SnowOnly recently spoke to Victoria Kidd. Victoria and her husband Geoff went from a life of being civil engineers to a life in the mountains, restoring and running the Free Range Chalet. What we love about this story is that Victoria and Geoff followed their dreams and completely changed their lives, and now have a wonderful chalet in the French Pyrenees, away from the better-known resorts. Listed on their website, nearby resorts are: Superbagnères, Peyragudes, Le Mourtis, Baqueira-Beret and Saint-Lary Soulon. They describe the draw of their location beautifully on their website:
Resorts in the French Pyrenees tend to be much smaller than some of the better-known resorts elsewhere, but as a result you get much more (quality) time on the slopes. At times it really can feel like you have your own private resort, especially if you're able to avoid the school holidays. Eating out during the day is also much better value than some of the 'big name' resorts.
The moral of the story is you don’t have to purchase your ski property in one of the more famous resorts to get the quality of life you are after. At the end of the day, regardless of the name of the mountain, it is all about the skiing and snow can be found in some amazing places.
SO: Where is your property located, when did you buy it, and can you tell us a little bit about it?
VK: Our beautiful home is right in the center of the Pyrenees in the charming town of Bagneres de Luchon (or Luchon, the largest town in the French Pyrenees). We eventually got the keys in September 2014 and spent a challenging year renovating Villa Gracieuse. The house itself was built in 1878, it’s quite grand and not your traditional ski chalet. We have 5 very large en suite rooms, two of which are family/friends rooms sleeping 5 and 4 people. We are located just a 10 minute walk to the gondola, yet in a quiet corner of the bustling town.
SO: Did you buy the property for investment of lifestyle?
VK: Both really - we first started on this path 8 years ago when I was made redundant and the plan was to do a ski season and return to ‘real life’. It turned out that this ended up being real life. We run it as a business so that we can enjoy the mountain lifestyle.
SO: Please tell us how you get a return on your investment if lifestyle, how do you use it?
VK: We run our bespoke mountain holiday company (The Free Range Chalet) from the property. People can either have a traditional chalet holiday with us, a bed and breakfast stay or rent the whole house as self catered. Running the business enables us to make the most of the mountains all year round. Cycling, hiking and skiing are our main interests, so it ticks all the boxes for us.
SO; What made you pick the resort you currently have your property in?
VK: We’ve skied all over the world, we spent 3 winters in the Alps but were offered a summer job in the Pyrenees - the season is a little longer here. As soon as we got here we absolutely fell in love the wilderness and less commercial nature of the Pyrenees. We stayed for the winter and had some of the best days skiing that we’d ever had. Empty pistes, endless powder and great value. At this point we started visiting other towns and villages. Luchon ticked all the boxes for us, the ski station directly above the town centre, it regularly features in the Tour de France (every other year) and the hiking is amazing. We also have a number of other ski stations a short drive away.
SO: If you had the chance to do it all again, would you and why?
VK: Yes, it’s hard work and we’ve faced some challenges along the way, but we love where we live and love that we can get away from it all just minutes away from our house.
SO: What advice would you give a buyer who is considering buying a ski property?
VK: Search off the beaten track as its better value and you may just find your dream location. With French bureaucracy expect things to take a long time and then double that timescale then you’re not disappointed.
SO: Have you seen any appreciation in your property since you purchased?
VK: Yes about 50% appreciation on the purchase price, so a significant return on the money, the purchase price and the renovations that we have done so far.
SO: Would you consider buying more ski properties?
VK: No, one is more than enough for us!
SO: Can you give an overview on the current market in your location from an owner’s perspective?
VK: As with a lot of tourist towns in the Pyrenees, apartments are at a premium (second homes) and the larger homes are much better value - most people are downsizing. We originally looked at our house when it was completely out of our budget, but then the vendor reduced the price by a third and we put in a cheeky offer which they accepted.
SO: Are you using the property more as a dual season property?
VK: Yes, our business is approximately 50% winter and 50% summer
SO: Would you consider using a property portal like SnowOnly to list your property or recommend if you were buying a ski property?
Should you want to consider buying a property a French ski resort, SnowOnly has over 1800 properties listed in France.