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An electric car in the winter

What are electric cars like to use in the winter? It’s one of the first questions I get asked about my car. I have a Skoda Enyaq 60 and the winter is almost over. However this is my 6th winter in the Alps with an electric car ! My first was a much smaller BMW i3, I’ve written about it on “an EV in the snow

The quick answer is that they are much better to use than the old gas guzzler (ICE). I will never be going back. However, that is not the whole story. There are downsides that mostly concern reduced range.

EV’s are so much more convenient and comfortable in the cold

One of the best things about them is their preheat facility. You can either pre-programme your car via the app to warm up for a certain time, or just click the button on the app. Some cars have a button on the key, I’ve set this car to automatically warm or cool as you unlock it. The frost will melt from the windscreen and the car will be warm when you start. And unlike an ICE car which needs the engine to warm up first, the heaters are almost instantaneous. When you live on a hill like we do, you can drive downhill in an ICE car for 20 minutes and the car never warms up! I’ve heard people out here in the Alps say “why didn’t anyone tell me how good the preheat facility is?” Well, now you know. One of those things you never knew you needed, until you’ve tried it! This really is the game changer in the winter.

This car has rear wheel drive 😲

But what if you get “trapped” in your car in the winter?

This was a scare story put all over social media this winter. The papers were alarming people with the thought of dying of hyperthermia if they were trapped in the snow and could not run their fossil burner to keep warm. Whereas the opposite is actually the case. When an EV is stopped it can carry on heating the cabin without issue. It’s actually dead convenient when you are sat in your car at -10C waiting for something. In the old days you had to sit with the engine running. Not any more.

I’ve been stuck in traffic, stuck behind fallen trees in the depths of winter and been quite happy. Also much safer, there is no risk of death from carbon monoxide poisoning (see this tragic incident in Pakistan). The worst case scenario for my car is 6kw of heating on a 60kw battery, so that will run for 10 hrs when full, 5 hours when half full. And actually, because when the cabin is warm, the heaters will have to work less hard, my guess is that it’s more like 20 hrs full and 10 hrs at 50% – in fact this guy tested it and got even more.

Driving in the snow

They handle driving on ice and snow really well. It goes without saying that I use winter tyres. All EV’s are automatic, they all have computer controlled throttle, brakes and sometimes steering too. You use your foot to tell the car you’d like to go and the car decides if the traction can take it. If the wheels slip, the car will reduce the power and find grip where it can. All modern cars do this, but it tends to be better in an EV, the lack of any gears just makes the whole process smoother. It’s the same with understeer or oversteer, it’s basically eliminated. It’s not just an EV thing though. I mention it however because it means you can have a rear wheel drive car and not worry about the old issues in the snow. Both my EV’s have been rear wheel drive and thanks to the traction and stability controls have outperformed my previous front wheel drive cars in the winter.

An electric motor doesn’t care about the cold

They don’t have diesel that can freeze. This isn’t a huge issue for ICE cars in the winter but it does happen, and when it does it is very inconvenient and often tricky to sort out. Occasionally when the temperatures drop under -10C and often at less than -15C you’ll see cars struggling on the alpine roads or broken down on the verge. It’s usually because their diesel has frozen. It is worse on certain models. I think it has something to do with water in the diesel filter freezing up.

The inconvenient truth

The available range in an EV is less when it is cold. The reduction in the Enyaq is not as bad as it was in the BMW but it is still significant. Before I go any further, this is only as “issue” on long journeys. And only then because you’ll have to stop for a recharge. And even that it’s not too bad anymore. The Enyaq I have is the smaller capacity 60kw version. There is a bigger 80kw version available. When the outside temperature is more than around 10C it will manage 350km on one charge.

At -10C it will still drive 250km, and most of the time I don’t do more than that in a day, so the car just goes on charge overnight and I don’t notice. I make a weekly 200km trip on a Sunday night. That’s fine too. But more than that and I’ll have to charge it up on the journey. There are fast chargers all around us now and a quick top up sometimes only takes 5 min, for a refill from 10% to 80% it might take 30min, it’s rare that I have to do that though.

The reason things are getting better for EV’s in the cold is down to the size of the battery. It’s not so much that batteries are worse in the cold, it’s more that the car needs extra power to heat the cabin and the batteries, some people will turn the interior heating off to deal with this. I won’t. I don’t think that getting cold is worth it, even for the environment. And the windows steam up without the heaters and that’s just not clever.

Winter tyres are essential, I was a bit late putting them on in 2021 so had to use some chains

The maths tells all

I’ve simplified things slightly. My first car had a 20kw battery. The heaters took 5kw/h, on average, so the range could easily go down by 30% on a 2 hr trip
My second car had a 30kw battery. The heaters were the same and took 5kw/h, but that’s a smaller % of the battery so it was more like 20% reduction on a 2 hr trip.
This car has a 60kw battery, the heaters take 6kw, so that’s a reduction in range of 15% on a 2 hr trip.

