If you’re looking for a property in a resort not just with great skiing, but also that ‘chocolate box’ village charm – historic buildings, elegant churches, stunning views from narrow lanes – then this week’s article is for you. Here’s our round-up of the best historic ski resorts in Europe.
Made famous as a centre for the international jetset in the 1960s, glamorous Gstaad first developed as a ski resort in the early 1900s. Today, its historic centre retains its traditional charm, with the medieval St Nicholas Church, and its traditional promenade lined with Alpine-style buildings, now largely converted to luxury boutiques, restaurants and galleries.
The village is also home to the renowned Institut Le Rosey, one of the world’s foremost boarding schools, and hosts events year-round, including the Swiss Open, the Snow Bike Festival and the its Christmas market. Plenty to attract rentals even outside of the ski season, if you’re looking for an investment property.
Zermatt sits in a dramatic position in the Matter Valley’s upper reaches, with the Matterhorn as its backdrop. It grew from an agricultural community to one of the Alps’ top ski resorts at the turn of the 19/20th century, profiting from the rush on the Matterhorn in the late 1800s after the village’s ‘discovery’ by Edward Whymper.
The Hinterdorf, or ‘back village’ is the oldest part of the town and, as the resort’s tourism authority phrases it, ‘witness to a forgotten world’. Here, you’ll find 300-year-old ‘Gädini’, or Valais-style loghouses once used by farmers as combined homes and storehouses. Even getting to Zermatt is a reminder of its historic credentials; the Visp-Zermatt-Bahn was opened in 1890, while the link up to the Gornergrat was built in 1898.
Megève might not have a long history as a mountain village before the arrival of tourists, but it is nonetheless a historic ski resort in its own right. It was built as the first-ever purpose-designed resort in the Alps by the wealthy Rothschild family, as a ‘new St Moritz’
The Baroness de Rothschild engaged architect Henry Jacques Le Même, who built 200 homes combining traditional mountain, Savoyard architecture with then-modern styles. It was these homes that popularised the word ‘chalet’ as a ski home, and the same traditionally inspired design aesthetic continues today among most new developments in the resort.
Over to one of our top historic ski resorts in Italy, Courmayeur, like Zermatt, profited early from the ski tourism trade. Known to have existed since Roman times, it rose to prominence first a spa resort in the 1700s and then as Alpine tourists flocked to Mont Blanc in the 19th century.
The resort is a mixture of the old and the new, with the most historic part of the town dating back as far as the 13th century., with quaint cobbled streets and traditional stone-roofed buildings.
Kitzbühel is one of Austria’s many historic ski resorts, and still retains its old charm today in the car-free centre. It hosted its first ski competition in 1894, since when tourism has boomed. Much of the old town still consists of traditionally built stone ‘Bürgerhäuser’ or merchants’ homes, as well as the famous four Baroque and Gothic churches
Buying in a historic ski resort
Whether you’re thinking of buying a ski property for yourself in one of these historic ski resorts, or you’re thinking of the investment potential in towns popular among international visitors, then don’t miss your free buying guides to learn how to purchase safely from abroad.
If you’re buying from abroad, make sure to consider how to protect your money from the risks of the live foreign exchange markets. Between putting in an offer and purchasing, when the exchange rate moves, you could find the price of your property in your currency moves by thousands. Learn how to safeguard your money in the Property Buyer’s Guide to Currency.