Posted on 22 January 2021
Buying Alpine property in the Chamonix Valley can be a minefield; if you’re not familiar with the valley it’s hard to understand why there are so many different villages to choose from, and what the difference is between Vallorcine, Argentiere and Les Houches.
Whilst the centre of Chamonix is a thriving, year-round town where the Folie Douce hotel sits pride of place, the wider valley has rural Alpine beauty, access to some of the hardest skiing in Europe, as well as more family friendly fun down the valley in Les Houches. When it comes to Chamonix, there’s property for sale in all shapes and sizes.
Whether you want a quiet mountain retreat, a pied à terre within stumbling distance of all the best bars, or something completely different, I’m here to give you the lowdown on the many villages that make up the Chamonix Valley.
So, starting at the bottom of the valley, Les Houches is the first ski village you reach on the way into town. If you’re looking at buying Alpine property there, the prices tend to be a little more reasonable than they can be further up the valley.
As a village, Les Houches is mid-sized and it’s far more family-focused than some areas of the valley. The skiing is suitable for all levels, it adjoins St Gervais and in town there’s an ice rink amongst other activities that children will enjoy. The nightlife is a little quieter than it is elsewhere, but there are one or two good bars in which to get an après ski drink.
Les Houches is also home to the best mountain restaurants in the valley, with small, off-the-beaten-track mountain cabins, swanky table service fare and everything in between. In a valley where eating on the mountain tends to mean sandwiches or self-service, this is the resort for any long lunches.
Les Bossons / Les Pellerins
Without ski areas of their own, Les Bossons and Les Pellerins are villages that you can, in your search for Chamonix property for sale, overlook. Les Pellerins in particular is close enough to Chamonix centre that it can be viewed more as a suburb of the town than a village in its own right.
Les Bossons is a good middle ground between Les Houches and Chamonix centre, most regular buses run between Les Bossons and Le Praz at the other end of town. This is a great location for the summers, when it’s warm enough to brave the walk to and from town and the larger gardens are most useful.
Only fifteen minutes from Chamonix centre, Les Pellerins is a happy medium for anyone looking for Alpine property that is both close to the centre of town and a little less expensive than it tends to be right in the heart of town.
Central Chamonix is the prime location for Alpine property hunters in the valley, offering the best bars, restaurants, shops, and transport links to the rest of the valley. Central Chamonix’s property for sale tends toward apartments rather than chalets, and it can be fairly pricey per square footage.
There is, however, a reason most buyers in the valley want central property. The nightlife is livelier here than anywhere else in the valley, and there’s more of a selection than there is elsewhere. This is also the most year-round part of the valley, with the best infrastructure and a local population that keeps some of the bars and restaurant open year-round rather than closing up shop during the inter-season months.
In terms of Alpine property, you won’t find an abundance of traditional, old fashioned chalets, but there are some new developments offering competitively priced property in sought after locations.
Only a forty-minute walk from the centre of town, but home to the golf course, a brand new high-speed lift, and some excellent restaurants, Le Praz is where you’ll find Chamonix’s high-end property for sale.
The village itself has one or two bars and a couple of excellent restaurants. It’s not necessarily the liveliest part of the valley, but it’s very charming. The village isn’t too far from the livelier centre of Chamonix, and there are taxi services and night buses that make the journey between the centre of Chamonix to Le Praz until late.
The walk between Le Praz and Chamonix centre is very easy in the summer months. Buying Alpine property in this village isn’t necessarily the most inexpensive choice, but if you’re looking for a luxury chalet that’s still close to town it’s the best option. The Flégère ski area has a new, high-speed lift and offers the most extensive skiing of all the domains thanks to the link to Central Chamonix’s Brevent ski area.
Further up the valley, Argentiere is the closest thing in the Chamonix valley to a classic ski town. It sits at the base of the Grand Montets ski area, where the home run is open throughout the season and some of the steepest slopes in the valley are accessible via lifts and through short, single-day ski tours.
Argentiere itself has a few great, very lively bars, some decent restaurants and a selection of shops. There’s always a range of property for sale in the village, and for those buyers looking to use their property predominantly in season, it’s a good, lower-cost alternative to buying in the centre of Chamonix.
As the home to some of the most challenging skiing in the valley, Argentiere is a favourite amongst hardcore skiers who like the challenging, north-facing slopes. For thrill-seeking Alpine property hunters, Argentiere is the perfect base.
Le Tour / Vallorcine
Sharing a gentle, wide-open ski area, Le Tour and Vallorcine are idyllic Alpine villages where you’re more likely to find animals grazing than après ski. Le Tour, which is a picture-perfect village filled with tiny chalets and an old, sixteenth-century church, almost never has property for sale. Over the ridge, in Vallorcine you’ll find some of the most striking of Chamonix’s property for sale.
Vallorcine is slightly larger than Le Tour, with a couple of nice restaurants. There’s a bar at the base of the slopes that serves excellent food and plays live music at the end of a ski day. I should note, though, that during heavy storms the route to Vallorcine from the centre of Chamonix can become blocked off. Buyers looking at Alpine property here should be aware of that risk.
Wherever you decide to buy property, be it the Chamonix valley or elsewhere in the Alps, the perfect Alpine property is out there for you!