The other way to improve this is to buy a car with a heat pump fitted. It does come standard on many EV’s, which is great. Not on the Enyaq though, in my case it would have been a 1000€ extra, so not really worth it. Under ideal conditions they could reduce that 6kw load to 2kw, at which point that’s a 3% reduction. And if you get the long range version which has an 80kw battery, that would mean a 2.5% reduction.

No winter tyres? Then chains work fine

Even more inconvenient truth

Long trips in the winter. And I repeat, this is not for round trips, this is for long linear trips that will require recharges on the way. So you car has a range of 350km at 100% charge. That’s fine and that’s the summer too. But it’s colder in the winter, lets say -1C, so that’ll mean a loss of about 20% on the range range = 280km. Which is still fine if you are doing a round trip, but if you are on a linear trip and want to charge along the way, you won’t want to run the car much below 10% “just in case”, so that reduces the range again to 250km, and you’ll discover that when you charge past 80% the charge rate drops right down to preserve the life of the battery. So really it makes sense to run your car between 10% and 80%, so that’s another 20% to take off = 200km real range.

But that’s not all. A long trip will involve driving on the motorway. EV’s can go at pretty much any speed you want, but just the same as an ICE at high speed the energy consumption starts to ramp up at motorway speeds. So motorways take even more than you expect. At 130km/h take off another 20%. You’ll probably drive at more like 110km/h so it’ll be more like a 10% decrease. So the total figure is 180km. Double gulp. Now you know why you keep overtaking Tesla’s on the motorway. They are faster than a 1m€ super car, but practically, they prefer cruising around at a lower speed so they can go further!

And there is more

It’s a small thing, but it’s real. EV’s are charging faster and faster. Mine charges at 100kw/h, some charge at 350kw/h. So my 10 to 80% charge should take about 30 min on a supercharger. However, you know what’s coming don’t you? These charging speeds are hard to attain in the cold. In winter the reality is my car charges at half this speed to protect the cold battery from damage. So instead of 30 min, it could be 1hr.

The good bit of this is that the car manufacturers are getting very good at making the batteries last longer and longer with good battery management. This is great, I expect my battery to outlast the life of the car, it’ll then go on to have a second life in a house or as a grid stabiliser or something….but one of the things a battery doesn’t like is a fast charge when cold.

So the manufacturer has a choice between warming the battery with the heater (uses more energy) or throttling the charging speed. Some of them get it right. I believe you can tell a Tesla where you are going, it will then predict where the charge will take place and pre-warm the battery in the kilometres before the charge. This sort of predictive management seems to be a bit complicated for VW and others, they say they are working on it. The way around it is to drive at warp speed in the kilometres before the charge, this high drain will warm the battery “naturally”, I’ve tried it, it works a bit but it’s not ideal for loads of reasons.

Skoda do have a good and believable range calculator for their cars have a good play with this, it is a lot more intuitive than my attempts to explain some of these issues.

The EV database is a good reference for real life range predictions across the various EV’s available.

A Better Route Planner is a great way of putting together ALL the variables and planning a long trip

What do you need to know about Samoëns?

Altitude 720m
Population 2200
Distance to Geneva airport: 1h15
Nearest Train: Cluses (25min)
Skiing: Grand Massif – 265km

All the properties we have for sale in Samoënsëns 

Our online valuation tool for Samoënsëns/valuation 

Samoëns has the best of both worlds, it’s a traditional Savoyard resort and a delightful small town. Samoëns has consciously maintained its Alpine charm, despite a recent flurry of expansion in which new chalets and lifts have added to its appeal. At just 720m, snow in the resort is not guaranteed. However this is not a problem because access to one of the most snow-sure ski areas in the Alps is fast and convenient. 

Samoëns is a real village. It’s not just a ski resort. It has a year round community that acts and feels like a real village. It’s well connected too, just an hour and a quarter from Geneva airport and with the nearest train station, about 25min away at Cluses. It’s not just Samoëns either, there are lots of smaller villages Morillon, Verchaix, Taninges, Mieussy, Les Carroz and Flaine.

The summer season is just as busy as the winter season, but then, it’s not really about seasons in Samoëns. The point about Samoëns is that it has an all year round community life. For instance Samoëns loves its weekly market, it’s a hugely important part of the village. In addition to the market, there are a full range of activities, events and festivals. There is even a local radio station for the entire valley too.

Samoëns is one of the few ski resorts in the Alps with a stable number of inhabitants. Whereas many areas are losing their communities because they are being priced out of the area. The population of Samoëns is stable, if not growing. 



Some listingsëns/

Handiglisse Association – provides sports equipment for disabled individuals (such as uniski, dualski or kartski) seeking to partake in mountain activities (adapted for summer and winter) with qualified instructors. 

