Portes du Soleil reports 107 million CHF of planned investment over the next 10 years. More information here.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 58

Les Gets Mairie has approved almost €9m of work for their area. The bulk of which is the replacement of the main Ranfolly chair.

https://www.remontees-mecaniques.net/forums/Les Portes du Soleil pg 54

The liaison from St Jean d’Aulps to Les Gets is still being discussed in the face of considerable environmental opposition.

http://www.lemessager.fr/chablais/liaison-les-gets-saint-jean-d-aulps-necessite-ou-heresie

 

 

 

E-bikes in the Alps

E-bikes (Electric Bikes!) are big news in the Alps. In fact they are big news across the bike industry. For a start it is a growing sector and industry always craves growth. The latest figures I can find from bike-eu.com make it look like 23% of the 325,000 bikes sold last year in Switzerland were e-bikes, bringing the total number of e-bikes in the country to 400,000. It seems that these e-bike sales are in addition to the regular bike sales.

I’ve been a two-wheel fanatic since my youth and I find this pretty logical. E-bikes are democratising cycling, making it available to all, not just the fit. That is especially the case in the mountains. I’ve just spent 6 days cycling across the Alps to Nice and kept thinking that with an e-bike this trip would be open to everyone who is willing to ride a bike. Unsurprisingly I saw plenty of people doing just that, the IGN map I had was adapted for e-bikes too.

The Portes du Soleil is working hard to promote e-bikes, they have been for a few years, 20+ shops have them for rent, most of the information you need including a map is on this webpage

http://en.portesdusoleil.com/summer/electric-mtb.html

And this year an e-bike festival.

http://www.morzine-avoriaz.com/agenda-bikelec-salon-international-du-velo-electrique.html

My usual advice stands in this area. Unless you are a confident bike rider heading off the road onto the trails comes with some dangers. I recommend hiring a guide to start with. For the intepid I have highlighted some of the easier trails in the Portes du Soleil area here:

http://blog.alpine-property.com/2016/05/24/family-friendly-mountain-biking-morzine/ 

Each year the Portes du Soleil hosts a huge MTB event called the “Pass’Portes du Soleil” I’ve always taken the opportunity to have a free go on the Lapierre e-bikes that are available for demonstration. This year for the first time there is an e-Pass’Portes route. In fact they have taken one of my favourite routes and added in a couple of lifts for good measure. It’ll be a great day out if you get a chance!

Some people don’t see the point of e-bikes, here is my take on the pro’s and cons.

Pro’s

  1. They mean you can MTB in the mountains without lifts, so out of season, late in the evening or out of the area. That can save you 27€ a day on a lift pass!
  2. They can bring a disparate group of abilities together. The fit ones won’t have to wait for 20 min at the top of the climb….and then announce they are ready to go 10 seconds after the less fit have arrived!
  3. As above for couples that want to ride together. They no longer have to use a tandem!
  4. Biking is a wonderful sport that some people shy away from because of lack of fitness. The e-bike can solve the problem.

Con’s

  1. E-bikes are expensive
  2. They are heavy
  3. E-bikes are almost a motor vehicle…and with that in mind could cause issues with other users of our wild spaces.
  4. Once you have ridden one, getting back on a normal bike seems like hard work!
  5. They are a rapidly changing technology, next year’s e-bike will be better and cheaper than this year’s!*

* I have hired a bike each year for the last few years and each time I have thought…they are “nearly” there. This year I used a 2017 bike and I think the manufactures have nailed it. Beyond the weight of the bike (which you don’t notice when riding) and the range (I rode 30km and ascended 700m), I could not think how it could be improved.

*I have just seen that Bosch (one of the main manufacturers of e-bike motors) is adding ABS…http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/e-bike-abs-braking-50226/ …it looks like you can always make something better!

 

Route des Grandes Alpes

Route des Grandes Alpes

700km, 16,000m of ascent, 42hrs of riding

You can choose to do it over any time period that suits. We did it in a week. I know of others that have done it in half that time. Most people take along a vehicle as support, we self supported our trip and stayed in hotels and b&b’s, a small minority carry camping kit!

The official website is here.

http://www.moveyouralps.com/fr/route-des-grandes-alpes/itineraire

The map you need is here

https://ignrando.fr/boutique/route-des-grandes-alpes.html

If you can use a map then stick with that, we only made one minor error over the 700km. If you aren’t good with maps then load the route onto a GPS.

