The allure of Courmayeur: ski-home buyers find lower costs in Italy

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When 69-year-old Guido Guidi was looking to buy a ski chalet, he considered many of the Swiss and French resorts that he had enjoyed as holiday destinations over the years. But, eventually, he bought a five-bedroom chalet in La Croix Chalets, a new eco-friendly development in Champoluc, a resort in Italy’s Aosta Valley, for €3mn, including taxes.

He was drawn to Italy for the combination of cheaper home prices and lower living costs. “In St Moritz for lunch and a good bottle of wine, you need a separate mortgage,” he jokes. “For us, expensive food is OK,” he says, “but for our adult sons who want to bring their friends to stay for a week, that’s a problem. Italy is the only place you can still get a decently priced meal up the mountain.”

As prospective ski-home buyers dream of early snow and a family Christmas on the slopes, many looking for a lower-cost option will consider Italy. According to estate agents Savills, after filtering out homes that cost less than €750,000, the average price for a prime home in the Italian resorts that it monitors is €10,100 per square metre, compared with €17,000 in Switzerland and €17,500 in France.

Italy’s resorts — including Courmayeur and Champoluc in the Aosta Valley, and Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomite mountains — may lack some of the facilities or the cachet of the best in France and Switzerland but they are growing in popularity, according to Jeremy Rollason, head of Savills’ Alpine sales business. “A home’s running cost — and the cost of food and other services in the resort — face increasing scrutiny from many buyers in recent years, especially in light of high inflation this year. Italy does very well on these,” he says.

Italian resorts provide other benefits besides good value: quieter pistes, especially during the week, for one. “From Monday to Friday, on the mountain is relatively quiet apart from a few weeks per year,” says Matt Chilton, 59, a ski racing commentator for Eurosport and the BBC, who moved his base four years ago to Courmayeur from the French resort of Val d’Isère. “You just don’t get that in the French resorts: drive from here through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to Chamonix on a Tuesday morning and it’s much busier.”

Chilton and his wife pay €800 per month for their two-bedroom apartment, which is a 10-minute walk from the centre of town, with underground parking, a terrace and wood-burning stove. He still visits Val d’Isère frequently for work and estimates an equivalent rental home there would be three or four times that. In Courmayeur, his season pass costs less than half what he used to pay in France. His monthly outgoings, including food up the mountain, groceries and energy costs, are 30 to 40 per cent lower, he says.

While more affordable than nearby French and Swiss resorts, Courmayeur is a draw for international buyers and firmly in vogue with the well-heeled of Milan and Turin, meaning property prices can still look very high by local standards. In nearby villages, such as Pré-Saint-Didier, Morgex and La Salle, prices fall significantly. Last month, the average price of a home listed in La Salle on Idealista, an Italian property portal, was €3,033 per sq m; in Courmayeur it was €7,575 per sq m.

A brightly lit tree takes centre stage in a paved plaza at dusk
The main street of Courmayeur, complete with Christmas tree © Matteo Carassale/4Corners Images

Rachel Duncan, 60, who is originally from England, has lived in the area since 1982. “I was one of those chalet girls who got stuck,” she says.

Duncan recently moved from Courmayeur and bought an 80 sq m, three-bedroom house for €360,000 in Morgex, which is about 15 minutes by car down valley from Courmayeur and a 20-minute drive from La Thuile, another popular resort.

“I spent nearly four decades in Courmayeur but it has become a bit like Chelsea. Morgex and [nearby village] La Salle are much more rustic and authentic, and a larger proportion of residents live there year-round, so they don’t become deserted outside the season,” she says.

Guidi was attracted to the smaller size of Italy’s established resorts, compared with those in France and Switzerland. “With fewer large buildings and fewer crowds, you get more of a village flavour and you feel closer to nature,” he says.

Champoluc’s near 1,600-metre elevation is another draw. “Many of the leading resorts like Megève [at a little over 1,100 metres] are at lower altitudes; they are lovely places with beautiful chalets but my concern is that global warming means they will soon see more rain than snow.”

Italy’s gastronomic appeal doesn’t stop at cheap lunchtime pizza. The resort runs an annual festival of fine dining in March. Last year’s event assembled four chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants to cook at an eatery on the side of Mont Blanc, accessed by the resort’s famous Skyway cable car.

Several years ago, Amin Momen, who organises bespoke ski trips across the Alps through his company Momentum Ski, established an annual gastronomic ski trip alongside UK chef Heston Blumenthal, which takes place in March.

“Courmayeur is hard to beat. Zermatt [in Switzerland] is really special but the cost of a meal up the mountain there is roughly double,” he says.

Guidi, who lived in Switzerland for five years, points to Italy’s laid-back café culture. “In Italy there is always a café open somewhere later — in the summer you can take a drink outside. When you’re on vacation this makes for a little more excitement.”

A couple in winter gear walk down a snowy cobbled lane decorated with Christmas lights
The cobbled streets of Courmayeur offer a quieter experience than more expensive resorts across the border © Giacomo Buzio

Among Momen’s high-end holidaymakers, bookings so far this year have been strong for Italy, he says. “You’ll always have regulars who insist on Val d’Isère, Courchevel, Méribel and so forth, but inflation means customers are looking more closely at costs and Italy comes out the strongest in terms of pricing.”

Apart from Courmayeur and Cortina d’Ampezzo, few Italian resorts make the shortlist of most international buyers, according to Rollason. And where the price difference between Italian and adjacent resorts across the border is widest, so is the quality of the experience.

On one side of the Matterhorn, in Cervinia — an unprepossessing resort, much of it built since the 1980s — the average price of a prime home is €6,800 per sq m, according to Savills.

On the mountain’s other side, and connected to the same lift system, Zermatt is one of the world’s most prestigious resorts. Its cobbled streets, boasting some of the Alps’ most impressive architecture, feature only horse-drawn carriages and a few tiny electric vehicles, with all others banned. Besides several celebrated and storied hotels, it has four Michelin-starred restaurants and seven more that feature in its guide. For many buyers, luxuries such as these justify the average price tag of €22,000 per sq m for a prime home.

But for Chilton, Courmayeur’s relative modesty when it comes to nightlife and amenities is less important these days.

“Val d’Isère was great when we were doing seasons as twentysomethings, but we don’t need all the nightlife and razzmatazz as we get older. Italy was the obvious choice,” he says.

What you can buy . . . 

Apartment, Verrand, €360,000

A two-bedroom, duplex apartment in a traditional stone house in the village of Verrand, near Courmayeur. The property, which measures 65 sq m, has two bathrooms and a south-facing terrace. Available through Engel & Völkers.


New chalet, Champoluc €2.156mn

A three-bedroom property in La Croix Chalets, a new development in Champoluc. The ski-in, ski-out home, which measures 185 sq m, is designed to minimise energy consumption. The asking price includes VAT, charged at 10 per cent. Available through Savills.


Chalet, Pussey, Courmayeur, €3.4mn

A four-bedroom, four-bathroom chalet in the Pussey hamlet near the centre of Courmayeur. The property, which measures 290 sq m, is arranged over three floors and has a garage for four cars, a private garden and several balconies. Through Engel & Völkers.

Buying guide

  • The average price per square metre of a prime European ski home increased from €10,600 in 2019 to €14,000 today, according to Savills.

  • Courmayeur is 2 hours and 15 minutes from Milan Malpensa airport.

  • Italy’s cost of living is 47 per cent lower than Switzerland’s and 13 per cent lower than France’s, according to Expatistan.com, which collates cost-of-living databases online.

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