Website: http://www.Samoë



Giffre en transition – a group of local initiatives for ecological and social transition with the Giffre Valley.  Website or Email:

Naturide 74 –  VTT / Mountain Biking Club

Important Events and Festivals:

Criou Blues & Celt Festival

Ultra Trail du Haut GIffre https://Samoë

REFUGES – summer 

There are four great refuges in Samoëns (normally open in winter, but not this winter 2021/22) (in the territory of Samoens, but accessed from Morzine)

Morillon has a great selection of summer activities around their lake ‘Lac Bleu’ for all ages 

Horse-riding, tennis, air bag, Mali Parc, accrobranche, brand new assault course on the lake called Le Splash, pump track.

Le Lac Bleu

Samoëns Lac is now open for swimming from July 7th

Commerce and Weekly Market 

Supporting our local commerce and weekly Wednesday market (all year around on Wednesday mornings) is a hugely important component to Samoëns life.

Radio Giffre

It broadcasts out of Samoëns but encompasses the valley du Giffre and has just celebrated its 40 year anniversary. It’s an important exchange of local information within the Giffre Valley.

Medieval History and Stone carvers of Samoëns 


And finally, Le Petit Train, the train driver Claude is a character and does a little antidotal ‘Tour’ of the village, not to be missed, whether young or old

I want to sell my property in France; what is a mandate?

You want to sell your property in France and about to sign a mandate with an agency, you don’t really know what a mandate is and you are fearing another French bureaucratic nightmare ???

Let me help you through this!

If you want to work with an estate agent in France to sell your property you will need to sign a “mandat de vente”. In English that is known as a sales contract. It’s the law, an agency is not authorised to market a property without a valid mandat. This is the contract that formalises exactly what the agency will do and how much it will be paid. Signing the mandate does not mean you will have anything to pay. The agent’s fees are only paid on successful completion of the sale.

We have a video version of this question on our YouTube channel.

The mandate will have the name of the seller, name and contact details of the agency, description of the property, the agency fees, duration of the contract and an explanation of what the agent will do to sell the property. Unless the mandate is signed at the agent’s offices, you have a 14 day cooling off period before it becomes valid. It can be exclusive or non-exclusive. The difference is down to costs versus motivating an agent. They have many properties to sell. You want them to prioritise yours!

So in the case of an exclusive mandate – the aim is to increase the speed of sale of your property and to achieve the best price. A period of exclusivity motivates the sales agency because it is usually time limited – the agent will want to make the most of the time they have as the sole person marketing the property. The advantages for the seller are that the agency will work for reduced fees. Your property will only be advertised with one agency. It won’t be “over-advertised”, this increases the attractiveness of the property to a buyer. The agency will be fully focused on your sale. Although, with your consent there can be delegations to other agencies, you will only have one contact for arranging visits and receiving offers, this makes the sales process much easier for the seller to handle. There should be a time limit to the exclusivity. Otherwise the agent might not have the motivation you seek. 3 months is fair. The disadvantage of an exclusive mandate is that it  only works if you have a good motivated agency with a good track record of attracting buyers! You need to trust the people you are working with. 

The advantages of a non-exclusive mandate  are that you can maximise your sales opportunities by working with any number of agents, this means you are not taking a risk with just one agency.  But beware, over-exposure does not look good to your prospective buyer. In this case each agent will advertise your property on various portals like Rightmove, in this case it is common to see the same property for sale at slightly different prices, this looks bad to a buyer. Dealing with multiple agents, and sometimes having to juggle the same buyer with more than one agent, is not easy. The other disadvantage of a non-exclusive mandate is that it will normally cost more. 

If this hasn’t helped, what can you do?

Alpine Property Market Report April 2021

Every few months since the start of COVID we have had a look at what property prices are doing in the French Alps. The history is here:

Alpine Property market report, July 2020 COVID edition!

How is COVID affecting property prices in the Alps? (May/June 2020)

Coronavirus COVID-19 and your Property in the Alps (April 2020)

Covid is by no means over, however we can see that we are going to have to learn to live with this virus for some time.

Because of covid restrictions almost none of the ski lifts opened for the 2020/21 winter season. The British aren’t allowed to come on holiday, however, that has not stopped a fair number of French visitors arriving over the winter to make the most of what is on offer in the Haute Savoie.

We’ve produced this market report in video format too.

Right now we are still seeing unprecedented demand for property in the Alps. Our numbers go back 20 years and 2020 has been our busiest year with  a 20% jump in enquiries. There is no let up in 2021 either. The same scenario is being repeated around the world. People are discovering that they can work from home which means they can work and live where they really want to be. It’s something we can empathise with. Half the Alpine Property team came to live in the Alps for this very reason. This activity is not slowing down so we don’t expect any change in the market in the near future.

