Natural Highs
Property Report|August - September 2021
With people seeking safe ways of re-engaging with the outside world, the pandemic has steered investment in key ski markets back on-piste
Liam Aran Barnes

Storm clouds have been gathering above the peaks of established winter resort markets for some time, even pre-pandemic. Waning skiing numbers were partially blamed on shifts in weather patterns, with unseasonably mild winters and low snowfall robbing Alpine and North American slopes of their allure. Millennials, meanwhile, have been slow to replace the baby boomers that fuelled the industry for decades.

Fears were stoked in 2019 when leading global winter-sports industry researcher and consultant Laurent Vanat revealed that Alpine visitor numbers for the 201819 season had dropped by 12 million to 164 million since 2008-09. Given the prior decline, it was inevitable that many in the industry viewed the global pandemic as a death knell. That, however, has not necessarily been the case, according to Kate Everett-Allen, Knight Frank’s head of international residential research.

“Homeowners are revaluating their lifestyles and working patterns, holiday plans are being upended and rental incomes have been depleted,” she says. “But this may also be the year when the health benefits of mountain living are brought into focus. The combination of fresh air, open space, recreational activities, good healthcare, and reliable WiFi makes alpine living an obvious choice for those seeking shelter from the pandemic. We are seeing the birth of a new trend—the blurring of the lines between primary and secondary residences.”

Wellness has held a small but growing position in the real estate industry over the last decade, with homes, offices and communities increasingly being designed and built to include an emphasis on natural materials, eco-friendly solutions, and new technologies that aim to support longer, healthier, and more balanced lives. The trend has inevitably been accelerated by the pandemic. Knight Frank’s recent Attitudes Survey reveals that 26% of ultra-high net worth individuals plan to purchase a new home in 2021, with the biggest driver the desire to upgrade main residences.

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