In May, fitness coach Jessica Z Christensen decided to hike the forest trails and waterfalls of La Tièche to enjoy the beauty of the snow-capped Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. Ten years after becoming a digital nomad, the Italian and her Danish-German husband Lars founded the sports and cooperative company Mavericks in the Crans-Montana ski resort.
“We are very lucky to spend a year-round adventure park there, and ask ourselves, how can we live this life so that we can always do this? We have met many international people who also love the outdoor lifestyle and don’t want to give up. ,”she says. International regulars — including a Swedish scientist, a French naturopathic doctor, and a Czech start-up founder — are not the only ones who have reassessed their life and work patterns during the pandemic.
Mountains described as dangerous, powerful, or exhilarating have long inspired people’s imagination, from the ode to Mont Blanc by the romantic poets Shelley and Coleridge to the American naturalist John Muir. In 1873 he wrote: “The mountains have been calling, I must go (and I will continue to work hard when I can).”
Fast forward to last winter, when locked in Massachusetts, the writer and clinical psychologist Scott House described his desire for the mountains around Switzerland’s second hometown: “I like the feeling of letting go and surrendering. When I am When I was in it, the passiveness I felt made me more likely to create and write new things, ironically.”
However, despite the romantic vision, how can urban residents in the 21st century adapt to the unpredictability and reality of mountain life? It is one thing to prepare crash pads for weekend escapes in the Alps, but working and living long hours there will bring different approaches. “People are now looking for a second home in the true sense of the word-this is unlikely to be in fierce action, but to own a larger property on the edge of a quieter town,” said agent Alex Koch de Gooreynd of Knight. frank.
This means that some homeowners are expanding their alpine homes to make it easier to work from home. A woman from Ireland and her wife own a two-bedroom apartment in the French resort of Les Gets, but are upgrading to a five-bedroom cottage with two home offices. This former logging town has traditional Savoyard-style cabins and newer houses built of stone and wood.
“We miss very much not being able to ski or be in the mountains for 18 months,” said the 45-year-old man, who worked in the media and did not want to be named. “I realized how a waste of time flying to London for meetings; if we can work remotely-why not from here? Broadband is as good as home, as long as you can go out and see the snow becomes a tonic.” Ten In winter, they encountered the snowy road leading to the valley only once, but now they install winter tires like the locals.
She said that Les Gets feels more real than purpose-built resorts such as Flaine-this is a modernist village designed by Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer in the 1960s. Skiers either love it or hate it. As a city resident, she was attracted by the rustic cabin style. “We like the friendliness of the town, even though it is not yet ready for life throughout the year. Local supermarkets close in autumn and spring when the town is a little lifeless.” As demand increases in the off-season, this may happen. Changes over time-this happened in Meribel and Courchevel.
Charles Antoine, who represents Athena Advisers, said that another indicator of the shift to increased personal use is the decrease in French property owners putting their properties in the rental market. Newly built real estate can be used for rent and can enjoy a 20% VAT refund. The agency’s own records show that the number of people using it has fallen from 57% in the winter of 2018-19 to 28% in 2020-21.
A North Londoner wanted to rent out her two-bedroom apartment in Val d’Isère, which she had just completed, but she dreamed of spending the whole winter there without working often. The resort (together with Tignes) is already halfway through the installation of fiber optic broadband, which will help any remote work.
“As a family, we ski year after year, and I have always longed for a home on the mountain,” said the engineering designer, who asked not to be named. She chose a high-altitude resort that takes into account climate change-if the lower slopes lose snow, it can still provide skiing. “This is my son’s place, and then their children.”
The problem is that she needs to go out for a month and then come back to spend the entire winter in France-now she is subject to a 90-day limit every 180 days for non-EU citizens.
However, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union has reconsidered a British owner and his wife who had run an eight-bedroom ski lodge in the Mont Blanc Valley for 14 winters. They have enjoyed the life comparison between the 50 to 50 year olds between the London commuter belt and the empty wilderness of Upper Savoie, but now face difficulties in hiring seasonal British workers.
“If the locks, stocks and barrels are not shipped to France, we can’t really run it now, and for tax reasons, we don’t want to do this,” he said. “We may have to sell and get a smaller holiday home. When we are far from the mountains, we will’operate’, but when we return, we will truly be’alive’.”
Second home owners from both inside and outside the EU need to limit their stay within 183 days to avoid becoming tax residents of their ski resort.