The Alpine Property market in the French Alps has always dealt with high demand from British based customers. We are still getting lots of enquiries from the British, but obviously, actual sales have dropped off thanks to the travel restrictions. This demand has been more than replaced by French customers. So much so that there is a reduced supply of properties. When demand outstrips supply it can only mean that prices will increase. 

We monitor a couple of sales figures. The primary one is average property prices. Over the last 10 years we have seen between a 20 and 30% increase in property prices. Depending on the type of property and the area. However, over the last 3 years they have been fairly flat across the board. It’s early days but the last 6 months is definitely showing a 2-5% increase in prices across ski villages of the Haute Savoie. 

The second metric we follow is the average agreed price compared to advertised prices. At the moment there is only a reduction of 1 or 2%. This means that most properties are selling for asking price. And that is the sort of market we are in: a seller’s market. Now is not the time to make an offer at below asking price!

A further driver of this increased activity in property investment is fear of negative interest rates and inflation. In the first instance not to have to pay the banks to look after money, and the second to safeguard cash from inflation. 

So to summarise, the current property market in the alps is very active. Prices are edging up. New properties for sale on the market are becoming harder to come by, so this can only mean the prices will continue to rise.

If you have any questions to ask about the market please put them in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

Holidays in the Alps in 2021

The ski lifts are closed to the public. Hotels only operate on room service. Restaurants are “fermé”. Customs officers are checking for skis when you drive across the French – Swiss border. There is no getting away from this, it is a tricky time for the holiday industry in the Alps.

Holidays to the continent never used to be easy. I have some evidence of this. I’ve collected a couple of books from the late 1800’s that I’ll refer to below, I’ve also raided my Grandmothers holiday snaps from 1934. Holidays were long and expensive voyages. In some respects that might make them more memorable. Keep this in mind when lamenting the current lack of conveniences.

Edward Whymper

Edward Whymper is famous for the first ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865 on his eighth attempt. I have an early copy of his best-seller “Scrambles 1860-69”, Whymper was not a rich man, an engraver, he was first sent to the Alps on a work trip, to document an ascent by others of Mt Plevoux in the Dauphiné, in the end, the ascent failed. The French guide that had been engaged encouraged Whymper to try again, they succeeded and at 20 yrs old, a mountaineer was born. This was before photography became convenient, so these engravings were less art and more documentation. Travelling to the Alps in those days was by train and took days, the cost will have been high. Tourism was not new. The first ascent of Mont Blanc had been in 1786.

I have selected a couple of pages from Scrambles that discuss the Chamonix mountain guides.

Alfred Wills is from the same time. Maybe 10 years ahead of Whymper. Another famous Alpine tourist. He had money though, he was a famous Judge. Famous because he presided over the trial for gross indecency of Oscar Wilde. Wills bought a “chalet” near Samoens, it is still there and still in his family I believe. Way up the valley at 1350m a few kilometres walk from the road head. “Chalets de Fonts”, further up the hill, the Refuge d’Anterne is named after him. In those days Samoens was an obvious choice for a holiday, it was connected by rail into the main network. I have his book, “Wanderings” from 1853.

Below is the first page. A mention of his 4-day journey to Chamonix and like Whymper he took the opportunity to take a dig at the Chamonix guides.

My Grandmother

My Grandmother travelled extensively around Europe in the ’30s. This would have been possible thanks to her wealthy background. The first I knew of it was when visiting her before she died in 2005. She was 94 at the time and not making a whole lot of sense. I told her I was living in the Alps so she asked me where. I said it was close to the French/Swiss border. Her response was to point me towards a drawer and ask that I dig out her photo albums, saying she was sure she’d been skiing near there when she was younger. Her albums were fairly well buried, but I pulled them out and started flicking through them. The pictures were so good I assumed they were a collection of postcards. Thanks to her failed eyesight my Grandmother was unable to guide me through them. I kept turning the pages, not really believing what I was looking at until I started to recognise some of the architecture, I could see the wording on one of the hotels was in French too. And then finally I saw the Dents du Midi, when I saw them I knew it had been taken from above Morgins. Right on my doorstep. I was astounded. These images where dated 1934.

As far as I can find out, the first ski lift in Morgins was the Foilleuse, built in 1958, a single-seat chair lift

And from the pictures, it was clear that “skiing” in those days meant hiking up the hills. There were no ski lifts at all. The skis were enormous and made from solid wood, the skins they attached to the bottom to give grip to allow uphill movement were made from seal skin.

I can’t help but write a few more lines about my Granny. Since her death we have had a closer look at some of her other papers, we have her passport from the time. Amongst the stamps, it is clear she made half a dozen trips to Austria, Yugoslavia and Switzerland in 1937 & 38. A very “active” time politically for those areas. We can see that she left Austria either on the 7th March 38 or the 17th March 38, so either 5 days before the Anschluss or 5 days after!

