Mountain resorts are aiming for new heights of ultra-luxury

In 2100, people will still be going to winter sports, but they won't practice them as they do today. Is global warming to blame? Not only. The resorts that are in danger must diversify and for the others, help might come, once again, through luxury.

Aymeric Mantoux

By Aymeric Mantoux16 février 2023

The view from the hotel Chetzeron restaurant in Crans Montana, Switzerland (Martin Gardelliano)

The famous Olympic motto "Faster, higher, stronger" coined by Pierre de Coubertin can now be applied to the marketing plan of winter sports resorts. Despite global warming, and the catastrophes announced, ski resorts have never attracted so many people. The occupancy rates this winter in France are up by 7% compared to 2022, which is more than inflation. The price per square meter of a mountain apartment has risen 30% since Covid in some of the most exclusive resorts in France (+13.8% on average in Switzerland), hotels are becoming increasingly luxurious, and investors are flocking to them. In Switzerland as well, the craze is tangible: in Crans-Montana, a Six Senses Resort, designed by AW2 studio is due to open soon and the takeover of the 5-star Le Crans hotel by Saudis has caused a stir. In France, the opening of the new Club Med in Tignes, designed by architect Jean-Philippe Nuel last December, has given the resort a boost. "It's a new destination that perfectly combines our two objectives, luxury and eco-responsibility," said Henri Giscard d'Estaing, president of the all-inclusive vacation pioneer.



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The Six Senses Resort in Crans Montana, designed by AW2 Studio is expected to be soon opening its doors (Six Senses Resort)

Everywhere in the mountains, ultra-luxury is gaining ground

The image of a "Ski food safari" event dish broadcasted in a report about spring skiing in Crans Montana (Louis Dasseborne)

The very exclusive interior designer Christophe Tollemer is overflowing with projects, notably in Courchevel for wealthy French or foreign clients. The decorator Solène Eloy, with her agency L'Atelier du mur, is in the middle of work on a large Savoy chalet for a private client in Méribel. As for the resorts, they compete with 2- or 3-star Michelin restaurants and great chefs. And bookings are done at least a week in advance, just like in big capitals. Despite the weather warnings and the historically low snowfall, the craze continues. Several factors explain the increased demand for apartments or chalets in the resort. First, the pandemic has reinforced the desire for a second home, for fresh air and for hiking. The context has allowed many buyers to strengthen their investment projects, in a context of low interest rates which have encouraged investment in leisure or income property. The limitation of construction and strong demand had a significant impact on prices, which rose significantly. "Initiatives for the preservation of nature, as well as those aimed at limiting second homes, are reducing the development of supply”, analyze Jonas Wiesel and Joan Rodriguez, co-founders of Realadvisor.

Resorts have the choice between diversifying or moving upmarket

Timothée Gaget, CEO of the Artcher agency

Ski touring in Crans Montana, Switzerland (Patrick Guller)

Mountain real estate is also a real haven in a complex global context, and the Swiss, French and Italian Alps remain a haven of peace easily accessible from all over Europe. Nevertheless, 100 years after the invention of skiing and winter sports, the model we have known until now is changing considerably. Alpine skiing was born in the 1930s as a tourist activity. But it is after the war that mass tourism exploded. Jean-Claude Killy in the 60s imposes skiing as the number one sport, ahead of soccer. This brings the discipline to be democratized, including in the middle classes.

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