Our route started from home in St Jean d’Aulps, though normally you’d start 25km down the hill in Thonon Les Bains.

My tips…

#Don’t start with such a big day like we did.
#Consider a rest day.
#If a 47km climb (Col d’Iseran) or 35km (Col du Galibier) isn’t your thing then you can split these days in Val d’Isere and Valloire respectively. Most guided groups do this, most purists will want to climb these without an overnight rest!

Day 1, St Jean d’Aulps to Beaufort
121km 3,036m, 7h30
Col de la Colombiere, Aravis and Saises
https://www.strava.com/activities/1026867342
Day 2, Beaufort to Lanslevillard
123km 3,440m, 8h46
Cormet de Roselend, Iseran
https://www.strava.com/activities/1028482032
Day 3, Lanslevillard to Briancon
113km, 2,153m, 6h19
Telegraphe and Galibier
https://www.strava.com/activities/1029738653
Day 4, Briancon to Jausiers
Col d’Izoard, Vars
94km, 2,255m, 6h
https://www.strava.com/activities/1031659585
Day 5, Jausiers to Valdeblore
90km, 5h26, 2,016m
Col de la Bonette
https://www.strava.com/activities/1033081333
Day 6, Valdeblore to Nice via Menton
Col St Martin, Turini, Castillon, Eze
116km, 6h25, 2,307m
https://www.strava.com/activities/1034522066
Day 7, 8hrs on the train back to Thonon and then a ride back up to St Jean d’Aulps
25km, 1h, 424m
https://www.strava.com/activities/1036609383

 

The Alpine Property Market June 2017

I’ve been asked a number of times recently about the current state of the property market in the Alps. Periodically I write my thoughts down on the subject as a reference and this blog is as good as place as any to carry on with that.

If you need to save time…just read this….the current market feels like a good balance between buyers and sellers. The French are buoyant but new British enquiries are hesitant. Long term British searchers are making the most of the good supply of properties and thanks to this we are agreeing a plenty of sales.

Some history…..I’ve been in this business now since the year 2000. Since then I saw a steady rise in interest in ski properties in the Haute Savoie until we hit the top of the market in 2006/7. It felt like a bit of a bubble back then and with the benefit of hindsight it was! The Banking Crisis hit at the end of 2008 which brought everything to a grinding halt for 6 months, a slow recovery followed until 2015 which was boom time again. Brexit hit in June 2016 and the market has been taking stock since. It’s not been like 2009 by any means but the interest has certainly ebbed and flowed somewhat over the last year.

In brief:

  • The French are buoyant. In general they are genuinely pleased with how the Presidential election went and they are positive about the parliamentary elections this Sunday. The feeling is that the country will get behind Macron and “En Marche!” to give him control of the Parliament. He has various reforms planned to boost the economy which all bode well for us. We shall see! All this optimism has led to an up turn in contacts in French. For reference we generally work 50/50 Franco/Anglo, at the moment that’s more like 60/40 to the French.
  • New Anglophone enquiries are flat compared to 2016 and down on 2015. This is normal in the run up to an election. The vote is tomorrow and (IMO) the result is too uncertain to call.  The pundits seem to hand it to the Conservatives. If the Conservatives win that will probably stabilise things. Otherwise it is “wait and see”.
  • BUT, Anglo clients seem to be securing deals at the moment. We’ve signed a record number of offers over the last couple of weeks. These are with people that started their search some time ago.
  • The Spring is traditionally the time when we get a surge of new instructions. This Spring is no different. We’ve put one new property on the website everyday for the last few weeks. Some of them have gone under offer already. Click here for a list of our latest new properties.
  • New building projects are flying up all over the Haute Savoie. Keep in mind that these projects take 18 months or so to get off the ground so this is a result of the boom market of 2015.
  • Overall I would say that the market is more buoyant under €500,000, normal up to €1m and then the €1m+ buyers seem to have gone a bit quiet.
  • The £/€ exchange rate is always one of the most important factors. It seemed to have stabilised around 1.17 but recently due to the uncertainty in the outcome of the election has slipped to 1.15.  For reference you can see that here. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business/market_data/currency/11/13/twelve_month.stm

My thoughts in 2014

St Gervais market report

2013

Alpine Property market report

2011

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/french-property-market-2010/

2010

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2010/01/08/property_market_alps_france/

late 2009

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2009/08/04/state-of-the-market/

early 2009

https://alpschaletforsale.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/spring-alpine-property-market-review/