Beyond mentioning she drove an ambulance, Granny hadn’t spoken much about her time in the war. We found an official photo of her. The officers uniform suggests she did more than drive an ambulance. My uncle recently asked for her war record. It seems that she did indeed start out driving ambulances during the Blitz but then went on to work for various Anti-Aircraft Brigade Groups, then in 1945 she was posted to the CSDIC (Combined Services Detailed Interrogation Centre), Military Intelligence, where we surmise she used her German language skills (Swiss finishing school had its uses). Then towards the end of the war in August 1945 she spent 6 months in Germany with BAOR (British Army of the Rhine). This time overlapped with her time with CSDIC. Exactly what she was up to is classified. Yet another example of the modesty of her generation.

An Alpine cycling tour in 1937

Holidays in the Alps in the inter-war years were not confined to the well off. I recently came across an article written about 3 friends from Middlesbrough and Stockton-on-Tees. They were inspired to take the train to Munich and tour with their bikes through Bavaria, the Austrian Tyrol and the Dolomites. Their pictures are fabulous and can be seen on the link below. Some of these pictures and the pictures of my Granny overlap. Same place, same year!

I’m British and live in the UK. How long can I stay in France?

At some point, the UK and France may enter into a further agreement, or there may be a new agreement with the EU, but until then the requirements that apply for those who arrive from 2021 onwards will be those that already apply to other non-EU nationals. So you can either come for a holiday or apply for a Visa to stay longer.

I want to stay for less than 180 days a year.

From 1 January 2021, a new 90/180 rule will apply throughout the Schengen area of which most EU countries are members. This allows UK residents to spend 90 out of every 180-days in the EU. This means UK residents with second homes in France can spend 180 days a year at their French homes, but not all in one go.

I want to stay for more than 180 days a year.

Then you will need a long-stay visa costing 99€. There is a useful website that covers this:

There are 4 categories for the visa application

  • Stay for an extended period for tourist or personal reasons
  • Carry out a professional activity; for instance, to start a new business
  • Pursue education
  • Join family members

At least 90 days before you leave the UK, you will need to apply to the French Embassy in the UK for the visa. If you are living outside of the UK, then the application should be made to the local consulate. There are Embassy offices in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, all of which can handle these applications.

For the grant of this type of visa, two important conditions apply: 

  • Sufficient financial resources 
  • Health insurance.

Test of Resources

The test of resources requires that you have resources at least equivalent to the minimum working wage (SMIC), which is €1,231 net/month in 2021, for the period of your stay (maximum one year), after which a residence permit is required.

The test is applied differently to those who are economically inactive, and to those who are proposing to run a business activity, or who will become salaried.


If you are not proposing to work, the SMIC figure is per adult in the household, although in practice a lower test may be applied. Some relaxation of the SMIC rule also operates if you own your home in France without a mortgage.

Also, if your income is below the minimum level, but you have capital resources that would enable you to live in France for a year or more, that may compensate for the lower income level.

Health insurance

You must have an insurance certificate covering all medical and hospital expenses for which you may be liable for the duration of your stay in France, as well as medical repatriation costs and expenses in the event of death. This does not seem hard to come by.

We have another blog on Brexit and buying property in France.

Brexit and buying a property in France

Brexit and buying a property in France: Some FAQ’s

The UK’s departure from the EU has a number of consequences for British nationals buying and selling properties in France. Below we have set out some of the main changes and how we think they will impact our customers.

If I am looking to buy in France, does Brexit make it more expensive for me?

No, there are no additional costs for non-residents looking to purchase in France after 1 January 2021. Acquisition costs will remain at about 7 to 8% for an existing property and around 2.5% for a new-build home.

What changes if I want to sell my property in France?

This is where the changes are. It’s all to do with Capital Gains Tax.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

CGT has always been payable if your property has increased in price. Don’t forget that, if your sale attracts tax, this indicates an increase in value in your property, which is largely a positive outcome!

Primary residences are still exempt from CGT. 

If a second home has increased in value, CGT is levied on the increase. In France, there are two payments due on a capital gain, the CGT and a social levy.

The standard CGT on the sale of a property will remain at 19%. The standard social levy charge for EU residents with a second home in France is currently 7.5% but this has increased to 17.2% for British homeowners from 1 January 2021. This means the total tax now due on a capital gain will be 36.2%, up from 26.5%.

BUT a taper relief also exists for both CGT and the social levy. For CGT the rate decreases from 6 years of ownership, with no CGT due after 22 years. The social charge taper also starts at year 6 with no charge applicable after 30 years of ownership. You can see this in the table below.

To deal with these taxes, in the majority of cases, a non-EU resident selling a second home in France will be required to appoint a fiscal representative. There are exemptions where the sale price is under €150,000 or if the property has been owned for 30 years or more. The fee for this can range from 0.5% to 1% of the property’s sale price, payable out of the sale proceeds but deductible as part of the CGT calculation.

