In the shadow of Mont Blanc, “Cham” is not only an iconic alpine ski resort, home of extreme skiing and the first Winter Olympics. From the 19th century its location as a centre for alpine hiking and sightseeing, and serious mountaineering, has made its summer season as strong as its wintersports months.
In the 2017 Alpine Property Index Chamonix came top of the rankings compiled by international estate agents Knight Frank, overtaking Val d'Isere and Gstaad with a gain of 4.8% on property values.
Four separate ski areas spread out along the valley share the Mont Blanc Natural Resort branding with the main town, including the villages of Les Houches and Argentière.
Land is expensive in the Chamonix valley, partly because of strict building restrictions due to the local geography. Nonetheless, high-end properties here are more affordable than in Megève just 21km away, or Courchevel 60km south.
In Chamonix town, the districts of Les Tines, adjacent to Chamonix Golf Club, and Les Praz, are highly desirable, while a new luxury development has opened up the southern edge of town by the Route Blanche.
The key issues for alpine real-estate developers are resort infrastructure and the ability to attract a younger, year-round visitor income stream.
Chamonix has always been as well-known for mountaineering and alpine tourism and sightseeing, as for wintersports. With 10,000 permanent residents it’s not a winter-only destination,
In 2016 resort owner Compagnie du Mont Blanc committed a further €477m of investment over the next few years to upgrade the lift system and part of the valley's infrastructure. These have included a faster new Parsa chairlift and drag lifts, and three new ski jumps.
Meanwhile, the 2016 opening of MGM’s 51-unit Cristal de Jade complex has created a new 5-star district on the southern edge of town. And in the centre, the Hotel Chamonix Mont-Blanc has been renovated to 5-star standard.
Other significant hotel refits include a two-phase renovation for The Alpina, a total refit for the Hotel du Clocher, the Rhododendrons Hotel in Les Praz reopening as Le Castel hotel and “bistronomique” restaurant, and the iconic but derelict Grand Hotel du Montenvers, overlooking the Mer de Glace glacier, reopening as a luxury ski lodge in 2017.
The old Les Cretes Blanches has reopened as a new-style apart-hotel, Hotel Le Genepy. The new Rocky Pop Hotel in Les Houches targets the younger demographic that alpine resorts need to attract.
And, significantly, the entrepreneurs of high-altitutude clubbing La Folie Douce scheduled a 2018 opening for their first-ever hotel, in Chamonix's former Savoy Palace hotel, with 250 rooms classified from Premium to a new category of chic-hostel.
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