While bookings for week-long ski holidays continue to struggle, operators are seeing an increase in demand for long-term rentals
As the capital enters Tier 2 lockdown restrictions, new research has found that Londoners with an adventurous streak would prefer to trade their home comforts for a winter in the mountains.
A survey carried out by retailer Snow+Rock found that 60 per cent of skiers and snowboarders who live in London have considered moving to the mountain permanently this winter, having researched long-term lets in the Alps.
Londoners’ lust for Alpine air is stronger than any other part of the country, with the number of people considering a move to the mountains almost double the national average (35 per cent).
Over half (56 per cent) of respondents to the survey, who live in the capital, admit to taking more than two ski holidays each winter, with a quarter hitting the slopes at least three times. For many, a permanent move for the winter months would cut out any hassle, testing requirements or quarnatines required between multiple trips.
Elevation Alps, a chalet company based in the French resort of Morzine, a short drive from Geneva, has said the rise in home working during lockdown has sparked this new trend in the Alps.
“We have had a huge amount of interest from people who would like to work remotely from Morzine. This is a brand new phenomenon,” said Kathryn Leake, director of Elevation Alps.
“Enquires are ranging from four weeks to the whole season, with four weeks in February being the favourite month so far. Guests still get everything they would expect from a holiday rental, including weekly cleans, but we are also keen to make sure the working bit is also catered for, with printing and other office support. All our properties already included free wifi and are spacious enough for someone to comfortably set up a workstation.”
Le Lapin is one such apartment, available for up to six guests and just five-minutes walk to the resort’s main lift and village centre – lunchtime skiing anyone? Costing €8,200 for a month-long stay for six people (€1,366 per person), it’s a tempting proposition for groups keen to trade their London house share for a room with a view.
Those still keen to have the luxuries of a catered ski chalet during their extended escape can. A number of luxury chalet operators have also seen increasing demand for long-term rentals this season.
“We are seeing a marked increase in demand for long-term rentals in the mountains with clients looking to escape city living, hunker down in remote surroundings and test the waters of relocating to The Alps. This year, seasonal rentals have contributed to 15 per cent of overall sales, in comparison to 7.2 per cent of overall sales two years ago,” said Natasha Robertson, co-founder at Bramble Ski and Haute Montagne, which operates five-star properties in the likes of Lech in Austria and Zermatt in Switzerland.
And it’s not just singletons and couples making the move. Some families are also taking the chance to escape.
“Our chalets offer guests ample space and privacy so they can stay within their bubble and enjoy the peace and quiet of the mountains. We even have some clients who have decided to put their children in International Schools just for the season so families can relocate temporarily,” said Robertson.
This new trend, during a time when very few people are booking regular week-long ski holidays, has prompted operators, such as Consensio Chalets, to offer new incentives to customers.
“We have had a plethora of enquiries from UK nationals wanting to escape UK lockdown and hibernate in the Alps for a few weeks in a row – which has prompted us to offer a new deal of a free week's holiday on longer chalet bookings,” said Helen Orford marketing manager at Consensio Chalets.
Guests who book a four-week stay in one of Consensio’s luxury serviced chalets will receive the cheapest week free. Each chalet comes with a pool, spa facilities and most have a fully-equipped office. For example, a month’s rental of Chalet Le Grenier in Méribel, which sleeps 12, costs from €95,175, saving €28,125 on the original price.
It’s not just chalets that are appealing to these remote workers looking for a change of scenery. All-inclusive operator Club Med has also seen the trend emerge with its customers and AirBnb has found that half of UK office workers have thought about living elsewhere during or post-lockdown, with AirBnb properties in the Alps offering discounts of up to 70 per cent off if booked for a month or more this winter.
Those looking to make a major commitment to their new life in the mountains have even more options.
Terrésens, a specialist Alpine property developer, offers the chance for skiers to invest in their home-away-from-home for winters to come, with a portfolio of properties to buy. After previously focussing solely on France, this season it is launching two new developments in Switzerland, in Grimentz and Heremence, part of the Valais region – home to a number of world-class ski resorts.
Property prices start from €200,000 and skyrocket up to €850,000, with the one- to three-bedroom apartments having swimming pool access, on-site bar and spa facilities.
“In terms of aspiration, owning a property in a Swiss ski resort is right at the top of the list. Being able to get a foothold in a brand new development of this class and in a well-known ski area at a starting price of €200,000 is an opportunity that doesn’t come up that often for UK buyers,” said James Ross, Managing Director of Terrésens UK.
Ski schools are getting in on the action too. Snoworks has launched a month-long ski course in January based in the French resorts of Saint Foy, which boasts some of the best off-piste skiing in the Alps. While the Warren Smith Ski Academy is offering its customers the chance to book a four-week residential stay in Verbier, spending five days a week with its coaches on the slopes with time to work after lessons finish at 2pm.
As for what these committed skiers, surveyed by Snow+Rock, will miss most this winter if ski holidays are cancelled for the foreseeable, it’s the mountain lifestyle – eating, drinking and spending time in the breathtaking scenery. The solution for many, it seems, is to up sticks and trade the smog for the slopes.
“At Snow+Rock we are snowsports enthusiasts ourselves, so we know that there's nothing quite like a fresh powder run. Among our enthusiast employees, we’ve had some requests to work from another country, and even to work from the Alps. The fact that such a high percentage of London-based snowsports fans are willing to consider a move to the mountains this winter shows they feel the same,” said Jose Finch, managing director at Outdoor and Cycle Concepts, parent company of Snow+Rock.