Verbier is favoured by non-Swiss property buyers Image Credit: Supplied

With some 400 million annual ski visits worldwide, winter sport is a major global industry, while the ski resorts that serve it are home to some of the world’s most desirable residential property markets. However, with climate change advancing, the ski industry faces a challenging future, forcing ski towns to adapt by investing in snowmaking technologies and diversifying heavily into new activities.

This is according to recent research by Savills, revealing which global ski resorts best counter the emerging difficulties and thus provide solid property investment opportunities to overseas buyers.

Where to buy?

High-altitude, low-temperature resorts are best placed to meet the rising challenges of climate change. The resorts featured here are established and well known in the Alps and North America and have been picked for comparison with different resorts and countries.

1. Zermatt, Switzerland

Zermatt heads the Savills Resilience Index (SRI). As a high-altitude, north-facing resort, Zermatt benefits from long, reliable seasons and also offers glacier skiing.

Another noteworthy resort in Switzerland is Crans-Montana, which is actively promoting itself as a “city in the mountains”. Alongside established dual-season activities, the resort is investing heavily in new ski infrastructure, a new ice rink, restaurants, a medical centre and a recently opened British International boarding school.

Verbier, on the other hand, maintains its long-term investability. With the recent addition of the prestigious W Hotel and potential plans for a further world-class hotel, the prime resort will maintain its premium prices.

Chalet Digby in Verbier

Good to know: Under the peculiarities of cantonal and communal legislation, only the Swiss can buy in Zermatt; non-Swiss buyers tend to gravitate towards more tourist-friendly resorts such as Crans-Montana or Verbier. If you are looking for a combination of lifestyle and rental return, ease of access to an airport and dual seasonality is ever important.

2. Vail, US

This large resort ranks second on the SRI. It is at altitude and has enjoyed bumper snowfall in recent years. Vail has seen annual price growth of 10 per cent thanks to low supply and a strong domestic demand.

Furthermore, Vail’s purchase of the Canadian resort Whistler has meant joint marketing across borders and joined-up resort strategies. This multi-resort approach means that weather risk is spread too.

3. Obertauern, Austria

This high-altitude resort benefits from low temperatures, supporting reliable spring snow cover. It ranks seventh on the SRI. Obertauern is one of the more affordable global ski resorts — investors are looking at around €400,000 (Dh1.8 million) for a two-bedroom apartment.

4. Whistler Blackcomb, Canada

North America’s largest ski resort, Whistler Blackcomb has averaged over 800cm of snowfall per year for the last eight years. It ranks 11th on the SRI.

A bull run in Canada’s national real estate markets appears to be slowing in major cities following the introduction of cooling measures. However, supply-demand imbalances continue to fuel growth in resorts such as Whistler Blackcomb.

5. Tignes, France

Tignes is one of Europe’s highest resorts and one of the most dependable ski destinations in France, also offering summer glacier skiing. It features on 16th place in the SRI.

There are plans to invest €62 million in a 400m-long indoor slope to enable whole-year skiing. It is part of the Espace Killy ski area, which includes neighbouring Val-d’Isère, where a €200-million project at the base of the resort was announced last year.

Six Senses Residences in Courchevel

Snowsure and high altitude, Val-d’Isère is a likeable resort with a unique atmosphere that is impossible to replicate. Val-d’Isère has long been at the forefront of infrastructure advances and sits at the cutting edge of ski lift technology.

A shortage of land availability is helping to sustain prices in both Courchevel and Meribel. The Aquamotion water park that opened in 2016 has been well received and adds to the seasonal variety of available activities. Courchevel very much retains its position as the king of French resorts, at least when it comes to property prices.

The Savills ski conditions resilience index ranks major global ski resorts using five metrics to measure the quality and reliability of a resort’s conditions, and its resilience against climate change. The five metrics assess snowfall, reliability, season length, altitude and temperature.

In search of a ski property?

Look for resorts that can offer year-round appeal. Crans-Montana in Switzerland, for example, hosts a round of the European PGA tour and is a haven for horse riders and hill walkers in the summer. Lift infrastructure investment and connectivity is key to providing winter skiers the ability to access as larger ski areas as possible without having to take public (or private) transport. The Three Valleys in France is perhaps the best example of how a large ski area (650km) is fully connected, linking Courchevel, Meribel and Val Thorens.