Ski special: Paradiski paradise

The Haute-Savoie finally has chalets worthy of its world-class skiing
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The Independent Online

You'd have to try hard to come up with a worse name than Paradiski. But to many, this area of interconnected, high-altitude resorts, one of the largest in the world, is the best you can get. More than 400 kilometres of linked runs, spanning three big resort areas, draw the crowds each winter. Scattered high among the mountains of the Haute-Savoie are the purpose-built towns of Les Arcs, La Plagne and Les Coches, while lower down the slopes there are smaller, traditional villages. Of course, it has been popular for decades. But the whole region is undergoing a rebirth, with new development springing up and the mass revamping of the ugly buildings thrown up here 30 years ago.

The main draw here is the sheer variety and extent of the skiing on offer. There are hundreds of miles of trails and downhill pistes to explore, and terrains to suit all abilities. In addition, at a time when lots of low-altitude resorts are worrying about losing their ski industry through lack of snow, those in Paradiski tend to be at 1,500 metres or above, so they can claim with some justification to be '"snow-sure", to use the jargon. Additionally, two glaciers mean that you can ski throughout the summer.

Joanne Yellowlees-Bound of ski specialist Erna Low thinks Paradiski offers some of the best skiing in the world. "There are endless opportunities," she says. "Even experienced skiers never get bored here."

Yellowlees-Bound claims that the creation of such a large, well-equipped ski destination has fuelled both development and demand, as people seek to own property at high altitudes. Residences in some developments, such as the ritzy Arc 1950, sell out quickly. They are now only available resale, and prices are rising at around 10 to 15 per cent each year.

Although Yellowlees-Bound insists there is still plenty of choice, there is little chance of getting much more than a studio below £200,000, with many one- and two-bedroom apartments costing from around £250,000 upwards. For those prepared to put up with a dated, older-style property, you can pick up a small apartment for around £100,000. But such places are getting harder to find.

"There are old 1980s buildings which can be cheaper," says Yellowlees-Bound. "But most of the property in Paradiski is in new, attractive developments with leisure or spa facilities, or in luxury, boutique apartment blocks. Raising standards mean old properties are being renovated."

There could also be cheaper deals in the less popular, low-altitude resorts further down the slopes. These are often in traditional villages. You may not get snow all season, but with all the new gondolas, lifts and cable-car connections in place, you can easily gain access to high peaks in minutes. "The lovely village of Champagny is 15 per cent cheaper than La Plagne," explains Yellowlees-Bound. "But you can still access good skiing."

The only issue with Paradiski, according to a spokeswoman from the Ski Club of Great Britain, is that it is now so popular that you might find longer queues at the lifts than in previous years. However, she agrees that there is a wide variety of skiing on offer. "There's lots of room on the slopes with good skiing for beginners and challenging options for experienced skiers," she says. "And there are so many resorts to choose from."

Claire Illingworth of Overseas Homesearch, currently selling property in Eden Arc 1800, agrees that it is difficult to get bored in Paradiski. "There are a lot of ski schools in the area and also summer activities such as glacier-skiing, golf and hiking."

Illingworth points out that with the top runs at more than 2,500 metres, the resort is unlikely to feel the effects of global warming, which may account for the growth in demand. "Many people now won't consider buying lower than 1,800 metres," she says. The apartments in the Eden Arc development cost from £188,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, rising up to £387,000 for large two-bedroom properties. She claims this isn't expensive, bearing in mind the facilities and the certainty of snow.

However, she believes that the regions facilities and accessibility are bound to drive prices up. "There aren't many areas that offer the breadth of skiing, stunning views and number of amenities of Paradski."



www.ernalowproperty.co.uk, 020-7590 1624; Overseas Homesearch: , 08006 520 769; Savills: , 020-7016 3740; Ski Club of Great Britain: www.skiclub.co.uk, 08454 580 783

Buyers' guide

* Major resorts within Paradiski include Arc 1950, Arc 1800 and Arc 2000, La Plagne, Belle Plane, Montchavin, Les Coches and Eden Arc.

* Paradiski can be reached easily by road from Geneva, Lyon and Grenoble airports. You can also take the Eurostar ski train direct from London to Bourg St Maurice, where a funicular railway takes you up the mountain.

* Much ski property is now being sold under the French leaseback system, which offers guaranteed rental returns and limited use for owners – check contracts carefully.

* Paradiski has more than 400 kilometres of runs, 143 lifts and the Vanoise Express, a double-decker cable car, to transport skiers around the slopes, with options for all levels.

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