We have another blog post on the subject of how to spend more than 90 days in France.

Cycle paths in the Alps (or the lack of them)

#See the note at the bottom, it seems the council has been listening to my dreams!

I’m not talking about mountain bike tracks here. I’m talking about transport. At the moment cyclists mostly share the alpine roads with motor vehicles. On the mountain cols that can work OK. Unfortunately, as the valley roads get busier and busier tensions between the two communities rise. And before I polarise this discussion, it should be remembered that almost all the cyclists drive cars too! And some of the drivers ride bikes. So these two communities are really one community.

Between Morzine and Les Gets, my dream, nothing more at the moment © Please do not reproduce this image!

We see all the new investment being spent on skiing, on snowmaking, ski-lifts, new pistes. Not forgetting the new buildings, chalets and apartments. It’s easy to see the link between investment and return. This is not a criticism, I understand the business. We are used to seeing money being spent on new tarmac, new roads, bridges, tunnels. We don’t question this necessity. But I think we are missing a trick.

Between Morzine and Les Gets, the solid blue line exists as a gravel track. The rest is just a suggestion.

We all rely on the mountains to “provide”, we know that they offer more than just skiing. I came here 20 years ago looking for mountains (not skiing). Skiing provided the industry to pay the bills. At that time I was in the minority. Now it’s normal. Now the majority come to these valleys for the mountains. They might ski but they will also bike, run, swim, climb…the list is long. There needs to be a change of emphasis in investment to reflect this.

Cycle paths

I don’t need to state that more people are cycling on the alpine roads. It’s obvious. Many, many times more than 20 years ago. And now we have e-bikes too. Yet another explosion, and this is just the start. All across Europe, there is fantastic cycling infrastructure being created. If you have never been to the Netherlands on a bike, I recommend it. It’s another world. Even closer to home, just the other side of Lac Leman you never have to ride on a busy road. Almost no expense has been spared to keep powered and non-powered transport separate.

Wooden cycle bridge
Pont Rotary on route 5 in Switzerland, for walkers, bikes, roller skis or skates!

But it’s not just in Switzerland. France is catching up too. Near us is the mighty ViaRhona, 815km from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) to the Mediterranean. There is still work to do around Lac Léman, but the section I rode this summer from Geneva to Lyon was either on smooth cycle tracks like the one pictured below or quiet side roads.

Pont du Lit au Roi on the Via Rhona cyle track, pretty much the “middle of nowhere”.

The bridge in the next image is due to be finished by the end of the year. Again, on the ViaRhona, it’s an investment of 1.8m€ so the cyclists can avoid a busy road. More information here and a reportage here

A 170m bridge being constructed on the Via Rhona

At a departmental level there is progress being made. From Chamonix to Geneva the Véloroute Léman Mont-Blanc is progressing well. The Tour du Lac d’Annecy and Annecy to Thones too. There is more information on this dedicated website.

The cycle tracks under construction in the Haute Savoie.

It’s not just national infrastructure either. In the Abondance valley the local municipalities have got together and linked the quiet roads from one end of the valley to the other. 20km in all. An excellent job.

Le Chemin des Bords de Dranse

It wasn’t all easy. This section of raised route clings to the side of the river valley, to avoid the main road on the other side. Unfortunately, it is not a route that is likely to attract the dedicated road cyclist. To do that it would have to have a smoother surface.

However, it is at the Municipal level that progress is much slower. There is so much more work to be done, and some very particular “pinch points”. One of the worst is from Morzine to Les Gets. Two villages only separated by 5km, but if you are a cyclist it’s a very unpleasant section. People even try and walk it, sometimes with tragic consequences. The first two pictures in this blog illustrate what could be done. It should not have to be a dream. It should be a priority. There are plenty of others. Morzine to St Jean d’Aulps, Samoens to Taninges, I could go on.

This sort of thing should not be an afterthought anymore. Cycle provision should be a priority. It does pay too. If the local municipalities prioritise this sort of infrastructure the visitors will appreciate it as much as the local inhabitants. And that is good business!

# It looks like Morzine and Les Gets municipal councils have mobilised to create something ambitious. Excellent! Have a look at this article for more information!

How fast is the internet in the mountains?

We are 6 months into COVID and it seems that the main effect on the property market in the Alps is to increase demand. I’m not sure I know anyone that would have predicted that at the start. However, it seems obvious now. For those that have been thinking of escaping their homes in the city, this has been the final straw. So it is no surprise that the second question we get asked about a property we have for sale is “how fast is the internet“?

The other COVID effect is to force many people to work from home. That has helped the Alpine Property market too. Because if your home no longer has to be near your work, then you might as well live in the place that you want to spend your free time. In which case you need a good internet connection! I have been working from home in the French Alps for the last 20 years. Without a good internet connection, I can’t work at all. So I’ll share some of my experience here.