However, buying property in ski resorts in Switzerland and Austria is not so easy, where the second house is strictly regulated. In Swiss resorts, the number of second homes is capped at 20% of a city’s housing stock, and strong domestic demand during the pandemic pushed up prices.
Florian Steiger of the Swiss agency Steiger & Cie said that Verbier, known for skiing in remote areas, has some scarce options. Among buyers seeking to expand, the people in Geneva swapped their main base with a weekend residence in the Valais, which helped 96% of the Swiss population enjoy 5G coverage. Verbier is now easier to reach, and the cable car from Le Châble (on the train line to Geneva) is now open until 11pm.
The convenient train from Geneva was one of the reasons why Texas asset management company Dominick Barto chose the nearby resort Nendaz to purchase a four-bedroom chalet as a second home in September. He said that the vertical drop was as high as 7,000 feet, which was greater than the drop in Colorado resorts closer to home. “I like that you can ski non-stop, and the panoramic view around Nendaz reminds me of Alaska.”
This is a decision based on Covid’s life balance introspection and investment. “We don’t want to put all our eggs in the American basket. It may even become a permanent residence. The children will start school in four years-Switzerland’s choice is also good.”
In January, Copperfield International School in Verbierle Hamo was opened by Hugh McCormick, a former Harrow and Sevenoak school teacher. It provides group teaching, evolved from the model he established in London in 2020 to support children during the lock-in period.
“Many families eager to settle in Verbier contact us, but they want a high-quality school that offers IB [International Baccalaureate],” he said. “We are reaching the capacity of more than 40 students and hope to provide boarding services next year. “
The final year’s annual fee was as high as 40,000 Swiss francs (32,403 pounds), but he hopes it will not be regarded as a VIP school or a “daycare” winter camp. 10% of the students will come from Le Châble (where many local workers live), where most families have made long-term commitments.
Many people already own cabins, such as Arne Zimmerman, who was born in Stuttgart, who will take his two daughters to school on a snowmobile in the second winter and run his Tribeca Art Gallery remotely. “The pandemic was the fuse for our evacuation [from New York] To our cabin,” he said. “We have skied in North America, but the girls love the adventure in Verbier. Coming here is in sharp contrast with the competitive environment in New York, everyone is enthusiastic; respectful. This is the best time our family has spent. “
The enrollment of Le Régent International School in Crans-Montana is growing at an annual rate of 35%. The school has established a new partnership with the famous boarding school Institut Le Rosey. Among the 78 freshmen who joined in September, the largest teams were from France, Britain, Italy, Japan and Mexico. However, with some Asian families leaving when the pandemic began, there is still room for new students.
“The resort has become a more dynamic place to live, and the attractive one-time tax system in the Valais canton also helps,” said Admissions Director Mathieu Lafonte-Pujo.
In the French Alps, new ways of working continue to attract people to smaller villages, where life is stronger throughout the year than in large ski resorts, and their money is farther away.
Andrew Beale of Free Spirit Alpine, a real estate agent, said: “The owners of second homes can integrate themselves into the local community instead of being close to the ski lifts.” “A buyer in a small village recently wanted a copy of him. List of his neighbors because he intends to spend a lot of time there.”
For their part, the locals — many of whom are involved in tourism in these villages — welcome newcomers who are keen to integrate into the community. They sell old agricultural buildings that are not in use to those who are keen to renovate. In the village of Villarabout in the three valleys mentioned by Beale, the cost of renovating a house is 10,000 euros per square meter, while the nearby town of Saint-Martin-de-Belleville is about 14,500 euros. This classic village with old slate roof stone houses with modern interiors is very popular.
Also nearby is Les Allues, a village popular with British expats. The enthusiastic skiers Robert and Charlotte Smith moved here from East London in October 2020. The redundancy of IT work prompted Robert to realize his dream of becoming a ski instructor. The plan has been shelved throughout last winter, but his training finally begins next month. “We have always dreamed of parting ways between Britain and Europe, and we asked ourselves, where is the best place to live a suitable life?” said Charlotte, the freelance book editor.
The couple bought a five-bedroom farmhouse, close to several restaurants, sources of fresh croissants, and on the free bus route to the ski lift (Charlotte does not drive). “We miss the variety of restaurants, eating dim sum one day and Sri Lankan dim sum the next day, music performances and galleries, but the disadvantages of life in London have begun to outweigh the benefits. I am looking out the window at the incredible autumn colors of the Bozel Valley. The blue sky above, not Bauer’s apartment building,” she said.
“We have been out skiing for a few weeks, but found that there is still a lot to do. We are not the only ones who come in winter and stay in summer.”
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