The holiday home search – La Clusaz
Tom’s search for the perfect holiday home takes him to the freeride paradise of La Clusaz – and he finds there’s lots more to this beautiful resort than may first meet the eye…
If you have ever watched in amazement at the ‘One of Those Days’ series by Candide Thovex, then you were probably left wondering what winter playground this mythical skier was ripping! It was filmed in the resort of La Clusaz, a hidden gem of the French Alps and one that naturally seemed worth looking into as a potential holiday home destination.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t caught up in the hype of Candide’s edits, after all I love skiing and that is a massive driver behind this search. Of all the ski videos I have seen none has ever had me quite as stoked as the original One of Those Days. La Clusaz seemed to make sense for that reason alone, but what I found revealed so much more.
Certainly amongst my loyal band of snow revellers, La Clusaz is lesser known than other resorts in the Portes du Soleil, Three Valleys or Espace Killy. But its shadowy nature is a good thing. Even at peak times the resort is quieter than its better-known relations, perfect for ripping the four mountains on offer. Couple this with breathtaking views, vibrant après in a village that is full of Savoyard charm and it’s easy to see why La Clusaz is emerging as a top destination in the Alps.
So let’s start by breaking down some facts. The village sits at 1100m with the top of the Massif de Balme rising up to 2600m, so expect a season that runs from December to April. There are 53 beginner pistes, 24 intermediate and 7 blacks. For those advanced riders switching off due to the lack of blacks, read on because this resort is far from a stroll in the park. There is a reason this is home to Candide Thovex. La Clusaz is renowned for its off-piste terrain and after Chamonix and La Grave you won’t find a better place for lift served freeride action; but more on that later. Couple all this with an hour’s transfer from Geneva and you have the perfect destination no matter what ability.
For beginners, La Clusaz is a great place to get to grips with skiing. While the resort is naturally busier during peak times, the mountains remain relatively quiet. The Massif de Beauregard is the best place for those starting out with plenty of quiet gentle runs. However unlike most resorts, beginners don’t have to stay low and miss out on the spectacular scenery. Beginners moving on to blue pistes can get up to the Massif de Manigod and enjoy spectacular views. For those intermediates developing their riding you can get right across the ski area with an eclectic mix of terrain on offer.
For advanced piste skiers, the Massif de L’Aiguille offers technical, sun-draped reds while the Massif de Étale has some steeper descents. In terms of black runs, La Noire and Tetras should get you excited, with La Noire offering some great off-piste through the trees. Perfect for powder days! And this leads nicely onto the best-kept secret of La Clusaz: freeride.
The resort statistics far from tell the full story for expert riders at La Clusaz, but the word is out. The Balme area is the jewel of La Clusaz. It’s difficult to describe how good it is, but playing One of Those Days on loop should explain it all! Over at the Col de Balme, be prepared for breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and a limitless amount of freeride terrain (there are plenty of pistes too for those not so keen on off-piste). It is renowned for its powder and natural features. This is where Thovex cut his teeth and he still rides here, so that should tell you all you need to know. If you want to get a real understanding of the Col de Balme, check out his feature film Few Words – it’s awesome and within seconds you will be tapping away to book a holiday here!
The town itself is beautiful and definitely one of the most picturesque in the Alps. It is known for having a lively après scene with a balance of cool bars and traditional restaurants, perfect for a Raclette or Fondue after a day on the slopes! La Clusaz isn’t short on events either, with Christmas and New Year a particular highlight. A week-long party is put on in preparation for New Year’s Eve before the usual festivities on the night itself.
So, with all that being said, what does La Clusaz hold over its rivals as a destination for a holiday home?
While the skiing on offer speaks for itself, that only deals with half the year. La Clusaz remains open during summer providing a vibrant mix of alpine activities coupled with a vibrant calendar of events. And although it does not match its mighty neighbour Chamonix during the warmer season (there are few resorts in the world that do) what you have in exchange is a quieter mountain scene, certainly less filled with tourists and still retaining plenty of the upsides.
As I have spread my property search, I have found that the availability of freehold apartments or smaller chalets in La Clusaz has not been abundant. Although the flip side of this is that properties in excessive of 7 figures do seem to pop up, but this is far outside my price range and I can only dream!
With that being said, I have noticed this season that there are new build apartments springing up. These are all geared toward the popular leaseback arrangement which is something developers are clearly taking advantage of in the Alps. This certainly brings these types of properties into a more realistic price range, albeit with restricted use, which is something I am personally not keen on. While this has been frustrating, the fact property in La Clusaz has been harder to find than in other resorts, coupled with higher prices, is revealing as it underlines the strength of the market and that in itself has given me plenty to think about when considering owning a second home in France.
For me, La Clusaz would be a fantastic option for our holiday home. Being only an hour from Geneva, Annecy and close to other resorts such as Morzine and Megeve, it offers a fantastic location while still retaining its Savoyard identity. If nothing else, I just want to have a crack at the Balme ski area and pretend to be Candide for just one day!