If you are looking at a property in the alps to buy then you probably want to know how good the internet is. The estate agent often won’t know. Maybe in this day and age, it should be listed in the particulars! The easiest thing to do is to ask the current owner. Unfortunately most of the time you won’t get an accurate answer. So if you are visiting the property take the time to connect to their internet and go to . Thanks to enormously secure wifi passwords, even this is easier said than done! So that leaves you with making an estimate.

Estimating internet speed.

There are various sites that you can use to check the speed of someone else’s internet. You will often need their fixed-line number. Sometimes an address is enough. is a good start. Basically what these tests are doing is calculating how far the property is from the telephone “exchange” in the village.

Here are some examples

Property 1
central téléphonique : SEYTROUX
longueur de ligne : 1215 mètres
affaiblissement théorique : 14.01dB
état de la ligne : ACTIVE
débit maximum estimé VDSL2 : 29.3 Mb/s

Property 2
central téléphonique : SAINT‐JEAN D AULPS
longueur de ligne : 2471 mètres
affaiblissement théorique : 38.57dB
état de la ligne : ACTIVE
débit maximum estimé ADSLMAX : 5.6 Mb/s

You can see that property 2 is twice as far from the exchange as property 1. The download speed is 5x slower! That’s par for the course with broadband over telephone lines, and until fibre is installed that is where most of our internet comes from.

If you don’t have the exact address or phone number this map is quite useful.

It simply shows houses close to the exchange in red (10-30 Mbps) or Yellow (5-10 Mbps), it worked for the test above. The first property was in the red zone and the second in the orange zone.

You could stop reading here. However if you want to know a bit more about the numbers please carry on…..

I’ll start with a glossary

  • ADSL is a type of broadband internet. If comes into the house on a telephone line.
  • Mbps (Megabits per second) is how you measure internet speed.
  • 4G is a type of mobile data connection (internet on your phone)
  • Fibre or Fibre-optic, sometimes called FTTH, this is super fast internet.
  • PING (or latency) is how fast information takes to leave your computer and then return. It is measured in ms (milliseconds)

Many of our properties have a download of around about 5 Mbps, this is normally good enough for watching a movie on Netflix and good enough for using Zoom or the like. However, if there are 5 people in the property trying to do that at the same time it will struggle.

BUT download is only half the story. You download video data to watch a movie. But to use Zoom you need to upload video too. In theory, Zoom will work at 0.5 Mbps up/down. That’s not helpful is it? We’ve thrown in UP AND DOWN. But people only ever talk of downloads. All ADSL internet (so the stuff that comes in on a phone line) downloads faster than it uploads. Usually by a factor 10x . So if you have 5 Mbps download, quite often the best upload you will get is 0.5 Mbps, just about good enough for Zoom. But only just.

Here is the speedtest result for the ADSL in my home

Which you’ll know, if you have read this far, is just enough to get by. However, there are 5 of us in this house and frequently the others are all using the internet at the same time. At which point it is nowhere near enough. I have had to add a 4G connection. With this connection my result is

Which is always good enough. You’ll see that there is another number. A Ping of 47ms. this is “latency” or more simply, this is the delay in sending and receiving the information. The higher that number the longer the pauses required when using Zoom. Anything under 150 is OK. However, it is not good enough for online gaming. the gamers would prefer a Ping of 20 or so.

4G? What’s that?

4G or even better 4G+ is the mobile phone signal. With 4G the difference between the upload and the download is only 2x. As you can see from the numbers above, using 4G improves my upload speed by 40x. If a property is struggling with internet speeds using a 4G box can be an enormous help. A number of us in Alpine Property already do this. It will depend on if you get a good mobile phone signal at your house AND if the phone company has space for you on their system. I know that in St Jean d’Aulps the available slots are full. However, in Le Biot down the road, you can still sign up for a 4G box.

Fibre? Isn’t that coming soon? Won’t it solve the issue?

Yes and Yes! Most of the Haute Savoie is due to be connected to the Fibre optic “soon”, people are being connected now (2020) but you might have to wait until 2025. Syane are undertaking the work and they have a website here

They are installing fibre to the home (FTTH). The minimum download will be 100 Mbps, the maximum could be 1000 Mbps (1Gbps), upload at 50+ Mbps. Ping should be less than 20ms. So more than enough for working from home. More than enough for anything really.

When I test my eligibility they say “Vous serez éligible à la fibre entre 2019 et 2025”. This is confirmed by looking at their maps. I live in a grey zone. If you compare this map to the previous map (of current speeds) you will see that they have prioritised properties with really terrible internet. Le Biot is a good example.

Because I rely so heavily on my internet I have kept my ADSL and I have 4G too. I have added a system from OVH that combines these together. This means that if one of the connections is playing up then the other may still be enough. These are connected to one wifi signal that covers the whole house. If the children are clogging everything up I have an app that means I can prioritise my office computer. Obviously, this increases the cost somewhat,

  1. Bouygues ADSL 25€
  2. Bouygues 4G 40€
  3. 20€
    Total 85€ /month

What if there is no ADSL and no 4G?

Then currently you are left with satellite. Which doesn’t have to be that expensive. Especially when you compare it to the amount I am paying. AND it looks like you can get some help here.

This site seems to explain the situation well.

The problem with satellite broadband is limited data. Even the “unlimited” plans (70€/month) are capped at 100GB of data. Which for many is fine. Not for my household though. We used 600GB of data last month!


As I write this Starlink is not yet operational. It is Elon Musk’s project to connect the entire earth to the internet without wires. This is satellite technology but without the need for a dish. They have just started testing this, so it might be operational in the next few years. It should take over from satellite broadband. It is bound to start out expensive and is most likely going to have data limits. For those who will never get connected to the main networks, this could be the ultimate answer. Take a look at the Wikipedia article for more information.

We’ve talked about this on our YouTube channel too.

Alpine Property market report, July COVID edition!

This is my third market report since the start of the COVID crisis. Right now we have returned to some sort of normality. The mountains and lakes were the first to have restrictions lifted (May 11th) then cafe’s, bars, restaurants and hotels opened. Now pools, ski lifts and shops are open too. The border with Switzerland has been open since June 15th.

There are restrictions in place. You have to book to go to the pool, all shops have to provide a sanitising station on the way in. Most are asking that you wear a mask. Some insist some don’t. It’s a 50/50 thing around here. I’ve eaten out a few times but always sat outside. You are generally required to wear a mask as you move around a premises but it’s not required at a table. It’s always table service too. Order and pay whilst seated. As I write this some of the protocols are being adapted. One of the local pools has given up with the booking system because so few people came. So now it’s first come first served.

We’ve been keeping an eye on the flights in and out of Geneva airport. At the worst point, there was literally only a handful of passengers coming in and out. By the beginning of July that was up in the hundreds. As I write this there are about 100 flights a day coming in and out. However, that is still only a third of what they are used to.

The number of tourists in our Alpine villages has shot up this weekend. This is the week of the “quatorze Juillet“, traditionally the start of the holidays in France, and the French are making the most of a “Staycation” (it’s the same word in French), many British second homeowners are arriving by car, far fewer by aeroplane. Self-catering bookings are good. Most of the British tourists have cancelled but their place has been taken by the French.

I wrote the first report back in mid-April, you can read it here. Coronavirus COVID-19 and your Property in the Alps. Back then everything had come to a halt, the Gendarmerie were on patrol and we could only leave our homes briefly and with the correct paperwork. We carried on working from home (no change there for Alpine Property) but we could only guess what the future held.

I wrote the second report at the end of May. How is COVID affecting property prices in the Alps? At this point, we were caught between two realities. Many of the sales we had “in process” so pre-COVID sales were struggling because the buyers feared for their future and didn’t want to take on extra risk. They were either trying to reduce the price of the property they had already agreed or were looking for a way out. On the other hand, we were feeling a very significant pressure from new post-COVID buyers. New enquiries were back to normal. I wrote this market report to try and provide some facts and figures to attempt to shore up some of our crumbling sales.

This third report that I am writing (July/12) is more of the same. We have just seen a record-breaking number of enquiries in June and we are heading the same direction in July. I reported 16 agreed sales at the end of May, that number has now doubled. The average sale price and average offer prices remain the same. The only slight change is that the Francophone buyer is in the ascendancy. I say Francophone because some of them live in the UK! We have seen about 30% of our “pre-COVID” sales fall through which obviously leads to all sorts of heartache for all involved, however many of these failed sales are being quickly rescued with new post-COVID customers. It would be great to think that this is only the experience of Alpine Property. However it never works like that, I have heard similar reports from many other agents in our area.

It’s not just in the Alps either. There is a similar effect being reported in the UK, I also heard an off-the-record report from a very good source that new enquiries in June in one UK sector are easily 50% higher than usual. And that was before the announcement of a higher stamp duty ceiling!

So what of the future? We can’t be complacent. I for one appreciate the strong “confinement”, it has really brought the numbers right down in France. Of course, the numbers will go up. That is inevitable. We just hope the current measures are sufficient to keep enough of a lid on it. As far as our property market goes, the bottom line is, the French Alps is a fantastic place to live or take a holiday and that won’t change. We can’t imagine going back to another country-wide confinement. But then again, we could never have imagined being confined in the first place! I’d never have guessed we’d have carried on doing the same levels of business as usual. With that in mind, I don’t think I can make any predictions for the future!